Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky, developed by tri-Ace and Spike Chunsoft, and published by Aksys Games, is a side-scrolling RPG set in the mystical afterlife world of Protelexa. An unfortunate end to the life of 12 kids has led to them becoming warriors in another realm, powered by an evil god, and destined to find out why. Developer tri-Ace is well known for their previous titles Valkyrie Profile, Star Ocean, and Resonance of Fate. While you'll find similarities to the company's previous work, the game provides its own unique setting, story, characters, and presentation. You can buy the game on the PlayStation Store (PSVita for $39.99, or PS4 for $59.99) on October 18, 2016.
The game opens up in the streets of Tokyo, just before a tragic explosion occurs. Inside of it are two of the protagonists, one of them Kanata Kujo, the main character you play as. They share a few last words, one statement of theirs being "I don't want to die here… with you." Shooting up in the sky as a light beam, you awaken in a strange world of colorful environments and very strange creatures, known as Protelexa. In time you'll meet up with 11 other characters, the first one being a girl named , who have also died and been brought onto the strange world. The game lasts anywhere from about 40-50 hours (depending deeply on your efficiency regarding grinding) and will venture into each of the characters stories as well as progress the main one. Essentially the twist to the whole story comes as you find out that there's an evil god, known as Yamatoga, who has brought you 12 characters into the world for reasons unknown but to be found out. He has split himself into each one of them in order to carry out his greater plan.
Much of the game performs in side-scrolling fashion with light platforming actions. In the beginning, you'll only have the ability to jump a single time, leaving many smaller areas to be unexplored (many other areas are easily reachable), but in time you'll gain powers that will allow you to traverse all over the place. As you make your way through the environments you'll see representations of enemies moving along. How you initially interact with them will determine how the start of a battle begins. Making the first hit give you a starting attack advantage over them and vice versa.
The combat is extremely easy to grasp and understand. There's three different section on your side you can position your players in; the front for the attack, the middle for balanced, and the back for the guard. In between turns, you'll gain an action bar, allowing one of your characters (up to four in a party) to perform any of the tasks. You can attack once, or chain together attacks, either by attacking and reevaluating the situation or by instantly chaining the attacks while in motion. You're not forced into only attacking one enemy at a time, meaning you can move the attack cursor anywhere on the field, allowing for you to hit multiple enemies at once. So long as you are not using a mage classed character, you can use up the entire action bar on as many attacks as possible.
Each character of the 12 person group will have their own style of combat, as well as their pros and cons to what they can contribute with depending on the enemy types. It's important to experiment how to come up with an efficient group for multiple positions, and how to swap them out based on your needs. They compliment each other and will be able to unleash massive attacks as you gain up a special attack meter called Demon's Greed. It grows as you perform successful attack turns, but can also be reduced by taking damage. Managing this for the best timing is crucial and can make a difference when you end up battling difficult opponents throughout the game.
You'll be able to customize abilities and skills, loot dungeons, and progress the characters along a friendship and affection styled system. Mixing and matching the characters boasts opportunities for them to learn new skills and abilities, creating even more diversity within combat situations. There are multiple endings to the game, based on your choices throughout the adventure. If you don't get the ideal ending or are curious to learn of the others, you'll find great pleasure knowing there is a new game plus option, allowing you to dive right back into all that the game offers with some added secret objectives.
Sound and Graphics
While the game is a localization from Japan, Aksys Games did a great job publishing it with English voice acting. They didn't sacrifice the authenticity of the game itself though as you can play it with either English or Japanese voices. The voices are performed excellently with the main protagonist standing out the most (which is definitely a good thing). Combat sound effects are also very well recorded into the game; unleashing a combination attack or smacking multiple enemies at once all register pleasantly with the ears. General sound effects everywhere else, as well as music, provide a great presentation for the game, but isn't something I would classify particularly as "extraordinary." Nevertheless, the whole game just works perfectly with all things audio related.
One of the best parts of the game is the incredibly detailed environments you'll traverse through. They're full of bright, vivid, and living colors. You'll find yourself moving through them on more than one occasion due to the grind factor, but at least they are truly enjoyable to look at. The depth of everything softens the feel of a side-scrolling adventure and instead makes you feel as if it's a fully explorable land. I often times wished I could somehow travel further into the background simply just to explore all that it could possibly offer. The character models are just as detailed, even if their dialogue appearances surpass in details (even if their heads are a little bit bigger in proportion to the rest of their bodies. Attack animations match the neon color representing each of the characters, and over time you may grow a little tired of the same moves, but they never fail to look splendid in their own consistent regards.
My time in the world of Protelexa was met with genuine enjoyment for all things involved. A game packed with roughly 50 hours, a new game plus, and multiple possible endings based on your actions during key moments of the story mean that you'll have an outstanding amount of replay value here. It has its faults in regards to slight repetition when grinding and arguably tiring reuse of environments (though they are beautiful to look at), but you couldn't ask for much better from an RPG set with a side-scrolling design. The characters are unique, and the story, while a little odd, make for a pretty exciting adventure into this adaptation of life after death.
|+ Approx. 50 hours of gameplay||– Grinding is necessary|
|+ New Game +||– Enemies lack some diversity|
|+ Beautiful environments and scenes||– A lot of re-running through the same dungeons|
|+ 60 fps|
|+ Enjoyable character development|