As the latest game in the Fate franchise, Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is an action video game that is being developed by Marvelous and is due out on both PlayStation 4 and PS Vita at the end of the year. With some describing the game as “Dynasty Warriors with Fate characters”, Fate/Extella features a brand new story from Kinoko Nasu and has characters from Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Apocrypha, Fate/Grand Order and other Fate series.
With so much to learn about the game, I spoke to Michael Fisher (Assistant Product Manager) and Jonathan Nevill (Product Manager) and got to ask them as to what their hopes were for parent company Marvelous Europe’s forthcoming release. Enjoy!
Why have you decided to focus on the musuo and the visual novel genres, as opposed to continuing down that RPG road which Fate/Extra went down originally? Why the change in direction?
Jonathan Nevill: I think this would’ve been a discussion with Marvelous Japan. We didn’t have much influence or knowledge of the background behind the decision. So we got introduced to the project last year. We knew it was being developed, but at that point we didn’t know we would be publishing it. We assumed we would.
I think it’s a broader genre, and it’s very flashy. And the cast of the Fate series are absolutely perfect for the genre, and they’ve done a great job. And I think it’ll be very successful.
Michael Fisher: I don’t want to put words in the developer’s mouth. Maybe they wanted to try something new with Fate. Turn-based games aren’t exactly the most pick up and play types. So this time around, it’s very visual and very high-action.
How do you think previous fans of the franchise will take to the new game?
Michael Fisher: I think they’ll enjoy a lot. Recently, Marvelous Japan announced two new characters. The news was everywhere and everyone was loving it. The online communities were all getting excited about the game, and they’re really happy that we’re picking it up. So I think they’ll enjoy it.
Jonathan Nevill: I’ll just say it’s been positive all-round. We haven’t had any negative comments so far.
Michael Fisher: People are very excited about the characters because if you’ve ever watched the anime, it’s all about the characters. The characters are very important to the series.
Jonathan Nevill: Obviously, having Kinoko Nasu as the same script writer from Fate/Stay Night, you can expect a high level of storytelling there.
Michael Fisher: This still has visual novel pieces in between the battle action segments. You talk and select conversation options and stuff like that.
There are three main story arcs. Is there the possibility that you can play the game with three players online simultaneously?
Jonathan Nevill: It’s a single-player-only game. So you’ve got three main story arcs, as well as side stories for each of the playable characters.
Michael Fisher: A lot of story content.
Fate Extella is coming out on the PS4 and the PS Vita. Even in this day and age, why concentrate on the PS Vita, especially with regards to releasing the product as a physical box release?
Michael Fisher: In Japan, the PS Vita is still very popular. Sony actually recently announced a new range of colors and stuff for Japan. So I think when we want to bring a game over, if we were to just do the PS4 version and leave out the Vita, we would make a lot of fans angry because our beginnings were on the Vita with the Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus and Bon Appétit games. So I think it’s always nice to provide that option, especially physically because digital games take up a lot of space and the PS Vita memory cards are very small.
Jonathan Nevill: We take it project-by-project… For Fate, when you’ve got the cross-save functionality, it’ll be a shame not to have the Vita version for players that want to have it on the go and also at home.
Michael Fisher: Yeah, physical is something that we always want to aim for, as much as we can, because this gives more options for people. People enjoy especially limited editions. We’ve done a Senran Kagura limited edition for PS Vita as well that completely sold out before launch. So obviously, there’s a desire for this. And we want fans to be happy with what they’re getting.
You’ve mentioned as to how limited editions are popular, but Fate/Extella is quite anime orientated and loli-esque. What marketing problems do you experience in the West?
Michael Fisher: Actually, no problems.
Is it just a case of making sure that you keep the production units down?
Jonathan Nevill: We’re pretty open with our content. There’s no point hiding it. It is what it is. Basically, it’s sort of tongue and cheek. It doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Michael Fisher: You just glance out our Twitter. You can see we’re very open about the content of our games. Fate is a lot more reserved than Senran Kagura, for example. It’s a lot more mature.
Jonathan Nevill: It has its moments. But it’s very descriptive in a tasteful way.
Michael Fisher: Yeah. We don’t have many problems. We don’t have any problems marketing. We know our market. We know who they are. We sort of just target that niche. Fate is going to be bigger. We imagine it will be bigger than Senran Kagura.
Jonathan Nevill: I think it’s viewed a bit more seriously in the West than in Japan even…
Michael Fisher: Yeah, I think so. It’s on Netflix and Crunchyroll…
Do you have any plans of maybe focusing on XBox or Nintendo releases in future?
Michael Fisher: In terms of XBox, because a lot of our titles come from Japan… I don’t know the figures, but I know that the XBox isn’t very popular in Japan. So I think Marvelous Japan go where the customers are. Obviously, 3DS is big in Japan as well. And we did release a few 3DS titles, for which our recent one has been Return to PoPoLoCrois. PoPoLoCrois was an old PSP game…
Oh yes, the RPG…
Michael Fisher: So Return to PoPoLoCrois is a combination of a Story of Seasons – which is a spiritual successor to Harvest Moon – and also PoPoLoCrois. So it’s a combination of the two. That was a 3DS game that we did recently.
Jonathan Nevill: For the foreseeable future, we’re looking at the same publishing strategy as what we’ve done before… Nintendo, Sony, Steam. We’re supporting XSeed with their titles, so we’re very busy behind the scenes.
Michael Fisher: Japan is beginning to develop a very big PC market on Steam, so we want to encourage that as much as we can because this gives more options to people.
Thank you. Do you have anything else to add?
Jonathan Nevill: Just watch this space. Keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook for updates on Fate/Extella. And we’ll be showing as much as we can… getting people excited.
This question is again Vita related… Everybody has written off the PS Vita as being dead. I know it’s not a very successful hardware product as far as the West is concerned, and I know that you’ve talked about how you like to make sure that there’s a certain degree of consistency between Japanese releases and Western releases. Surely, there must come a point when, at one point or another, you must start thinking as to whether the Vita is still worth supporting anymore?
Michael Fisher: For us, the Vita is still very profitable. So we see no reason to stop that in the foreseeable future, so not any time soon [laughs].
Are you getting any support from Sony?
Michael Fisher: Well, Sony’s systems are very easy to use. They’re made for developers and publishers. So the Vita stuff all works fine.
Jonathan Nevill: I’ll just add to that… We take it project by project. So we have done physical Vita, and we have also done digital Vita. So it really depends on how big the franchise is, how we think it will sell… With Fate for example, the franchise is absolutely massive. So we’re doing everything we can to support the franchise, which obviously includes PS Vita. We always try to do everything we can.