By Steve Baltimore / November 4th, 2016
|Title||Exist Archive: the Other Side of the Sky|
|Developer||tri-Ace, Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd|
|Release Date||October 18th, 2016|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, Vita|
When I first heard that Aksys Games had picked up Exist Archive: the Other Side of the Sky for localization, I got pretty excited. Having previously seen the game’s amazing art style and interesting character designs, I knew this was a title I wanted to check out. The fact it was developed by tri-Ace, who we know from the Valkyrie Profile franchise, was just icing on the cake.
The story begins in modern day Tokyo on a tragic note as the lives of our protagonist Kanata and his finance Ranze are about to come to an end after a freak accident. This is not the end for the duo however, as they will soon be reunited with some familiar (and not so familiar) faces in this beautiful yet very dangerous new world. They soon discover that an evil god called Yamatoga is trying to regain life by splitting his soul into twelve pieces and giving them to humans. The goddess Amatsume is actively trying to prevent the evil god’s resurrection and is cutting off the group’s only way back home. Amatusme has another problem in the Chasseur faction. The Chasseur leader Zenobia would love nothing more than to help Yamatoga win against Amatsume for her own gain.
This story sounds really complicated, but its really not that bad once you learn a bit more about how the world works. Aksys Games did an amazing job on the localization. All the characters were very well written and you feel a connection to them. I found myself actually caring what happened to them as I made some very tough decisions late in the game that had a drastic effect on the ending. The only complaint I have is that you don’t get to know some of that late game party members as well as the initial crew, but overall I thought everything was solid.
As I stated in my opening, the art style is what drew me to this title. The world is bright, colorful, and looks like something straight out of a fantasy movie. The character designs themselves are done in a very nice anime style; they are not one bit realistic but they are highly detailed. I could tell a lot of love and care went into designing each one. The enemy models are equally as nice, but I do wish there were more of them and less palette swaps. The game zips along at solid 60 FPS on the PlayStation 4 but the Vita Version is locked at 30 FPS. The game still runs very well on Vita however; the only real draw back to the portable version is a bit longer of a load time.
Exist Archive’s soundtrack is yet another bright spot in what this game has to offer. There are plenty of hard rocking battle themes to get your blood pumping for combat, but also some really epic fantasy themes to add even more atmosphere to this well crafted world. The game has a lot of speech and the voice actors do a great job bringing these characters to life. The Japanese audio is also included for those that prefer it.
In the gameplay department, this one has its up and downs. The world is divided into side scrolling areas that are accessible through the world menu screen. The stages are very much like what you would see in a standard ‘metroidvania’ title, meaning you will be going through these areas several times since some sections will be unreachable until you unlock certain skills. These skills include a slide, a double jump and the ability to freeze monsters on the field. You obtain these by finding Crystals in each of the stages, which will spring up as you progress the story. While this is not necessarily a bad thing since the game gives you a few different quests at each location to complete and raises the enemy levels for easier grinding, I felt like a lot of this was padding to extend playtime. They could’ve cut this down by half and still had a fantastic fully fleshed out game.
Though I feel like that game has a bit of padding, the addictive combat makes up for some of that. The fighting is fast and very fun. If you ever played the original Valkyrie Profile, you already have a basic idea of how battles work here. You get four characters each mapped to a different face button on the controller. You then press the face button in the order in which you want them to attack, resulting in some of craziest combos you’ve ever seen. Since each member of the roster has different skills and weapons, I had a blast just making different parties out of the thirteen characters just to see what kind of insane attacks I could chain together. What makes this even cooler is that after a certain point in the game, characters can learn each others skills and classes. You can have two characters out there using whip attacks or going nuts with spears. The possibilities are endless.
Not only is it fun to make all those badass combos, but helpful as well. When you juggle enemies it will build up you combat RISK. The more you’ve raised the combat RISK on a stage the better the drops will be. This is vital in getting the best equipment for you party. RISK gained in battle will carry over to the next encounter so long as you don’t leave the stage, but be mindful of certain enemy attacks. They will break your RISK, forcing you to start back over at 0, and since attacking and defending both require AP you will always have to manage it wisely. I would often use my Demon’s Greed special attacks, which builds up as you mount offense, at the end of the round to clear out baddies to prevent them from even getting one hit just in case.
The last thing I would like to discuss in the gameplay department is leveling. As your characters level up they will be granted SP, and you can use them to teach your party various abilities and support skills. These include giving characters extra attacks, unlocking unique buffs if certain characters are in your party, better defending and so on. As I mentioned above these skills can be passed on to other characters in your party when you have built up enough affection with them. Affection is gained by having characters in a party complete quests and I think just leaving them in battle together for a period of time builds it up as well.
Overall Exist Archive: the Other Side of the Sky is a solid RPG. It has fantastic combat, a great story, beautiful graphics and one pretty great OST. The main problem is all the backtracking due to the ‘metroidvania’ type setup. This game lasts around 50 hours with multiple endings, though you could’ve cut out some of that backtracking and made a much more solid 30 to 35 hour game and it would’ve felt just as satisfying. In the end if you looking for some RPG goodness for your PlayStation 4 or Vita at the $60 and $40 price tags, I think you’ll find Exist Archive may not be perfect, but it has a lot to offer.
Game provided by publisher for review purposes.
Aksys Gamesexist archiveMetroidvaniaRPG