The Holy Grail is a sacred object of utmost religious importance for most of Christianity. Throughout the centuries people have been searching for it to harness its miraculous powers. Emperors fought for it, Templars tried to hide it, and even Hitler was intrigued at its powers. Now people infused with magic, the magi, go to war with each other to claim the grail as the prize and one wish. This is the world of Fate/stay Night.
For those who are not familiar with Fate/stay Night, it started off as a Visual Novel by a company called Type-Moon. The story is centered on an event called The Holy Grail Wars, and the main protagonist’s forced participation in the war. It spawned off into the usual suspects of media: anime, light novels and of course, video games. This brings us to the game we are looking at today, Fate/Extra on the PSP, which is a spinoff of the Fate/stay night series.
Bridging the gap between Visual Novel and RPG – In the majority of the JRPGs that I’ve played, a majority of them would have visual novel elements, such as branching storylines, narration in the first person, various endings, having the protagonist fall for one of the leading characters and more. Fate/Extra seems to bridge the gap between VN and RPGs. Simply put Fate/Extra is a VN with RPGs elements, which isn’t a bad thing. This allows those who have limited knowledge of VNs and who want to get into VNs a good jumping point.
That’s so Inception - Due to the events of the last Holy Grail War, Fate/Extra takes place in a MMO. Yes you’re playing as a character that’s playing a character in an online game. While the set up may not be new to the game, it really does bring up the morality of the players within the game. *SPOILER WARNING* When a player dies in the game, its not just game over in the game. That person on the other end of the computer screen dies as well. Your character will bring this point up often, thinking “I don’t want to die, but if I fight am I sending death to that person on the other side of the screen?” *END SPOILER* How far are the other players willing to go to win and receive the Holy Grail as the prize? How far are you willing to take your character to get to that end? This is one of the strong points that Fate/Extra brings to the table, being part VN.
No previous knowledge needed- What I really like about these spin-offs is that no knowledge of the events that took place in Fate/stay night is needed to play Fate/Extra. Does it help to know what happened? Not really, but it will put a smile on the faces of players who do know what happened. As for those who don’t know the events of the past game, this will want to make them go back and see what led up to the game. That’s how I felt after playing through the game, wanting to know more about what happened. Speaking of which….
Fresh take on characters- Those who do know a bit about the Fate/stay series will be happy to know that Type-Moon has some surprises in store for them. Characters that you thought you knew in the anime and in the VN are not what you would expect them to be in Fate/Extra. *SPOLIER WARNING* For example, Saber in Fate/stay night is a noble warrior thinking of her Master. In Fate/Extra her personality is of a ruthless emperor that commands power and respect and will not show mercy for the weak, especially from her Master. *END SPOILER*
Unique battle system - The battle system for Fate/Extra has to be one of the most unique and simple battle systems that I’ve played in a JRPG. It basically boils down to a game of jan ken pon, aka Rock Paper Scissors. In Fate/Extra, these actions are called attack, block and break. Attack beats break, break beats block and block beats attack but block follows up with a counter attack that deals damage. It’s set up to where at first you cannot see/predict what will they throw, but as your Servant levels up you’ll able to see what will the opponent throw and counter with the action that will beat it. It’s a very simple system when it comes down to it, but often the simple things are the most fun.
Too area restrictive- I’ve played through the original visual novel, and the battles between each Master’s Servants took place all around the city. In Fate/Extra, I was hoping to see more of the city, like the areas that were affected by battles from the last war. Instead I am restricted to two areas: the school grounds and the dungeons. It would have been great to see the areas that the last war took place now a year or so later.
A niche with in a niche- Even though Fate/Extra has RPG elements, it is really heavy on the VN aspects and leans towards more being classified as a VN. Now while that isn’t a bad thing per se, it is bad because it limits its target audience even further. JRPGs are already a niche group of games, making them hard for new players to pick up. Fate/Extra goes one level more in being a VN with RPG elements, Visual Novels being a genre of games that have not yet picked up steam in the West. While that may not be a bad thing, being primarily a VN might limit its audience even more.
Fate/Extra has to be one of the more unique RPGs that I’ve played in a while. While it may be leaning more towards being classified as a VN, I enjoyed the experience since VNs are a rare genre of games here in the West. From the fun battle system, to the story that has your character facing hard decisions, Fate/Extra provided a good time. On the downside, it is a bit restrictive in only limiting players to two areas. Also, being a type of game that hasn’t been much outside of Japan really shrinks down its target audience to the hardcore Type-Moon fans and those who love VNs. I really do want to see more of these games come out here in the West. Aksys Games is introducing gamers in the West to a genre that was previously only exclusive to Japan, but is fun. So if you have an extra $24.99, grab a copy from the PSN store, or if you like limited editions you can drop $39.99 for some extras. Either way, fans of the series, Visual Novels, JRPGs and fans of Aksys Games will love it.