Month: July 2017

Fate/EXTELLA (Nintedo Switch) Review: Not for Fate Casuals 5

Fate/EXTELLA (Nintedo Switch) Review: Not for Fate Casuals

I’m a big fan of Type-Moon’s Fate/Stay Night series. While the series has always been a big hit in Japan, it’s always been much more of a niche on a global scale. Knowing this, I was really happy to hear that Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star was announced for the West. I was even more excited when I heard that game would be coming to Nintendo’s latest hybrid console, the Switch.

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Fate/EXTELLA gameplay and character images via XSEED Games.

Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star is an action game spinoff of the Fate series. For those unfamiliar with the series, it revolves around the Holy Grail War. Players take on the role of a master, working together with a summoned spirit known as a servant to defeat enemy servants in order to win the Holy Grail. The plot of Fate/EXTELLA takes place after the 2011 PlayStation Portable title, Fate/Extra. Having won the Holy Grail War, the player has been given the right to rule over the wish granting Moon Cell Automaton computer which is made up of multiple territories.

The main story of Fate/EXTELLA is told from the perspectives of three different servants and the player’s named master. The game also features a number of side stories from the viewpoints of a variety of other playable servants. Like most Fate titles released in the past, Fate/EXTELLA’s plot is presented in the form of a visual novel along with cutscenes. Newcomers to the franchise may find themselves lost when getting into Fate/EXTELLA’s story. Characters don’t really reintroduce themselves past saying their name and about a line of text to slightly remind you of their relationship to the main characters. For those who can follow it, Fate/EXTELLA offers an interesting story with great writing.

Fate/EXTELLA (Nintedo Switch) Review: Not for Fate Casuals 4
Fate/EXTELLA gameplay and character images via XSEED Games.

The core gameplay of Fate/EXTELLA is extremely similar to the gameplay found in Koei Tecmo’s Warriors series. Players use their selected servant, taking down hordes of faceless enemies in order to take control of different sectors of a map. Players can make use of light and heavy attacks, mixing them to perform combo strings. Compared to Warriors titlesFate/EXTELLA moves at a much faster pace. Special moves that the player can use at the touch of a button will make their servant perform even faster, more powerful attacks against entire groups of enemies. While this style of gameplay isn’t the worst, it’s a shame that the game’s enemies are made to look as bland as possible.

Aside from enemy servants, Fate/EXTELLA forces players to fight waves of blandly designed generic knights with differently colored knights serving as each sectors boss. This ties in with another problem of Fate/Extella in that there aren’t many maps in the game. While progressing through the game’s stories, it wasn’t long until I found myself revisiting maps. This makes going up against the same enemies feel even duller when repeating it.

Fate/EXTELLA (Nintedo Switch) Review: Not for Fate Casuals 9
Fate/EXTELLA gameplay and character images via XSEED Games.

Fan service is Fate/EXTELLA’s strongest point. Fans of the series are sure to get a kick out of watching some of their favorite characters interact with each other. While short, the game’s stories allow for more time with servants outside of the main plot. I felt like this really brought these other characters to life and would’ve loved to spend more time with their individual stories. By performing well in battle, players can increase their bonds with their servants. When the bond rank is high enough, players will be treated to special dialogue from that servant. A variety of costumes can also be unlocked for servants, including some that longtime fans will recognize.

Fate/EXTELLA (Nintedo Switch) Review: Not for Fate Casuals 2
Fate/EXTELLA gameplay and character images via XSEED Games.

On the graphical side of things, Fate/EXTELLA isn’t the most impressive game out there. It isn’t hard to tell that Fate/EXTELLA was originally released on the PlayStation Vita. While the game’s models are crisp, they’re also extremely stiff. Fate/EXTELLA does however run a smooth and solid frame rate when docked or undocked. While some parts of the game’s environments are nice, the majority of it is made up of empty colored boxed arenas. The artwork used for characters is nearly identical to Fate/Extra, taking on a slightly more simplistic approach in comparison to other Fate titles. Fate/EXTELLA’s soundtrack isn’t bad but it’s also almost completely forgettable. On the positive side, Fate/Extella retains its Japanese audio track, featuring a fully voiced story for every character aside from the player’s master character.

