It was the best thing I had. Sue me.
You know, some people say that I’m overly optimistic about VNs that I take on, and I think that’s true. See, I always do try to find the good even in the worst of things when it comes to VNs, but sometimes I throw it under the bus really quickly if the beginning/middle/one route isn’t really that good. Yet, I’ll almost always give it a try. I don’t try to be some sort of higher intellectual that knows the intricacies behind what makes writing beautiful or what makes everything flow so well. No, I’m just a guy. A Canadian guy. And a guy who has read a damn lot of visual novels.
See, now you are probably wondering where I’m going with this! Well, when I was a wee lad, I was just getting past a lot of entry level VN stuff. Moege, random this and that shenanigans, what have you. Fate/Stay Night was one of the first super-power VNs I ever got into. And I wasn’t expecting much. Foolish, I was. Stupid. Ignorant of all the real VNs out there. I picked up Fate/Stay Night expecting nothing really at all, but holy shit. Damn. Seriously, damn.I hate using the word epic that much, but that might be the only thing that describes the visual novel. Which might be why I always give something the benefit of the doubt, because giving Fate/Stay Night the chance blew my damn mind. And it was great.
So, discovering that Fate/Stay Night had an updated patch that I was totally negligent about when I first read it, I decided to re-read the tale and share the review with you all! Fun stuff.
I can sing Fate/Stay’s pros forever, I think. Yet even things I love have imperfections. Like the fact that what makes it awesome makes all the hypothetical what-ifs and jabbering seem terribly off-putting, so sometimes you can full into a lull when all you want is to keep getting to the next twist or hardcore part. The VN gets called overrated a lot. I don’t really see it, but I can see why it wouldn’t be amazing to everybody. Especially if you’re an artfag – the game’s a bit old.
Either way, F/SN will always be one of my favorites. Not out of nostalgia, either, out of simply just sheer “holy shit” factor. It’s pretty damn good. I mean, really good. Now, you might ask what I think of the anime. I think the anime isss….. bleghk. Bad in comparison. Does a pretty good stand-alone job, but not for me and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone if they ever planned on reading the original. Fate/Zero I’m also a bit iffy on. Shoving grimdark into my face over and over doesn’t make me like it anymore, but, either way, I can understand the attraction.
So, I’ve rambled on enough. Time for the Wahfuu Review of one of my favorites, F/SN!
Woops. Wrong picture.
“The one who obtains the Holy Grail will have any wish come true.
The Holy Grail War.
A great ritual that materializes the greatest holy artifact, the Holy Grail.
There are two conditions to participate in this ritual.
To be a magus, and to be a “Master” chosen by the Holy Grail.
(The experience as a magus is not questioned if one has the aptitude)
There are seven chosen Masters, and seven classes of Servants.
There is only one Holy Grail.
If you wish for a miracle.
Prove that you are the strongest with your powers.” (from v11)
Fate/Stay Night, everybody. Some know it from the VN. Some know it from Fate/Zero. Wherever you heard it from, either way, it’s pretty rad. As the synopsis says, the Holy Grail that everyone fights for that can grant one wish is fought for by magi with their Servants. What are Servants? Well, they’re heroes. In fable, legend, whatever you want, really. When they do great deeds and do amazing things and become embodied in our memories for it, they become things greater then the mind can comprehend on death. Heroic spirits, guardians of humanity. The ultimate beings we humanity have thought of or told stories of. This in turn makes the battlefield epic as hell.
Before we get to any of the routes, the prologue occurs, which takes us through the eyes of Tohsaka Rin, tsundere and super-power magi extraordinaire. She’s a rather huge slacker and quite stingy on the inside, yet lets nobody see that. She’s been training for the Holy Grail War for awhile, but you wouldn’t believe it. Especially with how badly she botches the summoning for Archer. Which was intended to be Saber. Kudos. Really.
Anyways, the prologue doesn’t last too long. It’s mostly to show you how hidden the Holy Grail War is supposed to be and give you a taste of Servants fighting when Archer and Lancer meet. This, however, is where Shirou gets stabbed by Lancer because he saw the fight. It’s not shown or told that it’s Shirou right away, but come on. You know it’s Shirou. Anyways, Rin uses the rest of her magic in the pendent that her father gave him to revive him. Which… in turn, makes Lancer go after him again, because nobody is allowed to know. Rin realizes that she’s an idiot for the fifth time and goes to rescue Shirou, but… somehow, Saber is there instead. She scares off Lancer, promptly stabs Archer and gets ready to kill Rin, before we cut to the opening and Fate/Stay Night really begins.
The introductory chapter, everybody! It’s argued about a lot about Fate fans, it seems. It takes about half the entire route before Shirou will stop thinking he can somehow actually fight Servants in place of Saber, despite her… you know, actually being a Servant, and one of the strongest ones. He also has to get stabbed by Rider a few times, too. Either way, it seems to be a consensus that Shirou doesn’t really take the role of protagonist here, Saber does, even though it’s not really the intent.
