Man, people weren’t joking when they said CCC was way better than Extra. Like, I’m trying to think of the best way to illustrate how true that statement is. Okay, so basically… this isn’t “just” an alternate version or a sort-of-sequel. It’s more like… the real story of Fate/Extra. No, I mean, seriously. If you were to ask me, I’d say the entirety of the original Extra exists for the sole purpose of serving as a prologue to CCC, which then goes on to use it as a stepping stone in order to tell the story Nasu truly wanted to tell. At least that’s the impression I got, considering how utterly unremarkable vanilla Extra feels in retrospect now that I’ve finished CCC.
Forget most of the things you thought you knew. Though the game does indeed use Extra as a stepping stone, it then completely goes off the beaten path and does its own thing, which is precisely what makes it work so well: it’s no longer the same old tournament of seven Masters all vying for the Grail, but something entirely different. I don’t want to reveal too much, but the gist of it is that something goes very wrong during Extra’s Grail War, which results in you and a bunch of other unlucky Masters, Servants, and NPCs being hauled off to the Far Side of the Moon and right into the territory of a certain new threat. What’s more, you’re essentially irregulars now: bugs in the system, which means that pretty much all bets are off. Why you were taken to the Far Side and what the game’s mysterious new antagonist has in store for you is the primary mystery on everyone’s mind while you and the other Masters try to assess the situation and find a way back to the Near Side in order to continue the Grail War as intended.
Needless to say, it was cool to have the rug being completely pulled from under me, and even cooler to see characters that were bitter rivals in the original not only teaming up as allies for a common goal, but also expressing themselves in ways they never did in the first Extra. And yes, this does admittedly have a bit of a fanservice-y flavor to it, but I really enjoyed how it was handled. The first time you hear Leo’s spirited GOOD MORNING!!!, you’ll know you’re in for quite a special ride. It’s a fresh and different take after the original’s somewhat more consistently serious tone, and the game’s way of letting its hair down and living a little.
What’s also worth noting is that CCC becomes much more of a genuine visual novel than Extra, placing a notably larger emphasis on textual storytelling and rich characterization than the prequel, all the while effortlessly mixing engaging drama with a more than generous helping of quirky comedy. Imagine it like this: while Extra was a dungeon crawler that just so happened to be loosely based on Fate and had a story that felt like a bit of an afterthought, CCC is a beautifully realized and deeply character-focused experience from the get-go that just so happens to borrow Extra’s gameplay elements. Ironically enough, it still ends up doing way more with said gameplay elements than the prequel.
Now, CCC doesn’t just borrow from Extra, though: it also fixes many of its shortcomings, be they of the narrative or mechanical kind. First off, every single main character is fleshed out to a satisfying degree, revealing a side of themselves that wasn’t particularly apparent before. This actually becomes a bit of a recurring theme, as a good chunk of the game revolves around the main characters coming face to face with hidden, potentially embarrassing aspects of themselves that they chose to bury deep inside their hearts. Even putting that aside, though, the cast as a whole just feels better and more richly-written, exhibiting way more personality compared to the first game. This made CCC one of those JRPGs where I honestly struggled to find a character I didn’t like, because pretty much everyone gets their moment to shine and has something interesting to say or at least indirectly contribute. Hell, this game even made me like Shinji, for God’s sake. Let that sink in for a second.
Aside from characters you already know from the original, CCC fills up its roster with plenty of newcomers, so in addition to getting to see unexpected sides of characters you already knew, there’s a whole array of fresh faces joining the fray as well. My top 3 favorites are probably Nero, Elizabeth and Andersen, and two of those characters are CCC-exclusive, so that should tell you a thing or two.
Nero is a bit of a no-brainer for me: I loved her in the original and I loved her even more here in CCC. She’s still the same old Nero, except she leveled up her cuteness from A+ to EX between the two games, and her seething lesbian love for Hakunon burns twice as fierce, but other than that, you know what to expect. Andersen needs to be seen to be believed: he’s basically the famed Danish author in the body of a young boy, voiced by Takehito Koyasu and armed with a relentlessly sharp tongue. I strongly recommend doing his side events where you check out some of his works in the library and proceed to ask him questions, because talking to him is always an amusing and worthwhile experience.
