Fate/Extra – Review
- Disclaimer and introduction to the review
- The review itself
If you’re a long-time reader, you probably know about my experience with the Fate franchise. I’ve watched all of the anime, played several of the games and have an unfortunate addiction to Fate/Grand Order. I only played Fate/Extra last year, so my knowledge about the franchise was already big at that point. I have played the game as Saber first on normal difficulty, and as Caster on easy difficulty the second time just because I wanted to know the story. I have not touched Archer’s story yet, simply because I was not interested in playing through a long Visual Novel-esque game a third time. I’ve played this on the PlayStation Portable which is currently the only console it’s on, though it is available digitally on the PlayStation Vita.
You know what Fate needs? Jazz. And Fate/Extra has a ton of Jazz. Like literally, whenever I think of Jazz, I probably think of this game. Also battle 5 is a great track, totally give that one a listen!
When it comes to the Fate franchise, I would call myself a decently big fan. I have not read the original Visual Novels and with that statement I probably already made this review irrelevant to the ”die-hard fanbase”, but it is a franchise I gladly spend my time on. To this day I still play Fate/Grand Order on a daily basis and I’m not exactly sure if I’m happy with that. I’ve actually had an interest in this game for a very long time, but scalpers are very active on the PlayStation Portable market and prices have skyrocketed. Surprisingly I did manage to find a Collector’s Edition of the game for a reasonable price; it was sealed even! I now had a reason to play Fate/Extra without resorting to piracy, and that’s what I did right away.
Classic Nasu story and characters
If you’re familiar with the Fate franchise–or Type-Moon in general–you’re probably aware of the mastermind behind most of these franchises, Kinoko Nasu. He is known for his unique approach to storytelling, using complicated terms but does explain them very well if your brain can comprehend everything. Spoiler, mine often can’t. Fate/Extra is no exception to this, with all kinds of strange words thrown towards you but explained in a Visual Novel-esque style. You’re an amnesiac protagonist inside a digital world created by a supercomputer on the moon separated from your main body, fighting for survival in a school filled with 128 masters and their servants to have your wish granted as the final survivor. Are you still following me? Okay good. When it comes to the story, the main objective isn’t much different from the original Holy Grail War; the war just got much bigger, and you’ve basically been converted to data. I feel the story on its own is fine enough but the real treat here are the characters. The NPC Masters all have different dialogue after every event, and you learn more about them over the course of the game. Since it is a survival war, every time you talk to them could very well be the last time you see them. You don’t really have to worry about fighting them though; they’re just generic looking NPCs after all. The actual masters have a much more distinct look, and you get to interact with them quite often. The Fate franchise follows the idea of ”information is power”, so getting to know your opponent and their servant will benefit you (more information about that in the gameplay section). The three servants you are able to summon deserve a special mention though. When they answer your summons you don’t know anything about them, and you won’t know anything either until you’ve proven yourself a worthy master. This sets the stage for the story as your character development goes hand-in-hand with that of your servant; you are both becoming stronger and getting closer to each other. Many their favourite servant is Saber, though I personally like Caster a lot as well. I always tease one of my best friends by calling her bad since she’s his favourite Fate servant, but I genuinely think she’s a great character in Fate/Extra. I could describe their characters, but I feel that would ruin one of the main driving forces behind the story. Going into this game blind with limited knowledge of the Fate franchise is the best way. What I can say however; the bond I had with my servant is easily my most cherished part of this game, and the first thing that always comes to mind next to the jazzy music.
Know your opponent or die
Huh, drastic title. I like it. The story is split-up into weeks. Every day of the week you can train together with your servant, but also learn more about the opponent. There is a very important warning upon starting up the game, and it’s one that you should always keep in mind: Make multiple saves, because dead-ends do exist and will ruin your entire progress. During these days you have to make several decisions and collect a total of two keys. If you fail to do the latter before the final day of the week, you straight-up cannot continue and if you saved right before then, your save has become useless. The same goes for decisions, though at least for these you can just reload and pick the other option with no consequences. What’s most important however, is gathering information. You can talk with everyone in the school during the day, go to the library or visit the training field to stalk- or challenge your opponent. The NPCs do have new dialogue every day, some that may even benefit you. What adds to the story is that these characters disappear over time as they’ve literally lost the war and died. I do feel the school has a lot of unnecessary places though, which becomes especially apparent when there are fewer NPCs around. I don’t remember the Archery ever being used for mandatory story progression for example, yet I went out of my way every day to see if there was actually something of interest there. It is important to learn as much as you can after all, which ties nicely into gameplay. Once you discover a servant’s abilities or Noble Phantasm, you will gain an advantage in battles against them. The same goes for regular enemies, though you learn more about them just by fighting them over and over. Now I personally already knew all of the servants before going in since I only played it in 2019, but getting to know the identity of your enemy is done quite cleverly.
