Fate/stay night – Visual Novel Review

Related: Fate/stay night (arc 1 anime)

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (arc 2 anime)

Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel (arc 3 anime)

Fate/Zero (prequel anime)

 

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy Action Romance

Length: 45-60 hours (15-20 hours per arc, depending on reading speed)

 

Positives:

  • Good concept.
  • Starts well.

Negatives:

  • 50% word count in excess.
  • More telling than showing.
  • Idiot protagonist.
  • Useless ‘gamey’ elements.
  • Poor lore and mechanic explanations.
  • Circular dialogue.
  • World feels empty.
  • No basis to the romance.
  • Worst sex scene ever put to fiction.

Fate is a massive franchise, having mutated from a visual novel of three arcs into a tentacled monster of anime, games, and spinoffs. Due to its size and popularity, I followed a ‘watch order’ guide and started with the Fate/stay night visual novel since the anime Fate/stay night mashes all three arcs into one mess.

The story opens strong in the prologue with the red girl, Rin, a few character/world building scenes, and Rin summoning her servant Archer. We meet much of the human cast in efficient time and the stakes are clear. Seven mages will summon legendary figures from history or mythology to fight for the Holy Grail, granting a single wish. We also learn that a servant’s identity is of utmost importance, for knowing the hero is to know their weakness and ultimate weapon. Instead of names, they go by their class – Saber, Archer, Berserker, Rider, Assassin, Caster, and Lancer. (This cleared much confusion about why I had seen characters with the same names across the Fate franchise.) Typically, only the servant and master know the true name. Archer, however, can’t remember his identity.

So, we have the characters, the world, the stakes, interesting lore, a good concept, and a decent pace in a short period. The writing could use work, but it’s not bad.

Then the story resets once you start the first arc proper, titled Fate, where we now follow the actual protagonist, Shirou (introduced in the prologue), only to repeat the same story save a change or two, and dump a ton of exposition. The writing nosedives and the pacing stalls, which coupled with the bad art, makes Fate/stay night a difficult journey to complete.

First, Shirou is a rubbish character, only marginally better than your usual idiot harem protagonist. Fate/stay night is a harem of sorts, with each arc defined by which of the three girls Shirou pursues. And by pursues, I mean makes no effort to attract. He also gains free power when convenient for the plot.

Arc one centres on Shirou paired with his servant, the blonde knight Saber, who is one of the few good features of the story thanks to her backstory. The second arc, Unlimited Blade Works, has Rin as the love interest with Saber shifted to a minor character, which feels clumsy because she’s still crucial, yet forgotten most of the time in favour of Archer. Heaven’s Feel switches the romance to childhood friend Sakura. Each arc builds on the previous, so it’s important to play them in order if you want the full story, though expect a lot of repetition for the mechanics, rules explanations, and introductions. Characters also have inconsistencies across arcs.

Back to Shiro, much of the first act is girls fawning over him, when not expositing. An early scene has Shirou and three girls yammering on about him and food. I set the novel to auto, left for dinner, and returned to find then still at it. Almost all 15 days per arc has one of these ‘eating’ scenes that drones on for hours. These conversations don’t advance the plot or develop character either, often going in circles to repeat the same garbage until you want to choose one of the bad endings, just to end it all. They are filler, proven no more effectively than by their marked absence in the Unlimited Blade Works anime. There’s more food related scenes than action in this “action” series.

The exposition may be worse. Repeated exposition from the prologue aside, the way Rin explains the lore (exposition parrot is her main job) and mechanics is like a poorly written dictionary. Furthermore, the Fate series has these pointless game elements such as grades for character attributes and magic levels. What a lazy and binary technique of representing character power. Worse yet, they don’t matter. If the plot needs an A+ servant injured by a weak attack, then it will happen. Remove these statistics and nothing is lost. Instead, why not build the world. Fate/stay night gives the impression of having 20 people in existence. So many words, yet such an empty world.

Any editor can remove half the text with a cursory glance from all the filler. Even plot text is over written, full of stating the obvious and explaining an action just before doing it.

‘I should go to the kitchen.’

‘I go to the kitchen.’

‘I should eat something.’

‘I eat something.’

Imagine that, but with five times the words.

Arriving at the plot, matters improve little. After spending so much time establishing the rules, insisting upon the importance of character statistics and each servant’s power, Fate/stay night throws all the rules out the window and does whatever. I don’t imagine the writer bothered to edit for consistency. I don’t imagine he edited at all.

