Fate/stay night review. A one-hundred-hour visual novel about the "battle royal" of the mages.

Fate/stay night is a true classic among visual novels. The plot of the work revolves around the Holy Grail War, in which the Grail chooses seven masters, who in turn summon servants from among the heroic spirits. Their goal is to survive. The master/servant pair that manages to outlive their rivals wins the grand prize of the fulfillment of any wish. If you know the Japanese well enough, you must have already guessed who the favorite of the fifth Holy Grail War is. That's right, an ordinary Japanese schoolboy! But don't worry, he's not the only one. Half the masters are schoolboys, too! Make yourselves comfortable. This is gonna be fun!


In 2004, Type-Moon released the visual novel Fate/stay night. This was the beginning of an entire franchise that is wildly popular both in Japan and around the world, but today we are not talking about the cultural phenomenon that the series has become, but about the very game that started it all.

Fate/stay night is divided into three arcs, in which the course of the fifth War for the Holy Grail changes dramatically. Despite the fact that the events in them are mutually exclusive, you have to go through them in a certain order: Fate, Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven's Feel. What are the differences between them? In what girl will the protagonist have an affair with! Don't be so surprised. As a reminder, this is still a Japanese game.

Why did Fate/stay night gain such popularity? What made it stand out from its competitors? What made this visual novel so beloved? Here's the short version:

Here's the long version: In this piece, you play as Emiya Shiro. An ordinary schoolboy, a mediocre mage who only knows one (two, but hides) spell, a do-gooder idealist, a convinced sexist, a stubborn fool, an excellent weapons and mythology expert, a great cook, and just a good person. You think this guy's path will be lined with roses? Huh, except with thorns from them. And that's the beauty of it.

There are forty-five endings in the game. Of these, three are true, one is good, one is normal, and the other forty are bad, in which the protagonist dies... or worse. As you can see, Shiro's path to success is difficult and thorny. Moreover, his victory can safely be considered a statistical error.

Fate/stay night consists of blood (mostly of the protagonist himself), pathos, and a level of over-the-top suspense that even Warhammer 40K cosplayers would be impressed with. As well as everyday life, dating and other fanservice. The Japanese, what can they do? They like this game, playing with contrasts. But first things first.

Act 1. Fate.

The Fate arc is the rut of Saber, a servant who is accidentally summoned by the protagonist, which involves him in the Holy Grail War. Through sheer luck, Shiro makes an alliance with Archer's master, Tosaka Rin, who explains to the hapless mage what he's gotten himself into. How does all this reflect on the protagonist? Get ready: Emiya Shiro, despite her involvement in the Holy Grail War, continues to go to school and go about her daily business. Here's where your surprise is completely justified. Even the characters in the novella itself are horrified to learn of Shiro's indifferent attitude towards his own safety. Especially Saber, whose job it is to ensure the safety of this brat's carcass.

So what goes into Emiya Shiro's daily routine? Breakfast, dinner, and going to school. A significant portion of the arc is devoted to these very activities. Believe me, it's as fascinating as it sounds. That is to say, not fascinating at all. These celebrations of life include Saber and Rin settling into his Japanese-style mansion (an important clarification... at least for the writer, since the Western/Japanese divide occurs regularly in the novel), his guardian Fuji-nae, and his childhood friend Sakura. At school, Shiro meets his friends: Sakura's brother named Shinji and a guy whose name may not be remembered at all. Shinji, by the way, regularly beats up Sakura. Shiro is fully aware of this, but is incapable of doing anything more than beating Shinji back. Let's call it intricate chemistry between the characters and move on, as this conflict won't be resolved until the third arc.

Fun fact: There is a spin-off about Emiya's culinary exploits - Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan (Today's Menu for Emiya). Believe me, this is far from the strangest thing about this franchise.