Anyways, I think it does its job really well. The introductory chapter sets up all the right conflicts and all the right mysteries without giving too much away for the other two routes. You get really enthralled and pulled into the mythology and the fighting of the whole story. Berserker is introduced as this giant monster that instantly destroys your image of Saber being the strongest via an axe to the stomach, but this comes at the annoying cost of having Shirou never forget that Saber gets the crap kicked out of her during the fight, which is why he won’t let her fight. Because, you know. *Big tough Shirou who nearly gets killed a hundred times in the prologue is definitely going to make sure Saber can’t get hurt.
Saber doesn’t take too kindly, obviously. So, she goes up to the temple that Shinji, douchebag ex-friend extraordinaire, told you that there exists a Master. She ends up meeting Assassin half-way up, which results in her spending a huge amount of magical energy, before she passes out and Shirou has to go find her and drag her back home, only for her to wake up and remind him he’s about as useless as a rock. Either way, it’s not all bad. Seeing Shirou, even though a pale comparison of his Unlimited Blade Works or Heavens Feel self, come into his own is pretty cool. I find it hard to actually compare the Fate route to the other two, because I don’t think it’s meant to be. It’s exactly what it is, the introduction.
I won’t say it isn’t slightly annoying seeing Shirou get back-seated so hard. Hell, even when he starts using his “”replication”" magic, Saber comes and uses it. Same with the final fight. Anyways, I don’t agree that Shirou’s slight inferiority kills the experience when you read it for the first time. I don’t think Shirou was meant to get put on the bench in favor of Saber, but I think it work’s, and showcases Sabers sacrifice and how it relates to Shirou’s heroism. And with the incredible twists and fights that happen, I think it does a pretty damn good job as the introductory route.
A few complaints would be that Gilgamesh is absurdly abrupt. Caster gets completely overshadowed after a really small introduction. And again, Shirou really is a moron in this route for the longest time. The cons I talked about earlier, with the what-ifs and talking they do is probably especially true for this route, too. Anyways, Fate ends with a bit of unsatisfactory, not because of loose ends, but because of Saber’s bittersweet farewell at the end of the final battle. The final battle was a bit cliché with the whole final Noble Phantasm, but I don’t think there was a better alternative for it. Besides, the Realta Nua ending gives you what you want, for the most part. So, all in all, I find Fate to be a great introductory route. Saber all day.
So, moving on!
~UNLIMITED BLADE WORKS~
Unlimited Blade Works. I don’t know why it has the reputation as the “meh” route, really. While Rin doesn’t get the character building as much as Saber or Sakura, I think it’s because she as a character doesn’t really need it, because she’s established, built, and consistent right from the start. Saber’s characterization is amazing and Sakura’s is fairly tragic (we’ll get to that later), but I find Rin’s character and the whole romance with Shirou to be the most… believable, given the setting. That’s why I like Rin the best. She makes the most sense to me, doesn’t hinder the story or take the focus away from it at all, and still manages to be concrete, helpful and likeable at the same time.
Okay. I might be a bit biased, but seriously. She’s my fav. Gotta rep the waifu, yo.
Can’t say I approve of the whole… attempted murder thing at the beginning, but y’know. Tsuns gotta tsun, or else what else is there? No tsun.
So, the appeal of this route, to me, is how Shirou’s idealism is deconstructed. It was probably annoying to deal with in Fate, right? Made you want to rip your hair out? Well, look no further! Retribution comes in the form of a super sarcastic, egotistical douchebag named Archer. Shirou isn’t quite as epic as his Heaven’s Feel counterpart out of circumstances, but I still prefer him here over his Fate counterpart for sure. Archer is made to be almost another villain with Caster and Gilgamesh. Shirou still remains hopelessly stupid about his idealism, even at the end, but he definitely grows more mature with it, so that’s something.
So, a big difference is that Berserker is traded in for Caster here, and I think I preferred Caster here as the main antagonist. Berserker was a great wall of death, but Caster just makes you think about every possibility because you don’t know the ends of her magic and what she can do, which leads to some very cool and disturbing bad ends. Berserker is a foe you’ll have to fight eventually, but Caster you are fighting every step of the way even when she’s not in direct view, especially after the whole thing with Saber. It’s really cool. You learn a bit more about Ilya too, although the cost is a bit… hefty, especially for me. Ilya is one of my favorites. Also, Shinji gets a slight promotion in this route.
So anyways, how much one likes Unlimited Blade Works will probably depend on how you feel about Archer. He’s antagonistic, yes, but when he starts telling you his story you really start to see why Shirou’s idealism is so unrealistic. If you can’t get yourself to feel anything with Archer, then the whole route might feel pointless. For me, it was Rin. Shirou’s an idiot, that’s for sure, but Rin manages to support him without coming off forced and her romance, while it doesn’t get the shine that Saber’s and Sakura’s do, feels more genuine when the scenes come up and it never becomes a bigger point then the Holy Grail War.
