You might be wondering what has taken me so long with this review. Well, work mostly, but I wanted to make absolutely sure that the game was good and added some good variety. And that had taken far too long, and it even cut into my study time. Still, I beat the game twice, so I can finally weigh in on my verdict. But before you read on, keep in mind that my knowledge on Fate/Stay Night series is extremely limited. I saw maybe like three episodes of the anime, and a few pieces of story from Fate/Stay Night and its sequel. And I have also completed Battle Moon Wars, but that hasn’t helped much in understanding the world itself this game is set in, but it has gotten me familiar with some of the main characters of the series. Now for the main question: Is Fate/Extra truly glorious and worthy of the wait, or is it just another dime a dozen game on the PSP Sony wanted to chug out?
Fate/Extra, is without a doubt, my favorite PSP game, but that’s not saying a whole lot considering I haven’t played that many good games on the PSP. It is nowhere close to perfect, and there are better games on the PSP in terms of gameplay, such as Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, and that is based on personal preference. But I digress. It isn’t the perfect game, but it is very enjoyable despite some flaws. Fate/Extra takes place in an alternate future from the Fate/Stay Night universe, or the actual future if anything; the timeline in this series can be very confusing. As such, not a whole lot of the old cast actually appears. This game is meant to be a standalone title, with only mentions and cameos by the originals, such as Lancer and Archer. There are other characters one may recognize, but most are either NPCs in the actual war, like Sakura Matou, or actual descendants, like the Rin in this game.
The world is, for a lack of a better term, screwed. The wars and such have did quite a number, and in order to save it, Magi have decided to have the war for the Holy Grail, the one thing that can grant any single wish to a Master, at the Moon Cell via the matri—I mean Moon Cell network. Really though, I don’t see much of a difference. Over 128 Magi are chosen to fight in a tournament elimination style combat, where each Master is given a whole week to train and find information about their opponent. Information is key to this war, as you’ll need it to predict enemy moves a lot quicker, and make sure to avoid suffering the full brunt of their Noble Phantasms. In this game, you take control of an amnesiac who had entered the war by mistake in their mind. You can choose either a boy and a girl, as well as a Servant. Here, your Servants to choose from are Saber, who is practically the opposite of the female blue Saber everyone is familiar with in Fate/Stay Night despite looking exactly like here, Archer, who is the exact same archer from the same series, and Caster, a magical fox girl that is brand new to the series, much like the new red Saber. And together, you must rediscover your memories, take down all the enemy masters, and win the Holy Grail.
After dealing with the prologue, the game can actually begin. And from there, you can choose your Servant and character gender, as well as the difficult modes, which are sadly limited to normal and easy for hardcore fans. However, choosing your Servant is also a bit based on difficulty as well, for each Servant has a specialty. For Saber, it’s pure brute assault, as upgrading attack and predicting enemy attacks can easily win most battles. For Archer, he is kind of the same, though he is more focused with techniques and a bit more strategy, thus making him more of a standard difficulty and flexibility. And then there’s Caster, the mage of the group, and the weakest unless her magic is upgraded to higher levels, and her stat boosts are extremely poor, making her the hard mode.
And before you say anything, yes, choosing your Servant does affect the story, but only in dialogue. For example, Caster will constantly flirt with you, wishing to be a good wife, while Archer can point out and compare things between both Fate games. But sadly, that’s about it. Foes will only change when you take different character routes, with saving Rin allowing you to face two new Type-moon enemies, while saving Rani will result in fighting two original Type-moon characters, and among those actually includes Arcuied from another series. And speaking of those series, there are actually some more cameos from other Type-Moon games. As such, while the endings aren’t too different, it’s more based on character preference and their own story line.
But there is something one should know about the story presentation. There isn’t a whole lot of animation of the characters moving. Rather, everything is told from in a narration from your character; yay for not being silent protagonist for once! Since Fate/Stay Night is a visual novel, it’s nearly told in the same sense, as the character models don’t move that much save for in combat. Some may consider this a weakness, but from a prose perspective, it is done very well, save for a few minor translation errors. And it does help with the overall gameplay, as there is rarely, if any slow framerate. Plus not having to install this onto the memory card is definitely a plus. Also, there are no English voices, instead keeping with the original Japanese cast. Technically, I have no problem with this, as some games unfortunately earn atrocious English VA’s sometimes that can make a game downright unplayable. The only real problem I would have is that there are no subtitles during battle, as conversations do happen during then.
While on school campus, your options are very limited. Usually, it’s just information gathering and retrieving items for a certain teacher, but you can also go to your room and chat with your Servant for interesting conversations about them. For the most part, this helps with characterization and such, and made me grow more attached to my Servant. You can also gather items to decorate your room as well, giving more of an appeal to your eyes. But it doesn’t change the fact that things are limited. Dialogue is important though, and choosing the wrong actions can actually lead to a game over, such as when fighting Archer and you choose to go the wrong way, thus leading to an instant kill by him.
