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Fate/stay night (PC) artwork

Fate/stay night (PC) review

"I am the bone of my sword. "

I am the bone of my sword.

It seems rather straightforward to give a plot summary of Fate/stay night (F/sn). There is an incredibly powerful magical artifact called the Holy Grail. It is capable of granting any wish that its possessor desires. In order to decide who can possess it, seven Masters each summon a Servant using the power of the Holy Grail. These Servants are legendary heroes, taken from a variety of cultures and eras. These Master/Servant pairs fight each other in the Holy Grail War until only one is left. It all sounds like a fun, action-packed adventure. Certainly, the action scenes are gripping enough. And yet, this isn't really what F/sn is about.

Steel is my body, and fire is my blood.

The protagonist whose actions you control in this visual novel is Shirou Emiya. He experienced the death of most of the town in a fire that happened ten years ago. Shirou is rescued from death and adopted by Kiritsugu Emiya. Feeling guilt from being the only one who survived the fire, Shirou devotes himself to a superhero's ideal where he would prevent anyone from being hurt. Near the start of the Holy Grail War, he is attacked by Lancer, and he somehow manages to summon Saber to drive Lancer off. Thus, he is drawn into the Holy Grail War and given an opportunity to put his ideals into practice. This is one of the major themes of F/sn: Shirou's struggles with his ideals and their consequences. Throughout the visual novel, his devotion to his ideal and lack of concern for himself worries his friends and allies. In the three different routes that make up F/sn, we can have Shirou reaffirm his ideal or renounce it for something else. His development is one of the major driving forces of F/sn.

I have created over a thousand blades.

For all of the focus on the protagonist, there are a number of other well-developed characters. Saber is similar to Shirou in many ways, and how they interact gives insight into both of their personalities. Rin Tohsaka is Shirou's ally and Archer's master. She serves as a foil for Shirou, highlighting the problems of his ideal while having some interesting quirks herself. As for Archer, well, all he did was give birth to the word GAR. Even the minor characters get some effective development. Rider starts out as a simple antagonist but is developed in a manner both sympathetic and faithful to her history. Caster also undergoes a similar transformation. Lancer manages to show his heroic side in his limited amount of screen time.

Unknown to death.

The "gameplay" of F/sn is pretty typical for visual novels. You get to make choices at certain points of the story that determine how Shirou reacts to certain situations. F/sn has three main routes, which must be done in order. There are a large number of different choices that are available in each route. A large number of these choices lead to bad ends with gruesome details about Shirou's fate. After you reach a bad end, you get a choice to see a hint from the Tiger Dojo. ALWAYS ACCEPT. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Tiger Dojos are one of the highlights of F/sn. They're the major reason why going for the bad ends is worthwhile. The game keeps track of the Tiger Dojos that you have seen, and you get some funny scenes when you get a certain number of them.

Nor known to life.

The graphics for F/sn are generally well done. Most of the characters are well designed and distinct. I did chuckle when I finally saw Shirou in one of the endings though. There are some animated effects that occur when fights take place. Even though they're limited, they were effective in giving some sense of the chaos of the battle while leaving the rest to the reader's imagination. I thought that the music did a good job in setting the mood as dictated by the story. One thing that F/sn does well is the skip function. You are given a choice to totally skip scenes that you have seen already, so you don't have to wait for it to fast forward. This is a very useful feature when you're going for the last few Tiger Dojos.

Have withstood pain to create many weapons.

There are some things that you might dislike about F/sn. Let's start with the sex scenes. In short, they're bad. The author is infamous for using seafood and other strange metaphors in his descriptions of sex scenes. In this case, there aren't any tentacles, metaphorical or otherwise, but there are ... worms. Fortunately, there aren't too many sex scenes in F/sn, and they shouldn't take up too much of your time. Another thing that may bother you is the protagonist. Many people find his idealism to be too extreme to be believable, while others are bothered by some of his statements that seem to be misogynistic. Something else that may annoy you is the way that certain scenes are repeated throughout a route. We don't really need to hear Shirou talk about the fire for the tenth time. Similarly, there are a lot of slice-of-life segments that you might not enjoy. Finally, the last route is very much a love/hate affair. Many readers who enjoyed the first two routes found themselves hating the last.

Yet, those hands will never hold anything.

Still, despite its flaws, I found Fate/stay night to be a very enjoyable experience. The word epic is thrown around a lot recently, but I find that it describes Fate/stay night perfectly. It is epic in the original sense of the word; it is a modern heroic epic.

So as I pray, unlimited blade works.


whatev's avatar
Community review by whatev (September 12, 2009)

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zigfried posted September 12, 2009:

It was nice to see a Fate/stay night review! There seemed to be a problem with apostrophes (they don't appear at all in the review), so I suggest you go back in and edit it a bit to make it appear properly on the site.

The interspersion of "unlimited blade works" was cool, although I'm not sure how many people will understand what that is. Most people will realize it has something to do with the game, but won't know what. If you can pull off a clever reveal at the end, it would be significantly stronger. But still, I thought this review worked.

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zippdementia posted September 12, 2009:

I was a little confused by the review, because isn't it Fate night a hentai title? Yet there seems to be little sex here and what few mention you do give to the sex is negative. Now, I appreciate a good story as much as the next guy, but if I go out to buy a hentai game (theoretically, mind you) I'm gonna want sex. I'm not going to be looking for a gripping tale.

Just wondering how that fits into such a high score for the game, or whether or not it deserves some mention that the game, at least, is maybe not looking to please its target audience.
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zigfried posted September 12, 2009:

Hentai games that focus on sex tend to suck. That's one of my biggest beefs with the USA's selection of hentai... but then again, the pure all-out sex games tend to be the cheapest to license, since they're usually the least popular in Japan.

Fate/stay night totally pleases its target audience -- if I recall properly, it was the absolute highest-selling PC game in Japan the year it came out, and would have been the highest-selling the next year too (except that the Fate/stay night expansion pack outsold it that year).

I think the review does a decent job of establishing what the game is about, so that people can make up their own minds. You've decided that you're not interested because of the lack of sex, so the review worked!

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zippdementia posted September 12, 2009:

Oh, no, I'm interested, I just always assumed that if people were buying hentai games, it was for the sex.
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whatev posted September 12, 2009:

Huh, dunno what happened with those apostrophes. I think I got all of them. As for UBW, I don't know what sort of reveal would be appropriate. Maybe I could submit some sort of screenshot of it?

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