When it comes to musou games it’s either hit or miss depending on the Source material. These are titles completely reliant on fan service to drive interest, and the Fate games have been one of the champions in this particular market. With a massive rooster of characters and engaging GAMEPLAY it’s easy to recommend these games to anime fans. Furthermore these games also benefit from what can only be described as highly compelling design, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The statements thus far are general, but you’re here for a specific title, that being Fate/EXTELLA Link for the PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch and PS Vita. This particular review focuses on the PS4 and Switch versions of the game, however you can find coverage of PS Vita version on 2 old 4 gaming, and the PC version on my mate Jay RPG’s channel.
This is a fantastic game that I greatly enjoyed reviewing. The game follows the basics muso title design of one character vs insurmountable odds using highly stylish moves. Similar to the popular Dynasty Warriors franchises, it consists of hacking and slashing against hundreds of opponents in order to take over or defend specific areas on the map with occasional mini-bosses and bosses appearing. As this genre has bled over to other popular franchises like Fire Emblem and One Piece it was only a matter of time till it Reached the Fate/ franchise. In 2016 we got Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star, but the way they implemented the mechanics were very vanilla with some exceptions that are important to the Fate/ lore, like the super moves you can activate called Noble Phantasms.
Fate/EXTELLA LINK has expanded upon the previous entry with the addition of Support Units, Active Skills, Rush Attacks, and LINK Attacks. Support Units are entirely new, allowing other servants to help you based on their Bond Level (how much they like you). They act like passive skills that sometimes trigger off of Active Skills or as a defensive mechanic. Speaking of Active Skills, in the last game you had to memorize combo paths in order to set off large attacks, but now those have been separated into Active Skills and can be activated anytime with a short cooldown. Some of the offensive Active Skills have a chance of launching a mini-boss or a boss into the air, prompting you to mash the light attack button. This is normally what they call a Rush Attack, but if you have an allied character in the same area you perform the Rush Attack, they will join in on the fun, becoming a LINK Attack. This depth of combat revolving around the new Active Skill mechanic really speeds up the gameplay, allowing for easy EX ranks. In fact the game is really easy, even on hard difficulty.
Each stage consist of a pre and post battle cutscene with planning and battles sandwiched in between. The cutscenes are thankful skippable which comes in handy for replaying stages due to the need to unlock everything, oh and can we give a round of applause to Marvelous for actually putting enough desirable content into the game for players to unlock.
The unlockable content includes; new characters, outfits, stages, and more. Take notes other developers, this is how you do anime themed games. Time invested must feel adequately rewarded. This means no lazy colour swap unlocks. I’m looking at you My Hero One’s Justice and BlazBlue crosstag battle.
Fate/EXTELLA Link isn’t even by any means the most generous game either. In fact it has its own set of DLC rounding out at about $30USD at the time of writing, and the previous game’s DLC capped out at about $60USD. Using that as a reference it’s not that bad all things considered. The simple fact that characters unlock after completing stages, and outfits each have set requirements to unlock means that players should feel reward throughout their experience. My only wish is that there were more unlockable outfits.
The game also has numerous campaign stages with alternate routes for good measure. There are also extra stages which each come with their own rewards. The campaign isn’t that complex, borderlining on boring egotistical history buff drivel that does more to confuse more so than anything, but that’s to be expected. These games rely heavily on their source material for proper exposition. So given that Fate is of the egotistical alternate history elk, it works.
This game continues from the where Fate Extella: The Umbral Star ended, although It’s not necessary to play that game before this one. You play as a silent protagonist-kun living in the virtual world inside the Luna supercomputer. In this last refuge for humanity, powerful Servants — sentient, digital recreations of famous figures from Earth’s lore and history battle rogue programs (and each other) to establish dominance. Your character is the last Master, a character who controls servants. Don’t ask me the finer details, because I’ve not actually watched enough of the Fate anime to know.
