[Visual Novel Review]: Fate/Stay Night

Fate Stay Night Fate/Stay Title Servants Visual Novel VN

Rating – R18

Developer – Type-Moon

Translator – Mirror Moon and Insani

Length – 50+ Hours

Version Played – Voice Patch (adds voices), Realta Nua Patch 4.2 (adds CGs and BGM)

 If you’ve read my Sharin no Kuni review you might remember that G-Senjou no Maou is my favourite Visual Novel of all time. Fate/Stay Night hasn’t quite found its way to the very top, but is has rewritten my expectations for the Visual Novel genre and given me nearly 3 days’ worth of exceptional entertainment (and more, if you consider the anime adaptations that I now have to watch). I could go on about how much I enjoyed it, but I think my time would be better spent convincing you to play it so you can see for yourself.

Fate/Stay night is set in Japan, where a deadly battle for the mysterious artefact known as the Holy Grail takes place. The aptly named Holy Grail War isn’t an ordinary scrap, either – Heroic Spirits from the past with extraordinary powers are summoned by 7 Magi (chosen by the Grail itself, incidentally) to compete for their prize: the granting of any wish their hearts desire. The Heroic Spirits, known as Servants by the Masters that summoned them, are grouped into 7 classes: Saber, Archer, Berserker, Rider, Lancer, Caster and Assassin, each with their own specialities and each with the desire to claim the Holy Grail.

Fate Stay Night Servant Cards VN Visual NovelEmiya Shirou lives to help others; after being rescued from certain death as a child he can think of no better reason to live than to repay the kindness that was shown to him. However, Shirou is forced to confront his own ideals when he is dragged into a war he has never heard of to fight for an item he doesn’t need, with only the thought of what others might do with its power spurring him into action. He can’t let the disaster of ten years ago be repeated.

While my above description may sound like the blurb for a Hollywood action movie, Fate/Stay Night’s plot is incredibly deep and thus very hard to do credit to in only a few paragraphs. The story starts off rather slowly, but quickly gains momentum to become a tale that you just can’t stop reading or thinking about. Plot twists abound and although they aren’t of the same calibre as others you might have experienced, they still keep you wanting more. The bottom line here is that Fate/Stay Night has a top-notch concept and some of the best writing I’ve seen in a visual novel.

Fate Stay Night VN Visual Novel Saber Shirou

The high quality continues with the characters, main or otherwise. Each character is interesting, consistent and has a reasonably detailed background that fits and explains their personalities. Honestly, there isn’t much more you can want than that. Even the character that, to me at least, seemed bland to begin with goes on to gain a more developed personality while at the same time justifying the way they were before. If I were forced to make a complaint it would be that liberties are taken with the story behind each of the Heroic Spirits, but that’s par for the course with this sort of novel and doesn’t detract from the overall experience even a little bit.

When first exposed to the art style chosen for Fate/Stay Night I wasn’t at all impressed. I started to justify it to myself by saying it was because the Visual Novel was old, but in truth I didn’t need to justify it at all. While different, Fate/Stay Night’s art works for it and by the time I was a decent way into the story I fully appreciated the developers’ art style choice. I’ll admit that the CGs won’t make a random bystander swoon with awe, but while I was reading they were able to perfectly visualise the situation described and help me feel immersed in the story despite their simplistic design overall, which is really all I can ask for. Beyond the CGs themselves, the character sprites have a variety of poses that are tailored to their specific personalities. I especially enjoy the “how can I bullshit my way out of this situation?” expression, which is done particularly well on two of the main characters (in situations which usually resolve peacefully, because the protagonist is completely oblivious).

Fate Stay Night Saber Illya Illyasviel Berserker VN Visual Novel

For a Visual Novel made in 2003, Fate/Stay Night uses more visual effects that any other VN I’ve read. A character surveying a scene will be shown by the camera moving around and zooming in on different aspects of a CG, and the mental breakdown of a character can be shown in any number of interesting ways. The real highlight, however, is the way battles are displayed, with slashes and sparks flying across the screen and some attacks causing the camera to shake due to their sheer power. It’s something you have to see for yourself to appreciate, but I assure you that it works perfectly. When mixed with the sound effects, and a BGM which suits the story excellently (but wouldn’t necessarily stand up on its own), Fate/Stay Night becomes an incredibly immersive experience. I should probably also add that the voice acting is stellar, although you will need a patch to add the voices as they were only recorded for the PS2 release. It’s important to note that the audio and visual components aren’t spectacular on their own, it’s when they come together with the rest of the novel that they really stand out.

