A Japanese boarding school, digital servants, and the Holy Grail; Fate/Extra brings all of these elements together. Sound interesting? Well dress in your best school uniform, it is time to enroll.
In Fate/Extra you start out in a prologue to the main story. You are a student at a Japanese boarding school. You have only one real friend and even he treats you terribly. As you go through the school days things start to become strange, a teacher falls at the same exact spot and time every day, some students dress in clothes that would not be allowed and a senior student gives you the same welcome speech and inspection every morning including the morning you run away from him. As a reporter for the school news paper you investigate all these mysteries, but when you present your findings to the editor-in-chief she treats them as nothing strange and gives you another mystery to follow.
The prologue continues on with things getting stranger and stranger until it comes to an abrupt end with your death. It is only after your initial character dies that the game really begins. You take the role of a student who was following the prologue student around. His death partially awakens your memory. You are not a student at a Japanese boarding school, but a hacker who has worked your way into a computer that is hosting a competition called the Holy Grail War. You find out that the other "students" are participants in the same war. While all the other participants went through the same process of a memory wipe, they have regained their memories. You only regain enough to know about the war and that the prize is the "Holy Grail" that will grant one wish. You find out how deadly this war is after winning your first battle. Your opponent's avatar is erased from the system and he is deleted the real world too. The only way out of the Holy Grail War is to be the last person standing.
Controls and Gameplay
Fate/Extra plays out in weeks. During the week each day will be spent researching your opponent's servant. The more information you discover the better prepared you will be when you fight your opponent at the end of the week. The key information to discover is the name of the opponents servant. Once that happens you will be able to anticipate their most powerful attack.
A lot of Fate/Extra's story plays out a bit like a visual novel. You can move from person to person to talk to them. When you come to someone who advances the story, you will occasionally have internal dialog that will help explain or move the story forward.
Battles are fought through the use of a "servant." These servants are recreations of great heroes both real and fictional. They each fall into one of three classes; Saber (a fighter type), Archer (a ranged attacker), or Caster (a magic user). The battle mechanic itself is basically "rock-paper-scissors," but here called "attack-break-guard." You are presented six slots, these represent the next six moves in the battle. Depending on your level and knowledge of your opponent you will see 1-3 of their "attack, break, or guard" moves in the slots. Then you key in your six moves, countering those that you can see and guessing at the rest. At first this is a lot of guess work, but as you fight various monsters in the daily arena challenges you will notice patterns to their attacks. Early on the lower level creatures only use a handful of patterns, but at higher levels the creatures have more and more patterns they work from. A big tip, save often because you will miss-guess at some point. Your character will gain spells and your servant will gain skills that you can use in addition to items you can buy in the school's cafeteria.
Graphics and Sound
Fate/Extra is very Japanese. The art style is anime and all the voice acting is in Japanese. An interesting counterpoint is that the soundtrack is in a light jazz style. It sounds nice at first, but becomes repetitive after a while.
Fate/Extra is a strange beast. It has a great story that you can enjoy if you are familiar with Japanese anime and manga. It's even more enjoyable if you are familiar with the Fate/Stay Night series, which this game is based on.
The story is interesting, the combat on the other hand brings things down. At first it was intriguing to me as a new battle system. Simple to understand, but as you play through, hard to master. Figuring out an opponent's attack pattern based on, at most, three pieces becomes just like playing rock-paper-scissors in real life, you win some and lose some. Problem here is when you lose, you will have to replay through any areas that you went through before saving the game. Hence why I advise saving often.
For the Sony PSP Fate/Extra is a great portable game since it can be played in long or small bites.
A great story, but a trying battle system, Fate/Extra gets a 3 out of 5 from me.
Fate/Extra is rated T for Teen for Drug Reference, Fantasy Violence, Language, Sexual Themes.
It is available now for the Sony PlayStation Portable. For more information visit the Aksys Games web site.