Game Title: Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star
Developer: Marvelous, XSEED Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Download: 3.0 GB
Battery Life: 3-4 Hours
Game Modes: All
Ever since starting my coverage of Nintendo Switch titles, I have slowly realized there will be many games I will be reviewing more than once, or “re-reviewing” so to speak. It is interesting to see many PS Vita titles releasing on the Switch and nice to see may of the Vita’s publishers and developers also making Switch games, from games you would expect to games you would not expect.
Today, I am going to review a game that I honestly did not expect to see come to the Switch, or to Nintendo platforms at all. A game in the Fate/Stay Night universe that released on the Vita and PS4, and a sequel to a PSP exclusive RPG.
As many of you would expect, it is the famed Fate Musou game. Here is my review of the Nintendo Switch version of Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star.
The story of Extella takes place not all that long after the Moon Cell Holy Grail War ends, which was the storyline of Fate/Extra, With the war won, the territories of the Moon Cell are now up for grabs for all of the Servants and Masters left there after the war.
The plot revolves around the Saber and Caster servants from Extra as they, with their Master, or what is left of them, fight over territory, unknowingly walking towards a catastrophe that ravaged the Earth hundreds of years earlier, now back to destroy the Moon Cell.
The story of Extella gets really good towards the end, but it is an issue mostly due to the fact that it references a lot of plot points from Extra/CCC which is not only exclusive to the PSP but never came out in English. Also, the dialogue in the game from Saber especially takes too much from the serious tone of the war and makes it out to be almost like you are playing a dating simulator.
As I stated in my previous review, Extella is a musou action game set in the Fate universe. You’ll be controlling characters from the Fate series, like Saber, Rider, and Archer while running around large 3D arenas, fighting against hordes of enemies, taking over territory, and fighting bosses in hack-n-slash gameplay.
Across the entire game, you have access to a few different game modes, notably Story Mode, Side Stories, and Free Battle Mode. Story Mode has you going through various chapters with the 3 main Servants of the game, showcasing the main story of Extella. Side Stories are smaller scenarios around each of the non-major Servant characters, like Lancer or Rider. Finally, Free Battle allows you to choose a character and stage and play through a battle of your choosing.
The bulk of the game will be played in Story Mode and Side Stories. As you play through the game’s story mode, you will go between Missions and “Your Room”, your base where you have conversations with your Servant, the story progresses, and you’re able to customize your characters, from creating armor for your own character to equiping new abilities to your servant to enhance their abilities, such as raising attack power or how the different gauges fill during combat.
Outside of that are actual missions. When you spawn in the battlefield, there will be over a dozen different areas you can travel to, each allied with either your own team or the opposing team. Your goal is to invade areas and fight off enemies to claim them as your own. You keep doing this until another objective appears for the mission. Eventually, you’ll gain enough territory to spawn the Final Objective, normally a boss fight with another servant, so you can finish up the mission and claim victory.
Actual combat is where things are interesting. If you know Koei Tecmo, then you know there is no shortage of Musou games out there. Dynasty Warriors, Warriors Orochi, and Samurai Warriors are all over the gaming world, and all of these “Named Franchise Musou” games are gaining numbers as well. Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U and 3DS, the upcoming Fire Emblem Warriors for Switch and 3DS, and the two Dragon Quest Heroes games that are available on the Switch in Japan. Even Koei Tecmo’s Attack on Titan game is very musou in nature (with the recently-announced Attack on Titan 2 continuing that). As such, combat in Fate/Extella is similar to the combat of all of those games.
You have Normal and Heavy attacks and can combo them in different ways, depending on how many weak attacks you string into a combo before using heavy attacks. That’s typical Musou gameplay, but Extella does have a few unique elements to add to the mix.
First, your character will level up from winning missions and gain new and more in-depth combos. You also have your Command Seals, which allow you to revive or temporarily raise the stats of your Servant 3 times per mission. Finally are your “Ultimate Skills”, the Moon Drive and Noble Phantasm. As you fight, your Moon Gauge rises and, when full, you can temporarily transform into a higher form with different attacks and significantly higher stats. Finally, your Noble Phantasm is your Ultimate Attack, only accessible by searching for and finding 3 special items in a mission and then using them for said attack.
These extra features help the repetitive nature of musou games to not be nearly as heavy in Fate/Extella. Across the fact that the story has you moving between the 3 lead characters, the story, the combo growth, and being able to use different battle styles, the game is a 20-hour journey that mixes things up enough to be repetitive throughout.
If you’ve played Extella on the PS4 or PS Vita/PSTV, the control scheme is the same. All of the controls are in the same position on the Switch they were on the Vita and such. So, veterans of the game will find no adjustments necessary when playing this on a Nintendo platform.
Moving around is done with the Left Analog Stick and moving the camera is done with the right. L and R are used for guarding and dashing. And then the face buttons. X and Y are used for Heavy and Light attacks, and A/B are used for jumping and dashing in the air.
It’s a pretty simple control scheme, and the tutorial level does an excellent job of explaining and teaching you, just as in the other versions of the game.
Graphically, Extella looked pretty good on the Vita, even though there were the occasional jagged edges here and there on the character models. On the Switch, those jagged edges are gone. Every character model, animation, and scene has smoothed out graphics that are rendered perfectly without blurring going on. Although the Vita did look good for a handheld version, the Switch just looks that much better.
Everything else is great. The Switch version runs a solid, smooth frame-rate and the loading sequences are all pretty short. Not a huge amount shorter than on Vita, but you won’t have any issues when playing through the game. For XSEED’s first venture into Switch Land, they did a nice job with the optimization.
Since this is a 3D title with a lot going on, I didn’t expect Battery Life to be amazing, but I’m not too disappointed with how it turned out. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%:
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 54 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 03 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 36 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 45 minutes
So, you’ll get about 3-4 hours out of the game. That isn’t the best out there, but is easily right there in with the average, overall.
In conclusion, Fate/Extella is a fun musou, both as a cross-over between Warriors and Fate, and a sequel to the Fate/Extra games. Although the story goes pretty far into “random dating sim dialogue” from time to time, it's a fun game whether you're looking for a new Fate game or a fun musou game to play on the go.