For a plot that’s about everyone fighting to the death, few characters actually fight to the death. I can’t remember how many times a good guy lives because a villain just lets them go. Hell, the loli girl, master of Berserker, captures Shirou and instead of killing him, takes him home to become her slave (of sex?). Of course he gets away, rendering the event pointless. The alliance between Rin and Shirou also makes little sense, stretching the limits of plausibility for why a girl, whose life training prepared her to crush mages and servants, would forget all that faster than a sneeze.

But, none of the above makes Fate/stay night a terrible visual novel. Amateurish, sure. Requiring an editor? Certainly. Only once you find the true purpose for this game’s creation can you witness its soul. Much like the Holy Grail isn’t what it seems, Fate/stay night isn’t an action series, nor is it a fantasy – well, yes, it is a fantasy, though not the sort one normally thinks of. All of this – the legendary heroes, the magic, the violence, the lore – serves as a self-insert fantasy for the author to get it on with the ladies.

If you are of innocent mind, then avert thine eyes and skip the next paragraph, for I have to describe the first “session of love” if I am to truly impress upon you the horrendousness of this text. The excuse to have sex is retardedly hilarious. Prepare yourselves (or your anus, in Rin’s case), we are about to enter the worst erotic fiction ever conceived.

After a lost battle, Shirou, Saber, and Rin flee to an abandoned house in enemy territory. Saber has little energy left and with Berserker on the hunt, they need to recharge her before the next fight. What’s the one surefire way to recharge a servant? You guessed it: have sex. Feeding her energy had never been a problem until now, but hey, we have to ram sex scenes in somehow. Saber is hesitant, so Rin must take charge and ready her for the ritual by lubricating the knight. Rin becomes an instant bisexual, Saber – the all-powerful Saber – a weak, quivering girl, whose lips say no but her body says yes. Then Shirou mans up to do his duty, despite being so totally against it all, and the self-insert fantasy enters full swing in an orgy of awkward prose, bad anatomy, and most importantly, cringe. The way actions and sensations are described gives the impression that the author had never had sex before.

These characters change into new people for the scene (except Shirou – he’s always a loser) to justify sex. I should mention that this forms the basis of Shirou and Saber’s romantic thread… This scene is so bad that I considered the idea someone had pranked me by modding my game with fan fiction. I didn’t know this was an eroge beforehand.

The second sex scene with Saber is vanilla, but full of, “No, you mustn’t…” “There’s no need to suck that…” “No, don’t touch me there…” The other arcs also have their share of ridiculous erotica, though none as hilarious as the Shirou-Saber-Rin bender. Like the exposition and food scenes, the erotica contributes nothing. The author has no sense of focus.

What does Fate/stay night look like when it isn’t about the sex? We’ll find out in the next review, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. Or better yet, when the author isn’t involved? See the Fate/Zero review after that.

Art – Very Low

The character art looks like amateur work you find on DeviantArt, as if the artist copied someone else. With no animation to contend with, the art has no excuse looking this cheap. A later port added some improved art shots.

Sound – Low

The music is bland, the voice work stiff.

Story – Low

Mages summon heroes of mythology and history to fight to the death for the Holy Grail. Fate/stay night’s good concept receives no help from the writer, who can’t do exposition, or romance, or pacing.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Avoid it…then again, you may want to play the first arc to see what horrific writing looks like. Fate/stay night is worse than the sum of its parts thanks to its atrocious technical writing, filler, and most particularly, the sex scenes. Watch Fate/Zero first, since this game spoils parts of that superior series.

12 thoughts on “Fate/stay night – Visual Novel Review”

  1. Thank you for writing this. This reflected a lot of what I felt about the VN. To me, it was perhaps one of the only VN’s I have ever read where I felt like I had to force my way through to read it.

    And not only was the moment to moment writing bad, the characters where especially bland and flat. The VN tries too hard with them only to faceplant, Gilgamesh especially.

    And then there is the whole central message of it that comes across so tone deaf it beggars belief at times. It’s one of those that thinks it is smarter than it actually is.

    Suffice to say, I’ll take the likes of Dies Irae over this any day.

    Liked by 1 person

          1. Hah fool you are fool. I want to tell why Shirou is one of the best character. Shirou is very twisted character and you can even call him the embodiment of every hypocrisies of any superheroes. he is very different to a normal human being. Many normal humans also have this very optimistic dream. Normal humans have this dream but they have their own sense of justice. But shirou is very different. he has a ideal but he didn’ have any sense of good or evil or any form of justice. he only try to save others for satisfying his need of pleasure or the feeling of alive. he didn’ even know the true reason of his dream. He also said this in Unlimited Blade Works route.