Fate/Stay Night has three main routes, each acting as a near-standalone story with only basic details being missed out in each successive route, which is alright because you are forced to complete them in order. An anime adaptation and movie have been created which follow the first two routes, with the third being exclusive to the visual novel (and the most entertaining, in my opinion – so don’t you dare try to get way with only watching the anime) [Edit: Another anime series is currently being made. Still no excuse though.]. Fate/Stay Night has a staggering amount of content, taking me 68 hours to complete, easily the most time it has taken to complete a Visual Novel with no gameplay components to speak of (and I read pretty fast, folks). On top of the five main endings, there are 40 bad endings that you must try to avoid during your playthroughs, though there are some bonuses for those persistent (or bad) enough to find all of them. Some of the bad endings are pretty decent in their own right (and some of them are pretty gory, to boot), so I would recommend following a guide to watch them all.

Fate Stay Night Saber Lancer Battle Fight VN Visual Novel

Summary – To be honest, I thought it would take a while longer for this day to come. An Excellent score is not one that I give out lightly – in fact, I try not to give them out at all. Despite my attempts to find something wrong with Fate/Stay Night  the only negative things I can say about it are incredibly minor when compared to all the things it does right – and it does a whole lot of things right. The degree to which each of its components complement each other is unmatched in my experience, and anyone referring to Fate/Stay Night as anything less than a classic is doing it an extreme disservice. For all that is good in the world, you must play this game.

 Plot – 10/10

Characters – 10/10

Audio/Visual – 8/10

 OVERALL SCORE: 10/10 – Excellent

Fate Stay Night Saber Rin Shirou Group VN Visual Novel Anime Wallpaper

Here’s the opening movie for those that are interested:

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About Silvachief

I'm a Gamer that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I'm big on Video Games, Visual Novels, Anime, Books and TV Series, but there's more to me than just those!
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8 Responses to [Visual Novel Review]: Fate/Stay Night

  1. Kai says:

    Glad to see that you like it^^ The settings I agree that it’s nothing special, seven magi and servants summoned to do war. What they do right is the execution – the way the story and presented was intriguing and the characters were beautifully written.

    And Heaven’s Feel is being adapted? Where did you saw that?

    • Silvachief says:

      I probably should have checked my facts before posting that. There is definitely another Fate/Stay Night anime being produced by UFOtable (the studio that did Fate/Zero), and a lot of people seem to think that it will focus on the Heaven’s Feel route. I haven’t been able to find any confirmation on the route focus, though for some reason when I was posting this I was sure it was Heaven’s Feel >.<

  2. Dave says:

    Which of the following routes would you want to see adapted and why? (I listed a few points of my own on each)
    Fate
    – It connects very well to Fate Zero plot by showing Saber’s full journey. It requires no explanation beforehand like the other two routes. It replaces the first anime attempt at Fate and finally can do the route justice. Also, the scene with the Azoth dagger (in the context of its role in F/Z) would probably be the coolest thing ever.
    – On the other hand, it’s already been done, is widely considered the worst route, and would require some CG Dragon bs to advance the plot without portraying a certain scene.
    UBW
    – Much like F/Z was the story of Emiya Kiritsugu relentlessly chasing his ideals, UBW is the story of Emiya Shirou chasing his. It would also do the route justice after a less-than-stellar adaptation (storytelling-wise). It requires less prior explanation than Heaven’s Feel. Most fans prefer UBW to Fate.
    – On the other hand, it’s already been done (and the most recently as well), isn’t considered to be as good as Heaven’s Feel, requires some prior context of the Fate route, and it probably ties into Fate Zero the least of these options.
    Heaven’s Feel
    – It completes the trilogy. It shows Shirou breaking the cycle of Emiya Kiritsugu in F/Z ultimately failing to be a hero (which Shirou follows in the other 2 routes, thus causing him to potentially become Archer). It gives a full resolution to the tale of the Holy Grail War. Most people agree that it’s the best route.
    – On the other hand, how do you adapt it without all of the… content? Ufotable pulled it off with Kara no Kyoukai 3, because they’re Ufotable and they can do literally anything, but you can’t exactly tell the story HF just right without a constant stream of some of the messed up not-safe-for-tv stuff it has. It also would require a lot of previous context from the Fate and UBW routes that many viewers won’t have. Also, if Ufotable screws it up, with all of the hype building around it being HF, it would probably be one of the biggest disappointments in recent anime fandom history.
    Ilya Route
    – Many people have rumored that this is the route in which Shirou truly follows the path to becoming Archer. It completes the saga of Fate Stay Night by giving us the route that never was. It would still manage to tie into Fate Zero by portraying the relationship between both Kiritsugu’s adopted child and real child. Unlike Fate and UBW it could still fully resolve the Holy Grail War, and it likely would considering it was originally a branch-off of HF.
    – On the other hand, we don’t know if the route itself would be good and it was originally planned for the VN with the context of the previous 2 routes in mind.
    Original Route
    – It avoids many of the problems of the previous routes. It doesn’t require a romance or any sexual content to advance the plot, it gives Ufotable and Nasu the freedom to have it resolve many of the unresolved characters of F/Z, it doesn’t require knowledge of Fate or UBW, and it would (like the Ilya route) give everyone a new take on Fate Stay Night itself.
    – It’s risky in that we won’t know if the route is good beforehand. It might try and cover so many of the characters from F/Z that it doesn’t cover any of them adequately. If it tries too hard to be a sequel to F/Z, that could hurt its own story. F/Z needs its own ending it never got, but Fate Stay Night itself needs to be done justice in anime format.
    I apologize for the wall of text, I just got done the VN myself and I’m getting scared about how they’re going to adapt it. It’s Ufotable so I’m sure they’re fine, but the question I present is crucial to the success of the show and it has no clear answer in my opinion.

