A.W Phoenix Festa is a PlayStation Vita release based on the animated series Asterisk War. Set sometime in the future, the game takes place in an academy where superhuman teens compete against each other in fighting tournaments known as Festas. Learning how to beat up fellow students sounds like a lousy curriculum to me, but then again when compared to other school lessons weapons combat is at least more practical than learning how to play the recorder. In this Bandai Namco title players assume the role of transfer student Ayato Amagiri who has set his sights on winning the upcoming Festa competition. In order to triumph he shall have to hone his fencing skills and coerce one of the institution’s eligible ladies to team up with him.
Despite not being acquainted with the Asterisk War anime/light novels I decided to download A.W Festa off the PSN Store because its mix of beat-em-up and dating sim sounded novel. Festa matches are 2v2 affairs so Ayato needs to find a partner before the contest’s preliminaries kick off. The teammates on offer include a timid loli, the student council president, Ayato’s dopey childhood friend and Lieseltania’s fiery princess. I hope your flirting techniques are up to snuff because the time limit for finding a Festa partner is a mere two weeks. Failure to meet the deadline will result in a premature game over. My first impressions of A.W Festa weren’t positive, as I spent that first fortnight asking the girls out only to get promptly rejected. Ouch, how painfully realistic.
Upon courting one of the bachelorettes preparations for the forthcoming tourney can commence. It’s a menu heavy experience with the occasional battle thrown in to break the tedium. Most of the story mode consists of picking what Ayato should do on any given day. Boosting his stats via training is a sound strategy, although you shouldn’t get carried away as fatigue can have a detrimental effect on his combat performance. Bah, why bother with so much exercise? It would just be easier to take performance-enhancing drugs, which is what most all-star athletes do. Ayato’s daily routine can also involve money making part time work. Cash is required to upgrade weapons, purchase medicine and buy gifts for those frigid cows that never want to go out on a date.
My rating for A.W Phoenix Festa is a three out of five. Unless you are a devout Asterisk War fan it’s probably not worth the full asking price, but I personally found the game to be mildly entertaining. Take that with a pinch of salt though because my standards are low, as a quick glance at my ex-girlfriends will attest to. For the most part the third person combat is fun and should appeal to players who enjoy button bashers. The gameplay is reminiscent to Senran Kagura, only that instead of smacking legions of foes you face off against a maximum of two opponents. Due to the reduced number of adversaries and somewhat dim enemy AI the fights rarely last for longer than thirty seconds, making all the time spent building up Ayato’s stats feel like a colossal waste of time.
It takes three hours to clear Ayato’s campaign and slightly longer if you elect to play as a custom made character. Due to a lack of content much of that time is spent watching the calendar wind down as you constantly select “training” from the options menu. In structure A.W Phoenix Festa is similar to Persona 4 but the latter is more enjoyable thanks to its rich story, fleshed out characters and more satisfying progression system. More frequent cut scenes could have helped alleviate the monotony, although I suppose the source material restricted what the developers could do. Harem shows are anaemic on plot so perhaps there just isn’t enough material to turn Asterisk War into a visual novel style game? If that’s the case Bandai Namco should have abandoned the dating sim elements and concentrated on making a narrative free brawler. At the very least that would have spared me from the blushes of being turned down by cute waifus.