Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star (PS Vita) Review

By Drew Hurley 17.01.2017

Review for Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star on PS Vita

The Fate series has built up a considerable fan base, but, honestly, this is quite likely due to its superb anime adaptations of the game, with the original visual novel title often the second point of calls to fans in the West. This new title, Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star, is an entirely new beast, set after Fate/Extra (although Western fans never got to play Fate/Extra CCC...), but still very much an original and standalone story connected only via the mythos and some character cameos. The formula certainly looks right, with a story from the writer of the original Fate/Stay Night visual novel, Kinoko Nasu, gameplay from developer Marvelous, and character designs from the returning Arco Wada.

Fate/Extella's story is… err... interesting, to say the least! Instead of taking place during a Holy Grail War, it is set after one, where you play as the winner of the war. The world is very different. This game is set in a virtual world upon the moon. The protagonist's body is on earth, but their mind and soul are in a virtual body upon the moon. The story gets confusing fast, and it's best to just disengage your mind and go along for the ride. The basic premise is that the protagonist is working with the system administrator for this virtual world to combat a threat they've found, which turns out to be a titanic Servant, one that works for a sentient comet that feeds on life. Think Galactus meets Armageddon. The protagonist is split into three, and each of these parts is central to one of three story mode campaigns.

Screenshot for Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star on PS Vita

These three different stories each follow one of the protagonist's parts, along with their respective Servants, and each must be played through in turn, giving a different outcome to the story, instead of just three points of view for the same narrative—but an extra conclusion or compendium arc opens to wrap everything up nicely once the others are complete. Each protagonist has a Servant to play as, along with a small supporting cast of returning and new characters. Characters have always been one of the biggest draws of the series, taking legendary characters from myth and history, then giving them a signature redesign, matching them to the archetypes of the Servants and placing them into this battle royale.

The first campaign, "Story of Saber - Flame Poem Arc," sees the long-time face of the series return… Sort of. Saber is back, but this isn't lady King Arthur/Arturia, despite the almost identical looks; this is a new Saber with a new identity, new outfit, and new attitude. The true identity of this character is Nero Claudius, the Emperor of Rome from 50 - 60 AD. There is no twist or link between the Sabers here, and the look is merely coincidental and a capitalisation on the character's popularity with the audience.

Screenshot for Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star on PS Vita

The other two arcs are led by returning Fox Girl Magician from the Extra games, Tamamo the Caster, and again from Extra, a Saber Servant named Altera based on Attila the Hun. The extended cast of other Servants includes some original new characters, along with familiar faces from the original visual novel, and, of course, the recent Fate/Extra. Elizabeth Bathory is an idol meets gothic loli vampiric Lancer, the legendary warrior Lu Bu is a fitting Berserker, and it's always good to see another Saber doppelganger, so the Ruler class Joan of Arc returns! Also returning are some familiar fan favourites: both Alexander and Medusa Riders, a certain nameless Archer, and, of course, the hero of heroes himself.

Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star plays like a Musou title. Described as an Area Supremacy Battle, each stage is split up into sectors, and capturing each one rewards a set number of keys. Gathering enough of these keys completes a Regime Matrix to show ownership of the area. Different sectors are occasionally worth more keys than others, and prioritising which battles to fight is often the key to a strong victory. There are occasionally other objectives, such as defeating enemy Servants or capturing specific sectors, and there are always plenty of side objectives, which, when completed, improve the bond with various Servants, but the primary goal is always the same: capture the maximum keys before the opponent does, then defeat the boss that spawns.

Screenshot for Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star on PS Vita

Each of the protagonist Servants and their underlings are all playable, each with unique combos and special attacks. Levelling them up unlocks more variations in the combos and adds more abilities. It's a familiar and simple system: Square for a basic attack, Triangle for a strong one, and the stringing together of the two for different combos. Then there are the special attacks. These consist of a transformation "Form Change," which gives a brief power-up and, in some circumstances, a new outfit, along with a new catalogue of moves. The "Extella Maneuver" is linked to the Circle button, and this special move delivers huge damage to its target and the surrounding mobs. Finally, there is the series signature "Noble Phantasm," a massive ability that requires finding three items in each stage to unleash. The Noble Phantasm is something special to the legendary character. Unlimited Blade Works for Archer, Gilgamesh's Gate of Babylon and Saber's Excalibur are all in attendance, along with some spectacular and devastating attacks for the new characters that tear the enemy forces in attendance to pieces.

Developer Marvelous has taken much of its experience with the recent Senran Kagura titles, and it's translated well to the Fate series. The gameplay is fast, mashy and addictive, and is made much better by playing in the Hard or, even better, the unlockable Extra Hard mode. Suddenly, the enemy forces become so much more of a threat, aggressively pushing forward and quickly taking over territories unless the player is always on their toes. The problem with the gameplay, however, is how it is delivered. The main campaigns are surprisingly short, with each being just five to six chapters, which can easily be completed in an hour or two. Outside of these campaigns, Fate/Extella offers up side stories and free battle modes, which can't quite ever deliver the experience required for this style of game.

Screenshot for Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is something of a mixed bag. This style of game works well with the Fate backdrop, and the actual Area Supremacy Battle makes for fun and addictive gameplay, but the presentation of it leaves a lot to be desired, with battles that feel too brief with far too much story interjected in between them. Not to mention that this story is terrible. Even the side stories for the supporting cast are heavily uninspired.

Developer

Marvelous

Publisher

Marvelous

Genre

Brawler

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

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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