…You’ll probably still die
The gameplay is the major hit-or-miss part of the game for me. As I’ve stated before, the idea of gaining an advantage in battle through learning more about your opponent is brilliant. But this also means that if you have to fight an opponent before being able to learn anything about them, you can get a game-over pretty quickly. Fate/Extra follows a rock-paper-scissor battle system, which means that one attack will do good damage while taking no damage in return, the other is a tie which does no damage to both sides and finally you take damage yourself. Hit a combo of three and you get a free fourth attack. The opponent’s strategy is shown to you the more information you have, but absolutely none is shown without information. This means that almost all first encounters are complete RNG, and if you’re unlucky that can easily lead to your demise. You can prevent combo’s by using skills and some enemy types do prefer certain attacks over others, but you can still get knocked out pretty easily the moment you’re careless or taking the risk. I like the idea behind the combat system, but it’s very hit-or-miss in execution. It can either be too RNG-heavy, or too predictable. Information obtained does carry over to a new game+ in which I recommend picking Caster, because she’s the weakest servant before gaining her skills and often dies to a few regular attacks. Funnily enough, she becomes the strongest after you do end up with her skills since you can almost perfectly ignore the rock-paper-scissor system. If you play as her on your first playthrough though, good luck. You can spend points to make the servant’s stats to your liking however. I won’t blame you if you turn your weak Caster into the most buff wrestler our there. The general opinion is to give her only magic points, but nobody’s stopping you from going the complete other way and I like that. I mean, it is rock-paper-scissors after all and if you play your cards right, you can definitely punch every enemy in the face with a servant class which has punching as their last priority (unless your name is Xuanzang Sanzang). Before I move on to the verdict I want to point out two nitpicks. I never really understood what the point was of completing every map 100% as I don’t remember there being a reward for it. I’m also kind of disappointed that a special completion reward was hidden behind a second playthrough, while you could easily do all the necessary stuff on the first playthrough. I played through the game twice as different characters so it wasn’t too big of an issue, but thought I’d mention it regardless.
I’m usually pretty amnesiac and therefore only review games that I’ve played in the past few months for accuracy purposes. It has actually been more than a few months since I last played Fate/Extra, but I get a warm nostalgic feeling whenever I look back on the game. Most of that has to do with the memorable characters, and the close relationship you ended up forming with your Servant. This is nothing uncommon for Visual Novel games, but I feel it was particularly executed well here as creating that relationship is also one of the major driving forces behind the story; gain their trust, and become stronger together. I am personally mixed on the combat however, which is the part of the game I don’t necessarily have warm nostalgic feelings for. The idea of learning your enemies combat behaviour through (optional) dialogue and recurring battles is brilliant, but it makes early battles very RNG-heavy and can often result in a game over. There are also a few too many pointless spaces in the school that I visited every day for completion, but most of the time it was just a time-waster. That aside, I did really enjoy Fate/Extra and therefore it truly deserves the 8.5 out of 10!
Final Score: 8.5/10
I’m not going to lie: after I played it initially I gave it an 8 out of 10 instead of the score I gave it now. But if I can look back upon a game and remember the good times I had with it, I feel it did a good job. I’ve also played Fate/Extella pretty much right after this one, but my opinion on that game is… a surprise! But nowhere near as good as this one at least, that’s something I can say. Once I got more freedom on my hands, I might take a look at more Fate articles like I did before. It’s a franchise I enjoy after all, and I am especially fond of the characters. But that’s a topic for another day. I’m not sure yet what the next review is going to be. It’s probably going to be a big JRPG that I am currently playing, but it depends on when I finish it. Oh well, we’ll see!