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Review of Fate/stay night
Fate/Stay Night [Realta Nua] - Ultimate Edition
Vote: 7RoyMustang264 on 2024-02-11 last updated on 2024-02-23
|A solid narrative dragged down by its tail end
You're a mostly average dude, Shirou Emiya, dragged into a dangerous supernatural world: a "Holy Grail War" where eight magi fight to the death to obtain the ability to make any wish come true. You progress through three routes, each focusing on a different girl: in order, those are Fate, Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven's Feel. The first two routes are good, but the third one is pretty bad.
The first one, FATE, focuses on Saber, the ancient hero summoned by apparent accident to protect your life in the Holy Grail War. Her identity is initially unknown and later revealed and it's really dumb, but the VN's explanations managed to make me buy it. Saber is duty personified, stiff and by the book and she has no time to fall in love. Can we break through her shell? This route teaches us a lot about the setting and has some real solid development, payoffs, battles and good moments on the whole. We grapple with Shirou's ideals and learn to understand him and his motivation. 7/10. The special epilogue for this route boosts this a little further by being as emotional as it is.
The second route, UNLIMITED BLADE WORKS, has us focus on our rich classmate Rin, who is a magician and technically our enemy in the war. Rin is undoubtedly the best girl in this VN and the prologue of the game actually sees us in Rin's POV for a while. In general, this route follows the most logical progression of events. More things happen than in the previous route and a great amount of personal development occurs within our main character.
The sheer number of raw, hard-hitting conversations, revelations about the truth, sacrifices and choices of valor is unparalleled. This had me reading for hours on end and the climaxes of the battles had me on the edge of my seat. At one point Rin tells us the story of when she first saw Shirou and it's profoundly simple and touching at the same time. The villains here are a development of those in the Fate route and we see and learn much more about the events as they unfold. The main focus here is Shirou's idealistic nature, again, as it is brought to deliberate and thorough scrutiny. Is the pursuit of unattainable perfection inherently a good or bad thing? How do you cope with having your beliefs shattered and your life's work disrespected, unappreciated, reduced to pointlessness? Shirou is in some ways struggling with a Sysyphean task he chooses for himself and it is that determination, the choice to persevere even when all seems lost, when you know all is lost, that is on full display in this route.
UNLIMITED BLADE WORKS (UBW) by itself is a solid 10/10. I can see why this route would be adapted into an anime though I have not seen the anime. Not to mention this route has the only ending where you end up with Rin and Saber at the same time.
Our final route, HEAVEN's FEEL, is terrible. Sakura, our childhood friend and kouhai, who comes to our house every morning to cook for us, wants us to notice her desperately and in this route we finally do. Too bad her character is wasted and serves no purpose than to develop the main villain of this route, who was almost completely absent from the prior routes for no reason, he shows up in 1 scene in UBW and just decides to do nothing; in fact, too many things happen in this route for no reason, which did not stem from our choices and should have happened in the prior routes.
Sakura herself bounces between 'I love senpai so much I want to break his legs so he stays home and doesn't get hurt' and 'I'm so worthless pathetic and victimized, feel sorry for me' to an outright infuriating extent. I liked Sakura in the two prior routes but I really don't like her in this one. In the prior routes she doesn't get much screen time but is likable enough, but in this one the focus is still on other characters despite this being her route.
There's also a mystery here that is completely transparent to us the reader, while all the characters fail to put two and two together. I don't like the villains in this route very much either and I don't like our own MC's progress in this route. Many of the interesting characters from previous routes are just killed offscreen here and it is a waste Given how many events are different than previous routes and how this is supposed to be the 'final' or 'canon' route, I was really annoyed that the game was forcing me into a Sakura romance. I would have preferred to "abandon her path" if that were possible, but it is not.
Maybe the biggest factor for my dislike of this route is that Shirou's development here strongly contrasts with the previous routes. This route is darker, bleak, hopeless and in itself that is not a bad thing, but it is also combined with Shirou who acts very unlike himself. He's so head over heels for Sakura, this... girl... that he's willing to throw away all that made him himself, to relinquish his ideals and to sacrifice far too much of himself just for the sake of "fixing her". You can't fix her bro This infatuation with Sakura comes across as driven by Shirous' pity towards her and really rubs me the wrong way. Maybe because I have been in a real "I can fix her" situation with someone who was an addict and had mental problems and there was no good part to any of it I found the alleged romance incomprehensible on every standpoint, the coomer factor being dead last even though this route has the most amount of H scenes, only a couple of which are narratively sound.
Heaven's feel simply doesn't hold up to the standard that UBW creates. In fact, I would recommend completing Fate and UBW and stopping there. 4/10 for Heaven's feel.
The H content is very bad and the setups can be downright riotously funny: [not really a spoiler, but I'm setting it as one just in case] For example, during the Fate route we learn that Saber can't regenerate by drawing mana from us, because we're a weak mage. When I read this I laughed and thought that filling her up with cum should sort her out. I almost fell off my chair laughing when we actually did that later... and we never did it again for plot reasons. I am not surprised that the rereleased version cuts out H content entirely.
Side characters: There are a couple of side characters of note: one of our teachers, Fujimura Taiga "the Tiger", who acts like our aunt and is a notable comic relief character and a little girl who takes a fancy in us and ends up being very important for the story. Both of these are memorable like Saber and Rin and are handled well. The other "heroic spirits" who work for the other magi in the war are also very memorable and most of them are well developed.
This game is gravely missing a harem route as well. Smash the Fate and UBW routes together, everything from UBW with Saber's character development from Fate, throw in a very downsized version of Heaven's Feel in the mix to get Sakura in there and then we'll be talking. The result would be fantastic. Throw in Taiga, Medusa and the girl from the archery club and I'd probably be praising this as a 11/10.
The most curious things about this VN is that at one point you see one character sort of "crucified" on an arc, in a pose exactly the same as how we see Marika in Elden Ring and once I noticed that, I thought that the Vacuum Slice ash of war in Elden Ring is akin to what Saber's sword does. But this VN isn't for foot fetishists, so those must just be coincidences.
In conclusion I would say this is worth a read but it is not as great as some people would have you believe. Writing is good and the characters are memorable and likable and the battles are exciting and it made me feel things, man. Disappointing that the final route sucked.