Title: Fate/Samurai Remnant
Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: September 28, 2023
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Genre: Action RPG
The Fate franchise, known for its rich storytelling and characterization, hasn’t had many console adaptations that fully embrace these qualities. Apart from the Musou titles, with Extella: Link primarily focusing on gameplay compared to its predecessor, there haven’t been many recent opportunities to enjoy a full-fledged Fate narrative experience in a non-mobile game.
Fortunately, this is changing with the release of Fate/Samurai Remnant by Koei Tecmo and Omega Force. Set in a unique backdrop with a diverse cast of new and old characters, this ambitious project appeared confident in its approach. After playing it, I found its efforts well-executed, despite some pacing and gameplay decisions that seem odd in retrospect.
Fate/Samurai Remnant offers a distinct Fate experience, primarily due to its setting during the Keian Era, Edo Period, roughly in the mid-1600s. Unlike Fate titles’ usual modern or futuristic settings, this alteration provides Samurai Remnant with a unique identity. During this era, Japan had transitioned from war to peace, but the shift brought its own challenges, particularly for Ronin, a samurai who no longer served lords.
One of these Ronin is the protagonist, Miyamoto Iori, a disciple of Miyamoto Musashi who practices the Niten Ichiryu style of swordsmanship. Iori’s master passed away before imparting the secrets of these techniques, leaving him somewhat adrift in his new life. However, his priorities drastically turn when he becomes entangled in a Holy Grail War known as the Waxing Moon Ritual.
For those new to the Fate franchise, the entries usually consist of these wars comprised of pairs of Masters and Servants. The latter are summoned by the former, being physical representations of historical and mythological figures. Further, the Servants are divided into one of several classes, like Saber, Archer, and Berserker, each embodying different strengths and weaknesses.
The goal of these group battles is for one pair to defeat all others and obtain the coveted Holy Grail, which can supposedly grant any wish. The Waxing Moon Ritual follows the same pattern, with Iori unintentionally summoning a Saber Class Servant. Unlike the other Masters, Iori is not an experienced mage and has limited knowledge of the supernatural. However, as he witnesses the chaos unfolding in the Waxing Moon Ritual, he becomes increasingly invested in seeing it through to the end.
Fate/Samurai Remnant offers a dense experience that requires patience. This philosophy applies to the narrative and the gameplay, resulting in a deliberate, gradual pace. With its extensive cast, intricate character motivations, war details, and other factors, the game takes its time to reveal the complexities, setting the stage for a lengthy emotional journey. What makes this entry impressive is how faithfully it captures the essence of a Fate novel or anime in game form without compromising on character and story focus.
Throughout this Grail War, Iori and Saber form alliances with other Masters and Servants while facing off against opponents, gradually uncovering secrets about the unconventional Waxing Moon Ritual. As a result, Rogue Servants join the fray, Servants not tied to a Master and instead located in specific spots throughout the region. Discovering their role in an otherwise seemingly ordinary war adds to the many mysteries you’ll uncover.
The highlight of the narrative and cast is the evolving relationship between Iori and Saber, which takes unexpected turns. They start on unfriendly terms, primarily due to Saber’s lack of respect for Iori, but their mutual understanding leads to a believable friendship. Iori himself is an intriguing protagonist for reasons I can’t reveal here; pay close attention to his character development. He’s become one of my favorite characters in the franchise due to how cleverly his depiction defies conventions.
The other Servants and Masters are also excellent, although some receive more focus than others, especially during the initial playthrough. Fate/Samurai Remnant includes a New Game Plus mode, which is essential. One reason is the inclusion of side stories called Digressions, focusing on Iori’s relationships with the Rogue Servants and providing backstory scenes for certain Master and Servant pairs.
New Game Plus introduces more of these episodes, shedding light on what specific characters were doing at different points in the story. Additionally, the ending changes. While most story beats remain the same, the game alerts you to cutscenes with altered dialogue, gradually unveiling a previously implied yet hidden truth. You’ll need to play through New Game Plus to fully grasp the complete picture.
While some players may find this practice tedious, how certain Digressions are presented justifies their exclusivity to new game plus. However, a few of them could have been included in the initial playthrough without spoiling anything. At the very least, New Game Plus allows you to skip straight to chapter two, skip scenes, and retain most of your gameplay progress, making replaying less time-consuming.
The narrative offers a few choices that, while branching to some extent, don’t lead to entirely different story routes, at least not initially. This approach allows for a cohesive, sequential story, but it can sometimes make the unchosen scenarios feel abrupt when they eventually come into play. However, New Game Plus allows one to explore the other side of the choices, mitigating this issue.
The cast of Fate/Samurai Remnant thrives on introspection and interaction, especially when the Masters meet. Their conflicting ideologies make them endearing and emphasize their humanity. The Rogue Servants are no different, and their interactions with Iori complement the main story effectively. While most of their appearances cater to existing fans, their presence is appreciated and adds depth to the plot.
