Fate/Stay Night, by Type-Moon, had been one of the most priceless treasures to ever appear in the visual novel industry. Currently, there is not a single visual novel player who does not even heard the name. It has spawned countless sequels, prequels, remakes in any kinds of medias ever existed, with some being novel, movie, TV shows, games.. the list goes on and on. Over the years, Fate/Stay Night had become one of the most mainstream franchise ever created and it’s fanbase still grows strong now.
Fate/Extra, one of the Fate/Stay Night’s newest game adaption had only been released locally in North America around last month. Featuring new protagonists, new characters, and even some cameo appearances from the familiar faces, Fate/Extra is bound to be another game which is worthy of attention.
Fate/Stay Night is known to mix in the character’s school life elements in, together with the supernatural battles. I am not sure if we can call Fate/Extra’s setting a “school” though, a “virtual school” is more like it. Yes, that’s right – virtual. Fate/Extra takes place in a virtual world called SE.RA.PH, where students with master potentials in the real world is being dragged into it, and the new “masters” in the SE.RA.PH are engaged in battles to decide who is the victor, a battle we all clearly aware of, by the name of “Holy Grail War”. You start of with three servants of your choosing, namely Saber, Archer and Caster, and using your servants, you fight for your survival, and for your wish. If you die in the virtual world, you die in real life, and the final winner in the end will get his/her wish granted.
Fate/Extra is a game mixed with visual novel elements, RPG and dungeon crawling. Once the prologue is finally finished (which actually does take a while), you will be prompted to choose your gender and what’s interesting, is that your gender doesn’t actually affect your romance relationships with your servants and regardless of genders, they will feel equally affectionate to you. With this, more interesting couples can be formed between the protagonist and the servants. As you all know, my choice in this is pretty obvious. What’s more,
Saber already openly admitted she's a bi <3
The visual novel part of the game is good, as what would you expect from a franchise known to be a visual novels veteran, and what’s more, when Type-Moon’s original author, Kinoku Nasu is involved in the game, you can’t just not bat an eyelid anymore. The story isn’t particularly fresh. The concept of a virtual world, digital beings, alternate realities and all that had been seen already throughout the decade. The highlight of the series would be the writing and the characters themselves. Being “original” proves to be a very difficult objective to achieve with current video games, and even harder when it comes to game’s plotlines. The only way to counteract this issue is to rely on executions, or in this regard, using clever words to deliver a wow factor, despite being unoriginal. This is a big obstacle for the Fate/Stay Night franchise since the franchise relies heavily on story. Though Nasu doesn’t even seems a slight bit fazed, as the writing can be said to be downright awesome.
Because of this, all the characters are fleshed out pretty well, even including the most minor of antagonists. Why are they in SE.RA.PH in the same place? What are their reasons for fighting? These portion of the game had been developed well and because of this, you can relate, sympathize or at least, held some sort of feelings or emotional impact for each and every antagonists. Even the silent protagonist herself, is as much exposed as every character out there, seeing her mysterious past being brought to light is another one of the highlights of Fate/Extra. Though as for your own servants, they depend on how often you interact with them, missed out on some compulsory conversations and your servants will be just as mysterious as yourself.
Fate/Extra had been a good ride on a story point of view. As for the gameplay and other sides of the game, they can be said to be mediocre to downright bad. First off, the world of Fate/Extra.. is painfully small for a RPG. You can only walk around the school, which is smaller then half the size of schools from Persona. You can walk outside too but you are still limited within school boundaries. There even isn’t much of a reason to go outside the school building anyway unless you have a quest which requires you to do so. Most of the navigational routes would be mostly in the school, which would look painfully repetitive halfway through the game. The dungeons too, has a moderately bad design. The worst part is that there is no save point, and since you can’t fully detect the actions of your opponents, and unlucky break sometimes would probably kill you, which is pretty bad obviously. In order to make navigating through the dungeons simpler, it’s as if it’s required for everyone to choose “easy” mode, where a healing fountain is made available in dungeons. Not having any save points, this would be the only poor alternative if you want a safe venture into the dungeons.
Holy Grail War in this game, is proceeded like a battle tournament. Each round takes one week to occur, as the battle with your assigned opponent would take place on the seventh day. So during the week, you would be spending your time talking with people, buying items and most important of all, information-gathering. The latter is required in order to find out about the real identities of your opponent’s servants. All veterans of Fate/Stay Night could probably see the importance for this, as by knowing your opponent’s true identities, you can make out what era they are from, how they fight, and their real names. Just by knowing their names, one can already easily figure out your opponent’s Noble Phantasm, which is crucial since especially during the near-end bosses, the Noble Phantasm for some of the enemies can easily wipe you out in one blow if you don’t know when to guard against them. It is also important to grind as much as possible during this period so that you can fight in the next round with more efficiency. Once you’re leveled up, you can earn attributes points, which can be used to well.. increase your attributes. By doing this for a period of time, you can raise your rank for attributes, just like the ranks found in the visual novel. Fyi, my saber’s strength is A+, defense is B and my agility a rank C. I wanted to get epic ranks like in the visual novels but that’s impossible unless with extreme dedicated grinding. Anyhow, this all is regarded as the “preparation” period.
The second part of the gameplay is the battling period. This is pretty straightforward, and is pretty much fighting against your assigned opponents. There are a lot of dialogues with your opponents and choices you can make which would only affect the flow of the conversations and nothing more, if I’m not wrong. This is the part of the game where you put all those grinding and preparing to fruition. And also, the place where you see your opponent’s angst and last moments…
Most of the characters have great voice actors doing their voice and I understand why they had to remove some parts of the voice acting since PSP isn’t as powerful as a PC or PS3, but I think they should have include full voice acting during the scenes the antagonists are defeated as well, this would create an even more emotional impact for players. The soundtracks may sound awkward at times, especially during random encounters and boss battles. Jazzy pop seems to be Fate/Extra main choice of music though I’m not sure if it fits all that well with the digital aspect of the game. The graphics are okay, compared to PSP standards, they are pretty good, granted that they are not Final Fantasy Type-0 or Parasite Eve 3rd Birthday but Fate/Extra’s graphics aren’t completely off the mark. The character portraits are pretty bad imo though…
Most of the magical aspects of the franchise are replaced with a more digital aspect Fate/Extra, though a little bit of magical elements still remain, like the concept of magic circuits. Seeing cameo appearances made by various Type-Moon heroines are a sight to see as well. Rin (Fate/Stay Night), Arcueid (Tsukihime) and even Shiki (Kara no Kyoukai) made their glorious appearances in the game.
Although the gameplay, graphic and sound is at best average, the excellent scriptwriting and character developments pretty much covers it all. Overall, Fate/Extra is a game fans of Type-Moon should certainly try out.