Type-Moon is a landmark name in the world of visual novels. Known for its complex characters and unique storytelling, the company has at last targeted the West for new releases in recent years. Between the release of Witch on the Holy Night last holiday and the upcoming localization of Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon-, Type-Moon fans have never had more access to their beloved titles worldwide. It doesn’t end with visual novels, though. The company has plenty of RPG and Action spinoff titles, most of which are for their golden IP, Fate. One of these spinoffs is none other than the highly anticipated Fate/Samurai Remnant, which I’ve had the pleasure of checking out for this review.
For those unfamiliar with the Fate series, buckle up. It was first started by Fate/stay night, a visual novel that exploded in popularity. The title was crafted by Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi, who crafted the story and artwork. The title was Type-Moon’s first commercial title, which is one of dozens now almost two decades later. Countless spinoffs, games, manga series, and light novels have spun off since the original game’s release. While not all directly related, they each share certain elements that make Fate what it is.
Samurai Remnant takes familiar elements of the series, including Servants, Masters, the Holy Grail War, and more, while combining this with new elements and an exciting setting – the Edo Period of Japan.
The Waxing Moon Emerges
The Waxing Moon Ritual is a unique take on the classic Fate formula, which is something I greatly appreciate. One of the neatest features of this title is the inclusion of rogue Servants. These are beings summoned that are tied to specific areas of the map. Unlike the standard seven Servants in a Holy Grail War, the Waxing Moon Ritual summoned 15 different Servants. Seven are standard with their Master, but eight mysteriously appeared across different regions. As you progress through the story, you’ll encounter these rogue Servants and interact with them, even getting the chance to team up with some.
This keeps things interesting as Rogue Servants ally themselves with Masters throughout the narrative. Naturally, this also means you’ll have plenty of encounters fighting rogues who chose to ally with another Master. The game slowly drops hints throughout the early chapters to lay the groundwork for the main plot points. It kept me thinking constantly throughout my time playing the game, as I was determined to answer the questions left for me to find.
Samurai Remnant has an excellent narrative with plenty of climaxes and twists. The highlights for me are easily the Servant battles. The scale of these fights reminds me of the feeling I got with some of the boss fights we saw earlier this year in Final Fantasy XVI. It’s a testament to the nature of Fate, where servants possess otherworldly abilities to create colossal battles.
The game also has ample side story content to experience via Digressions, which essentially are focused quests for each Rogue Servant. By completing a Digression, you will bond closer to the Servant and unlock special rewards. This was a great way to explore each Rogue closely. But be warned that they do disappear as you advance the story. So, it’s best to complete each Digression as it pops up.
To fully experience the story, you’ll need to play through the game twice, or once normally, and once in new game plus. You should do this. There are plenty of new events and happenings that only occur in NG+. This is partly due to the few choices that occur throughout the story. You are presented with two options, and you must choose. This does affect the outcome of the story. While they’re somewhat easy to forget, the ramifications of your decisions loom as you walk through the story.
An Exciting and Wonderful Cast of Characters
To let you experience reveals on your own, I will refer to all Servants by their class name. Samurai Remnant has an excellent cast of characters. Every character gets a time to shine with proper character building through the story and digressions.
One of Samurai Remnant‘s greatest strengths is depicting what it means to be a Servant and Master, specifically with the relationship between Iori and Saber. As you progress through each mission, the game slowly starts to peel back the curtain of these two individuals’ lives and showcase the growing bond resulting from their journey. You slowly uncover the truth behind Saber’s past through cutscenes and conversations. Ultimately, that reveal is incredibly satisfying, leaving you guessing until the big reveal. I think crafting elements like this is extremely hard for some games, but this title does it masterfully and leaves a lasting impact once the credits roll.
The game also balances the characterization of both Servants and Masters quite well. You interact quite a bit with enemy Masters, as you might expect, so finding fleshed-out characters with clear motivations was relieving. Standard, traditional talks with other Masters occur, and you can see their perspectives through various cutscenes. This goes for even the Rogue Servants, too, who receive plenty of focus in their Digression missions.
Besides Iori and Saber, my favorite character was easily Berserker. She’s just a joy and steals the screen every time she appears. I have been a fan of this particular character and her character designer, Hirokazu Koyama, for quite some time, and I loved the interpretation of her in Samurai Remnant. It was great to be able to play as her through various sections and take down enemies with some extremely powerful attacks.
The entire cast is fantastic, though. The team did a great job of incorporating the Rogue Servants naturally into battles and the story, even though they are only a mere side effect of the Waxing Moon Ritual. While you should play the game twice for the full picture, each character gets a satisfying tale through your first run, leaving the additional character writing and backstory in NG+ as an added benefit.
A Musou Game at Heart
If you’ve played one of Omega Force’s other titles, you should be pretty familiar with how combat works. You’ll constantly encounter hordes of enemies each battle, and it is your job to slice them down with action-based combat. If you traditionally aren’t a fan of this action game style, you’ll be pleased to hear there are several enhancements and offerings to the system for Samurai Remnant.
