If you’re a fan of the JRPG style then you’ll surely love tri-Ace’s latest title Exist Archive - The Other Side of the Sky. tri-Ace is known for their incredible artistry and gameplay prowess as seen in such blockbuster hits such as Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile, with Exist Archive being no different. Many have considered that Exist Archive is a spiritual successor to Valkyrie Profile, and you can certainly notice it at times.
You’re thrown into a 2D dungeon side-scrolling role-playing adventure, as you must scour the environment for important items and clues to help you figure out the mystery behind the plot. With a plethora of exploration and various hidden treasures to unlock, Exist Archive is sure to please any RPG fan with its endless strategy options and developing team chemistry.
What to expect
There’s certainly a lot to expect in this very vibrant and incredibly beautiful title, that takes you into a mysterious world where you and your party must search for clues to unravel the truth behind all that’s happening. The minute you’re immersed into the game, the backdrops are stunning and feel lifelike in their appearance, with an impressive soundtrack that’ll keep you coming back for more.
If you’re new to playing role-playing games Exist Archive is sure to provide the best detailed information possible, as everything is laid out as you progress through the game. RPGs are mainly known for the long grinds and farming for items and this is no different. Well over 50 hours of strategic gameplay is available to you, with every dungeon growing increasingly stronger over the course of time. Building chemistry is the key to victory so be sure to always pay attention to the details, and your choices mean everything so always think carefully as you play through it all.
Story *Spoilers Ahead for the Show/Manga*
As you boot up a new game, you’re greeted with a wonderful anime sequence that explains much of the earlier parts of the story. You star as Kanata, a regular teenager who ends up in a tragic accident along with his close friend Ranze. Mitsuhide and Koharu immediately run to the scene to see the two lifeless with Ranze lying on Kanata’s shoulder in a huge hole underground after the massive explosion. Ranze says her last words before the walls start to collapse on the two of them. However suddenly a mysterious beam of light appears and takes them to an unknown world where Kanata wakes up to. Thinking that he’s died and arrived in the afterlife, he encounters a young girl named Mayura who also wound up in this mysterious world, but can’t remember anything from her past.
Realizing that he’s very much alive along with Mayura, the two must now work together to find their way out of this world called Protolexa, with Kanata desperately on the lookout for the friends who he has lost. Along the way, they encounter a mysterious voice who tells them of the dangers that lie ahead and provides them with directions for a way out. It’s revealed to be Yamatoga, the evil god who triggered the explosion, and lives in Kanata’s hand granting him new powers. Now you as well as 11 others must find their way out of this catastrophic battle between the supreme gods.
Exist Archive’s tutorial guide is nothing short of amazing, as it provides you with every single detail about the game’s system and leaves you feeling confident about going forward. One of the first important aspects that it teaches you is the button layout, movement prior to battle, as well as the ‘Attack Phase’ and ‘Guard Phase’ in battle scenarios. Movement is quite simple, as you use the analog stick to walk around, X to jump, and attacking with O. As you advance through the game, more actions will become available but for now, these are the bare bones that are explained. Once you’re in battle things become a lot more interesting as you’re now introduced to the ‘Attack Phase’ and ‘Guard Phase’ scenarios, where the player must use a sequence of buttons which are tied to a character and initiate an action specific to that character.
In the attack phase mode, you have what are called ‘Activity Points’ or AP for short, which you must pay close attention to while in battle. These points are crucial as they’re integral to how much damage you can deal over time, depending on the amount of AP used. Once your AP is depleted, the player is unable to perform any further actions and from there the scenario switches to guard phase. Once in guard phase the player must pay attention to which character is being attacked, and press the button in accordance with the character. Attacks can be deflected which prevents any damage, but if guarded regularly the user only takes a small fraction of chip damage. The timer on the left-hand side of the AP meter is
Turn order is another important feature which is broken down in great detail, which states that whatever buttons are pressed, that is a reflection of how the turns will be played out. The characters will then attack in that sequence until AP is depleted. Once you get used to how everything works, you can really go crazy with your turn order and use clever tactics to extend your turn to kill every enemy in one fell swoop.
The combo system in this game is something to be impressed by as there are various ways to rack up damage, which in turn give the player extra bonuses for pulling them off. The higher the combos, the more likely you’re to receive bonus gems such as EXP gems which we’ll look into later. There are two types of combos, one is the down combo, which drops EXP gems (these increase your bonus EXP after a battle), while the aerial combo gives you drop gems that provide a higher percentage of item drops.
Items come in 4 categories (weapons, armor, accessories, key items) and depending on the enemy, some will drop specific items can only be received if you’ve completed the requirement. A locked treasure box next to the enemy’s HP bar will notify you whether it’s specific or not. Before we dive into the battle system we’ll look at the battle formation which can be altered at any time. In battle, just press the L button to bring up a ‘Rotation Screen’ where you can choose between three options, front, middle, and rear. Each has their own pros and cons, so be sure to read through the tutorial to get a better idea.