Thankfully, that's not all there is to this root. The war for the Holy Grail is in full swing, so Shiro has to fight other wizards in between households. In this arc, the main conflict centers on the confrontation with Ryder and Berserk. And Shiro's squad's struggle with his idiocy. To give you a taste of the power of Emiya Shiro's tactical genius, I'll list a few beliefs about conducting the Holy Grail War that he truly believes in: 1. He is safe during the day, as mages must conceal their existence from ordinary people (oh, how wrong he is); 2. There is nothing wrong with going off to an unknown destination without informing anyone of your departure (I feel so sorry for Saber); 3. If you are a guy and your servant, whose abilities are hundreds of times greater than human ones, is a girl, then you should fight in her place! No wonder Shiro broke into memes.

A selection of Emiya Shiro's wise sayings.

If the piece had stayed at this level, I would have abandoned the walkthrough (which I did at one point, but after researching the issue I decided to give the novella a second chance), but the plot starts to move in the right direction later on. Shiro grows up, and his outlook on life begins to change. Moreover, at some point you learn that the protagonist understands the absurdity of his behavior, but cannot act otherwise because of his principles, which he literally inherited from his adoptive father. Also, his antics are due to psychological trauma from a horrific tragedy. If I'm not mistaken, it's called "survivor syndrome" where a person blames themselves for surviving where everyone else died. And later on, this theme gets the development that the arc needed so badly.

By this point, a love line begins to develop with Saber, who, you have to admit, looks a lot like Shiro himself. She even suffers from similar problems, so there is real chemistry between them. And despite all the absurdity of dating during the war between the mages, this part of Ruth can safely be called important. And it's also pretty sweet.

Interesting Fact: Saber was raped during her lifetime, after which she became a father. Her adorable son (daughter) will also be summoned as a servant, but in another part of the series. This is canon!

To my deepest relief, towards the end the piece not only shifts the focus to battles and uncovering the secrets behind this war, but also moves away from everyday life almost completely. And, as the cherry on the cake, an epic finale during which the protagonist is frantically overpowered and the player realizes - it was worth it after all!


As a side note, I'd like to mention one important thing that could easily be overlooked during the playthrough. In a game with so many bad endings, there simply needs to be an element that helps players relax after an intense scene. And it's here - Taiga Dojo. These are small skits that can be watched after each "bad end". They are humorous inserts in which the characters of the novella explain what kind of mistakes the player made that led to the disappointing ending. If you decide to start your Fate/stay night walkthrough, feel free to watch them despite the spoiler warning. They're well worth it.


Act 2. Unlimited Blade Works.

In the Unlimited Blade Works arc, the main character's love interest is Tosaka Rin, the Archer master. You would know how chicly this duo complement each other! If I were to describe Rin in a nutshell, she's a model tsundere. You'd have to send her to the House of Weights and Measures. Rin is a supermother who is at one time or another, and can be referred to as a "careless bitch" if she is unfamiliar with the term. And unlike Emiya Shiro, Tosaka Rin is a real magician! Not a self-taught amateur, not a random passerby, but a mage who understands what he's doing in this war! Oh, how I wish she was the protagonist! But we have what we have.

What I wasn't prepared for, though it was predictable, Emiya Shiro has reverted back to his original state. Thankfully he's developing faster in this rut, but it still feels like a regression, albeit a justified one.

Perhaps the main advantage Unlimited Blade Works has over Fate is its departure from domesticity. The war for the Holy Grail is much more intense in this rut. The main characters here are confronted not by a loser and a girl who doesn't understand the concept of good and evil, but by a cunning villain who is willing to do anything to win - Caster. In addition, an ideological conflict begins between Emiya Shiro and Archer that pits them against each other. This is much more enjoyable and interesting to watch than the events of the first arc.

In my opinion, Unlimited Blade Works is the best part of Fate/stay night. Not just because of more dynamics or increased degree of pathos, but because the main character line is fully revealed here. I even got some respect for him, although I still think he's an idiot. If I have to pass this novella, I will do it for the sake of this Ruth.


I'd like to make a few comments about the erotic scenes in this work. They're awful! They are the most embarrassing erotic scenes I have ever seen! I felt discomfort at the mere hint of them coming! If you decide to start getting through this novella, look for the censored version.

Unfortunately, due to site rules, I can't post the entire selection of memes on this topic.


Act 3. Heaven's Feel.