            [I swore so as a child.
            To fulfill the dream of the man I admired most.

            …But to be honest, I’m still wondering…
            If my idea is the right one.
            Where my idea comes from.
            What I can do even despite me being just an amateur.
            How to make the dream of making everybody happy, which Kiritsugu always talked about, come true.]

            his every ideal is copied. he copied everything from Kiritsugu. Even his morality is also copied from his father. he mindlessly follow it and trying to save others without thinking because he just want to feel that smile again which is present in Kiritsugu’s face. he even also want a enemy or some ‘true evil’ to defeat as a superhero to feel that feeling of pleasure. kirei also point out which shirou wanted to prove wrong.

            [Rejoice, boy. Your wish will finally come true.”
            The priest says, as if declaring an oracle.

            Those words are…
            Aren’t those the true feelings I haven’t yet realized

            “What are you saying all of a sudden?”

            “You should know. Your wish will not come true unless there is a clear evil. Even if it is not something you approve of, a superhero requires a villain to defeat.”

            “!”
            I feel like everything has turned black.
            The priest said it.
            The greatest wish and the ugliest wish I have are the same.
            …Yes, the desire to protect something…
            …Is, at the same time, none other than the wish for something to violate it

            ” Y-You”

            But there’s no way I’d wish for something like that.
            I don’t remember a moment when I’ve wished for that.
            Such an insecure wish…
            …Just means the target ideals are inconsistent.
            But the priest says as if to pierce my heart, “Good thing you have an enemy now.”

            “No, you do not have to gloss over it. Your worries are normal for a human being.”
            The priest smiles.
            “!”
            I shake off the priest’s words and walk to the door.
            ]

            He later also said that he think he did actually want a enemy in fate route. that’s why he actually want to change saber as a more “human” for her sake but never understand his own hypocrisy. that is the reason why fate route is route which explains Shirou ideals very well. Shirou forces his copied morality and fake love of human towards everyone without understanding their problems. he has very limited emotion and he can’t understand the emotion of others. But he also never understand that he also has his own “true self” of his own but he never understand his true self in fate route. We also understand that his love toward human is not fake but it is the characteristics of his true self. it is also said by Kirei in heaven’s feel route

            [I see. So that means you will not follow Kiritsugu’s path.”
            He talks as if he’s disinterested.
            The priest regards me with a bored expression, as if disappointed.

            “Father’s path…?”

            “That’s right. Your father loved humans.
            Higher, wider, farther. He loved humans as they go over their limits without end. That is why he turned himself into the definite evil.
            That man would have killed Matou Sakura. He threw away his human emotions for the sake of justice.”

            “…Is that any different from you?
            Casting away one person’s happiness for the sake of justice, for many people’s happiness.”

            “No. What you people call happiness did not bring me joy.”

            “Huh…?”
            That’s not a reply.
            No, more than that…
            He’s not even looking at me.

            “Right, we were different.
            He threw away what he had, but I had nothing to throw away.
            The result was the same, but the process was completely different.
            His existence was too unpleasant. His agony was truly unpleasant.
            If he went to such lengths to cast it away, he should never have had it in the first place. But still he agonized over his decision, trying to pick it back up after he threw it away. As if saying that is the correct way for humans to live.”

            “The difference was crucial. Yes. If I cannot obtain anything, why was I born into this world?”

            The priest’ words are not directed at anyone.
            …But they contain anger.
            They contain emotion, which i thought this man didn’t have.

            “…Hah. Come to think of it, there is no way you can succeed Kiritsugu. He did what was necessary by throwing things away, but you insist on having it both ways.
            We are similar, you and I.
            You died once and broke down when you were resurrected. It is posteriori, but you are like me, a defect from birth.”

            “What…? What part of me is broken?”

            “You just do not realize it.
            You have no concept of self. So I did not think you would concern yourself with a single person. No, rather”
            You are not concerned about many,
            but concerned about all as if they were only one.]

