Hands-On-Impressions: Fate/Extella: Umbral Star (Japanese Version)

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When Fate/Extella was first announced back in March 2016, I was ecstatic. I’m arguably the biggest Fate fan on the Blast Away the Game Review team and pretty much called dibs on a review once I learned that XSEED was actually going to bring it stateside. Meanwhile, I’ve been hammering out the Japanese version that came with my Japanese PlayStation 4 Slim.

As any Type-Moon fan will tell you, story is a major selling point and Extella is no exception. As such, I wanted to give the narrative as much focus as I could and decided that splitting the hands-on-impression in two, which I felt would be best. This first, hands-on impression will be of the imported PS4 release and any noteworthy differences between the English and Japanese versions will mentioned later.

Getting into the Games Core Mechanics

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At Extella’s core, Fate/Extella: Umbral Star is a standard musou hack n’ slash, so expect your usual controls of light and heavy attacks, jump, dash, and block. Those familiar with games such as Dynasty Warriors or even Samurai Warriors, you’ll be moderately familiar with the game. To help the game stand out, servants have a couple of special attacks they can deploy: EM attacks, which are built up during combat (blue bars under the health bar) and Moon Crunch/Drive attacks that are built up through stringing together high combo counts.

EM attacks are fairly easy to obtain through normal combat and executing them in large groups can really raise the combo count while dealing decent damage, but it’s the Moon Crunch/Drive attacks that are ridiculously over powered. These attacks primarily boots all stats making your character near invincible for short periods of time and it’s during these moments where boss fights can easily swing in your favor. Finally, each character can use their trademarked Noble Phantasm by obtaining Phantasm Circuits, either as items in the stage or while interrupting a boss’ during their Noble Phantasm. Depending on your servants level and the difficulty you’ve chosen, these attacks will drop a boss or severely hurt them.

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Outside of just brute forcing your way through the game, you can also augment your servants with install skills, power-ups that can add extra strength, increase elemental resistance, increase EXP gained, etc. Masters are also able to equip code casts which allow you to heal your servant during combat, switch out servants (certain servants only), and deploy elemental shields which is something you’ll need to protect against sector traps. Depending on how well you match install skills and code casts – breaking the game is not outside the realm of possibility.

Even the Music Manages to Stand-Out

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For fans of the fate series, the music selection is a pure treat with each character sporting their signature theme remixed and playing during their noble phantasm, which makes the special attacks even more of a pleasure to pull off. But when you’re not blasting everything on screen, the original sound track is competent enough to stand on its own and the Gallery provides a music player so you can listen to EMIYA ad nauseam.

Personally, though, the voice acting it what really drives the characters home with most, if not all, of the original cast reprising their appropriate roles for the game. If there’s one thing I can say about Japanese voice acting, it’s consistent. Hearing the appropriate voice coming from a character just really makes the experience that much better and is something I must say I wish for is that it is followed with dubbing in the US (I’m looking at you Sentai).

Visuals? They Definitely Stand Out Among the Rest

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Extella’s visuals are impressive, especially while playing on the PS4 at a smooth frame rate, but let me be very clear, the inclusion of a Vita version likely hindered character models. Models have a simple enough geometry and suffer from outfits clipping through capes/hair/weapons. The PS4 version of the game was just under 3GB, so outside of better textures and frame rate, the game will be mostly identical to its Vita counter-part. This is in no way meant to imply that the models look bad, in fact, far from it. The servants really portray Fate/Extra’s unique art style and servant animation does a good job of conveying some of the over-the-top / larger-than-life personalities, like that of Nero and Tomamo. But on the flip side, some characters just look off, such as bro-rider. Levels are uniquely themed after familiar scenes from Fate lore but suffer from the same problems as every other musou clone where sectors are copy and pasted.

And So Our Thoughts Conclude

Thus far, the game has been a treat to play through, even if I have no idea what the story is. Granted, I’m a huge fan of Fate and much of this is familiar territory, but the point of entry may be high for non-fans as there is a lot of lore involved not to mention the fact that Extella is part three of the Extra series, and there isn’t an official release/translation for Fate/Extra CCC. While there is an encyclopedia in the options menu, chances are most of the story will just fly over the head of anyone but fans.

Fate/Extella is available in Japan and will be released in North America on January 17th and Europe on January 20th. Please look forward to our review of the story soon and another unboxing of the Noble Phantasm Edition. Umu!


About the Writer:

Greg_F_Heisenberg

Greg F. is an RPG enthusiast whom absolutely enjoys the niche titles that come across from the East. When it comes to beat-’em-up brawlers such as Senran Kagura, Greg knows the titles just about as good as anyone else, but his passion not-so-secretly sits with his love for retro games from the NES and Sega period. In his free time Greg contributes to B.A.T.G.R. with his knowledge of such feedback.

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