Elizabeth is… Well, okay, I’ll just say it: she’s the crown jewel of CCC as far as character development is concerned and probably one of the most beautifully developed newcomers in the game. It’s easy to initially treat her as the psychotic くそ雑魚 Team Rocket-tier sub-villain, because she does show up all the goddamn time (you can even call her out on this in a dialogue choice, lol), only to end up being foiled by those meddling kids (i. e. you). Although it must also be mentioned that this aspect of her only made Liz even more adorable in my eyes, but let’s put that aside for now. To get back to what I was saying, although she does contribute tons of great comic-relief to the game (Chapter 5 is a fucking riot, despite feeling like a Saturday morning anime’s filler episode), the way CCC handles her backstory and personal growth is superb, and her final scene is, without exaggeration, one of my favorite moments in the entire game.
Similarly, I could go on about how nicely Sakura is portrayed (this is, after all, a game about her and CCC goes into detail about her backstory), how awesome Passionlip and Meltlilith are, how Gatou is a total badass, or how Leo went from being Extra’s aristocratic asshat to a leader worth looking up to, but I’d be here all day. The bottom line is that it’s kinda crazy how Nasu managed to bring everything together with a plot that makes sense in the context of the original Extra while also opening the door for an exploration of various manifestations of love and desire.
You probably already know that this game has four playable Servants (the original three + Gilgamesh) and that each of them have their respective endings, but it’s the so-called “CCC route” (generally intended for a NG+ run, but achievable on your first playthrough, too) that pushes Sakura’s story to its full potential, culminating in what was likely intended to be the game’s true ending. On your second run, the game will basically hold your hand and guide you onto the CCC route by telling you exactly what to do and which choices to pick, so it’s kinda hard to miss, anyway. It does require a bit of a time investment, mind you: my first run, played at a comfortable pace, took me well over 50 hours, while unlocking the CCC route via a quick NG+ “speedrun” added another twenty for a total of 70 hours. I’m not complaining, though: I like my JRPGs when they’re sufficiently meaty (I mean, I am a Kiseki fan, after all), and there’s plenty to chew through with CCC, to say the least.
It’s a bit disappointing that the CCC route only truly diverges from the normal one at the very end, but at least its finale is decently lengthy and really does provide a much more fitting conclusion to the story. Well, that’s not to say Saber’s ending was bad, in fact it was very cute and filled to the brim with yuri goodness, but still. Oh, and because I expect this question to pop up (hell, I’m pretty sure I asked it myself in the past), the answer is yes, you do kinda need to play the original Extra to fully appreciate this game.
As previously implied, CCC also does a lot of things to make its gameplay more palatable. The rock-paper-scissors battle system is still the same so your mileage may vary on that front, but I ended up warming up to it once I got the hang of things and learned how to predict enemy moves. Hell, I even cranked up the difficulty to Normal after the first few hours (you may recall that I played the original on Easy) and actually had tons of fun with all the boss fights. Then again, if you’ve read my review of Extra, you know that I already enjoyed the boss fights in that game, so not much has changed in that regard. The optional hidden bosses near the end of the game are absolutely fucking ridiculous, though, and will make you bash your head against a nearby wall. But hey, they’re optional for a reason.
Regular encounters are absolutely fine this time around due to a variety of player-friendly improvements, such as the ability to flee from battle, being able to retry every encounter (I believe the original Extra only let you do that for Servant battles), and the existence of mid-dungeon save points. Yup. Remember those fountains in Extra’s Arena that restored your HP and MP? Well, those things moonlight as save points now. What’s more, you can freely leave and re-enter the main dungeon at your leisure without any repercussions. In short, CCC does everything it possibly can to make the experience as risk- and frustration-free as humanly possible, so you can actually play around and have fun with the battle system instead of worrying about when you last saved and how much progress you’ll lose if you die.
Dungeons were also vastly improved upon, with almost every floor having its own unique theme and visual flair that aligns with the personality of the dungeon’s boss. Granted, the original game also experimented with this, but it’s way more accentuated in CCC, where every dungeon feels like a sharply different experience. And speaking of visuals, can we just take a moment to appreciate how amazing the new school building looks? The retro aesthetic, the afternoon glow, the new uniforms, and even the cherry blossom tree visible through the windows all create a fantastic overall image, to the point where I often found myself choosing not to use the fast travel option just to have an excuse to run around the place.
I’ve hopefully managed to hammer home my point about how impressed I am by CCC, doubly so because it comes after something as mediocre as the original Extra. I’m not exactly what you’d call a hardcore Type-Moon fan, yet even I had an absolute blast with this game, which, I believe, should be testament enough to its sheer quality. CCC is one mouth-watering meal of memorable, well-written characters, entertaining comedy, and a touching storyline all brought together by the secret sauce that is Fate lore; it’s filled to the brim with cool moments and interesting things to say, and if you’re at least a little bit curious about all the wild things that can be done with the Nasuverse, you won’t want to miss it.