Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky Review – Not Always Greener

JRPG are always striving to do something different, in order to tell their story. Some are interesting, bizarre, and unintuitive, but one thing they are generally not is conventional. That’s where Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky steps in. But the question is, does conventional work?

Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky
Developer: Spike Chunsoft, tri-Ace
Publisher:  Aksys Games
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita(Reviewed)
Release Date: October 18, 2016
Players: 1
MSRP: $39.99

This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review above, or read the full review of the game below.

Exist Archive has some really well done visuals, but seems to be suffering from schizophrenia. The game is fundamentally split into its anime art style and its in game art style. They are both fairly well done, but the shift between the two styles is jarring.

When out of the anime cut scenes the game falls under a sort of super deformed 0.5 art style in which characters are slightly chibi-fied, and it honestly does not work with the greater set pieces they are trying to work with in the story. Enemies on the other hand fit into the overall game world well, as they almost all exclusively exist in the exploration part of the game.

The game world is sprawling and well designed, but does get repetitive fast. This will be a common issue this game suffers from, and will not shake. You will go on missions that set you in a 2.5D world similar to metroidvania styled games. However, the game wants you to backtrack over and over while trying to explore it fully for rewards, which will have users suffering from visual fatigue.

The structure of the game, like the art style, is a bit all over the place. Players will be seeing themselves in an overworld map, going to mission node to mission node, accomplishing various objectives with four party members.

Once pursuing a mission, you will be set into the 2.5D world in which you will platform your way through to get to your objectives. Enemies will be represented as spheres that you can “attack” or accidentally touch, throwing you into an RPG style battle in which the party of four fight any number monster that pop up.

These monsters also serve as a source of movement later on in the game, as players will slowly unlock movement abilities throughout their adventure via memory crystals found in various missions.

This sounds great in writing, but in practice it is extremely irritating. Maps give you rewards for exploration, but right from the get go, you can not fully explore the map. Add to this that these maps are huge but mostly empty save for their visual appeal, and you have a recipe for  a game that feels like a chore to play.

The only reason why metroidvania style games actually work is the action not only being smooth and fast, but the world being consistent and easy to navigate. This game is the complete opposite.

Having players stop every 30 seconds to have a meaningless fight is neither smooth nor fast. Missions checkpoints further remove all consistency in gameplay, and the lack of a manageable map makes exploration so painful and unrewarding that it made the game painful to keep playing.

When it comes to the music and sound, it’s all very generic. Sound effects are equally mediocre. Voice acting stands up quite a bit better than the rest of the sound design, but it does not save it. Everything is needlessly spaced out, making things just become forgettable.

The story of this game is a basic anime plot. A boy has magic power in his right arm, there are two girls he is torn over, there’s a comedic couple that’s not a couple, as well as fan service character designs to match the story, and so on.

The game’s story also directly conflicts with the gameplay as the big premise from the beginning is that all the characters have become immortal. This coupled with receiving supernatural powers gets confusing as you can be KO’ed if you take enough damage from enemies. However, getting critically injured in one of those cutscenes only gets lampshaded, because they’re immortal right?

The story is so spread out because of the way the mission structure is, it actually affects your ability to enjoy the story on at all. On a personal note, I find this incredibly sad as I love anime schlock, and have most likely polluted my brain with unhealthy amounts of it. Despite this, fighting through the exhausting gameplay makes it nearly impossible to enjoy.

Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky had a lot of interesting ideas, but interesting ideas are always bad ideas if you can’t execute them with any competence.

The prospect of all these mechanics coming together was something fresh, but it quickly turned into a long and boring grind that was 100% over inflated for no reason. The story puts the final nail of mediocrity into it’s coffin.

Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky was reviewed on Playstation Vita using a digital copy provided by Aksys Games. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 5.5

The Good:

  • It is rather pretty at times.

The Bad:

  • The story and gameplay conflict with world logic.
  • Level designs are inflated and unrewarding.
  • Conflicting art styles jammed together.
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