It’s hard to recommend Fate/EXTELLA for anyone who isn’t an intense fan of the franchise. Its use of the Dynasty Warriors style of gameplay might be more bearable if Koei Tecmo themselves hadn’t improved on the formula in so many ways. While I enjoyed the writing of Fate/EXTELLA, I enjoyed it as someone who is used to Kinoko Nasu’s unique writing style. While Fate/EXTELLA isn’t the worst game ever made by any means, I wouldn’t suggest that anyone plays it unless they’re starving for more time with the Fate universe.

WipEout Omega Collection (PlayStation 4) Review - A Supersonic Update 8

WipEout Omega Collection (PlayStation 4) Review – A Supersonic Update

I remember first playing Wipeout on a demo disc from PlayStation Magazine way back in 1995. At the time, the game felt fast as hell, and blasting around a futuristic race track while shooting missiles at other players was a riot. Then Mario Kart 64 for the Nintendo 64 came out and we all stopped playing. Fast forward 20+ years and players can now re-enter this shiny, colourful, and ridiculously fast-paced world of rocket powered hovercraft racing with the WipEout Omega collection, which is a three-pack entry containing WipEout HD, WipEout Fury, and WipEout 2048, all rendered in glorious HD (or 4k for you Pro owners) at a blisteringly smooth 60fps.

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WipEout Omega Collection gameplay images via PlayStation

First things first, if you’re into this series (whether an old fan or new), a crucial element is a sense of speed. In 1995, WipEout blew minds. It was like a 3D F-Zero on meth, and the sense of blasting around a track at a supersonic speed was visceral. This was before modern elements like motion blur and HD. Hitting several boosts in a row on an HD TV ramps up the sensation of speed and really allows players to feel like they’re driving a supersonic racecraft rather than just holding a button and watching a gauge go up on-screen. It’s a fantastic game to re-release in an era where television screens are getting a bit ridiculous when it comes to colour and clarity.

On that note, updating games from previous generations can be a difficult task. Oftentimes, even when upscaled, remakes and remasters retain that pre-HD look, and visual aspects like aliasing, draw distance, and textures still look, well, old. WipEout Omega Collection, thankfully, has avoided these pitfalls, and looks simply stunning. Colours pop, which is super important in a game like WipEout that relies on a flashy and futuristic aesthetic. Textures aren’t super detailed, but all the lines are clean and the game looks fabulous in motion. Effects like boosts, rockets, mines etc. are bright and vibrant, and combine well with the tracks and ships to create a lively and colourful racing experience.

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WipEout Omega Collection gameplay images via PlayStation

Another notorious (in a good way) feature of the WipEout games were the kickass soundtracks. When one is blasting around a futuristic race track at supersonic speeds, one requires some wicked tunes to amp up the experience. Nothing gets the blood flowing quite like a booming techno track cranked in the background as you finally squeeze past the lead racer and find yourself in first place. On top of the already awesome tracks included with the game, you can use the Spotify PlayStation 4 app to customize your own experience to the tunes that get you personally amped. For me, the machine gun drumming from bands like Thy Art is Murder gets me feeling a bit more aggressive than a fun and bouncy House track.

There is a hell of a lot of depth to the games as well. Even past the fact that this package includes WipEout HD, WipEout Fury, and WipEout 2048, the game features 26 reversible tracks to play around with. Unfortunately, some tracks are certainly more fun than others, and after a few hours of playing, they do seem to blend together a bit. However, this is essentially the same for almost every racing game, and learning the ins and outs and particular idiosyncrasies of each course become fundamental in mastering what eventually becomes a crazy-difficult experience.

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WipEout Omega Collection gameplay images via PlayStation

With nine game modes to choose from, players have plenty to sink their teeth into, including Time Trial, Zone Battle, Career Mode and a personal favourite, Detonator, which forces racers to avoid or shoot mines to score points over multiple laps. As someone who got frustrated with the high level of difficulty in some of the later stage racing modes, this was a fun way to take a break from the intense racing.

WipEout Omega Collection doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table, but it does offer the best possible version of all three games and plays like a dream. It’s a fast-paced, gorgeous, smooth ride with a surprising level of replayability and challenge. In a generation rife with remakes and remasters, WipEout Omega Collection stands out as a particularly well-crafted, beautiful update to the original games, and is especially awesome when considering the incredible fidelity offered by modern televisions. It’s nothing new, but it doesn’t need to be.

