Fate/Extra is one of those games that, purely based on the facts of A) it existing with an official (and exemplary) English localization and B) I am a huge fan of the franchise this game stems from, is awesome. Fate/Extra is the second game to make it to the states based on the classic Japanese visual novel known as Fate/Stay Night, which, while not officially existing over here, the visual novel spawned a decent anime adaptation that cemented enough popularity in the United States. The previous game, Fate/Unlimited Codes, was a digital-only PSP fighting game published by fighter favorite Capcom. This time, the genre of choice is dungeon-crawling RPG and Aksys Games has stepped up to the plate with enough balls to go all out with a physical retail release, complete with limited editions packed with goodies. November 1st, 2011 is a good day to be a fan of obscure Japanese things. Brief history lesson aside, the real issue is of course whether or not Aksys has taken a risk on a quality product. Is that the case? Sure! If you’re a fan. Outside onlookers will perceive the game with a look comparable to the one your dog gives you when it doesn’t understand what the hell the cutesy gibberish your girlfriend affectionately yells at it. That’s okay though, because Fate/Extra isn’t for them. Fanboys rejoice: this game is a blast.
The premise of the Fate series is pretty fun: The Holy Grail is real, and families with magic in their bloodline (“Magi”) have violently fought over it for centuries, in the hopes of having a single wish granted. To help them slaughter each other, they harness the souls of great historical figures, both real and fictional, to fight alongside them as “Servants.” At the end of the “Holy Grail War,” one Magus is left, and along with their Servant are granted one wish, as long as every other participant is dead. Fate/Extra is penned as being a sort of re-imagining of the original Fate/Stay Night, and brings back a few members of the original cast, as well as a myriad of new characters and Servants.
The way in which Fate/Extra plays around with the world of the franchise is quite interesting, and detailing much of it would ruin the fun of discovery, but I will say that the Holy Grail War has gone digital. The Holy Grail uses its limitless power to create a world within the real world, and the participants link their souls to what on the surface appears to be a typical high school. Battles between the Masters and Servants take place in a specialized arena, and classrooms are used as personal quarters for the digitized warriors, as well as a place to relax in between bouts. It’s much more organized than many of the previous settings of the war, in order to prevent damage and unnecessary collateral damage in the real world.
Right off the bat, the graphics, setting, and overall presentation give off a pretty heavy Persona vibe, but quickly falls into its own and lets players know that the Fate world hasn’t been messed with too much. You really get a sense of foreboding as the game goes on, as the “students” become less and less friendly with one another, and the population steadily decreases. The atmosphere, comprising Aksys Games’ superb localization, the fact that series writer Kinoko Nasu is in charge of the scenario, and the excellent eerie soundtrack, really make the events that unfold engrossing.
Most of the action in Fate/Extra take place in two-floor dungeons that, while linear and mostly obstacle free outside of battle, are essentially digital oceans that, given the time to look around outside the path, have a gorgeous aesthetic. Enemies are mostly generic and often repeated, but these dungeons serve the purpose of appetizers before the main course at the end of each game week, padding the game and allowing the player to do some level grinding if they wish.
Each game day ends after you spend time in the arena, and at the end of the week, the final battle against your designated opponent takes place. These fights are the main focus of the game, the culmination of all the tension and mysteries surrounding the colorful boss characters during the week. The build up to these showdowns are by far the most interesting part of Fate/Extra. As I mentioned before, the Servant characters are loosely based on famous historical figures. The cool thing about this is that at first, the true identity of each Servant is kept secret, because in the Fate series, the moment you deduce the name of your opponent, you gain a great advantage in battle. In Fate/Extra, nearly each day of the week presents the player with a new piece of information in order to figure out who their opponent is. These opportunities take the form of many tasks, ranging from a slip of the tongue from a conceited Master or Servant, to somewhat annoying fetch quests in the hub area. Regardless of the annoyance factor or lack thereof, the payoff is great. The amount of research put into the Servants is clear, and it’s just a lot of fun to not only try to beat the game to the big reveal, but also learn a thing or two about legendary heroic figures that you may not have known much about going in.
Fate/Extra‘s battle system is also rather unique, featuring what can be boiled down to a rock-paper-scissors type mechanic. At the beginning of each turn, 6 spaces are presented, which must be filled with attack, break, or guard. Attack beats break, break beats guard, and guard beats attack. When you first face off against an enemy, you usually get to see one or two of your opponent’s choices so you aren’t entirely left in the dark. As you defeat more of the same type of monster, you gain further information and more spaces are filled in with subsequent arena visits. Enemies also tend to stick to a pattern or two, so what seems like annoying guesswork at first quickly turns into a fun memory/pattern game. For boss battles, the information gathered during the week affects the board, giving you more free hits the more info you dig up, making potentially difficult fights more manageable if you can successfully discover the boss’s full name.
Fate/Extra is a bit of a niche game, but it does a great job filling that niche. The only real issue with the game is its straightforwardness, which both helps and hinders the experience. There isn’t really much in the way of sidequests, which can at times make things feel repetetive and formulaic, but every time something interesting happens, be it a new scene of visual novel-esque exposition, discovering new facts about your opponent, or the awesome boss fights, any previous tedium is instantly washed away. Aksys has done Fate/Stay Night fans a great service in bringing this game overseas, and for those fans eagerly awaiting a localization, Fate/Extra won’t disappoint.
|Pros||Great writing and atmosphere, interesting world building, and unique battle system.|
|Cons||Not much to do outside of the storyline, those not familiar with the series will be beyond lost.|
|Verdict||If you're into the Fate/Stay Night series at all you owe it to yourself to give Fate/Extra a spin.|