I am so horribly behind on the times. It took me up until this past July to finally stop being lazy and start playing visual novels, after End Game spent the whole summer poking me to play Umineko. I refused to play Umineko since it wasn’t completely released yet, but all of her poking did convince me that it was high time to start playing VNs. So where did I start? Where else? Fate/Stay Night.
I had watched the Fate/Stay Night anime when the American DVDs were released here. That had a lot to do with my choice to play Fate Stay Night. I enjoyed the anime, especially at first, but towards the end it started to get insanely confusing. I was hoping the VN would explain things better, which it did. Read on for a proper review. Heads up, though; the idea of porn starring Shirou Emiya was not something that sounded too appealing to me, so I installed the anti-ero patch that covers the Fate and Unlimited Blade Works routes.
Okay, I should probably start with a quick terminology lesson for anyone that doesn’t know much about visual novels before getting into the review. A visual novel is kind of like a video game, usually for the computer. However, instead of controlling a little sprite that walks around and fighting enemies, all you do in a visual novel is read text and make choices. What choice you make affects the outcome of the game. They’re kind of like those pick your own path books from the 90’s, only more sophisticated and detailed, and yes, they actually are fun. They’re especially nice for people like me that suck at video games. I also mentioned the term “routes”. In this case, I’m referring to the fact that Fate/Stay Night has three different versions of the game, so to speak, and you play them in order. They’re Fate, Unlimited Blade Works, and Heaven’s Feel. As I’ve only just started playing UBW, this review obviously only covers Fate. From what I understand, “route” can also refer to the choices you make affecting which girl you end up with in dating sim VNs, too.
So, the basic premise of Fate/Stay Night is…not simple at all. Every 10 years, the Holy Grail appears in Fuyuki City, where the story takes place. 7 magi each summon a “Servant” from 7 different classes (Saber, Lancer, Archer, Rider, Caster, Berserker, Assassin), and proceed to duke it out in a battle royale for the right to possess the Holy Grail and obtain a wish from it. The only problem? You play as Shirou Emiya, a pitiful excuse for a magus with no idea what’s going on.
The game starts with a prologue from the perspective of another major character, Rin Tohsaka. If only the whole game was that way. Sigh. The biggest problem with Fate/Stay Night is that Shirou is so annoying. I’ve heard that this gets better in the later routes, but I’ve yet to see. You probably all know who Shirou Emiya is regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with Fate/Stay Night. You probably know him because he is the great philosopher of anime that told us “People die if they are killed”. Yeah, you get to play as that guy. And trust me, his Fate wisdom extends beyond that. He also lets you know that you can’t catch lightning because it is lightning. There are plenty of these and I should have written them down, but now you can discover them for yourself by playing the game. As annoying as Shirou is, this game really is worth playing.
The best part of Fate/Stay Night is to get to know the Servants. Shirou, despite being pathetic, somehow manages to summon Saber, who is regarded as the best of the Servants. Note, the Servants are all epic heroes; historical figures or mythological characters that have become legendary. So as you go through the story, each Servant’s identity is revealed. Saber is the Servant that gets the most development and screen time, but all of them are fascinating. I still have a soft spot for Caster left over from the anime, despite her minute role in the Fate route. Rider is awesome on many levels, as her battle against Saber displays. Seriously, Rider and Saber scale a skyscraper while they have at it. Is that not total badass? There’s even a Pegasus involved. Towards the end of the Fate route, Lancer is just plain badass and wins at life in order to go out with a bang. It’s tough because you get attached to almost all of the Servants, but only one can survive to the end, and none of them can stay…unless you count the second Archer.
Sometimes people are horrible and fuel a servant that has drunk from the Holy Grail. The fluid within the grail keeps the Servant sustained in the human world after the War is over. They’re fueled with souls. This is how a second Archer happened. End Game keeps referring to him as Girugamesh and making me unable to unsee really bad things involving the second Archer and Sakuracon and Vic Mignogna.
Also, Taiga is hilarious and made of win. The Tiger Dojo sequences that follow a bad end choice are hilarious, as is any scene with Taiga involved. If you’ve seen Azumanga Daioh, Taiga is comparable to Yukari Tanizaki. They might even be the same person in secret, but I don’t know because it’s a secret.
I can’t do a lot of compare/contrast stuff yet, since I’ve only played through one route, but I can definitely recommend playing Fate/Stay Night. It’s a good visual novel and definitely worth your time. Do yourself a favor, though, and don’t try to use the Studio DEEN TV series as a shortcut. Maybe use it as a litmus test for your interest in the Fate/Stay Night franchise, but otherwise it’s best to avoid it and just play the game.
I’d give Fate/Stay Night’s Fate route high marks, but it’s still not the best story I’ve ever read. Hopefully Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven’s Feel will be more interesting. I’ll probably do reviews of those as well when I finish them.