On the other hand is the Arena, which you can fight and level up, though not save, but that isn’t a problem unless you both suck and can’t know how to use the PSP’s standby function. Events go on in the Arena at times, but you must also keep an eye out for important items and Cipher keys which are necessary in facing your opponent in the final day of the week. Don’t have them, you cannot fight, and that results in game over. You can technically reset the entire week, but that is a bad idea considering if you power-leveled before then, your level will be reduced back down to the first day.
As for the gameplay, it revolves around the standard rock-paper-scissors, with attackàbreakàguard and so on. Unfortunately, you have a 1 in 4 chance to guess each panel correctly, and I say that because of the fourth factor in this game: skills. Skills, with the exception of boosting and defense skills, all surpass any of the commands save for another offense skill. As such, these can be great tide turners as you try and figure out the enemies pattern. And should either of you have both break/attack, you will either hit each other for 0 damage in a clash, or do full damage to each other in a simultaneous attack. And here’s where the Extra in Fate/Extra comes in.
However, your Servant isn’t the only one that can fight, as you fight as well using items and spells to turn the tide. But these are limited only to once per turn, so planning ahead is essential. You are given two slots for Formal Wear, which add extra MP and a new skill, but as you expect, you are limited to two skills at most. Should your Servant score three hits in a row without the interruption of a skill, you can pull off an additional physical blow, finish your enemy off that much quicker.
And in order to do all of this, as you level up, only you skill points, HP, MP, and Master MP increases. You make use of skill points at the Chapel, where the Aozaki sisters use them for alterations. The more points you put in, the higher ranking your stats can become and you learn new techniques. Fail to do this correctly and you might as well call it quits for this game, as some stats are downright useless, so don’t pour your points separately into each stat. The good news about enemies is that if you beat them over and over again, you can actually gain the hints and then the actual enemy pattern, though that takes quite a while.
Okay Type-Moon fans, you have wanted to hear this for awhile now: can you use Noble Phantasms, which to other people, are basically a Servant’s finishing/special move. The answer is both no and yes. You cannot use it right off the bat, and they do give a reasonable explanation: identity. See, revealing a Servant’s identity is a grave disadvantage, as your enemies can predict your moves far more easily. As such, you cannot use a Noble Phantasm until during the last of the 5th week. But when you do, my god, it makes the entire game, that little moment, worth it. While I wasn’t too fond of Caster’s Noble Phantasm, both Saber and Archer’s completely change the battlefield and give you an incredible advantage, all while the music changes. This was especially great when I was on the ropes, limited chance of winning a fight. And right when I unleashed the Noble Phantasm, it felt glorious and worth all of that grinding to get to that point.
But this brings me to some of the bad points. The environments you go to in the arena are all underwater, save for maybe the last two, and the first areas you always go into before going to the second floor. No, those represent rejected levels from Tron. And the enemy types aren’t all that amazing. You get some rather basic design, and I was hoping for more along the lines of maybe more demonic creatures, not something that reminded me of Space Invaders or Megaman EXE. And that also brings me to another note this game fails at: relationships. You have limited to no control over this. People compared this to Persona 3, but it isn’t anything like it despite the school. Everything feels a bit forced, and while I do enjoy the story, having the freedom to choose it is nice, and this game doesn’t give me that luxury. And this can be even more frustrating if you are homophobic, as there are hints of the female main character liking the other girls or their female Servants. Just keep in mind that I am not homophobic, and this was one of the better parts of the game, if only because I’m a perv. Still, it kinda made me feel like a manwhore, so that wasn’t cool. Family issues tend to do that.
And another issue is the Matrix information. You see, throughout the week, you have to gain information on your opponent, and this usually means either beating them at a game, talking to other characters, etc. And without that stuff, you are in for one heck of a disadvantage in future battles. It’s easy enough to get an E-Matrix for everyone, but that’s the problem. Rather than dig through books, it’s done in such a linear fashion, it’s not really that much investigating like it should have been, thus making it boring to do. And of course if you don’t do this, or screw up, these can lead to dead ends in the game, meaning you have to restart from another save point. In fact, it’s recommended you have multiple saves, because if you are terrible like me, you are going to need them. Though even then, I didn’t even need them that much.
Aside from that, nothing else comes to mind, save for maybe wishing for more playable Servants, like Rider (Medusa) for this game. Again, these are problems you may ignore or take personally. Considering everything stated above, I managed to last through the game for about 30-50 hours with each playthrough, however, that was in part mostly with grinding and over-leveling my characters. If you really are a gaming junky, you can even finish this game in three days tops. But despite all that, I had a great time and am looking forward to the sequel that will come out.
Fate/Extra gets a 4 out of 5. And with this game under my belt, hopefully I can retain my sanity when I talk about the next game on the list. It’s…not gonna be pretty.