FuRyu’s latest work, Exstetra has an idea to “save the world with kiss”, but first needs to save itself the embarrassment of even trying with all the poorly implemented elements and nonsensical narrative.
System: PSVITA / 3DS
Length: 30-40 Hrs
When it comes to video games and the games that I like, I would consider my taste – preferences to be somewhat out the ordinary. It might be due to the many Japanese titles I sampled from over the years, but I can hardly deem any of the titles I play as “weird” or even “creepy” – that is until I played Exstetra. Apart from its theme of “kissing” that is not enough alone to constituent it as bizarre, it really has much to do with how little Exstetra packs into one package and how ridiculous, if not antiquated it is as I plodded through it. Definitely not would I call FuRyu finest hour, but by the same token, not worth playing, if your player looking for a compelling title – let alone one that makes an ounce of sense.
The story features a character named Ryoma Narusawa who wakes up in forest with no memory of who is, until he meets a mysterious girl who tells him that he a “Prisma”, chosen warriors that will save the world from destruction. With modern-day Tokyo and the world Ryoma finds himself in now, Amasia on the brink of fusing together – it is up Ryoma and his new-found allies (who he kisses, including the guys) to find way to keep that from happening – and they will have to if they want to have chance to go back home. Just as the plot synopsis suggest that is all – there no big revelations, no compelling reasons, just “stop the worlds from fusing if you want to leave this world”. The writing is definitely the weakest element of the game, since there are also too few explanations for some the specifics like why Tokyo and Amasia are exactly fusing and or why Tokyo mirrors Amasia. It is eventually explained near end and during the course, but rushed and not elaborated upon. On the flip side, Exstetra does boost some interesting characters that manage to make the game worth the trouble of pressing on with, but not entirely. My favorite character would have to be the wannabe gun-toting idol, Shiho Inaba who isn’t exactly afraid to speak her mind….or use her weapons when the opportunity presents itself.
Much like any JRPG, you spend your time between towns (one in the whole game) and exploring dungeons to progress the story. In towns you can buy items and equipment for parties members as well as “enchanting stones” that can be used to grant your equipment special abilities,buffs, and traits. With some only dropping from monsters in battles and the need to re-purchase others once better equipment is acquired, getting enchantment stones can feel like a chore, but ultimately invaluable when it comes to combat. Once preparations are complete and you ready for dungeon exploration, you might find yourself dealing with a few annoyances along the way. One annoyance in particular that stems from Exstetra is its abnormally high encounter rate. I couldn’t help feel frustrated after getting thrown into a battle after walking only 10 steps. Finished with that one and 11 more steps later, another battle. You can run from battles, but often or not, do you no good, since the escape ratio is so low and your bound to get another within a few moves. Thankfully, you can speed them up or let the auto command do the work. Couple that with some framerate issues and recycled and repetitive maps, and most the enjoyment is nearly killed. However, with some dungeons being short and simple – most of the pain inflicted is momentary, yet still aggravating and something that shouldn’t be an issue today with most titles on the market.
Combat itself is surprisingly easygoing and pleasant, but can be difficult at times if you are not prepared; just like with any turn-based affair. In battle, you can have up to 4 characters on the field (the others are in reserves) and split into front row and back row positions. While you can have ranged attackers like Shihio and Mizuki attack from the front, they will only be able to use certain skills and better off attacking from the back, while characters like Ryoma and Jin lead in. Since magic, skills, and specific weapons can only deal damage to the back row enemies until the front is eliminated, it is important to prioritize what characters are where and where they attack to make full use of their strengths and cover weaknesses. It does get slightly annoying when a front attacker gets knocked back and you have to waste a turn moving them back before they can attack again, but all apart of making sure you have characters work together. If Ryoma happened to deal the killing blow to any foes in battle, he gains “EXS” points afterwards that he transfer to the others via a kissing mini-game. If you press the right buttons prompted, you can make the given character’s EXS ablities stronger and potentially more useful. Overall, the system works, but after a few hours in coupled with all encounters, it gets stale quickly and really just a game of how many enchanting stones you can muster up and out leveling the enemy.
Aside from the middling framerate issues and some uninspired backdrop designs, Exstetra does at least do well in the graphical department. Taking advantage of the VITA’s hardware, it does boast things like 3D Motion CG and some astounding cutscences (when present), but that is about it. With the character designs provided by Tony Taka (artist of the Shining series), they do at least good, but none that really stand out. The musical score on the other hand is really generic and repetitive, with only handful of tracks that I might remember, but just get repeat through each area as you tread areas you look as if you been down before.
If you really love JRPG’s and find yourself with nothing better to contend time with, Exstetra just might fit the bill. Filled with bunch of elements that don’t happen to fit together and just painful to sit through, you will do yourself well to do to leave it be. With all the titles that I know of and played, Exstetra is not at all “creepy” or “weird”, but simply just a poorly thought out game with no “thought” involved at all.
Pros: Interesting combat mechanics, character designs,
Cons: Interment framerate issues, high encounter rate, background designs generic, recycled and reused maps, soundtrack repetitive, weak writing and uninteresting story.