If you've ever wondered if an author could insert a fanfic based on their own work, Fate/stay night arc three answers that question, yes, we can! Heaven's Feel. The first one is about Sakura, the childhood friend of the protagonist (I'll still call her that even though they've only known each other for a couple of years). If the voluntary and forced nature of the love lines didn't raise any questions for me before, here they did. And there are quite a few of them. But more about that later.

Heaven's Feel, in my opinion, is something completely foreign to this piece. Everything the screenwriter has built up for so long collapses here overnight. The situation is so serious that you can't discuss it without spoilers, alas.

First of all, do you remember the violence Sakura was subjected to in her family? Let's start with the fact that it's not actually her family. Sakura's real last name is Tosaka. She was given to the Mato family when she was a child, as it is customary for mages to get rid of "superfluous" heirs. Sakura's father should have killed her instead. Sakura would have been more humane, as the Mato family had her awaiting several years of relaxing treatments in a basement filled with cocksuckers. Believe me, it's actually even more horrible than it sounds! By the way, her half-brother, Shinji, not only beat her, but raped her. If you feel as if the work suddenly became several times darker and more absurd, then you are right. I'll be blunt, this sort of thing came as a complete surprise to me, despite the two Ruths passed before this one.

Secondly, the characters we've come to know so well in previous arcs are starting to change beyond recognition. As for the appearance of the Dark Saber, her role is reduced to that of an obstacle in the way of the protagonist. As for Shiro - it's even worse. The principles for which he had risked his life before... He simply overstepped them. Also, the screenwriter literally got rid of several characters in the most uncomplicated way possible, as if he didn't know what to do with them.

Third... Try to guess who the final villain in this story was. And it's... Anhra Mainyu, the Zoroastrian devil! It's unexpected, isn't it? I'll answer right away: you couldn't have guessed it during the walkthrough. At all.

Fourth, the romance with Sakura raises a lot of questions. Chief among them is why does she show the most cruelty towards the one person who truly cares about her and tries her best to save her? While enduring the abuse from her tormentors until the very finale. When Sakura is responsible for the loss of Shiro's arm, she runs to the bathroom, vomits in the sink and looks at his smiling face in the reflection, rejoicing that with such an injury he can no longer participate in the Holy Grail War (naïve). Agree, it's hard to empathize with a character like that.

Ruth tries to be darker, but it just doesn't work. All this hypertrophied cruelty, absolutely sudden plot twists... In order for something like this not to turn into a farce, you should have prepared the players, added elements to the work that allow you to suspect something wrong. But this was not done, so the impressions remain mixed.

There are still some good moments in this arc. For example, the relationship with Elijah, the berserker master. What's more, it turns out that she and Shiro have a lot in common. He can even have her over for a visit... did I mention that she could kill him at any time? She's still better than Sakura though, so it's not my place to judge him.

An interesting fact: Illya has his own spin-off, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya. Japan is a crazy place, isn't it?

The ending is still pretty epic, but in this case, it doesn't outweigh all of Ruth's flaws. Heaven's Feel has noticeably less merit than the other arcs. The problems here, on the other hand, are far greater. Is it worth going through it? On the one hand, without Heaven's Feel, your understanding of the story will be incomplete, and on the other hand, you can fix that by looking up the story in the thematic wiki, or by checking out the anime adaptation.


Fate/stay night deserved its cult status by right. In spite of all the problems, the work manages to create a unique atmosphere of confrontation between magicians and a stubborn idiot with a heart of gold. The characters sink into the soul, the bright moments are remembered, and the ridiculous ones... are remembered even more, as they are obscenely comic. Is this visual novel worth playing? If you are a big fan of the genre, but, for some reason, missed it, the answer is yes. If you are interested in the story, but don't have an extra hundred hours? Then probably not. In that case, I'd recommend watching the anime adaptations of Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven's Feel. Why not the Fate anime? Because it sucks! And on that shocking news, I bid you farewell. Thank you for your attention!

P.S. Here's a link to a flowchart with all the choices so you can understand the scope of Fate/stay night: http://intarbutt.info/datazz/FSN_Flowchart.pdf

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