Part dating simulator, part hack and slash fighting game and part Outlook calendar management simulator (I may have made that last genre up) and yet in a weird way those elements work to make one unique experience. Not only do all of these elements from A.W.: Phoenix Festa work, it made me want to try a dating sim and even more impressive than that, I enjoyed it.
Following the story from the anime A.W.: Phoenix Festa is set before the annual Phoenix Festa where schools go head to head in fights. You take up as either the lead character named Ayato Amagiri or your own character before the Festa registrations close. Choosing Ayato will result in some pre-set relationships and some more filled in story and with 13 days until registration closes for the Festa, whereas creating your own character gives you 85 days until the Festa registrations close, so more freedom to create your own story. This is the first thing I like about the game; it really gives freedom to choose how it plays out. When registrations close you will have to pick a partner, which is assisted by the relationships you have built with the characters.
Relationship points in the game before and after registration are achieved by saying the right thing during story events, going on dates where you say and do the right things, or winning in duels throughout the game. The game does prompt for some of these events but the bulk of it is achieved by inviting people to either duel or go on a date. Either can be declined when you invite them so you need to take into consideration how far away the appointment is as shorter notice is less likely to be accepted. For dates your relationship level, where you invite them to have the date, the day of the week and the time of day which can be either AM or PM.
You can also choose to not pre-plan those half days and fill them in with training, doing jobs which involve some kind of combat and pay differently depending on how hard they are, going shopping, or resting to regain your mood and health. The planning sounds weird but it both gives the game urgency by having the countdown and a reason to strategize in certain ways to make the relationships you want to develop count.
Once the Festa starts you still plan what to do between fight days, but the Phoenix Festa fights are the important part. They are a step up to most fights, except some job fights and you make your way through to the final to finish up the story. The end does feel like a little bit of a let-down, as with the amount of time you spend preparing for the tournament, it just comes to an abrupt end, with not too much story to finish off the play through.
The positive thing is it does allow you to carry the progress of your character through to another play through, which is handy due to the amount of variation a second play through at a minimum feels necessary just to try out another partner and some new dialogue trees.
The game also has a battle mode if you want to do some battles without the rest of the gameplay, which is fine as the battles themselves are great. They function well, the camera moves correctly which is not common with hack and slash games on the Vita. There is not too much depth to the fighting but that is not really an issue in the context of the game. There is also a Battle Survival mode which is what you would expect, fight after fight until you lose as they get harder and there is also Ad Hoc multiplayer which means you can play someone else if they have the game and a Vita physically near you.
Ultimately A.W.: Phoenix Festa is a game I enjoyed far more than I could have expected. The dating sim aspect helps support the battles and plot and for someone unfamiliar with the Asterisks War anime I never felt like I was missing too much in the story. The whole package tied together nicely for a fun game to have on the go.
Released: July 2016
Platforms: PS Vita