Anyways, what are the cons? Well, Archer can come off as forced to a lot of people. He says all these things that really seem too dark to most people without much context, and without the context a lot of the route can just come off as Archer being a prick. Also, if you aren’t a fan of Rin, a lot of the points I made earlier won’t matter to you either. One other thing is that we get to see highlights of Shirou’s love-stupidity when it comes to Rin’s tsundere qualities, which as I have complained about before, is frustrating.
Alright, so, we’re coming near a close, so it’s time for the holy hell route. The one that everyone who reads F/SN knows and the ones who watch it don’t know about. Yep, it’s time.
THE ORIGINAL DOESN’T HAVE AN OP. SO YOU GET THIS.
So, everything you knew about Fate/Stay Night is now gone, ladies and gentlemen. A new antagonist in Zouken, extreme power that we have never seen in the Shadow, a new servent in Assassin, Saber is eliminated from the process very early, the Holy Grail that we have seen in the past two incarnations is now thrown out the window and Gilgamesh is even reduced to a pile of nothing. And the best part? Shirou’s ideal is practically smashed. He wants to protect Sakura, not everyone else now. His ideal is practically dirt on the floor in this route. Hell, even the way he learns to “project” in this case is totally turned into a 180.
So, I don’t truthfully know where to start here, but I feel like I have to start with the cons for this one. Heaven’s Feel is amazing, but I have to point it out before I start talking: I do reallly find it hard to like Sakura. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think she’s badly written or anything of the sort, but the “love is give and take” is totally thrown out the window as Sakura does nothing but take. That being said, Sakura’s pain is ungodly and it translates pretty damn well. It’s hard not to sympathize with her, but I find all her pain escaping, all her malice unearthed when she finally “turns” is the best portion of her character. Mind you, Shirou’s romance with her isn’t bad at all, filled with the most absurd and unsolvable situations conceivable, but I almost find that a totally separate entity from the Sakura character herself. I can’t explain it that well, but I don’t know. Saber and Rin gave and gave and were strong, supportive. It felt too… weak to me, but maybe I just found it hard to sympathize over most people.
Now, I can’t say I hate Sakura and her romance is certainly a huge focus. As I said, the pain Sakura goes through is barely rivaled by anyone else in the VN, but I can’t take how much the VN loves to point out how much we should be feeling bad for the tragic, needs-a-hug Sakura. This ties in to the second problem I have. Sakura almost completely overshadows the Holy Grail and the conflict, going so far as to actually break Shirou’s iron ideal. That kind of writing is irritating to me.
So, moving on from that: This route is really heavy on the heart. Saber’s cilemna, especially after being with her for two other routes, hurts pretty bad. Rin’s attempt at murdering her emotions at attempting to do the right thing is just painful to read. You can even feel yourself feeling bad for Shinji, who was pretty much driven insane by his massive inferiority complex. He’s a dick through and through, but you really get to see why. We can’t forget Shirou, who’s ideal is smashed and the girl he loves has a guillotine over her head. And finally, Ilya. I connected with Ilya the most, I think, although I’m not sure why. The entire relation with Kiritsugu, Shirou being a brother figure to her and Ilya just trying to smile for it all was really heavy for me. The scene where she is singing and Shirou immagines what it’d be like if Kiritsugu was in the middle was really nice. There’s simply a ton to swallow in this route and it’s hard to not feel emotionally invested in at least one character.
Annnnnd the climax. Dear god. Without being spoiler-ish, I’ll just say, “holy hell”. I really wanted to use this section to sing its praises, but I must resist the temptation. It was really long, that’s for sure. And I wish it wasn’t so bittersweet, but honestly the fact that the true-ending happened is amazing in itself considering the situation. Even though I dislike Sakura, her ending really left an impact on me. The whole thing was filled with moments, explanations for everything and epic fights. And hell, Shirou can apparently really throw punches when it matters. As bittersweet as it was, I was left incredibly satisfied at the end.
Right! So, what else is there to say? I think the experience of F/SN will probably be different from person to person. The game is a fairly large time commitment, for one. Shirou’s absurd stupidity will annoy most people, too. There could be a lot of things that make the experience different from person to person, probably one of the higher polarized VNs you’ll find. Yet, I liked it. A lot. Not every character was likeable, but I found the huge mystery behind the Grail and the corruption enthralling. Finding out every Servant’s identity is a pretty cool treat, too. F/SN’s ability to grip somebody is amazing. The want to just… know more.
There are a lot of things you can take away from F/SN. Sacrifice, ideals, what-have-you. I just loved the reading experience of it all. At first it was just a great way to kill time, but damn it just grabbed me and never let me go. The game can run into pacing problems and quiet times when all you want is to feed your need for the story to advance, but when the ball gets rolling it’s very hard to get unclogged. So, no. I don’t think F/SN is overrated. I think it deserves the praise it gets, but I can see why somebody could be pushed in the opposite direction.
So, anyways. That’s all. TL;DR: You should read this, it’s pretty wild, cool shit everywhere, go get em’. So, I’m not sure what I’ll be doing next. Probably Rewrite.
Cya next time!