As far as the theme of this blog goes Fate/Stay Night by Type-moon is perfect, so I thought why not write a review for it? But as far as the sub-genre of fantasy, however… this could be considered anything from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. But if I were to give an analysis that isn’t vague I would use one word; ‘good’, and the different spin-off adaptations and fan work created from it can attest to this. Another word I would use is ‘long’, with multiple branches, so bear with me while I attempt to summarize it in an interesting fashion without spoiling anything. On a side note, as cliché as this is, this was the first visual novel I played and what first got me into them.
Fate is the story of the Holy Grail Wars, an epic free-for-all tournament fought between different servants (epic heroes summoned from all throughout time) and their masters, who flock to Fuyuki City where the Holy Grail, a wish granting talisman that goes to the winner, is set to materialize. I first thought the fact that it just happened to be set in same city two times in a row would be a plot hole but there are reasons for the time, place and characters chosen for this war. If I was to go into the ‘why’ behind it I would be edging very close to spoiler material. I found what made these masters and servants interesting for me was their magic system and how it interacts with the rules of the tournament. For instance; if a master is killed by a servant that servant can either vanish or change masters, making some of their contracts distrustful and tenuous at best. At the same time the masters have what is called Command Spells, a limited number of marks which can order a servant to doing anything they want, the command spells empowering the servants to do so. Besides this all the actions the servants can do is limited by their mana which can be gained through various means (*cough* sex) with the option to use a large chunk of it up on a special ability called a Noble Phantasm. It’s kind of like a fantasy game (which it pretty much is). As it goes I like a complex story and the more this story goes on the more complex this simple premise becomes, but it is paced well enough that you don’t get lost along the way.
There are a few masters in the cannon that are not from Fuyuki City but being the magical land where the Holy Grail War is set, most of them are. They and their servants all have their own back-story and motivations for getting the Holy Grail. I would definitely say that I found the biggest downside to this visual novel is the main character. Shirou, the temporary best friend to everyone who wants a favor, is a teenager with a martyr complex who becomes one of these servants. He is a tad inconsistent as well, one minute being a human with little to no physical strength compared to a servant then suddenly taking one on in battle and winning! If there is one thing I can say I liked about Shirou is that he works as a good understudy to make the other characters seem even cooler. As far as the others go Saber is a battle-wise badass but naive of present day customs making her feel somewhat innocent despite being a warrior. Toshaka is a bitchy… ahem Tsundere, but is the one with the most knowledge of magic as well as being the voice of reason who also becomes a badass at times. In fact most of the characters rest within a gray-scale of either being an asshole or a badass but special mention goes to Archer, Gilgamesh and Kirei for managing to be at the extremes at both ends of this scale. I think Sakura Matō gets the gold medal in this visual novel for the most victimized character, there is always one in each visual novel I find, but after watching Fate/Zero I can see that a lot of this runs in the family (poor Kariya Matō).
Like I said in my Chaos;Head review I’m a big fan of this anime style; the characters are color toned very well and, considering the content of this game, it worked well. As for the music I can also say it works but besides a few specific tracks such as ‘Emiya’ mostly known for the Unlimited Blade Works scene and ‘Sword of Promised Victory’ I can’t say much more than they already have by themselves. Technically it works like any good visual novel should but I have to give a shout out to whoever on the Type-moon team created that saving system where you can chose to skip scenes you have already read. Then again for a game this long you’re going to need it. The multiple choices in this one can be a bit annoying. There was a situation where I would give a set of right answers and yet with one wrong answer earlier on in the story and I would have to replay the entire visual novel from that point, re-answering the question just to remedy this one mistake. As for any visual novel I wouldn’t shame myself by calling it difficult but I would call it time consuming and I can only hope the impatient readers don’t get put off from the rest of the story if the same thing happens to them. The endings have enough excitement for it to be worth it.
For me Fate/Stay Night, G-senjou no Maou and Steins;Gate make up not only my holy visual novel trinity but also what I consider the best story-based visual novels without any added gameplay sequences. Admittedly I wouldn’t have played this without buying the boxset of the anime on a whim at an anime con when it was first released and then wondering why there were missing scenes that I found on youtube that turned out to be the visual novel’s opening. Then again without downloading this visual novel and finding out how much better it was I wouldn’t have gotten into visual novels at all.
Good thing I did.