While this is slightly delayed I have finally got through my second play through of Fate/Extra this time with Archer, a female protagonist, and taking the Rin route. Essentially I changed everything you could change to see how much it actually effected the story and how the game played out. If you are looking for a proper review of the game you just check out my first article about my Saber playthrough. That has more analysis of the game proper. This is just a supplemental look at the viability of a replay and what bits of nuance I got out of using Archer. This review took about a month longer than it should have as I swear the universe did everything up to including making it so my PSP would no longer read UMDs to prevent this review. Le sigh. But here it is.
First of all while it is a nice option to play as a female protagonist in Fate/Extra as far as I can tell it is the one choice that has the smallest effect on the game. I am glad to see that you are going to make the protagonist be so much of an avatar you might as well let both sexes have a chance to be represented. But sadly unlike say Persona 3 Portable changing your gender does not change the way the game plays. You don’t get any different plot choices and most of the dialog goes completely unchanged. It also makes all the servants and a few other characters in the game strongly bisexual as they will develop romantic feelings for you regardless of your gender. I do find that a bit amusing. I am sure that pleases the yuri fans but the yaoi fans can get a little for themselves as well.
I will state this plainly. There is no way you can mistake Archer from Fate/Extra being anyone BUT Archer from Fate/Stay Night. He makes references to fighting in another Holy Grail War in a school setting, he recognizes Shinji and Rin but mentions her knew much different versions of them, makes a an off-handed reference to the traditional Saber we all know and love, and even has the same appearance, powers, and back story as the traditional Archer. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands. I am not sure why some people seem to insist that this Archer is not necessarily the Archer from Fate/Stay Night. While I am not sure the story of how he become a Counter Guardian counts as canon outside if this iteration of the franchise it is clear who he is supposed to be. If nothing else this means that Archer is the servant to play as if you are a fan of the original story. No one else will even come as close to the number of in jokes and references as picking EMIYA as your servant.
Playing as Archer at times feels like a whole new experience and other times feels exactly the same as playing as Saber. The big difference is the dialog. Any time the your servant speaks there is always a very distinct tone in their dialog. If you picked any line as just read it off with no other context you could tell who the line is from. Where as every statement from Saber is grandiose but affectionate all of Archers conversation is filled with sarcasm and ruggedness. Also Saber is without a doubt easy mode. Anything that Saber does with ease takes Archer a good deal more work to do. Archer’s real ace in the hole is Seven Rings of Heaven as it can just ignore one attack. But other than that he is just harder to play.
The same thing thing is true with the alternate servants when you do Rin’s path. While the dialog is different with other opponents the mechanics of what you have to do are exactly the same. How you transverse the levels, gather matrix information, and even get help from your female companion is identical. Lil’ Ronnie and her Lancer are even crazier and far creepier than Monji Gatoh but I miss the True Ancestor. I was a bit more conflicted when fighting Rin in Rani’s path but I enjoyed your little romance/friendship with Rani more. The servants on Rin’s path were far easier as a breezed through those battles despite the fact that Archer was not anywhere as powerful as Saber. But if you pick Archer as your servant you MUST take the Rin path. His reactions to Rin in-person and when you are alone are priceless. The amount he purposefully does NOT say is just as hysterical as what he does say. I am curious what he says in those moments if you take the Rani path but they can’t be as wonderful as his dialog for Rin. Also he has the One-True-Mana-Exchange-Scene™ in this route.
The biggest thing that is added to a second play through is you can fight Shiki Ryougi as a secret boss. As is the tradition with all secret bosses she is far harder than anyone else in the game. After my level 55 Archer died against her the 4th time I just cheesed her by rushing to get out Unlimited Blade Works so I could spam her with Fake Spiral Swords and used a bunch of elixirs so I could do that for 3 rounds. You get a useful little item from beating her that lets you cancel your opponents next move but it mostly only useful if you are going for a 3rd playthrough. Shiki is a nice Easter egg that explains the presence of Touko in the game but all in all she is mostly just an Easter egg.
So the real question is if it is worth playing the game a second time. My answer is yes and no. There is a good deal of new dialog and story if you play a second time. The game makes sure to reward you for playing with new elements and things to discover. Even the servants who were the same react differently to the companion you choose to fight at your side. But other than that the game itself plays exactly the same. Everything is mechanically unchanged. Also the grinding is far more annoying the second time around. I enjoyed the fact that you kept the learned patterns from the last game but it did not make the time killing the same monsters again and again any more interesting. They really should have just let you keep your levels from them last playthrough so you could focus on the story. I could tolerate as the hardcore Type-Moon fan but I see most people getting sort of frustrated. But you have to grind like that if you want to take out Shiki at the end. I would say the second play though is worth it but I would play something else in between play playthroughs as it might help take the edge off doing the same thing twice in a row and let you just enough the changes with a little distance. I will do a hopefully shorter little follow-up article about Caster. I am sure I will have a lot less to say but I feel I should mention how she plays and what I think of her character.