There’s going to be a lot covered in this section to we’ll provide images to give you more clarification. As you progress further into the story, more characters are added to your party and Kanata’s true powers are revealed. Character Affection is one important feature that you’ll need to pay close attention to, as this can greatly affect team chemistry down the road, and your skill level. As you fight together with the same cast of characters, your level of friendship will grow over time. The healthier the friendship, the more skills you can unlock which can help boost your entire team’s strength. If you fail to complete any quests while in the dungeon, this can hinder that affection so be sure to finish any other personal activities before committing to the game.
Hot spot is a cool feature in Exist Archive that requires the player to be logged into Playstation Network to receive the full benefits. Hot Spots are item drop rate bonuses that are assigned to random dungeons. Five dungeons are chosen at random and are attached to a rank. The rank shows the player which of the dungeons have the most traffic pertaining to online players who are exploring it at that time. If a player has an Essence Crystal and shatters it, a higher quality item will appear for you take along on the journey. The higher the rank of the dungeon, the more likely you’ll receive a higher rate and quality as well.
Skills are broken down into five categories which consist of class, attack, guard, support, and drop. Classes reflect your character’s overall ability in battle such as magic, sword, etc. Attack skills directly impact the player during attack phase, guard skills play an important role during guard phase, support impacts all areas of battle such as healing. Lastly, drop skills determine the likelihood that an item (weapon, armor, etc) appears after crushing the enemy. These can be altered to your liking at any time in the game, so choose wisely depending on your playstyle.
Enemy Weak Points
In Exist Archive there are three types of weak points which are species, elements, and attack types. We’ve pointed it out in the photo above for better clarity, and this is the species icon we’ve captured. These weak points can be seen directly next to the enemy’s health bar which are indicated by small icons. As you play through the game and become more aware of all the elements that exist along with the wide array of species, your level of strategy will increase and create a more enriching gameplay experience.
Storage Bonus / Bonus Break / Gem Effects
Storage Bonus is a feature that grants a portion of drop rate earned in one battle to be carried over into the next battle. When the drop rate reaches a certain percentage cap, your chances of acquiring Titles or EX Titles increases. Problems can occur if raising your storage bonus too much since it can risk breaking bonuses, where if the party takes damage from incoming attacks, all of the accumulated bonuses are slightly reduced. To avoid this it’s essential that you practice your timing on your guards during guard phase.
We could honestly go on for days about how wonderful the battle system is in Exist Archive, but we’ll leave the rest for you to explore and uncover yourselves. Before that, we’ll leave you with one more cool effect which is known as the ‘Gem Effect’. As you progress through the game and become enamored by the beautiful landscapes, you’ll encounter gems that will increase both your bonus and risk changes which all depend on the situation.
Bonuses have a slight increase.
Slight increase in risk.
Over Attack Combo
Bonuses largely increase.
Larger risk possibility.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
We hope that we covered the general formula enough for you to get through the first few hours in style. There’s so much more to dive into once you run through each dungeon such as item and medicine pods, and the story just keeps getting better as you sit through the entertaining dialogue.
Of course, there were some problems that we did run into such as a drop in framerate when we went crazy and unleashed an array of attacks at once, and not being able to tell when the game has autosaved or not. We run into the loading animation with Kanata running, but we would’ve liked to see a separate icon to tell us when the game has been saved. There were times where we thought the game autosaved, took a break and came back only to realize it didn’t auto save. Luckily you can go into the options menu and choose to turn it on or off, along with other options to meddle with. There is an online speedrun option available as well, so we encourage you to dive deeper into it once it releases and let us know!
The battle system at times felt strange because we weren’t sure what the number specifics were pertaining to character’s attacks, which made choosing who to attack confusing initially. Once we dived into the party screen, however, it became easier to come up with better strategies, but to be honest it would’ve been nice to give the player some character information on the screen to better analyze on the go, and not rely on the pause menu for that.
The English dialogue with the Japanese voicing is nice, especially if you’re trying to practice learning Japanese and want to improve your listening skills. Some of the dialogue was a tad corny at times (For Realz!?..You’ll see what we’re talking about) but it didn’t deter us away from the game in any way. We’ve barely scratched the surface of the game’s overall potential and there’s so much more to explore and collect in this crazy adventure with Kanata and his friends. With jaw-dropping scenery, fluid controls, and an extremely helpful tutorial system, Exist Archive - The Other Side of the Sky is sure to entice you in more ways than one, and will take you on a wild ride full of infinite possibilities.
Incredible tutorial system.
Fluid controls and character animations.
Detailed story and strong character development.
An immersive world filled with endless possibilities.
English/Japanese options are always a plus.
Somewhat confusing default control scheme that took a bit of getting used to (can change it in settings)
Drop in framerate during attack phase took the hype out of all the action.
Wished it was 200+ hours.
Honey's Final Verdict(Thoughts):
Overall, Exist Archive - The Other Side of the Story is one game that you don’t want to ignore, especially if you’re a fan of the JRPG genre. With so much to do throughout the game and an online speedrun feature with great potential, there’s definitely some replay value that many players can take advantage of. Skill customizations, long hours of gameplay, hidden dungeons are just some of the exciting features to look forward to, so when you do grab this title be sure to let us know how you feel in the comments section. Be sure to grab your copy when Exist Archive - The Other Side of the Sky hits digital shelves October 18th, 2016 for the Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita.
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Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!