I have not been much for mindless button-mashing action games in the past, to be quite frank. They haven’t really been my go-to for gaming. For that reason I was really excited to try Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star for the Switch. I felt as though I am a clean slate, so to speak, and can speak to the merits of this game on its own. I specifically asked if I could review this title simply based on my interest in this genre and perhaps to discover what I may have been missing out on. At first I felt like I hadn’t been missing out on anything. All I was doing was mashing buttons like a madman trying to just destroy as many enemies as I could. It wasn’t until I realized there was strategy involved and a method to the madness that I started to truly appreciate how incredibly enjoyable this title is. In fact, I’ve started to regret not trying more titles like this in the past.
The storyline of the game will be familiar to those who have followed the anime series. As can be the case with these types of projects, the story can be quite convoluted to outsiders. Instead of trying to explain it myself, here’s the official description:
“Developed by Marvelous Inc. and expanding upon the extensive Fate universe with an original story from acclaimed series writer Kinoko Nasu (of Fate/stay night fame), Fate/EXTELLA features a diverse cast of 16 playable “Servants”. These ancient warriors of legend are always at the beck and call of their Masters – who survived the Holy Grail War that took place on the Moon. In a future watched over by the all-powerful lunar super computer, “Moon Cell Automaton,” these champions now battle for dominance over this digital realm, known as “SE.RA.PH.” This story takes place after the events described in Fate/EXTRA, and depicts the world as it appears following that previous Holy Grail War.”
“Players will experience the story of Fate/EXTELLA from the independent perspectives of the three factions wrestling for control over SE.RA.PH. and face off against foes from a variety of Fate productions, including characters from Fate/EXTRA, Fate/stay night, Fate/Zero, Fate/Apocrypha and Fate/Grand Order, in fast-paced combat. A new form change battle mechanic called Moon Crux debuts in this entry to match its series-first gameplay style, transforming the player-controlled Servants and granting them considerable powers that allow them to devastate enemies and take formidable challenges head-on.”
Phew! So with that exposition out of the way, how is the software? Fate is a beautiful game with wonderfully animated characters that truly made me want to practice drawing again. I can sketch and be artistic and I would love to be able to draw as well as the artists that created these characters. Fate gives off strong sexual overtones and really pushes intimacy between the character you play and… I’m going to call her your ‘mate’, which works well for the story line. The characters have costumes that you can change into, just like we are able to do in Disgaea 5. This seems to be a theme amongst Japanese anime games that women are drawn all sexy and scantily clad. The men are also drawn this way so I guess all’s fair in this matter.
The animations of the moves and combinations are fantastic and extremely fluid. There are dozens of enemies on the screen and it didn’t seem to affect the framerate on the Switch at all. It didn’t matter if I was playing on the 1080P television or on the console itself. The game played well in either console or handheld mode and I enjoyed it either way. I used the pro controller the most with its bigger buttons and analog sticks. I figure since I spent so much money on it I may as well use it as much as I can. When you’re out and about it’s nice to know that the attached Joy-Con controllers work just as well and feel just as good for control. Honestly at this point I’ve just come to expect that.
The sound is where I got a little annoyed. Okay, I know there are purists out there who want all their anime in the original Japanese language and they want to read everything. If I’m paying $60 for a game I want English voice acting. Especially in an action game where they are saying something while you are mashing combos. So much is going on that I don’t have time to read what is being said during the melee. If you aren’t going to do that for the port to America then don’t charge the full amount for the game. Especially since the game has already released on other systems. I can read very fast, but I’m not really interested in reading while I’m trying to keep up with an intense battle.
The controls are tight and very good and the combos are easy to pull off. You basically have two attack buttons, heavy and light. It’s what you think it would be for combos X, X, Y is a combo and so on. There are combos you can pull off in the air and there is a special move you can pull off by hitting the A button that hits every enemy on the field. This deals some nice damage and showcases some cool animations. While you are in a battle, there is a mini-map that is constantly warning you of other sectors that are in trouble or are in danger of being invaded. Even sectors that you have cleared are in danger of being invaded again so you really have to keep an eye on that to ensure victory. Let me tell you, I really sucked at this in the beginning. I spent more time with this game, and indeed this review is coming out to you a little later than I would have liked because of this. I wanted to be sure that I spent as much time with this game as I could to make sure I was giving the best possible outlook on a genre that I honestly haven’t been involved with before. Once I understood much more clearly how the tides of the battle were affected by my sector selections I was able to make wiser decisions and keeps the battle going in my favor. Once you’re able to juggle the different zones, each battle is satisfying and awesome.
At first I was surprised by how short the game was. I had finished it rather quickly. Those that know me also know that I am not one who completes every game I get. I try, but then – SQUIRREL! I’m off to new and shiny. So I was bummed that this was so short. Not so! I was pleased to find out that the story continues by playing through with different servants. Plus, there are side quests waiting for you to take on, which really added to the lasting appeal. It turned out to be a much longer game than I at initially thought, so if you find yourself seeing the credits earlier than anticipated, don’t worry! There’s much more to do.
As mentioned earlier, the story is really confusing at points and makes you scratch your head wondering what in the hell is going on. In fact, there were times I just kind of shook my head a little and rolled my eyes at the bedroom eyes stuff between the characters. Some will no doubt appreciate this romantic mumbo jumbo, but I just wanted to get on to the next fight.
Overall, I really had a fun time with Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star. I had no expectations because I had only played Dynasty Warriors once for 15 minutes many years back. Enough to just say that I knew that you had control of a character and tried to kill as many enemies as they threw at you. I can’t compare this to other titles like this, so I won’t. If you haven’t played games in this genre and you like scantily clad anime characters telling you how much they want you, then you’ll really love this game. Even if you don’t really appreciate the scantily clad anime stuff it does feature a good (if not rather baffling) story that kept my attention. The battles are why I kept coming back, and some are rather long. I set a timer between battles at one point and it hit 40 minutes. That’s allowing the voice acting to play to the end of sentences. You can blast through as fast as you can read. No English dub is no doubt a double-edged sword: some will complain and others will cheer. Why not both options? Still, at the end of the day the game is a blast to play and it’s the first of its kind on the Switch until Fire Emblem Warriors comes out. It’s a great way to pass the summer!