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Game Review

by Richard Eisenbeis,

Fate/Grand Order Arcade


Fate/Grand Order Arcade
Summon and battle with all your favorite heroes from myth and legend in the arcade reimagining of hit smartphone game Fate/Grand Order.

The Fate franchise is massive and sprawling. There are numerous games, TV anime, movies, novels, drama CDs, and manga. But while the franchise originally became popular during the 2000s, its current prominence in Japan is largely due to the overwhelming success of the smartphone game, Fate/Grand Order.

Since its Japanese launch back in 2015, the game has only grown in popularity. It has already had two anime specials, a stage play, several AR games, and a figure trading game--with an anime TV series and an anime film also in production. One big Fate/Grand Order spin-off was released at the end of this past July: Fate/Grand Order Arcade.

So, after waiting a bit to avoid the launch crowds, I spent a few nights down at my local arcade throwing money at the game—a bit more than $60 to be exact. And as for the results… well, I'm disheartened to say the least.

While sharing many of the trappings of the smartphone game, it's obvious from the start that Fate/Grand Order Arcade is missing one of the key selling points of the smartphone game: a story. The best you are going to get are the short conversations your characters have when they join your party.

The gameplay, likewise, is wildly different. Rather than turn-based battles, Fate/Grand Order Arcade plays as a third-person action game--though a rather simple one control-wise. Aside from the thumbstick for movement, the only buttons on the cabinet are the dash/dodge button, the change target button, the attack button, and the Noble Phantasm (the characters' ultimate attack) button. However, using the touch screen, you can do a few more things like activate your characters' skills and pick what your next three attacks will be--though if you don't select them, the game will automatically choose for you.

For the most part this means the actual gameplay is running up to enemies and mashing the single attack button until they die. Of course, for boss enemies and PVP human opponents, you will have to throw evading and guarding (pressing the attack button just as an enemy hit connects) into the mix, but all in all, it's a rather uncomplicated and lackluster system.

One of the big selling points for the game are the characters' unique Noble Phantasms--which look absolutely stunning in the arcade version. Using one is as simple as pressing and holding the giant button on the arcade cabinet. The problem is that it takes several seconds to cast--during which your character can't do anything but stand there, wide open and defenseless. And as enemies tend to run directly at you at full speed and then attack, I can count on a single hand how many times I was actually able to get one off.

The game starts simply. You fight off up to three waves of skeletons and weak shadow servants, with the game automatically switching your playable character with each wave. As the game continues, it ramps up the difficulty by first introducing ranged attackers and then pitting your single controllable character against groups of two or three.

Once you're feeling confident and have leveled up, you can pit yourself against other real players with your chosen team in a 3 vs 3 online battle. It plays basically like the single player game though with a few minor changes to tie-in the team aspect. (Note: While I was able to play this mode at a press event I attended months ago, there was no point to my playing it now. Already, the people playing online have spent literal hundreds--if not thousands--of dollars obtaining the rarest characters and leveling them up to their strongest forms. I would be destroyed instantly.)

Winning battles in either the single player or multiplayer modes grants you various items used to level up characters--along with the ability to use the in-game gacha and draw a new card to use in battle.

Like the smartphone game, Fate/Grand Order Arcade is centered around a gacha system that allows you to get new characters to use and special equipable cards (called “craft essences”) to make them stronger. But here's the cool part: unlike in the smartphone game, you don't just get a digital copy of a character or craft essence to use in battle, you get an actual physical card. As the summoning animation appears on the screen, the arcade prints out a high-quality card for you to keep. (It's an awesome memento.) You then take the card, and put it into the deck scanning slot on the arcade cabinet. Any cards (up to 30) you place there can be scanned and will appear in the game, ready to be used in battle.

Of course, then comes the catch: when I said you gain the “ability to use the in-game gacha” when you complete any mission, what I didn't mention is that you have to pay an extra 100 yen ($0.90) to do so. Moreover, you can only use the gacha when you beat a mission—and only once per mission completed. This means that, even if you're playing most efficiently, it costs 300 yen ($2.60) to start playing the game and then an additional 400 yen ($3.58) for the card pulls after each of the four missions you do--making for a total of 700 yen ($6.27) per play with a total of 4 cards drawn. (And of course, whether these cards will be useful or not is completely up to chance.) There is, however, one other big way to get cards: the 10-pull gacha.

As you complete missions, you are awarded Saint Quartz Beads--usually in piles of 200. When you gather 2500 beads you are eligible for a 10-pull summon. Again, being as efficient as possible, that means you get 800 Saint Quartz Beads per 300 yen ($2.60). Thus you can summon once every 5 games. (You can speed this up a bit--especially in the early goings--by returning to old missions and doing them again and again to clear all their secret conditions and get some bonus beads, but you can only clear these secret conditions one time apiece).

Oh, and of course, there is still the regular 100 yen per card price even on a 10-pull, meaning it'll cost 1000 yen ($9.00) every time you try. Interestingly, though, there is a 5-time-per-month limit on how many times you can use the 10-pull gacha.

Now, I know what you're thinking, perhaps it's best to hoard your Quartz Beads and wait for a rate-up on the gacha for the character you really want. But sadly, that is easier said than done. Any Quartz Beads you get above 2500 (beyond a small overflow) is forfeit.

This all ties into the addictive nature of how the game is built. It targets the part of your mind that doesn't like the idea of things going to waste. Finish a mission? This is your only chance to get a new card, so it would be bad to waste that chance. Have 2500 Quartz Beads? You have to do a 10-pull or you'll be wasting all future Quartz Beads you gather until you do.

Perhaps if I was just rolling in rare cards, I would feel that this system isn't so bad. But over the course of $60 (including two 10-pulls) and more than an hour-and-a-half of gameplay, I have drawn as follows:

0 5-Star Characters 2 4-Star Characters 6 3-Star Characters (including Mash who you get free the first time you play) 12 2-Star Characters 8 1-Star Characters

5 5-Star Craft Essence 12 4-Star Craft Essence 1 3-Star Craft Essence

*Note: Many of these are multiple copies of the same cards.

While this appears to be a better gacha rate than the smartphone game overall (yes, the smartphone gacha rate really is that bad), it's important to remember two things: in the smartphone game you can 1) play the game for free and 2) roll the gacha for free using in-game rewards. Fate/Grand Order Arcade does not allow either. You have to pay to play the arcade game--and pay again to roll the gacha and thus build your deck.

In the end, Fate/Grand Order Arcade is made for two very specific types of people: Fate/Grand Order lovers who can afford two throw away hundreds of dollars without a second thought ...and those who can't but do anyway.

If you are the first type of person, play your heart out. I have no doubt you'll enjoy the improved graphics and more action-oriented play style--not to mention the awesome collection of cards you get to keep.

But if you are the later, stay far, far away from this game. Because while it may be fun to spend a few hours with, you'll only see the tip of the iceberg--and to see any more is going to send you to the poor house at best and gamblers anonymous at worst.

Fate/Grand Order Arcade was released in Japanese arcades on July 26, 2018. There is no word on a Western release.

Overall : B-
Graphics : A
Sound/Music : B
Gameplay : C+
Presentation : A+

+ Cool cards you get to keep, beautiful graphics
Financially predatory and prohibitively expensive

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