Note: Review Copy was provided by Marvelous Games.
This is a historic review for yours truly as it is the first ever “Musou” (Think Dynasty Warriors) style game I will be covering on the blog, and one from the Fate franchise no less. Though Koei-Tecmo is the company that is best known for this genre with beat-em up esque elements Marvelous also has their own “Musou-ish” flagship series under their belt, which will get its time in the sun in the near future. For now we will take a look at a Fate game getting the DW treatment in Fate/Extella: the Umbral Star. I am also not much of an expert on the genre but will do my best explain to fellow newcomers what to expect and if this title is worth their time.
Note: This is a review is of the PS4 version.
Developer: Marvelous Games, Type-Moon
Publishers: Marvelous Games, XSEED (NA)
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita/TV, PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch
Length: 25-35 hours
Genres: Action, JRPG, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Beat-Em Up, Visual Novel
G-Rating: Okay to Good
Plot Summary: The game is set after the events of the Holy Grail War in the first Fate/Extra. Nero and her master have won the war, giving them control over the Moon Cell Automaton computer, which has the power to grant a wish. As proof of their kingship, they have obtained the Regalia ring, with which they rule over the former enemy servants; they are however confronted by a new enemy, which also holds a Regalia. The story is told from the perspective of three Servants as they wage war against each other while also discovering the real threat. There is also the mystery of what happened to the Master during the introductory parts of the story.
First of all, as mentioned in the plot summary the story is set after the events of the Fate/Extra games on the PSP. However, there is no need for concern regarding Extella’s plot being difficult to follow without knowledge of prior events. Having played the first Extra simply enhances the experience since the player knows what happened before and will be able to recognize said events whenever they are referenced. The game features an encyclopedia with terminologies to help lessen the confusion and is updated as the player progresses. As for the main Extella plot it is a solid one that will keep the player’s interest throughout. While not as deep as some other Fate entries it has several touching moments throughout the main campaigns. Experiencing the story from different perspectives is often a nice touch with the chance to play some missions, where two of the main Servants collide, from opposing sides depending on the campaign and somewhat altering the outcome of that battle and a little bit of what happens next. Besides the main three the other playable Servants also get their own side-story missions providing more plot explanation and game time. Also players of early Modern Sonic games will have some idea of what to expect from the Main Story. Not the main plot, just the mode itself.
The overall presentation is similar to that of the first PS3 Hyperdimension Neptunia game. The graphics look like they are from the PS2 era, which is not a bad thing, just something to keep in mind. The character art style on the other hand is nice. it fits the Fate franchise motif. The locales/battlefields look nice but are not amazing. Same goes for the soundtrack that has a few tunes that stand out but is overall not very memorable. What is a nice touch is because the story is set on the moon and the overall setting has a “digital world” vibe going on some of the Servants, mainly the veterans from Fate/Stay Night have Tron-like futuristic costumes though their classic costumes are also available. Also based on the main three servants’ personalities their territories match their motifs such as Nero’s Digital Roman Empire.
Another nice touch is that when a Servant is equipped with an alternate costume the character portrait changes along with the in-game costume. For example, have Tamamo wear her Summer costume her swimsuit costume and the character portrait will also wear the swimsuit unlike other games where only the character’s in-game costume changes.
The reason I included the Visual Novel description in the genre is because the cutscenes feel like a visual novel, complete with dialogue options. However, the dialogue options do not affect the main story in any way, rather making the right choices will add “Bond Points”. More on that in a bit.