            In ubw he started to saw the hypocrisy of his own ideals with help of Archer and Rin and his experiences in ubw route. he understand that his ideal is always false. he has not any sense of justice and even his self. he also understand the inconsistencies of ideal of not just his own but also the ideals of others heroes. others heroes only force their ideals on the basis of their own ideals. He understand that he can’t save everyone by forcing his ideal on someone. his way of saving only destroy anyone for others and only lead despair. But this is the route where he understands the true meaning of his ideal and his true self. he actually loved humans but very differently to his father. he loved the human emotions, love, compassion, shared human nature and values. He thinks that good and bad are situational. There are right and wrongs and those who didn’t fear to this always lead a destruction. he want to become superhero to spread this shared nature and love of human toward each other into everywhere to form a ideal “human society” where everyone understand other’s feelings and also think about the gain and loss of others as well as themselves without any prejudice and also create justice in this world. Shirou want to create a world filled with ‘Swords’. swords represent Shirou’s selflessness and his live for others. he want to create a ordered world where people also punishes those are bad or wrong in that situation. To destroy discimination, he want to first create a selfless world by eradicating prejudice and spreading the human nature. But it is still impossible to satisfy everyone. it still lead nowhere but it is able to create a better world. that’s why he said
            [“I have created a thousand blades .
            Unaware of loss
            Nor aware of gain”]
            And
            [“Everything is here, and nothing is here.
            That is why this is called Unlimited Blade Works.
            This is the only definite answer obtained by the one who lived as a sword all his life.”]
            He will take every type of suffering and throw evrything for it to inspire other about this suffering. so people would also understand the suffering of others and started to create ‘Heroes’. The thing is he considered living like this is beautiful. He considered enduring the suffering of others is very beautiful. In short he want to turn himself into a person who take every pain and suffering from others onto him and not giving those pain to others, to inspire others to be like him and lead a better world. he loves human so much that he loves taking pain, suffering and consequences of hypocrisies of every selfish human dreams from others to make them happy and to show human a better path for living as a ‘real’ human and also show that what human can do. So that no one would suffer from these selfish hypocisies. To teach other that pursue these selfish dreams by trying to eradicating these hypocrisies. He will not become a person like archer in which everyone force their mistakes to show their goodness but he will become a idol for others to inspire them to become like him and love others. He also accept hatred and sins of humanity and show the beauty of these ugliness and show how to use it improve humans as whole and use it to spread love and compassion towards each other even more.
            That’s why he understands himself.

            Like

  2. Fate stay night is a great novel but you can’t understand. If you really read it. You atleast understand heaven’s feel. But you are one of the ignorant person who think 50% words are unnecessary. Fate stay night is the real where every concept that you only imagined in zero is really developed. The biggest problem with your review is that you never understand shirou’s character. Shirou is a very complex character with very twisted psychology who only feel truly alive by saving someone. He admired humans and always force his ideal on someone. His ideology of superhero is explored in vn in different.There is a huge development is happened in ubw. Shirou has distorted personality with his dream. He never understand the problem of himself that what his true self is? He make excuses like survival guilt and PTSD that he should take the responsibility of those dead people. It makes him kind of antisocial because he can’t understand other’s feelings and emotion and tries to insert his own on them. He admire human beings and try to insert his philosophy of human beings on other. This is the route where he is started to understand these things that he only pursue his dream to feel alive or true pleasure. He accept his distorted psychology and understand his real reason for pursuing that that he wants everyone to be happy and he wanted to undone that hell or catastrophe which only create despair. He is selfish before this development and try to insert his dream for his own self interest but he sacrifice every interest for his dream in end. He understand his hypocrisy and become more selfless that he want to save everyone. He want save everyone even though he can’t save everyone. He atleast try to create a situation where he can save everyone but also accept reality that he should not take risk if he has not enough ability to save everyone. He still try to save everyone but wouldn’t risk everyone for it in these situations. He atleast save most people on those situation. He can’t create utopia but atleast create a better world everyone to live. He understands that he can atleast create situation when he destroy prejudice between people. When people also think selflessly and understand other opinion. They can create a world close to utopia. But there is a small problem. There is always not a case to understand other opinion or they can’t change it because of their inability. Therefore, utopia is still impossible but he can create a better world which is near to a utopia. This is explained by the character arc of rin who is influenced by shirou in ubw. Rin started to have faith and hope in selfless act in ubw which lead to a better person who become one of the ‛symbol’ of destroying prejudice to save ‛everyone’. In fate route, his twisted psychology and his ideal is explained. In ubw, it is the reconstruction of his ideal where he understands the problems of his ideal but also understand his importance and change his ideal to truly reach his ideal by eradicating prejudice between people and making them more selfless. Heaven’s feel is the deconstruction of superhero like captain america or spiderman where his own ideal consume him and make him more selfish. Sex is bad in two routes but it is necessary in heaven’s feel which actually develops him.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s