Regarding fanservice, I initially had concerns about the character Musashi, a character from Fate/Grand Order. I worried the game might overly emphasize her connection to that title, making her feel out of place in Fate/Samurai Remnant. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Musashi’s role in the narrative is crucial and seamlessly integrated, contributing to Iori and Saber’s journey. While I wished some characters received more spotlight, the game achieves a balanced focus on its vast cast.
Regarding gameplay, Fate/Samurai Remnant strikes an excellent balance between spectacle and substance. Apart from Iori, you can play as several Servants, each with unique skills and playstyles. Additionally, you occasionally control other Masters’ Servants during story segments and Digressions, ensuring variety in gameplay. Every Servant feels powerful, yet not excessively so. You can’t simply overpower your way through the game, as boss-like enemies have Shell gauges that must be depleted before they can be fully staggered and receive maximum damage. This requires understanding how to dodge or counter telegraphed attacks to succeed.
However, don’t underestimate Iori because he possesses many gameplay tools. He can switch between multiple sword styles during combat, each with its own advantages. For instance, the Water stance is swift and ideal for crowd control, while the Fire stance deals more damage when your health is low. One of my favorites, the Wind Stance, features a unique gauge that fills as you attack enemies, unleashing magical spells with different button combinations. The seamless stance switching, the ability to swap to Saber when their gauge is filled, and affinity skills that enhance Master and Servant cooperation create a rewarding and varied gameplay loop.
Adding depth is the skill tree system, which functions as expected. However, it’s worth noting that Iori, Saber, and all the Rogue Servants have their own individual skill trees and skill points. Iori and Saber have multiple branches, given that you’ll primarily play as them. Iori also has spells with varying utility, utilizing consumable gems as a resource and numerous equipment pieces, each with its own sub-abilities. While it may seem overwhelming, you don’t need to dwell too deeply on the gear intricacies.
What can be overwhelming, at least initially, are the Spirit Font Conflicts. These tactical battles occur on grids representing mana fields, with Iori, Saber, and other Servants navigating these fields to reach the enemy’s base in alternating turns. Unfortunately, these conflicts are introduced somewhat haphazardly. Only a few Spirit Font Conflicts are in the game, and approximately half of them introduce new elements and force tutorials that can make matters confusing.
The objective is to capture opposing or neutral spirit fonts, identified as red and white, respectively, while ensuring your captured fonts remain out of enemy control. Encountering enemies on the field triggers battles, with victory granting ownership of the spot you occupy.
Factors like Mystic Codes, which are skills that alter the tactical field in various ways, and the ability to separate Iori from Saber for more comprehensive coverage but reduced offensive capabilities add depth to these conflicts. However, the game often restricts player control during these segments, and when combined with lengthy tutorials, it raises questions about the balance of actual gameplay versus on-rail segments. Achieving multiple spirit font captures in a single turn is satisfying, but such opportunities are limited.
Apart from combat and Spirit Font Conflicts, various related tasks await exploration. Numerous towns and nearby locations exist to explore, each with its own collectibles, pets to interact with, and enemies to defeat, contributing to in-game achievements and rewards. These rewards include gear for Iori and materials for the Workshop crafting system at his house, which provides various gameplay advantages.
Iori’s house also hosts two mini-games: blade polishing, which involves precise button timing to enhance experience gain, and statue carving, requiring quick button inputs within a time limit to produce sellable items. These activities have practical uses, such as unlocking specific nodes in the skill tree and providing sellable items. They add a touch of gameplay diversity.
For dedicated combat enthusiasts, the game offers the Sword Demon difficulty after completing the main story for the first time. Additionally, you can re-battle more challenging versions of previous bosses for additional rewards. In New Game Plus, significantly stronger foes appear in select areas, offering even more rewards. Fate/Samurai Remnant provides a wealth of content for those seeking to explore beyond the main story.
In terms of presentation, Fate/Samurai Remnant features excellent character portraits, while character models and environments are passable but not exceptional. While the visuals on the PlayStation 5 don’t detract from the experience, it’s essential to set reasonable expectations. The game successfully captures the Edo period’s look and feel, demonstrating attention to historical authenticity. Performance on the PlayStation 5 remains smooth without concerns.
Fate/Samurai Remnant is a fresh addition to the Fate franchise, offering a unique take on the adaptable Holy Grail War formula that caters to newcomers and longtime fans. If you have the patience for its deliberate storytelling, you’ll discover a compelling narrative exploring themes of self-repression. This journey is enhanced by a well-written main cast and supporting characters, a satisfying combat system, an addictive gameplay loop, and an emotionally resonant soundtrack. Whether new to Fate or a seasoned fan, Fate/Samurai Remnant offers an engaging experience worth exploring.
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