portable fates!

So, from recent posts, you might have gathered that I have become a Type-Moon fanboy. It should come as no surprise that I would have gone out of my way to pick up the PSP games Fate/Extra and Fate/Unlimited Codes >_>

Fate/Extra is a jRPG set in an alternate world based on the Type-Moon universe, with the story written by Nasu Kinoko (the author for all the Type-Moon visual novels as well as other notable media). As a certain Amazon review repeats ad nauseum, the game setting and some of the system will seem very familiar to Persona players, particularly Person 3. During the day, events occur, you can investigate the school and interact with characters, and you can shop or upgrade your Servant. When you decide to enter the Arena, that ends the day phase. In the Arena, you fight monsters, find treasure chests, and perform other miscellaneous tasks that drive the story forward. Once you exit the Arena, you return to your room, where you sleep until the next day.

There are many factors that make Fate/Extra stand out on its own. First, due to the story and setting, you have good general idea of how events will play out within the game time. You are battling in the Holy Grail War against other Masters and their Servants. Rather than the free-for-all brawl known from the source material, this War is executed as a tournament, with Master/Servant matches every 7 days. The days prior to the matches are used to train in the Arena and do research on your assigned opponent. “Doing research” can be better explained after I go over the battle system.

In battle, you input 6 commands which can be supplemented with a single Master spell at any point in the sequence. The basic commands interact in a rock-paper-scissors relationship: Attacks are faster than Breaks, Guards prevent Attacks and allow a counterattack, and Breaks tear down Guards. A Servant skill can be used in place of one of these actions, but costs Servant mana. I haven’t experimented with Servant skills enough to know for sure, but I think they trump Attacks and Breaks while not triggering counterattacks from Guards.

The attacks used are not completely random, so, for normal enemies at least, you can identify attack patterns to predict what the unknown actions will be. The real battles come on the 7th day, when you fight other Servants. The previous 6 days are used to research your opposing Servant’s identity. Depending on how much you find out, more and more actions will be revealed during the actual fight, which is a pretty big deal since the Servant battles are pretty much always fought at a severe disadvantage.

Another neat feature of Fate/Extra is the Servant Alteration system, which is basically how you level up. Experience levels grant you Servant Skill points, which can be spent upgrading specific stats on your Servant, the 5 rankings used in the the Type-Moon universe (Attack, Defense, Agility, Magic, Luck). Combined with the Servant you picked at the beginning of the game (Saber, Archer, Caster), you can, to a certain degree, customize your Servant to your playstyle, although the Servant types actually represent the difficulty level of the game.

Fate/Extra is definitely a game that rewards attention to detail. Being able to predict attack patterns directly translates to higher success in battles, and there’s a certain smugness in taking zero damage while your opponent takes 8 hits (3 consecutive hits = an extra, unblockable attack). From what I’ve read (I’m not too far, only on the 3rd round), VN style, there are certain options chosen throughout the game that change the outcome of the story, as well as your character’s sex and choice of Servant affecting the Master-Servant interaction and how some characters interact with you. If I don’t get sick of the battle system, I can see myself spending a lot of time on this game.

Fate/Unlimited Codes was actually released some years ago. It’s a fighting game based on the Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Hollow Ataraxia games. In the US, it’s a digital download-only release, as far as I know. I’m a pretty big fan of fighting games, although I haven’t really played any in a number of years. Codes is really cool to me because of the Mission system. While I enjoy stuff like the Soul Calibur II adventure mode, Missions are more up my alley. SCII was kind of Mario World style, where you have a map with levels. Each level had a specific type of challenge to complete, and you couldn’t get to the next challenges until you beat the one in the way.

The Mission mode is similar in that you have a specific challenge to defeat. However, I find the challenges in F/UC (funny abbreviation :3) to be more direct, and actually conducive to improving your skill at the game. You can also learn a lot about the character you’re using, since every character has at least 3 Combo missions, which highlight juggling and using Burst moves to chain attacks into Special moves. However, the system is quite unforgiving, since the chain hit counter as a very low tolerance; if you’re a half-second off from chaining the next attack, the chain will end and you have to start over. This is particularly frustrating when dealing with the damage missions, since the Special moves are frequently used to pad the damage, but the button input can’t be done too easily so it’s frequently just a tad too late.

The characters are pretty varied as well. I only personally played as Rider, Bazett, and Saber, but I noticed how the play style of opposing characters was very different. Caster is constantly floating and seems pretty slow, but has a good variety of range and directional attacks. Sakura is slow as all hell and has some completely useless-looking moves (I’m assuming one of them performs some kind of counterattack, but using it in the Combo mission mode just… makes her undulate creepily), but she has a ridiculous stock of ranged attacks and craziness that I don’t know if I even want to touch, heh. Luviagelita has a weird stance system, where she can tackle an opponent and then you have 2 seconds to input a followup attack, or you can always go with the Princess Slap, which can combo up to an unknown number of hits on its own (there is a mission to get at least 12 hits). I’m eager to devote time to exploring all the characters.

The Arcade mode is pretty easy – I was able to beat it on 2 characters by… not quite button mashing, but basically attacking haphazardly. The unlocks are pretty neat, unlike in SCII’s adventure mode (“woo, another random weapon I’m never going to use!!!”); you can get alternate costumes, new stages, and beating Arcade with each character allows you to use that character’s voice as the computer narrator :) All in all, I think Unlimited Codes is a very good PSP fighter that I would recommend to anyone looking for on-the-go brawling.

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