Fate/Stay Night is a series that has been popular across the globe for over a decade. Up until now, the English-speaking side of the fandom has had to rely on fan translation in order to play most of the franchise's games and visual novels, which made it somewhat surprising that Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star was announced for a Western release just a few month after coming out in Japan. This is good news for fans of the series, but is it a good game? Yes and no, like any licensed game. the faithful will eat this one up, while the rest may find their fix for beating up tons of guys better served elsewhere.
At its core, EXTELLA is a beat em' up that takes most of its DNA from the popular Warriors series created by Omega Force. This means that you'll be spending most of your time with the game zipping around a map chopped up into sectors, then conquering these same sectors before your foes. Doing so secures victory for your camp, and move the story forward. This is achieved in much the same way as it is in the Warriors games, in that defeating a certain number of enemies will attract stronger enemies (or a boss Servant) which must be defeated to earn the points associated with the sector. Once you have enough points, a boss, or portal to a boss. will appear and defeating them ends the stage. Nearly every stage plays this way, which can lead to repetition at points, but the engaging combat, colorful graphics, and underlying Fate lore make it a fun experience despite this.
Speaking of combat, Extella's underlying gameplay is fast and frenetic, if not a bit repetitive. Hundreds of enemies can flood the screen at once and your character can cut through them like a hot knife through butter, leading to ridiculous KO counts that can read in the thousands on higher difficulties. Such a massacre is fueled by two types of normal attacks and flashy special moves called "Extella Attacks" that hit every enemy in the current sector. Combat is quick in Extella, which makes it fun to mow down hundreds of enemies at once, but also often makes it difficult to tell what is going on on screen at times. The sheer number of enemies can obscure your vision, making it hard to see where you're going or where an important boss target has gone off to. If hacking through ten thousand enemies a stage is your bag, you'll enjoy what EXTELLA has to offer, while other may find it more repetitive then fun.
Story mode makes up the bulk of EXTELLA and presents itself as a sort of sequel to the 2013 Japan-only RPG Fate/Extra CCC, taking place directly after that game's normal ending. While the story presented here is mostly self-contained to the events surrounding the coming of the titular Umbral Star, there are references throughout to both Fate/ Extra and CCC that will likely go over the head of newbies and even those already invested in the Fate universe, as Extra was a PSP only release, and CCC never left Japan. Thankfully, fan translation, and Let's Plays, and an in-game encyclopedia exist for both so players who want to know more about the series and the background that drives EXTELLA's story forward
The story itself begins simply enough, with the hero/heroine and their chosen Servant seeking to conquer the Moon and take their place as its king and queen. However, by the time you reach the third story, Altera's, the third heroine, and the final one the scope becomes much larger. What was once simply about taking over the moon soon beings to involves ancient alien, multiple timelines, and schemes to destroy the world as we know it. These stories, compared to the first two you must play through, are actually quite compelling and makes you want to push the game forward more quickly. These new stories will entertain current fans, and provide enough context in-game to make sense without having to search the internet for more information. In all, while the story can daunting at times, and even too silly for its own good at times, it is a treat for those familiar with the Fate franchise mythos will enjoy the obscure references, while other, especially new fans just looking for a brawler may feel left in the dark.
Visually, Extella is not the prettiest PS4 game, but it remains true to its anime roots. While most of its stages retain the cartoonish look of its PSP predecessor and each of its themed stages (such as Nero's Roman city of gold and ivory, Tamamo's overtly sexual red light inspired domain, and a Broken version of Fukuki City from Fate/Stay Night) are interesting to look at and provide a good staging ground for the grand battles that make up most of the game. The art, which was done by the same artist as Extra and CCC, Wada Arco, are clean and show a nice level of emotion regardless if a character is supposed to look smug or happy, manage to fit just right. The only issue I have with the art itself is some of the male characters not originally designed by Arco look a bit odd, especially Nameless, but the designs aren't awful, just different then most are used to.
The music is the worst part of Extella and most of its soundtrack consists of generic battle tunes that you'll likely tune out to the sound of swords clashing and enemies dying by the dozen. No track stands out in particular, which is a bit sad considering it would have been nice to hear series staples like EMIYA from Fate/Zero during particular battles or when using certain super attacks.
In all, Extella is an excellent both as a Fate/ series game and a Warriors style beat em' up and should appease fans of both until an entry in either comes out in the future. The biggest issues here is the forgettable music, strange looking art for some characters, and a story steeped in Fate/ universe lore, but none of these hurt the game enough to make it an experience not worth playing through.
Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star was reviewed on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the publisher. It is also available on PlayStation Vita.
Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star is a beat em' up done right, but can be repetitive after a long while.(Review Policy)
- Fast and Fun Combat
- Interesting Narrative
- Colorful Graphics
- Fair Difficulty
- Generic Music
- Lackluster Character Roster
- No Multiplayer