An exercise in repetition.
Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky on PS4
Tri-Ace may be best known as the developers of Square Enix’s long-running Star Ocean series, but they’re also responsible for the cult classic JRPG, Valkyrie Profile. In nearly every way, Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky feels like a spiritual successor to the latter, and almost a combination of the two series for better or worse.
Many of the game’s systems and gameplay elements feel similar to Valkyrie Profile, but the age of those systems can definitely be seen. It’s a game that’s absolutely demanding of the player, punishingly difficult at times, and requires a bit of a commitment to see all the way through.
Exist Archive picks up with a gorgeous anime cutscene showing four of the game’s protagonists in Tokyo. A deadly explosion has occurred, trapping two of the characters and seemingly killing them. Kanata Kujo, the game’s protagonist is one of these characters, and afterward he wakes up in a strange world made up of floating islands. As Kanata begins to explore his surroundings he meets a girl named Mayura, who also seems to be lost, and the two set out to try and discover what’s going on.
Eventually after meeting up with Kanata’s friends the group finds out that twelve of them in total were transported to a world known as “Protelexa,” after the blast in total. A god-like being known as Yamatoga has granted the group of young adults special powers by bestowing pieces of his soul upon them and initiating something called the Xeno Factor, all in the hopes of resurrecting himself.
That probably sounds a little confusing, and for a good part of the game it really is. Exist Archive’s story throws a ton of terms and characters at you right off the bat, leaving you to try and connect the pieces. There’s a lot of history to the world of Protolexa, with different gods, factions, and ideas. On top of that, you’re also trying to figure out how Kanata and the others wound up on this planet and what their purpose is. The story feels very wandering for a good chunk of the time, but tries to weave in some more emotional character-focused storytelling by the end.
Exist Archive features a cast of characters that fall kind of all over the board. Some are interesting, well-rounded characters while others feel like generic archetypes that you find in the JRPG handbook. The same holds true with the voice cast, with some performances of a few party members like the gun-toting Mitsuhide or the whip-wielding Suzaku standing out with great performances. On the other hand you have characters that feel flat and robotic, the protagonist Kanata in particular.
Certain quests and moments in the game have you seeking out Essence Crystals that each provide a bit of backstory on a party member, and some more context on their personality. Visually, the game falls very much in line with the aesthetic that Tri-Ace uses for Star Ocean. Characters wear vibrant and colorful outfits highlighted with neon, sometimes looking more ridiculous than anything.
The game is structured as a series of quests that you undertake via a world map of Protolexa. It’s separated into three different sections of the floating continent; a mysterious tower, inside land, and outer land. Selecting a quest takes you into a dungeon where you explore, discover items, encounter enemies and more. Like Valkyrie Profile the game is presented on a 2D plane, allowing you to move around, jump, and attack an enemy. Running into an enemy initiates battle.