Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky is famed JRPG developer Tri-Ace's latest foray into the genre, and it's a doozy! Described as a spiritual successor to the beloved Valkyrie Profile series of side-scrolling RPG's, Exist Archive has great turn-based combat and an interesting leveling/affection system.
Something it doesn't have, however, is an in-depth tutorial system, which forces players to go through some trial and error to figure out what each system in the game does. We've taken the initiative to do that for you, and have provided below some tips and explanations that'll make Exist Archive: TOSotK the best experience it can be!
The first thing that every Exist Archive player should know is this:
DO NOT TRUST AUTO-SAVE. Great as the game is, it has trouble auto-saving for many users (I lost a lengthy amount of gameplay to this glitch, myself). Luckily, there's a save option in your in-game menu between quests; USE IT OFTEN!
Now, on to better things:
Not long into the actual gameplay of Exist Archive, you'll realize that there's a lot of content you don't have access to quite yet. In fact, if you're like me, you'll have a this is it? reaction that–I'm happy to say–is far from the case. There are a lot of neat systems you'll get to mess with in Exist Archive, and they'll unlock as you play.
Here's a list of some of the features that will eventually open up for you, along with some beginner tips:
- Tutorial Screens are triggered by what you do, not timed – This means that you should go to the in-game menu and click through all the options (Items, Skills, etc.) to see the tutorial screens before going through the game. This is unusual, as most games throw them out in quick succession, but I got pretty far before I even caused some tutorials to show up (because I didn't manually go through the screens).
- New movement options will become available – This is pretty obvious, as you'll notice your starting jump doesn't get you everywhere you want to go. Rest assured, like Metroid, you'll get new skills that'll serve you well as you traverse the world of Exist Archive.
- You'll be able to sell loot – True, there aren't any traditional shops in Exist Archive, but there will come a time when you can dump some of your loot for currency (and it's a good thing because you have a limited inventory.)
- Greed Mode will become available – This mode will allow you to fight more monsters per battle and helps speed up the grinding you'll need to do in order to fight effectively later in the game. Check out more on this in the Combat section down below.
- Multiple character classes can be chosen – There are three classes: Melee, Ranged, and Magic. That may seem limited, but the combination and elements of them will really let you tailor characters exactly how you want them. More on this below in Combat and Leveling Up and Skills.
- Demon Greed Attacks will become available – As you probably can guess, these are special attacks that are available to each character. More on this in Combat.
Now that you know you're in for some JRPG goodness, let's get to the nitty-gritty of the gameplay that may not be clear to players jumping into the unique world that Tri-Ace has built.
Tri-Ace structured Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky in such a way that you are encouraged to return to various locales/quests to access different areas, engage different creatures, and trigger different scenarios each time through. You'll always have access to your past quests, which helps when you want to gain some extra XP before progressing with the story.
Each map or "Dungeon" has an amount of "Item Pods" (treasure chests) that don't scale or replenish with your skills. This means that, even if you don't have a special jump to get a chest, the game considers you as having missed that chest, and will give you a lower than 100% completion score when you finish the level. With every score comes a grade from "A" to "D", and gives you different loot when you attain the corresponding grade. Since these chests never disappear or refill, you can go back to 100% these levels anytime, once you have the needed skills.
If you're like me, and sometimes don't want to grind to get to the story missions, this also means that you can do a speed through a quest and not worry about missing anything (since you can go back anytime). In fact, getting good at speeding through quests can help you in the game's optional "Speed Runs," which give you perks dependent on how well you perform.
This is where the meat of Exist Archive comes into play. Enemies are visible in each dungeon, and you can swing with an attack button to hit them before they touch you (which engages battle). Striking first increases your chances of attacking first, so it's smart to do. Each battle exists as a series of Attack and Guard Phases, and good planning will have you creaming enemies before their attack phase has a chance to happen.
Like in Valkyrie Profile , you'll enter dungeons with a group of characters (four at a time, max), and you'll attack in battle by pressing the face buttons, each one of which triggers an attack by a corresponding character. Every attack costs AP (action points), which are represented by a bar in the lower left of your screen. Each character's attacks cost a certain number of AP's, and each character has a certain number of attacks in their combos (the number is indicated on a bar beneath their portraits, and the attacks can be viewed in detail via the in-game menu's Skills.)
By pressing consecutive attacks for a character, you'll trigger their combos.
For example, your lead's initial sword attack has three parts for a complete combo, and you'll initiate that combo by having him attack twice in a row. When you get more characters, you'll have plenty of chances to try out different attack combos by toying with the order of attackers, and how many times each attack in a row.
