Review: Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky (PS4/PSV/PSTV)



  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4, PS Vita
  • HDTV


  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save Yes
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky

Release Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Spike Chunsoft / tri-Ace
Original MSRP: $59.99 (PS4), $39.99 (PSV)
ESRB Rating: T
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Exist Archive is, in many ways, a spiritual successor to the PS1 classic Valkyrie Profile. Made by the same developer, Tri-Ace, Exist Archive uses similar gameplay mechanics and has several narrative parallels as well. I don’t think it quite lives up to the legacy of Valkyrie Profile, but it’s still an enjoyable RPG with many deep and rewarding aspects.

The story is about Kanata and his friends. After an accident, Kanata loses consciousness and he awakes to find himself alone in another world. Eventually he comes across more people and discovers that everyone there has been pulled to that place after dying to assist a mysterious woman. Though she tells them that they cannot go back to their world, Kanata and company hope to find a way to return.

The story is passable but never fully managed to grab me. I think this is in part because the characters felt a little stereotypical and I never fully bought into them. The game tries to expand on character’s backstories through fragments of conversations by each character’s relatives back home but I didn’t end up caring too much about most of them.

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The game combines aspects of both a turn-based and action RPG into an interesting and fairly deep battle system. There’s a lot to explore in the battle system, both in and out of an actual battle.

The basics are that, during the player’s turn in a fight, they control each of the current four party members at the same time. Each party member is assigned to one of the PlayStation’s face buttons and pressing that button causes them to attack. The depth is in using those attacks to chain together a combo on the enemy. Doing so properly leads to more damage and rewards for the player.

… the player is given a lot of tools for setting up their characters …
This isn’t necessarily an easy task, however. Different characters/weapons have different attack styles and not all of them hit exactly when the player presses the button. Some have a windup, or have a brief gap in the middle of a few hits. If the hits subside for even a split second, the enemy can recover and the player’s combo will be lost.

Each attack drains some of the player’s action bar and once empty, or if the player manually chooses to end, the enemies then get a turn to attack. The player is not without recourse during any enemy attack.


Using the face button assigned to each character, they can cause that character to block which reduces incoming damage. There is a tradeoff though, as blocking uses up some of the same bar that attacking uses and because that meter carries over between turns, not blocking gives the player more attacks on their next turn.

To better customize their battle styles, the player is given a lot of tools for setting up their characters. Naturally, changing up the party to different members/weapons plays a big part in that, but also setting up different skills on each character, which can add extra effects to attacks such as a knock-down, or affect how the character blocks, or even give useful support skills.

… plenty of hidden items and areas to find …
As evidence of how much the battle can change through those choices, I found the first eight or so hours of the game fairly difficult. I was frequently finding myself burning through recovery items even on common mobs of enemies, which unfortunately can’t be purchased, only dropped from enemies, and I needed to return to the home base often to heal.

However, I eventually discovered that I could gain a healing spell by upgrading one character in a specific way and suddenly the common mobs became much easier and I didn’t need to return to base as often.

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Exploring in Exist Archive is set up like a traditional side-scrolling platforming game. It’s a rather interesting way to get around the dungeons and there are plenty of hidden items and areas to find. Some of which require story upgrades to the platforming abilities such as double jump, slide, bouncing off enemies, etc. This gives some incentive to return to older areas, plus the game gives a bonus when leaving each area depending on how much the player explored.

Although it’s a cool exploration method, I did find the platforming to be a little squirrelly. The controls aren’t the most precise but fortunately there isn’t a lot of demanding platforming. Most jumps give the player plenty of leeway, though there are at least a few places where messing up means trekking around the level again to get back.

… the ability to open up the game and dig out some of the deeper secrets …
Another small qualm I had with the exploration method is that the game does some backtracking and reusing of areas. It’s a little annoying at times to drop into a level only to see that it’s made of the same few pieces as the last level, just rearranged slightly. That combined with a small range of quest types (i.e. Kill boss, find item) makes the game feel repetitive between story moments. This isn’t a huge issue though, just a small nitpick.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the gameplay. Though I found myself falling into ruts of sticking with combos and skills I was familiar with on a few occasions, I did enjoy having the ability to open up the game and dig out some of the deeper secrets hidden in its systems. It never really forces the player to explore that stuff, but it can pay dividends if the player decides to do so.


I’ve avoided comparing Exist Archive to Valkyrie Profile too much, but visuals are the one area where they differ the most. Valkyrie Profile had lovely 2D sprites inspired by Norse mythology.

Exist Archive has some kind of generic models with large heads and eyes that make them seem like dolls. Backgrounds can also be generic and the enemies get a lot of palette swaps.

… large text boxes and font sizes …
Outside of the character models, which I found to be slightly unappealing, the rest of the graphics are pretty good. Attacks especially can be fun to watch and there are some merits to the overall design aesthetics of the game, even if I don’t care for some of it.

There aren’t any huge differences between the Vita and PS4 versions, and the game looks to be a Vita game that got a late development port to PS4 rather than the other way around.

Especially telling are the large text boxes and font sizes that feel “handheld-ish” even on the PS4. The PS4 does gain an advantage in loading times though, as the Vita has to think for a moment even for some simple things like opening the pause menu.

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Character voices come in both English and Japanese to suit both preferences. I used the English dub for a while and was rather unimpressed with a few of the voices, as they sounded emotionless and uninterested.

I didn’t notice this as much with the Japanese voices but admittedly I have less experience there. As far as I recall, both languages have complete voicework though.

Music in the game is good, if a little by the books. Some grand sweeping melodies make up the themes to show the strange otherworldly place that comprises the setting. While a typical but enjoyable upbeat tune is used for the battle music. The music suits the game well and is unobtrusive for better or worse.

… the game provides a lot of exploration …
This game is mostly singleplayer but has two small online components. There are online leaderboards for the game’s time attack mode, where the player can re-fight old bosses on a timer.

There is also a mechanic by which the game will identify the dungeons with the most online players in them and rank them. Playing one of those dungeons in the free exploration mode gives extra bonuses to the player.


Exist Archive attempts to build upon the legacy set forth in Valkyrie Profile. Although it does a good job of adapting that game’s sensibilities to a modern console, I don’t think it ends up quite as good nor will it be remembered in the same way.

Still, on its own, the game provides a lot of exploration, both in the literal sense of moving around the dungeons and in the figurative sense of making the most of the myriad combat intricacies. This is a game worth checking out for any RPG fans who like exploiting a game’s systems and finding the best ways to utilize tools given to them.


* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature and the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.




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