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A.W.: Phoenix Festa
Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Games America, Inc.
Developer: APLUS Co., Ltd.
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Local)
Genre: Fighting/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:
Iíve always been envious of how these special schools are presented in various anime and manga series because, letís face it, these schools look amazing. Fortunately, A.W.: Phoenix Festa (short for Asterisk War) allows us to live this dream, albeit virtually.

Iíve only watched a small portion of the anime, but Iíve heard great things about Asterisk War. While not being as accurate as some of the home console anime fighter games, Phoenix Festa still looks pretty great on the Vita. The combat arenas arenít amazingly in depth, but the background scenery is still a nice touch. The special attacks, combinations, and flow of character models all look great, though. I really need to learn to not be so surprised at how great the Vita handles games.

A.W.: Phoenix Festa has a pretty nice soundtrack and I really enjoyed it. The opening song really screams "anime opening theme" with the usual fast-paced track and animated opening. The rest of the tracks range from being upbeat for battle or quieter for regular menus and the like. The game does feature some voice acting here and there and itís also all in Japanese, but weíre used to that right? Of course, subtitles are present so the player can follow along with the dialogue and story, but during battles, subtitles will not be played so the opening and winning quotes donít matter much. Itís a nice touch, though.

A.W.: Phoenix Festa is a simulator fighting game, almost similar to what youíd see from the Persona series. Players take their choice of Ayato Amagiri or a created character through the story of the game, which will vary a little bit depending on the path chosen. Players experience the day-to-day life of a student and go through each day of the calendar, so it is extremely similar to the Persona series in this regard. I do feel Persona offers significantly more to do in regards to passing the time of each day, however. The day-to-day consists of a morning period, then an evening period and activities will consume the current time slot. Players can advance time by training, performing a job, shopping, visiting the laboratory, setting an appointment, or resting. After both time slots have been used, time advances to the next day. After a certain period of time, a major event will happen, so use your time preparing for these events. Youíll see the timer for those in the top left corner.

Similar to the anime, battles in Asterisk War: Phoenix Festa have quite a bit going on. On the battle screen, youíll see your characterís Life Gauge to the top left, while the enemyís Life Gauge is shown above their character model. Naturally, if this drops to zero, itís game over. Underneath the Life Gauge is the Prana Gauge. Performing various actions depletes this bar, but it replenishes over time. The time limit is shown to the bottom left and your characterís school badge is shown underneath the character portrait. The school badge is damaged when hit and youíll lose if it is destroyed. Battles arenít difficult to navigate when it comes to controls either. The (Square) button allows you to perform your basic combo attack, while the (Triangle) button allows you to use your characterís special attack. The (X) button allows you to jump and the (O) button lets you lock on to the target so you donít lose track of them. The Left Bumper lets you block and the Right Bumper lets you perform a quick dash in a direction. Once youíve got everything down, the battles are fairly easy to win.

Your job as a student is to manage your life properly during your time at Seidoukan Academy. There are several activities you can perform in your day-to-day life that I covered very briefly a moment ago, but youíll need to know them well to decide what you want to do. In Seidoukan, you have to be strong enough to compete with the best, so spending a day training is never a bad option. Training allows you to enhance your characterís stats in order to grow stronger. You can select which stat to train and youíll gain a few points to that skill for training it. After a certain amount of times selected, youíll see that the stat will increase in level, making it more effective.

Students need money, and a job will help you get that money. Jobs unlock as you progress through the story and by taking one, you can complete an objective for pay. Different jobs require different objectives to be completed, so pick the one you like best or what pays the most, itís up to you. Youíll need something to spend your money on though, right? Shopping allows you to purchase various items from the mall, such as consumable items or gifts. The Laboratory allows you to customize your weapons for a fee. Of course, youíll also need to socialize with people. Appointments allows you to set a date or duel with your fellow students, but they can reject it if theyíd like. Feels pretty bad to spend time lining up that appointment just to be rejected, you know. Finally, youíll need to take a break sometimes, so you can always select rest to recover.

A.W.: Phoenix Festa does not feature a difficulty system. Some people may love that and some may hate it, but itís not a huge deal in my opinion. Youíll notice that the different jobs will scale in difficulty as you complete them though. Once you complete a job, the next time you try to do that job, youíll have to do more of whatever you did the last time. This may make the job a little more difficult to complete, but your reward will also be greater than the last time as well. Other than this, the gameís difficulty stays relatively straightforward. As you progress, battles do become a bit more challenging as the enemy A.I. becomes more ruthless in battle, but by that point, youíll be more than good enough at the game to handle the challenge.

Game Mechanics:
As you go through your day to day life at Seidoukan, youíll quickly notice that your character isnít a machine. You only have so much energy to perform activities with and this is measured by the Life bar at the top of the screen when selecting activities. Each time you perform an activity such as training and the like, you expend Life. You can recover Life by resting. This doesnít recover all of your Life, however, but you do regain a decent sized chunk of it. In addition, your characterís condition is also tracked. Your condition can range from Great to Bad, with resting also recovering your condition. The better your condition, the better youíll perform day to day activities. Take a break sometimes and rest up. Itís just as important as training or doing anything else.

Seidoukan is an incredibly competitive school, and as such, youíll occasionally be challenged to a duel by your fellow students. This allows you to enhance your skills, but most importantly, it gives you a shot at increasing your rank. A higher rank means more respect and acknowledgement. When challenged, youíll see what rank your challenger is. If your opponent is a higher rank and you defeat them, youíll take their rank. You can also challenge certain people to a duel for training and ranking purposes. Try to get your rank as high as you can so your peers will be amazed by your skill.

While pretty fun, I do feel A.W.: Phoenix Festa could offer a bit more in terms of content for players to do. I generally spent most of my time just training to pass the days until an event happened, mostly because I always felt I was wasting time doing nothing trying to figure out the days I could make an appointment with someone. The combat was really fun to me and I really enjoyed it, so that gets a big plus. I only wish there were a bit more to offer from the normal day-to-day that was obvious. I am a bit spoiled by the Persona series and how much there is to do, so I used that for comparison, but Phoenix Festa is more of a visual novel rather than a slice of life game like any of the Personaís. When judged that way, I believe Phoenix Festa executed its content pretty well and with a good amount of accuracy to the original story. Take the game at face value and I think youíll enjoy it, too.

-SS-54, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ren Plummer

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