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Fate/EXTRA impressions

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I'm done with Fate/EXTRA, this time with Nero and Rin (my first run long, long ago was with Tamamo and Rin).

I'll be writing down some casual impression now that I'm once again through the game below.



First of all, that which enters ones eyes when playing the game is the presentation. This is not a particularly pretty game. Though all things considered, it does bear mention that this is an over 10 year old PSP game, so perhaps one ought to show some consideration. I do not think the game stands out in this department, but they probably did all they could with the system and resources they had at the time.

I've always held that the introduction to this game is quite good, and partially one of the best parts of the entire game. The collapse of normalcy, and the gradual reveal of the twisted world you inhabit. The closed off space that is 'school'. The despair of the Master-candidates, and their callous culling. Yet one among them breaks out of their destined failure. That is You, or who I uncreatively chose to name Hakuno.

You'd be excused to think this had nothing to do with Fate if it wasn't for all the hijacked terminology, and in many ways I had almost wished it had been so. The most successful elements of EXTRA are those that are unique to its setting, while the ones least successful are the ones unnecessarily riffing off of random Fate stuff (or even Kara no Kyoukai stuff, which was rather relevant at the time due to the movies).

Chapter 1

Shinji and Rider's chapter. And so after all that amazing build-up, all we get is a weird competition with Servants and Masters and stuff we've already experienced and oh hey the gameplay is utter trash, that's a shame.

I do sort of understand what they were going for here though. The rock-paper-scissors bullshit wasn't devised entirely with a head full of nothing, as one might first suspect. You collect information during at
, and in turn that grants you more information to leverage against your opponent at
the arena
. Of course, it is absolutely dreadful either way. Thank god for emulators, my sanity would not have endured its god-awful gameplay without fast-forward and save-state functions.

Shinji and Rider have fairly good synergy, I do like their interactions. But I don't like Shinji. He's basically a caricature of Shinji from F/SN, and in the worst way possible. Matou Shinji already had the problem of acting a bit too one-dimensionally in F/SN, so exacerbating this with him in Fate/EXTRA does him no favors. At the very least, his last moment sort of hits well. And that's something that game does consistently well. Almost all of the death scenes are fairly well executed (except for the clown, arguably).

Chapter 2

Dan and Robin's chapter. They are a fairly interesting combination, and unlike Shinji, they feel more like an actual opponent rather than a half-assed introduction. Of course, for many people the chivalry displayed by Blackmore, and the friction it causes with his Servant is the most notable part of the chapter. That said, I actually found myself quite enjoying the perspective of Dan's character a bit more this time around.

Trying to exemplify an ideal he never had the chance to in his late life, for that sake alone, is quite stirring. Despite Robin's frustrations with him, the two never truly split over their differences.

Oh yeah, and reading Robin Hood's background makes me realize that holy-moly, did Nasu put in a lot of work into that. Yet none of it made it into the game aside from profile info unlocked after beating him! Stuff like this really makes EXTRA feel like it doesn't quite put in enough time to develop its characters sometimes. Having all these complicated feelings about belonging and duty and so on be contained in this one entry just doesn't feel right.

I should probably touch a bit about how running around talking to everyone starts to get a bit tiring around this point in the game. That said, when the contestants gradually thin out, and you straight out do not have anyone to talk to in the later chapters, you do feel the difference. Of course, I doubt that the intended feeling was 'relief', but that sort of what I felt after not having to do to the dojo every day to see what the girl there had to say.

Chapter 3

Alice and Nursery Rhyme's chapter. Given her characterization in F/GO, I had almost forgotten just how twisted the original conception of this character was. And I only say almost because Last Encore is still the best exploration of Alice so far (and it's not even close) but still, this is really where the strength of Nasu's writing can start to be felt again in earnest.

For once, the mystery behind the Servant also feels more real, unlike Drake (too far-fetched (why boobs?)) and Robin Hood (too obvious). But still that does tie into something I feel is another shortcoming of the game. It repeatedly tells you to collect information and play detective, but really all that boils down to is going to some NPC who tells you the answers. There's no actual detective work being done. You just run around talking to everyone. While that makes sense from a narrative perspective, it does not make for riveting gameplay.

Alice's circumstances are too damn sad. It gets me every time, and her death-scene too is very gripping. Obviously, this very much is the intent, and I do think it is properly conveyed. Hakuno too finds the sight of Alice being erased by Moon Cell to be a sight hard to grapple with, and it plays into some much needed character development.

Chapter 4

Clown chapter. But actually a Rin/Rani chapter. For this playthrough I went with Rin (my intent is to play the game again with Tamamo/Rani). There's something about the aesthetics of the audio-visual room that I love. It really is sad that this is the only time it really features in the game.

