Tri-Ace games have been a mixed experience for me. I didn't like Star Ocean 4 for its stiff animation and bland battle system but, I did enjoy Resonance of Fate so I decided to try Exist Archive.
So, a group of gifted teenagers who possess certain talents are caught up in an accident one day and find themselves on another planet. The AI overseer, Amatsume who governs the planet tells them they are dead and has gathered their souls so that she can keep an eye of the great evil sealed within each of them. Meanwhile, another race is trying to overthrow her rule and unleash this evil. It's up to them to choose who to side with for a chance to returning home.
EA is a little twist on the usual dungeon crawler. Instead of the exploring a 3D field, you've now got a platformer, jumping from platform to platform to explore while fighting or dodging enemies. However, you can't explore the full dungeons right away - you unlock new skills that encourage you to return later similar to Zelda games.
Along the way, you find crystals that contains memories of a character, listen to the short conversations through the controller's speaker then, return them to Amatsume to progress the game.
Battles are quite similar to Valkryie Profile. Each button is assigned to a party member of 4 and pressing them orders the member to attack. An action bar shows how many actions you can perform before your turn ends. Combo builds up a Demon Greed gauge that lets you unleash a more powerful attack upon the enemies.
The system works quite well and lets you finish battles quickly but, the difficulty can spike up really quickly towards the end of the game.
There's no gear/item shopping system. You have to rely on drops which can be a pain depending on how lucky you are. Dungeons show what drops are available but obviously, you still have to farm for them and sometimes exploit weaknesses to even have a chance of them dropping.
In-between fights there is some banter between the party members depending how well they're getting along with each other - kind of similar to Persona games but not quite. You might hit the rating of "love" but there are no special scenes to view, just more banter. The plus side is members can inherit skills from each other if their friendship levels are high - which is great because you don't have to level grind as much.
Presentation wise, there's a lot of palette swapping. You're pretty much seeing the same enemies throughout the entire game - hell, even the bosses are re-used so, don't expect anything really impressive.
Apart from that, it has a Trusty Bell [Eternal Sonata] vibe to it. Probably because of all those shiny backgrounds and Sakuraba Motoi's soundtrack.
Exist Archive is quite a mixed bag. I'd say it's more of a dungeon crawler where you will be spending time farming for exciting drops mostly. It's definitely not a game I'd get at full price because of how much content is repeated.
- Speedy battle system.
- Fun banter.
- Skills can be inherited by other party members.
- Multiple endings.
- "New Game Plus".
- Overly re-used enemies and environments.
- Gear is completely dependent on drops.
- Huge difficultly jump towards the end of the game.
- Poorly animated Anime cutscenes.