Now for the meat of the review. The name of a “Musou” style beat-em up game is “territorial conquest” where the goal is to conquer as many Sectors as possible by beating up armies of hundreds-thousands to lure the Boss General (in the case of this game, Servant) out of hiding, beat him/her up and complete the level. Of course this is easier said than done. As the campaign progresses the enemies become more prepared and aggressive going after more than one of the ally Sectors. Not only that but in some levels players will contend with more than one Servant and there will even be “Sector Traps” where the player will either be sealed off or afflicted with a status ailment such as burn or poison. Breaking the trap remains the same though, take out the Aggressors. To conquer a Sector players must take out all Aggressors within. Think of them as bigger peons. As long as the Aggressors remain the peons keep on coming. Besides Aggressors and enemy Servants there are also Plants, these being peon cloning machines that keep pumping them out as long as they remain active. These are quite the pests as in later levels because they periodically reappear the longer a level is not 85-90% conquered. Besides conquering Sectors and beating the Boss Servant there are also some variations such as event alterations to the terrain or some enemy Servants not going down in one fight, adding some extra spice to what is initially seen as a simplistic button mashing beat-em up…though personally speaking the thrill of mowing down large armies with one powerful character in seconds IS what drew me to Musou games in the first place and one cannot deny how satisfying it feels chaining combos on the ground, to the air and then finishing it off with a meteor smash like move. Also depending on the players’ skill one level can go from 20 to 40 minutes.
The most basic of enemies encountered are peons who only attack if the player stands idly though there are also ranged peons who attack with energy arrows and the like. The aforementioned Aggressors come in some different varieties but are ultimately larger punching bags. The Servants and final campaign bosses are the ones who provide a greater challenge on their own whereas enemies rely on gang mentality.
Besides the Main Story Campaigns there are the aforementioned Side-Missions where players can go all-out with the other Servants as they are unlocked playing the Main Story and Free Mode with less restrictions and being able to play them as any Servant.
As far as other features go there is My Room where main story events between the Main Servant and the others have meetings or the Servant and Master have…special time. Bond Points are earned by making the right choices during these private scenes and in battles by fulfilling specified conditions or “giving it your all”. The higher the Servant’s “Bond Level”, the more abilities they unlock at certain levels. There are also skills to help further enhance Servants in battle along with Mystic Codes the Master can craft to provide additional backup such as healing, elemental resistance and even switching between the main and sub-Servant.
Now on to the main event. As the image description shows all one has to do is choose the female avatar. While the script was written with the avatar’s gender not being brought up (for the most part) there are some scenes while playing as the female one the game at least acknowledges the choice made by not only showing the avatar interacting with the Servants but also exclusive gender CGs (They merely switch the man with the woman but it is good enough). There is one line in particular during a dialogue option in the Nero campaign that upset some Yuri fans. Whether this was an alteration or a close enough translation from the Japanese script I cannot say. Personally I thought it was a throwaway joke line. Players will know which one it is. Hint: Mild jealousy. Nowhere near as bad as other script alterations from Japanese media though. Now as far as the Yuri intensity goes:
- Nero has a “All will praise me for I am the most awesome of all awesome people…but you willl always be #1 to me my beloved Master!”
- Tamamo refers to her mate as a “husband” but that is the same as Nero referring to herself as a “King” or Saber Classic being the reincarnation of King Arthur and being given male royal titles despite being reincarnated as a woman…Basically it is a “Fate” thing. As for how she interacts with her Master…the above screen grab says it all.
- The third Main Servant is a brooder. Let us just say players need be patient with her. It will most certainly pay off.
Besides the three Main Servants there were some other female sub-Servants who also wished to dine on Praetor Salad.
Overall I thought Fate/Extra: The Umbral Star was an enjoyable game to introduce myself and possibly others to the “Musou” genre. While the graphics and sound are not amazing they get the job done to give the game moderately interesting sights to look at. The story is not as deep as the Fate visual novels but for a VN/Musou hybrid it gets the job done, is entertaining and has its moments. I imagine the top factors that would determine whether readers choose to pick this game up are the following:
- The interest in a VN/Musou hybrid.
- The cast of Servants. If the reader is not a fan of Saber Class Servants…There are other pretty cool Servants but Sabers do take the majority.
- Whether they are fans of the Fate franchise as a whole, not just The Illya Show.
- Its appeal to Musou veterans.
The game is available at retail and online stores. The Switch version is pricier because it includes all DLC and a bonus costume for Nero, meaning it is the complete version.
PS: There is no English dub.