Fate/Samurai Remnant branches out and incorporates a large variety of elements into the standard Musou formula. Starting with Miyamoto Iori, you have access to five different sword stances. When I unlocked the first few, my mind immediately went to Ghost of Tsushima with the different stances available in the title. Like that title, F/SR has different stances for different enemies. Are you looking for a slower but heavier hit? Take Earth Stance. Wanting something quicker with two blades? Water Stance is your friend. The game requires you to be tactful and utilize strategy against the different opponents you may face. You can actively switch between them during combat, and switching to different stances is encouraged once you achieve what’s called Afterglow. This happens when your body shines with light, which rewards you with special effects if you switch to a different stance at the right time.
The game has a ginormous skill tree for both Iori and Saber. As you level up, you’ll unlock Skill Jewels you can use to obtain new skills, stat buffs, and more. Rogue Servants also have skill trees, but we’ll dive into those later. One of the earliest (and most essential) skills you unlock is called Riposte. This allows you to essentially counter any enemy attack if you dodge at the right time. Think of it like a perfect dodge. By timing your dodge, you can evade an attack and instead inflict damage on your opponent.
Combine the above with your Servant’s Affinity Techniques, and you’ll be slashing through anyone standing in your way. Affinity Techniques are able to be called by filling the Affinity Gauge, found to the right of Iori’s portrait. You can call upon Saber or a Rogue Servant to utilize one of their abilities against enemies. They’re powerful and essential against enemies that have shields or higher HP.
By far, the neatest part of Samurai Remnant is the ability to play as Servants. It’s everything I wanted and more. As you fight against enemies, you slowly fill a gauge that you can activate to switch over to a Servant for a small period of time. Coming from Iori, you instantly feel incredibly powerful, capable of decimating your enemies. The game gradually rolls out different servants you can play as. You’d only get to play as Saber in a traditional Grail War. However, this isn’t a traditional Holy Grail War. The Rogue Servants that appear throughout the game can be recruited to your team. Every Servant has a unique moveset that plays differently from the others. You can expect to find plenty of experimenting with different Servants and their abilities.
Something I have to touch on regarding combat in Fate/Samurai Remnant is the Leyline system. I wasn’t too high on these sequences. In essence, this system is how you travel between locations in the game to break through bounded fields. It essentially plays like Fire Emblem, even carrying over the turn counter in the corner of your screen.
At first, I was overjoyed to see something like this in the game, as I thought it was a neat addition not traditionally found in action titles. However, as the hours piled on, I eventually grew tired of this system. It got into an extremely repetitive loop of move -> fight, move-> fight, etc. I think it’s a great idea that got old after 10 hours. It does later expand, as you eventually unlock the ability to summon Rogue Servants on the map to fight with you, but it wasn’t enough to fully engage me.
An Extremely High-Quality Product
Something I want to touch on is just how high-quality this title is. The visuals are pure eye candy. There are over fifteen different areas you can explore in your playthrough. Every area is crafted with attentiveness to small details. I stumbled upon plenty of interesting landmarks when running around to find dogs to pet. The towns all felt lively with people throughout living their daily lives, completely unaware of the war unfolding.
You spend much time in Iori’s home, which is converted into the Magecraft Workshop, a.k.a. your base. Here, you interact with the above characters and have the ability to upgrade weapons, change Rogue Servants, and rewatch sequences. The hub aspect of the Magecraft Workshop was appreciated, as it allowed me to refresh, refuel, and restock in between big missions.
Each cutscene was masterfully directed, with an incredible emphasis on action scenes in particular. Larger-than-life battles unfold before your eyes. It felt at times as if I was watching an anime of this story, akin to something like the grand fights of Fate/stay night [Heaven’s Feel] III. spring song. Specifically, the ending of most chapters had me genuinely baffled by how grand and intense the battles got.
The game visually looks impressive. Models are sharp, and combat is buttery smooth. It’s a beautiful game that is brought to life by the amazing character designs of Rei Wataru. I found the style and artwork amazing. Although I ran into a few frame drops when exploring later areas of the game, it was not anything enough to hinder the experience.
Additionally, the voice acting was really quite impressive. As we’ve come to expect with Type-Moon content, every voice actor gives their all, leaving a grand performance. There is a boatload of dialogue throughout the game. F/SR has sprites that talk on screen, with everything fully voice-acted. Plenty of major and minor moments throughout the story are elevated thanks to the voice acting.
Overall, Omega Force did an incredible job of tying together so many elements to ensure Fate/Samurai Remnant had the most important elements of all – cohesion and immersion. This is a complete experience you can easily get lost in for over fifty hours.
A Grail War Worth Witnessing
Koei Tecmo, Type-Moon, Aniplex, and Omega Force have come together to produce a fantastic Fate title that I’ve loved throughout my time playing. Samurai Remnant contains strong characters, a memorable narrative, and some of the most thrilling gameplay I’ve seen in a Musou game. I hope the team at Omega Force gets another go-around to create a Fate title after this. With one of the more interesting approaches to the series, I’d love to see the team create another title set in a completely different era after this.
They did a great job and made an experience I’ll surely be revisiting in the near future. Luckily, four waves of DLC are set to be on the way, meaning there’s plenty to look forward to with the future of Fate/Samurai Remnant. I had a blast with the title and cannot wait to see how fellow and brand-new Type-Moon fans react throughout their playthroughs.
Disclaimer: Koei Tecmo provided Final Weapon with a PlayStation 5 copy of Fate/Samurai Remnant for review purposes.