Full disclosure: I have never experienced any piece of Fate/Stay Night media and going into Fate/Samurai Remnant without any prior knowledge was worrisome. Thankfully, this new action RPG is surprisingly newcomer-friendly and as a Fate neophyte, I gained a crash course in the franchise’s lore and a solid understanding of what it is about.
In my research, I discovered Fate/Stay Night to be a mind-bending journey into an abyss of Japanese visual novels. A hallucinogenic rollercoaster through the darkest corners of anime fantasy. It’s a trip, a wild, mind-boggling escapade that defies the laws of reality and drags you kicking and screaming into a maelstrom of heroic spirits, mages, and the elusive Holy Grail- and no, not Jesus’ juice cup.
Fate/Samurai Remnant sets the premise in the 4th year of the Keian Era, Edo Period. Over the years, the Fate games have been dabbling in Musou-style gameplay, but this latest entry goes full sandbox with Yakuza-like open-district exploration. Could this be the ultimate Fate game? This Fate/Samurai Remnant review will unveil its secrets!
Developer: Koei Tecmo Games, Omega Force, Type-Moon Studio, Aniplex
Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games, Koei Tecmo America, Aniplex
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (reviewed)
Release Date: September 28, 2023
Price: $59.99 USD
Miyamoto Iori is a ronin who was adopted by and studied under the greatest swordsman who ever lived, Miyamoto Musashi. He would have been destined for great things, but he turned out to be a mediocre student. Even though the gameplay would have you believe he is a talented dual-wielding swordsman, he never could live up to the legend of his late master.
Iori’s life would be a blur of days blending into each other as he takes on odd jobs like collecting debts or acting as hired muscle, but destiny had other plans for him. He becomes an unwitting contestant in a battle royale known as the ‘Holy Grail War,’ a competition for the ultimate prize that will grant any wish.
It’s kind of like Highlander, but the immortal warriors (known as Servants) are spirits that are bound to mortals (known as Masters) who command them. Iori has inherited a Servant who calls herself ‘Saber,’ one of the various classes of Servants like Lancer, Berserker, Archer, etc.
Saber becomes an integral fixture in Iori’s life, an enigmatic presence as ancient as she is deadly with a sword. Her existence is a stark contrast to the bustling life of Edo, and she is utterly oblivious to the customs and advancements of this era. She’s so out of touch that simple things like paper seem like amusing novelties to her, and the culinary delights of Edo-era Japanese food are revelations that continually boggle her mind.
A significant portion of Fate/Samurai Remnant‘s narrative focuses on her character development and the peculiar dynamics of her relationship with her master, Iori. Saber maintains an icy and indifferent demeanor toward Iori. Yet, as the brutal Holy Grail War unfolds, their connection deepens.
She undergoes a profound transformation, slowly shedding her initial coldness and adopting a more nurturing role as if Iori were a wounded bird in need of her care. Maternal instincts surface within her, and she becomes increasingly devoted to him, even if she refuses to openly display these emotions.
As the story continues to unfold, the cast expands dramatically. New Masters, Servants, and rogue Servants are drawn into the intricate web of intrigue, adding layers of complexity to the already rich narrative. For long-time fans of the Fate series, Fate/Samurai Remnant has a lot to chew on.
Beloved characters from previous games make cameo appearances, and they participate in side stories filled with amusing escapades alongside Saber and Iori, offering a delightful blend of nostalgia and fresh interactions. Despite all this, Saber and Iori’s relationship is the emotional core of the story.
There is a multi-verse of alternate history in the background. Iori meets an alternate version of his master who is a big-breasted rowdy hot mama and she is every bit as brash as her counterpart was when he was alive. The way Fate/Samurai Remnant toys with the identities of historical figures becomes a fun guessing game when trying to figure out who is who as the story develops.
Concepts such as the nature of Servants and their connections to Masters, as well as the ultimate prize, are explained in a surprisingly easy-to-digest manner. Character motivations are efficiently established, and when a plot twist occurs, it feels well-earned.
Despite having no prior knowledge of the Fate series before encountering Fate/Samurai Remnant, I was able to grasp the broad strokes of the narrative and become deeply invested in the story and its characters. Regrettably, the story is presented in Japanese audio only, with English subtitles.
Fate/Samurai Remnant is rooted in a franchise that originated from visual novels, so verbosity is par for the course. However, this action-packed game spans over 50 hours. Between sequences of huge skirmishes with 50 men, stopping to read dialogue for dozens of minutes doesn’t do the pacing any favors.
Not everything is made explicitly clear. Details regarding the Holy Grail War and the mechanics behind how alternate historical figures cross over between worlds remain somewhat vague. The premise of numerous characters engaged in epic anime battles can be seen as a convenient way to facilitate intense combat sequences.
When these battles are as visually stunning and captivating as they are in Fate/Samurai Remnant, it’s easy to understand why this franchise has achieved the level of popularity it has.
The gameplay revolves around exploring samey-looking Edo-era towns that lack detail and are festooned with suspiciously wide-open arenas that are ideal for picking a fight. Iori and company can speak with NPCs and participate in some side stories like in any Yakuza game, but the stories are much less involving. Most of the time they climax with Iori getting into another fight.
The fighting is about what most gamers would be familiar with if they’ve ever played any Musou game but with some added depth. Iori won’t be babysitting any generals, but he will be switching his combat stances a lot and must be mindful of what the enemies will be doing. Fodder enemies are also much more threatening as they are more aggressive and can take more hits than the average mook in a Dynasty Warriors campaign.
Parrying and building up the various gauges becomes a tug-of-war meta-game while fighting. The action gets spiced up when rogue servants become playable, but Iori is always the heart of Fate/Samurai Remnant. Playability does have a bit of stiffness to the inputs like in most Musou titles and the window for a perfect parry does feel too narrow, but when the cast is capable of extinction-event-sized attacks, it is hard to notice.
Fate/Samurai Remnant is packed to the brim with battles and story that makes it feel like an anime spanning several seasons long. Aside from story sequences that involve a lot of reading, wandering around districts, and fighting, there is not a lot of variety. There is no fishing mini-game or rhythm game or something to mix things up in a playful way, but there are the leyline fonts.
The leyline fonts is the closest thing Fate/Samurai Remnant has to a mini-game but it is far from optional- in fact, it is a major pillar of the game’s story. These sequences play out like a strategic board game on Edo’s map and the idea is to make connections to cancel out enemy territory and sometimes get into fights.
The leyline fonts can be challenging to win, but thankfully, they have checkpoints, which makes a game over less painful. Iori is also able to take a break and step away from the leylines to pursue sidequests if players get bored. These sequences can be resumed at any time.
Omega Force and Koei Tecmo seemingly poured a lot of effort into Fate/Samurai Remnant. The anime cel-shading on the character models is some of the best. The environments don’t fare as well, appearing plain and barren due to the game being specced for Nintendo Switch. On the PlayStation 5, Fate/Samurai Remnant looks and runs as well as it possibly can.
If you are new to Fate and you want to have fun battling armies of monsters or thugs, then Fate/Samurai Remnant is worth a look for the satisfaction of the thrill of the fight. Just be ready for a lot of reading. If you are already a Fate fan, then Fate/Samurai Remnant will be the ultimate Fate experience.
Fate/Samurai Remnant was reviewed on PlayStation 5 using a code provided by Koei Tecmo Games. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found here. Fate/Samurai Remnant is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.