As I previously mentioned, few franchises last decades, yet Disgaeaand the Fate series continue to exist in one form or another. Despite its cult following, not every entry has been well received, yet it persists. I’ve spent some quality hours slashing my way through Edo-period Japan, and I’m impressed by how cohesive the overall experience is.
Anime fans will undoubtedly be familiar with Fate/Stay Night, a series from which numerous spin-offs were spawned, including the equally famous prequel Fate/Zero. The Fate universe is much more complex than it seems and originated in a video game, the visual novel of Fate/Stay Night, which later became an anime, first released in Japan in 2004.
The Bushido Way
Since the beginning of the Fate series, masters and servants fought across the Holy Grail Wars, with the winning pair receiving an artifact that grants wishes. Set in the fourth year of the Keian Era, in Edo Period Japan, the land is recovering after the war. However, a new battle known as the Waxing Moon Ritual begins, and the hero, Miyamoto Iori, finds himself caught in the violence alongside his servant Saber.
It was created by Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi, the two founders of Type-Moon, a video game company famous for another great visual novel, Tsukihime. The success of Fate/Stay Night is due to its story, in which seven magicians summon seven Servants (i.e., the incarnations of great heroic spirits from the history of humanity) to face each other and conquer the Holy Grail. This magical object can grant any wish.
It should be noted regarding the Servants for those unfamiliar with Fate. The Servants are incarnations of heroic spirits across human history. When a person dies and becomes a legend, their soul ends up in the Throne of Heroes.
Through the Holy Grail ritual, one can summon spirits from the Throne of Heroes from every era and place, even from the future. The practice, however, does not have the magical force to materialize them in all their enormous power but conjures them in particular containers, which would be the seven classes in which they can be incarnated, namely Saber, Lancer, Archer, Rider, Berserker, Caster and Assassin.
Fate/Samurai Remnant Uses The Edo Period Well
Set in the Edo period, Japan, circa 1651. Samurai roam the streets, serving their lords, and life seems somewhat peaceful—until a masterless swordsman, Iori, is thrust into a supernatural war. Iori’s near-death experience takes a fantastical turn when a mysterious figure attacks him, leading to a life-altering encounter.
A seal appears on Iori’s hand, and a warrior named Saber emerges, wielding a sword and saving him from certain doom. But this is only the beginning. Soon, more foes surface, and the town becomes the battleground for a ritual. Seven masters will clash in a life-or-death struggle, employing summoned servants with the souls of legendary heroes. The ultimate prize? A wish granted to the sole survivor.
The Fate series has always had pairs of Masters and heroic spirits called Servants, fighting through history in a series of Holy Grail Wars, with the winning team receiving an artifact with the ability to grant wishes.
Iori isn’t particularly keen on making a wish. Instead, he’s driven to protect innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire. Fate/Samurai Remnant beautifully highlights Iori’s relative weakness compared to the other combatants, emphasizing his unwavering determination in the face of overwhelming odds.
While Fate/Samurai Remnant doesn’t plunge as deep into darkness as some other Fate titles, it does touch on sensitive themes. Throughout the 40-hour story, you’ll witness Iori’s struggle for survival. He focuses on doing good and safeguarding the people, even when it means tangling with local troublemakers or performing small tasks for sustenance. However, the constant threat of ambushes and attacks on Iori’s family looms, maintaining a palpable tension throughout the narrative.
But don’t let the seriousness fool you. Fate/Samurai Remnant expertly balances the gravitas with lighthearted moments, delivering a rollercoaster of emotions.
Intrigue and Alliances
The plot doesn’t stop at mere combat. Political machinations and unexpected alliances simmer in the background, providing depth and intrigue to the storyline. Surprising twists keep you on your toes, and as you progress, the narrative picks up pace, showering you with revelations until a heart-pounding climax.
One of the game’s persistent mysteries is Saber’s true identity, and the breadcrumb trail of hints and teases adds to the overall suspense. I could not put the controller down during the final hours, powering through the last chapters in one sitting.
Here’s the twist: despite the other masters’ desire for Iori’s demise, they often find themselves explaining lore to him, and, surprisingly, some even extend a hand of friendship. While this elucidates the game’s rich world, it occasionally occurs before discussing temporary alliances, creating a slightly odd dynamic.
From the first moments of gameplay, I was drawn in, and I’m glad I was proven wrong, as a fair share of anime titles are often lacking in exciting gameplay. I was ready to play something in danger of quickly becoming repetitive and unadventurous; only this notion is further from the truth. The game will continue to add novelties to the combat system until more than halfway through the story. Iori will have five fighting styles based on Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings teachings.
He will start with two: Earth, a slow and powerful style capable of absorbing a certain amount of damage, is designed for single opponents; Water, much more dynamic and faster, is perfect against groups of opponents. The Wind style, on the other hand, will allow you to fight with a mix of sword attacks and magic, while, as for Fire and Void, we are not telling you anything since they are linked to the story.
There will also be a mechanic called Afterglow, which will transfer bonuses from one style to the next once the conditions for activating it have been reached.
You can also control your Servant in battle once you fill the gauge, allowing control of either Saber or several Rogue Servants. It isn’t something you can do for prolonged periods as there is only a limited time you can control them, and you’ll want to do that as they are a ton of fun and vastly different from how Iori handles them.
Fate/Samurai Remnant is a fantastic title that tells players a compelling story with interesting characters. While it doesn’t hit every beat as intended, the overall narrative pushes players into a wonderfully realized Edo-period Japan that showcases excellent combat. The series won’t alienate newcomers, but I believe it will make you a fan.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5
Review: Fate/Samurai Remnant
Fate/Samurai Remnant is a fantastic title that tells players a compelling story with interesting characters.
Edo Japan is gorgeous
Excellent combat and use of the Servant/Master gimmick