    • Silvachief says:

      Alright, let’s see what we can do here. You’ve covered pretty much all of my thoughts on the matter, so i’ll just chime in with some extras.

      Fate – You’re absolutely right with both of your main points. However, I wouldn’t mind seeing it re-done in Fate/Zero quality. Having to recommend Fate/Zero with the proviso “but there’s another no-so-good series you have to watch first” simply isn’t fun. I’m sure they can figure out a way to portray that scene without the dragon…maybe…I hope…
      In addition to the points already mentioned, the current Fate adaptation takes scenes from other routes and effectively tells a different story. I think it would be good move to create a high-quality gateway to the series that would get new people interested in it and address the complaints of current fans.

      UBW – The route I would like to see re-adapted the least. No, the movie wasn’t up to scratch story-wise, but it was still very entertaining to watch. The focus on Shirou only works if you’ve seen Fate and, as we’ve already acknowledged, the current adaptation is less than stellar. If there were plans to adapt the other two routes as well (with two lots of 24 episodes; they’re not allowed to be stingy on this one) then I would happily accept another go at UBW.

      Heaven’s Feel – While I hadn’t thought too hard about it previously, I agree with the points you make about HF’s content being hard to adapt faithfully while remaining tasteful. They would run a huge risk of trying to find some middle ground between the two extremes and thereby not satisfying newcomers or fans. Having said that, it’s the route I enjoyed the most and I would love to see an adaptation.

      Ilya Route – Shirou x Saber 4ever. Nuff said. In all seriousness though, this would be risky. Ignoring for a moment Ilya’s apparent age, it departs from any of the routes in the visual novel and would not be well received unless it was absolutely excellent. If it was done well, why not? Still, I would prefer other routes.

      Original Route – As you’ve already said, this would be risky. I assume that, rather than coming up with something entirely new, aspects from each of the routes could be taken. If it’s done well and everything fits together while still telling an introductory story and covering the main events of each route it could be ridiculously amazing. The chances of that happening, though, are incredibly slim given how insanely difficult it would be to accomplish. If they -did- attempt it and failed to produce something worthwhile it would cripple any future plans for Fate/Series anime.
      If we’re talking about something entirely new, I don’t think it’s worth the effort when there are already unadapted routes available.

      In a few of your points you’ve mentioned the problem of skipping over mature content, as well as potential connectivity to Fate/Zero. I don’t think the mature content is a major concern; it wouldn’t be over difficult to just cut it out in most cases (though in HF it would be hard to evoke the same emotion without it). I view the connection to Fate/Zero as icing on the cake more than anything, as i’m much more interested in a solid telling of Fate/Stay Night’s original story.

      In conclusion, I think that what we really need is a good introduction to the Fate/Series and a re-adaptation of the Fate route would provide that. If an amalgamated route could be done well, however, it would probably be my first choice. Failing that, my order of preference would be Fate > HF > UBW. You’re correct in saying there’s no right answer but there are some options that I much prefer over others.

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