I suppose this is as good a time as ever to talk a bit about Rin's character in the game. As one of the main-characters, she's rather fleshed out compared to most of the random Master/Servant pairs you have to fight in the game. Shame that the same can't be said about ol' Lancer, but he's got his spotlight elsewhere, so no matter.

On the surface level, her personality is mostly the same as in F/SN, and in that sense I can't help but feel a bit of irritation. As I've already said, I do take some amount of issue with the amount of call-backs present in this game (even if that is somewhat the point of a calling itself an EXTRA of something), but Rin really didn't need to be Rin. Well, I suppose Nero didn't need to look like Saber either. Ok I'll stop there, my intent is clear. At the very least, this is a model of doing things which TYPE-MOON have definitely not showed any intent in slowing down, given their future acts in F/GO.

Do I like this Rin? Eh. She's alright, I guess, but really nothing particularly interesting. She doesn't hold a candle to the original at least, that much is clear. Much of her character is dedicated to building an opposite towards Leo, which is something that builds into the core messaging of the game. This is not a bad thing, but it does render her character feeling fairly "plot-devicey" rather than "personal". This is a general trend among the cast, however.

As for the clown and her self-proclaimed husband... Actually, let's move on.

Chapter 5

Julius and Li Shuwen chapter. Julius himself doesn't actually get his duties until Leo's chapter, and even then it feels somewhat lacking, but I do find Li Shuwen the most interesting enemy Servant in many ways. Not from his 'pure character' so to speak, but his usage in the narrative. He takes a lot of concerted effort to bring down. In that sense, his unique set of abilities is more reminiscent of the 'conceptual battles' that reigned throughout F/SN than any other Fate/EXTRA Servant. His jovial and upbeat personality in comparison to the drear and dour Julius is quite good as well.

This is also the part of the game where Leo walks up and starts expositing about SE.RA.PH to you. The Serial Phantasm, a digital sea built inside the Moon Cell, an alien artifact left upon the Moon by mysterious aliens. Despite how seemingly ordinary "cyber-world" is in terms of initial conceptualization, the way Nasu tackles it is so wholly unique, one cannot help but be awed by his ideas. The way hackers are re-contextualized into Wizards is great as well. Especially how it plays with the Japanese language, where all the usual Magecraft terms are now accompanied by computery furigana, to indicate how the rules of the setting have changed.

At this point in the story, Hakuno has gradually accrued enough of a will that they know what the desire from the Holy Grail; to end the wars. Growing stronger and growing more resolute go hand in hand, of course. I suppose I ought to lay out some of my general thoughts of Hakuno as a protagonist at this point.

Hakuno was really TYPE-MOON's first try at a protagonist who was supposed to be truly (you). This is someone whose name you chose, unlike Tohno Shiki and Emiya Shirou. They don't come with any backstory baggage that can interfere with the self-insertion. Or at least that's what we are first lead to believe.

Hakuno gradually 'grows out of the player's influence', as they discover what they want from SE.RA.PH. I'm not entirely sure if this was an intentional meta-commentary, but I do find it quite compelling. That said, even if Hakuno comes out quite fair when compared to their Successor in Fujimaru, they are not as fully realized as their predecessors. I do feel Nasu did his absolute utmost with the idea of character that is supposed to be inherently voiceless, and intimately tied to the player. But still, I cannot help but feel that the step in this direction at all was a mistake.

Chapter 6

Chapter of Mystery. Who could our interloper possibly be? Well, there's only 4 people left, so really, was there that much of a reason to hide it? I'd actually say yes, because it more serves to show Rani's resolve in staying friends with you unto the end. I quite like that angle. I won't lie, I find Rani much more compelling than Rin is this game, and I'm not even playing her route. Her forceful manners during the "classroom lunch date" were cute too.

Still, the majority of the chapter is spent faffing about without much getting done. There are more things to be said about Rani, but I'll save them for when I re-read the game in her route.

Speaking of which, the end of last chapter is when Nero reveals her Noble Phantasm in addition to her True Name (it is a bit ridiculous that we are to believe Hakuno got this far without using it, but hey, the narrative demanded it). For people who like Nero, they often cite this game, and this game only as to why. Something about her other appearances playing up her ditzy personality rather than her more serious traits. This is mostly true.

It is no secret that I am not particularly fond of Nero. Her over-the-top personality always feels like it's trying a bit too hard to be quirky and fun. This is more of a matter of perspective though. There are things that I like about her.

First of all, Nero's speech pattern is actually very inspired. Not only the register itself, but the poetry of it. As is befitting of someone who sees themselves as an artist. Even when she's trash-talking (which she does a surprising amount of) the insults she dolls out are interesting and varied. She has flair, for sure.

The way her tragedy is presented in EXTRA is actually not particularly compelling to me, however. That is not to say the setup of her character itself is bad, I just think EXTRA doesn't quite have the presentation and time needed to deliver on its premises. There is a work that does... but it's not this one. In that sense, I do disagree with the assessment that Nero is best in EXTRA.

