Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky (PS Vita) Review

By Eric Ace 12.10.2016

Review for Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky on PS Vita

Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky is the oddly-named spiritual sequel to the legendary Valkyrie Profile back on the original PlayStation. The game absolutely wowed players with its great art, innovative gameplay, and deep story, and is widely regarded as one of the best JRPGs of the time, still holding up today. Developed by Tri-Ace in collaboration with Spike Chunsoft, which is perhaps better known for the Danganronpa series, Exist Archive presents players with the question of what happens after death.

Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky has a lot going against it, despite the great pedigree it draws from. First, its name draws no connection to that, for all intents, this is Valkyrie Profile 3, even going so far as to use the same sound effects from the original game. Second are the character models, which are 3D chibi in style, off-putting, and do not do the game justice. These problems are even before the Exist Archive even begins. What follows is an okay romp that is ultimately forgettable, and a sad continuation of an amazing game.

The story starts off cool enough, with the main character being killed and appearing in another colourful world of floating islands and a mysterious girl who partners up. This is nearly the same as Valkyrie Profile, in that dungeons are explored in a 2D platforming type of gameplay, and any contact with enemies starts combat.

Screenshot for Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky on PS Vita

From the beginning, it seems like a great adventure is on the cards. The character artwork is unique and fits; the mysterious floating islands capture a good feeling of, "Where am I?"; the graphics in the dungeons are notably good, even on the PS Vita; and overall, it just sets a pretty good mood of pulling into the story. The problems come from that it is never capitalised on, and the great parts are lost in a repetitious grind.

Valkyrie Profile was a great game among other reasons because the platforming was interesting and each dungeon felt unique. There were caves, climbing a huge tower, crossing water; it all felt thought out and pulled the player in. In this game, the first dungeon is literally repeated in minor variations for hours. It is actually a bit confusing at first, until this fact becomes apparent that it is actually the same recycled rooms, only the player is coming in from different sides.

That's one major strike against it, then, as the platforming has been reduced as just a way to get from A to B, namely to go fight monsters. No thinking, no marvelling at how high the ascent up the tower has been. No feelings of anything beyond, "Wasn't this dungeon the one I was just in?"

Screenshot for Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky on PS Vita

The next let-down is combat, which happens a lot, and it is sad to see it fail. There are some really cool ideas such, as changing the characters into different classes to fight with different weapons and learn new skills. There is a really fascinating drop system that is a little akin to Diablo games of various quality of random loot. These ideas perhaps are a disparate grasp of developer Tri-Ace trying to breathe life into the game. Maybe it is the dual developer touch that leads to a disjointed feeling being present, where some things are fun, and most are not.

The flaws come from that there is nothing new or interesting in the battles, that they take a painfully long time to finish, and that there are a lot of fights in a dungeon. It is apparent that dungeon exploration is lacklustre, and combat itself is grating.

Combat plays out with an action point bar, and each button press corresponds to a character, allowing the player to string together combos of their own choosing. There are typically about six enemies at a time, and certain weapons hit larger areas. This allows monsters to take damage when they aren't even targeted. It adds a mildly interesting element to combat. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this, and it is highly serviceable, all things considered. The issue is a majority of the game is spent doing this, and it frankly becomes grinding. Bosses especially early can take fifteen or more minutes to beat, and there is no tension element, as it is simply attack, take damage, attack with the rough combo hewn together, ad nauseam.

Screenshot for Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky on PS Vita

The premise of the story is lost pretty fast and it falls into sad tropes. The idea of being lost in an afterlife and not knowing what is happening is a great opening, but it is rapidly squandered. Beyond the major issue that far too much time is spent grinding dungeons between sparse story elements, it falls into joke plots very rapidly. This is perhaps exemplified by a character that is supposed to be a war hero, older guy mercenary who wants to be called by one name, but everyone calls him his other name. "Call me Frank." "Okay, Bob!" is used more than once by multiple characters. A single usage of this "joke" is a bad, childish decision. It really is just a small part of a derailment present in the whole narrative, as if this guy is not as tough as he says to stop some stupid teenagers from disrespecting him. What else are we not supposed to believe in the plot?

Given that Exist Archive had two developers, perhaps its failings can be based on that. The drop system seems really cool, and the skill system could have been fun. Really questionable choices pepper the player from all sides. When someone is over five hours in and still running the same dungeon, there is a serious question as to why this is happening. It is sad, given the roots it came from.

Screenshot for Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 5 out of 10


Fundamentally, Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky is playable, and diehard JRPG fans desperate for action will find something here. Given its spiritual successor status of a great game, it only serves to remind how much is missing here in any sort of comparison. The platforming is uninspired, the story descends into childish tropes rapidly, and the entire game crawls at a glacial pace of endless combat. Even the combat system that could be fun is grinded down due to battles taking far, far too long, with little meaningful choices. Exist Archive is merely average all around. What interesting things that exist are reduced by poor choices elsewhere.






Turn Based RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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