Getting good at combos is important because they increase the amount that your Demon Greed Gauge fills up. The gauge, which becomes available to you ways into the game, builds as your characters attack and are made of four diamonds. You can trigger a Demon Greed Attack for a particular character when their diamond is full, and you can have all four do it if all four diamonds are full (or two if their two are full, etc.) These attacks are different for each character but are generally the most powerful, and often have the largest area of attack. The Demon Greed Gauge carries between battles, so don't be afraid to save it up for big-time baddies.
Guarding is done the same way as attacking, only during the Guard Phase (duh). Doing so lessens the damage opponent deals by a lot, so it's important. What isn't obvious at the get-go is that you can press a character's dodge button as soon as the phase starts, and they'll hold that guard until the end of the phase, or until they receive so many attacks that it "Breaks". If the latter happens, you can press their button again to re-initiate the guard, but only if you have available AP points (there's a smaller AP amount available for guarding versus the amount you get for attacking, so guarding so guarding only when you see attacks coming is useful). Good timing with your guarding is rewarded, too, as guarding an attack right before it hits you causes the attack to be "Intercepted," meaning you'll receive zero damage.
There are three character classes, as mentioned, and each is useful for different reasons. The Melee attack class is usually sword-based and does moderate damage to a large area of the battlefield. Ranged attackers are usually gun-based, and are great for hitting enemies with certain traits, like "Spiky" (which hurts attacking melee characters when they attack.) Magic attackers are very powerful, though they often attack a smaller range of enemies. They also can have powerful elemental effects, and enemies vulnerable to those elements will show icons representing that beside their health bars.
Some enemies also have chained treasure chest icons beneath their health bars, and that means you'll need to experiment with different attacks and combos to make them drop special loot,
Also important to know is that in health in Exist Archive is recovered a little at the end of a battle, and progressively as you wander through a dungeon. There will be times, especially late in the game, when you'll need to have some health replenishing potions handy. There are also healing stations in some dungeons, but they have limited uses, so use them sparingly!
Likewise, great combos and Over Damage (which is damage dealt beyond a creature's remaining life) will increase the chance of getting red orbs and items. Red orbs fill your Risk meter, which increases the chance your opponents will drop loot (and the chance they'll drop better loot) when dispatched. Items–either stat boosters, healing staffs, or weapons/equipment–are occasionally dropped in little item pods upon enemies' deaths and are tallied for you at the end of successful combat. Weapons and equipment can have rare (Titled) and ultra rare (Titled x2, 3, etc.) versions, which boost and sometimes hinder stats when equipped (you'll see the exact effects on the equip screen, so no guesswork.)
When you finally get the option to trade in extra equipment for currency, you'll usually find that the equipment you get in the field is better than what you can buy. For that reason, it can be useful to purchase potions and consumable items rather than weapons and armor, as the former items are harder to come by (sometimes, a really great weapon or equip-able item might pop up in the store, though, so it's worth checking now and again.)
leveling up and skills
There's a lot of cool options for your skills and levels in Exist Archive , so here are the biggest ones in easy to read bullet points:
- Leveling up boosts your stats – This is obvious, but it happens
- Leveling up gives you Skill Points – This option presents itself later in the game, but lets you boost the power of characters' skills. You only get two at a time, which isn't much, so use them wisely!
- Character Relationships matter – Your characters have charts visible in the in-game menu that show how they're perceived by all the other characters. Character perceptions improve between characters when they fight side-by-side often, and they can also be improved by special events that pop up randomly in dungeons. If characters get to be really good friends, they actually teach each other their skills! This is my favorite new feature in Exist Archive, and pairs super-well with the fact that–
- —Characters can change classes as many times as they want! – What's more, they don't lose their level or experience points when they switch, so you can play with whoever you want, however you want, anytime you want. This is extra useful when you're trying to have characters teach each other certain skills, and also lets you have different characters play together without messing up the balance of your group's classes.
The last point on leveling: you'll have to grind. This sounds rough for some of us without days to spend tapping buttons through the same battles, but that's where Chain Battles come in . These are battles that randomly occur during normal battles, and basically have you fight a series of normal battles in a row without regenerating health between each wave. It gives tons of experience, loot, and builds up your Demon Greed Gauge quickly (these attacks come in handy during Chain Battles, which is another reason to save up your Demon Greed Gauge.)
The Greed Mode mentioned earlier causes Chain Battles to occur much more frequently when it's active and is the best way to level up quickly (once you have access to it). Use it often, but beware your life meters–get too cocky, and you'll be stuck with no potions and three rounds of fighting left to go.
Go get 'em!
Now that you've got the lowdown on Exist Archives: The Other Side of the Sky , you can cruise through those dungeons and wreak havoc against your enemies strategically. Suit up with the best gear, turn on the Greed Mode to rack up that XP, and remember: SAVE FREQUENTLY!
Battle on, fearless gamers, battle on!