But by far the greatest flaw of Nero is her extraordinarily haphazard connection to Saber, and all that it represents. Look up the cover to Fate/EXTRA and you'll see... Rin, Archer and... Saber. The reason Nero looks like Saber is for this reason. Her character design is just "red Saber with roman motifs". There is much that differentiate them at the writing level, but the intent is clear. You liked Fate/stay night, please play this game. This game is not Fate/stay night on any level except the outside. This is a sin which Fate/EXTRA has carried forward onto every successive Fate title, in some way shape or form. The lesson they took away from this game was not a good one. The Original Sin.

Chapter 7

It was around here that my progress started stalling. Thinking back to it, Chapter 4-6 are not that interesting. Unfortunately, Chapter 7 doesn't prove to me some kind of salvation in any respect either way. We do have a rather good sequence with Julius' past here. Still, it feels a little out of place. There perhaps was a consideration of moving his Chapter closer to this one, I'd say.

Leo represent the regime of stagnation. Leading the world peacefully towards a certain yet unmoving future. His conviction is solid, and his overall demeanor is flawless. A perfect king. This is the line upon which Leo's character begins, and it is the one upon which he ends. When the time comes that Leo is to learn something about himself, his role has already ended, and the game has largely forgotten him.

Early on in the story, he is presented as the antithesis to Rin. She is stood in direct opposition to him, having only joined the war to compete with him. Of course, this is a falsity. The true counter-piece to Leo is not Rin, but Twice H Pieceman. If anything, Rin represents a sort of middle-ground between them.

Gawain bears mention. His character's defining trait is that of unquestioning loyalty. This is a classic source of internal conflict among many a tales. Nevertheless, not much comes of it. Gawain is simply unquestioningly loyal into the end. Nero heckles him a bit about it, which flares his anger. As he and Leo fades, they ruminate a tad surrounding their feelings. But that's it. Gawain would ultimately truly be explored only in F/GO's Camelot, where this character trait appears again, and is explored to its fullest.


The school is different. It is a fine atmosphere for the end of the game. Very much like the beginning of the game. The Holy Grail War has passed.

The final area has some of the the most powerful visuals in the game. The Angelica Cage, the core of Moon Cell, the Holy Grail. It looks striking. It stands across a sea of granite pillars. Upon them, blocking the final path towards victory is Twice H Pieceman. Slouched, menacing, despite his otherwise rather plain-looking appearance--incredibly imposing. He perches atop a bundled mass of the pillars that adorn the landscape. They are grave-markers to those he had previously killed after reaching the top of SE.RA.PH. This is the final obstacle provided by the game.

And he's not so much an obstacle in terms of a battle, but in terms of his thematic. Twice H Pieceman loathes war, yet he could not deny its effects. In conflict, does humanity show its true abilities, this is the thesis of Twice. The world of EXTRA requires to wake from its stagnation, and embrace conflict once more, as was the case the earlier century.

In this way, Twice embodies something you have been setup to agree with. Throughout the whole game, you are encouraged to deny the vision of the future presented by Leo. A utopia without progress, without freedom, without a future. Yet the alternative Twice presents is all to horrifying. What is the purpose of humanity? Is our march of progress as horrifying a machine as described by Twice? Does ruin only come once Humanity ceases to advance forward on the corpses left behind in its wake of destruction?

I think for almost everyone who has played Fate/EXTRA, this is the standout part of the game. The conversation with Twice H Pieceman.

But then he pulls out a Servant and now you have to fight and remember that this is a Fate game. Right, that's what this is. Fate/EXTRA. For better or worse, that is what the core of the game constitutes. It feels like Nasu took a bunch of ideas he had for something else and stapled some Fate stuff on top of it and called it a day. But each time we are allowed to glimpse the underlying ideas. At least the idea of the Grail War is adjusted according to the theme, and that's one of the better usages of the Fate window-dressing.

In that sense, the premise of F/GO works much better as a Fate-work at its core. It provides the epic scope that is very much appropriate for the type of story that the ideas of Heroic Spirits provides. But I digress.

Seeing the epilogue of Rin emerging onto the planet I cannot help but think... why do we have to be stuck in SE.RA.PH with all the Servants, when all I really want to see is the after-effects of overcount 1999?

Final Thoughts

Underlying lore and setting is highly compelling.
The connections to Fate feel forced and unnessecary.
The majority of the game is spent on things that aren't that compelling (fighting Master/Servant pairs)
The overall thematic is strong.
The gameplay fucking suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.

(yes I'm double-posting this because I accidently spent way too much writing this shit)


  1. aldeayeah's Avatar

    i never even got through chapter 1
  2. Petrikow's Avatar