Worry not though, Franz got us covered: As the Master of SE.RA.PH, you sit at your throne in Rome (not Earth Rome; Virtual Moon Rome) with your dutiful servants. At your side stands Nero Claudius, the last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty (who was apparently an anime girl this whole time); Tamamo-no-Mae, a Muromachi period kitsune turned top-tier courtesan and part-time murderer (an anime girl, as expected); baby Atilla the Hun, who is a massive plot point of the previous game so I can’t say much else without spoiling (also randomly an anime girl); and plenty more ready for your command (not all are anime girls). Keep in mind this is a spin-off series, but a very popular one at that. It’s also a pretty easy and straightforward one to start. The least prior knowledge you need to play /EXTELLA LINK would be to play through /EXTELLA: The Umbral Star. If you want to do a little more homework, you could play Fate/EXTRA for PSP to get the start of the series, or you could watch the anime re-imagining produced by SHAFT, Fate/EXTRA: Last Encore.
What’s really relevant is that a new threat has arrived to wage apocalyptic war. Your character and servants stand against the destruction with new hero Charlemagne at the center of it all. Compared to the first game, Fate/EXTRA, which was a dungeon crawling RPG with nothing but a literal rock-paper-scissors mechanic, Fate/EXTELLA LINK shines in the gameplay department. It builds a lot on what its predecessor left it and then some. This title drew a lot of hype from the Fate community, thanks to improved character models, graphics, new gameplay mechanics, and the return of the 16 characters in /EXTELLA with an additional 10 new characters.
Though Charlemagne is the focal point of the story I only used him for the tutorial, then sidelined that bastard because the game dangled the idea of choice in my face only to immediately take it away. Pretty early in the plot you’re presented with a situation whereby you’re required to choose a servant to summon. No matter your choice Charlemagne shows up. This makes the choice irrelevant, and sets a bad precedent for the rest of the game. None of your choices matter, none. When you’re presented with something just choose the first option then play the others after. It’s that simple.
The game is also a visual treat. From character models to the 2D art. All the illustrations and CG art for the /EXTRA spin-offs are done by WADA ARCO (praise be unto her), but her unique bishoujo art style never translated perfectly into the character models they used on the PSP way back when she first started with Fate/EXTRA. Her characteristically large and starry eyes translated to being flat and bug-like once the models were running in-engine. But now, in Fate/EXTELLA LINK, all the character models render her style amazingly, all in-engine. In the last game, Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star, the old PSP-era character models were used during most cutscenes and moments of dialog, and while I wouldn’t mind that now that the models look much better, the newest game opted to only use drawn sprites instead. It might feel like a step backwards, technologically, but this cohesive aesthetic harkens back to the visual novel roots of the franchise and shows off how talented WADA ARCO is.
The environments complement the theme of the game in. The only fault with them being a lack of variety. This means replaying the same areas numerous times thanks to branching routes and extra stages. A few more locations would have greatly improved this aspect of the game.
It also doesn’t help that there is some random pop-in during the later levels on the Nintendo Switch. Though the frame-rate was mostly solid it does dip at the start of cutscenes. In handheld mode this doesn’t seem to be an issue, presumably due to the lower resolution required. The PS4 version ran wonderfully with the only noticeable visual flaw being some noticeable screen tearing on the hub area. Thankfully you won’t spend much time there thanks to the shortcut menus. Similar to most other hub areas in other games this is outright unnecessary as it serves no purpose. Moving in the hub is clunky and slow, there is nothing to find, the area never changes, and everything you do there is easier to access via menus.
If I had to sum this game up to a single word it would be “rewarding”. The combat is magically satisfying. The visuals aesthetically beautiful, and the reward system is very engaging. Players who like anime games and more specifically those who follow the Fate franchise will get the most out of this title. No matter what you’re doing you’ll be gaining something, and it’s for this simple reason why I highly recommend this game.
The copy of Fate/Extella Link used for this review was provided to us by its publishers Marvelous and XSEED Games.
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