I’m going to level with you here: Fly System’s Magical Battle Festa does not make a good first impression when going in cold. This 3D arena based one-on-one fighter initially seems like the mano y mano brawls that were shoe horned into some of the Dynasty Warriors games. The first person to close the gap and land an attack will dominate the remaining fight, leaving little for the opponent to do beyond flail and take lumps. Fortunately, those who put in the minimum amount of effort to actually learn what’s under the hood of this will find a high flying, strategic, and exciting fighter to wile away the hours.
This one actually has a story. In the search of renewable energy, magic was discovered. Unfortunately, this finding also leads to the appearance of evil “spectres.” As the need for energy has never stopped anyone from just discontinuing the program that is causing the issue, the government decides to create an army of mages to fight them. A tournament, Magical Battle Festa, is implemented for training and ranking purposes.
In engine story sequences take place before and after every battle in story mode. They do tend to take a very anime style for exposition, but that is unsurprising considering this hails from Japan. Characterization does borrow heavily from numerous established tropes; you have your hard-edged no nonsense fighter, the kind-hearted soul who only joined to directly protect a loved one, a young girl who seems to be have a specialized form of Asperger’s, et al. If you enjoy anime, there is quite a bit here to like. The story makes sense in context and I had a great time playing through to the end of each character. I do recommend trying to finish one character’s arc before beginning the next as it makes the proceedings easier to follow.
Gameplay itself is where this really shines. As I stated earlier, you do want to take a few minutes to learn the functions. While there are no complicated inputs, the systems are unique. Taking place from behind the shoulder of your avatar, you have free range of movement over a large sized arena. You are not stuck moving across the X and Y axis like Virtua Fighter or Tekken. This, combined with the acrobatic move style and various short and long distance attacks, allows battles that feel more in line with some of the most ridiculous (and awesome) fights found in anime. You can weave and jockey for position, dash flip over your opponent’s charged attack, land behind them, and smack them flying into a wall, cracking the surface. This is a more pedestrian situation, as the game can become beyond ludicrous.
You also take a small group of robots into battle with you. Their primary function is to provide attack and defensive bonuses based on the formation you choose. They can be knocked out by the enemy, negating their bonus, and this can be returned in kind. This does add a nice layer of strategy as the bonuses imparted are very noticeable and you can find yourself needing to change tack at a moment’s notice. Fortunately, formations can be changed on the fly, a function I recommend remembering.
There is a quick battle, training, and tutorial mode thrown in. I was unsuccessful in testing the network multiplayer mode, something that delayed this review as I really wanted to take my battle online. For now, I classify this as a really well done single player fighter.
I do have two caveats for this, though. First, the graphics. This is a doujin game that obviously does not have the budget of a AAA studio release. I would liken the graphics to be about early PS2 era level. This isn’t too big of a deal to me as the gameplay trumps the issue, but it does bear mentioning. Second, due to the sudden, high speed change of movement that can take place in a fight, the camera can get a little wonky. There is a lock-on feature, but it can still get pointed at an off angle occasionally, meaning you might miss the charged long distance attack you need to turn the tide of battle. Practice can work you past this issue, but I hope Fly System can resolve this in the future.
What Magical Battle Festa brings to the table is something brand new. While it fits into the fighter genre, it handles and feels completely different from anything else I have played before. Usually when something new comes to me, I can describe as “X meets Y with a bit of Z thrown in.” I am not able to do that with this fighter. What’s more important is that it’s really, really fun. Please, if you enjoy fighters or anime, give this one a chance. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Sadly, this has not landed on Steam…yet. It is coming and those who purchase from Playism will be given a Steam key when it lands.
Visit Playism to take a look at this game.