Archangel (PSVR) Review - Guardians of the USA 1

Archangel (PSVR) Review – Guardians of the USA

Become a Guardian and save your friends in Skydance Interactive’s virtual reality title Archangel. Archangel allows players to take the helm of one bad-ass mech suit, mowing down enemies in a hail of bullets. While Archangel hasn’t been the first on-rails shooter to hit VR, it is worth experiencing.

Archangel doesn’t bring anything truly innovative to the table, but this doesn’t subtract from the overall game. The gameplay is simple: point and shoot. It maybe not a complicated mechanic, but for manning a mech Pacific Rim style and shooting enemies out of the sky while wandering through post-apocalypse cities, simple works. Shooting enemies is accomplished with both the gun and missiles provided by the mech suit. Players can also raise shields individually to the right or left to help protect their mech’s hull integrity. If hull integrity reaches 0, it’s bye bye Guardian. Hull integrity, as well as everything else related to the mech, can be upgraded with data at the end of every stage.

Archangel (PSVR) Review - Guardians of the USA
Archangel gamplay images via Skydance Interactive

Archangel is an on-rails shooter consisting of slower movement than most other on-rails VR games (Until Dawn: Rush of Blood). The leisurely pace and lack of vertical movement lend itself well to those with motion sickness, so no puking in the mech. The only quick movement is that of the player’s head while they observe and target enemies. The button layout on the Move controllers took me some time to adjust to, but was easy to adapt to once I changed my physical sitting position. Archangel controls better when you give yourself more range of motion in your arms. When I was sitting down with my elbows closer to my body due to the  restraint of being sunken in my chair, I often found my line of sight being blocked by the mech’s arms. This made seeing targets more difficult. Players with X-ray vision will not encounter this issue, but for all other players, ensure there is room to groove or play with the Dualshock controller.

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Archangel gamplay images via Skydance Interactive

While the environments don’t create a lot of atmosphere, the visuals within Archangel are stunning. There aren’t many VR titles out there with this level of graphical quality. The story of Archangel, however, is generic. A resistance under the name Guardian fights against the tyrannical corporation of HUMNX to save what is left of the United States. Inventive right? Skydance Interactive tries to pull at the player’s heartstrings with really uncreative story beats, including a cheap ploy to provoke sympathy very early in Archangel. However, without much character development, players aren’t likely to be emotionally invested enough to really care. I feel with a virtual reality game about a giant mech, trying to stir up deep emotions in the player was unnecessary. Not to say mechs and emotions don’t mix, as Neon Genesis Evangelion is a prime example of just that done to perfection, but Archangel cannot even begin to scratch that level of emotional investment. In time, when VR games start focusing less on the experience of the technology, we’ll see VR games with more engaging stories. This story as a whole, though, is uninteresting – a cookie cutter post-apocalyptic scenario.

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Archangel gamplay images via Skydance Interactive

The characters of Archangel are also drab and created from the same mold we’ve seen many times before.  The characters may seem uninspired, but the voice acting isn’t. with the voice cast putting on a stellar performance perfectly portraying soldiers who’ve suffered emotional trauma but who must persist with their fight regardless.

Owning a mech isn’t cheap. While the price tag for the game is not unprecedented, players may find it steep for the short experience Archangel is, clocking in just under three hours. Except for me, who took much longer, as I apparently make a horrible Guardian. I hope the price tag doesn’t scare all players off, as the experience as a whole is enjoyable. Maybe lease a mech. The story may not be fantastic, but the visuals and just the pure pleasure of shooting projectiles while stomping around in a giant robot make up for it. Picture this: you turn the corner to see tanks staring back at you, raise the mech’s massive arm and gesture, “come at me bro.” Sometimes it’s the simple things that cause you to develop a fondness for a game.

Archangel is a worthwhile experience, but not a narrative one. Players who want to experience a slightly difficult shooting situation while sitting in the belly of a mech beast may find Archangel to be just what they need. For players looking for a strong engaging story involving mechs and emotions: watch anime.



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