Review – Fate/Samurai Remnant
I’m not particularly familiar with the lore of the Fate franchise. My first foray into that world was a Musou game entitled Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star, and holy hell; I was confused by that storyline. It assumes you have a previous understanding of the characters and what they’re about. I didn’t, and needless to say, that killed my enjoyment – I had no motivation to want to reach the end credits. Without anything tangible to bite upon, I got bored. Yes, the gameplay was decent, and the mechanics I could discern were intriguing, but neither was enough to entice me to stay for the eventual sequel. Then, upon finding out from Koei Tecmo about a separate spin-off, I knew I owed it a second chance.
Fate/Samurai Remnant grabbed me immediately after watching the trailer. I loved how fluidly it moved, and the prospect of it falling under the Musou flag tickled my lust for blood. Naturally, I wanted to go PS5 to get that coveted peanut butter smoothness, but due to personal issues related to my dog, I had a choice. I wanted to try nursing him to health while providing coverage, but my only chance at accomplishing both was with a portable. We were then able to procure a Switch copy as well, in order to provide a detailed comparison of both versions, with the focus still being on the beefier PS5 port.
I’VE SEEN THAT BEFORE!
The plot is goddamn engrossing, and it hooked me within an hour of my session. Sure, the concept is nothing that we haven’t seen before, but there are elements added that help differentiate it. It’s a tournament to the death with a selected batch of fighters, but instead of exploring that thread from a strictly combative angle, it delves into the more human aspect. We’re shown how the chosen are affected, as well as their loved ones. Amid the drama, we also witness a mystery unraveling as, and bear with me, the classic trope of amnesia is afflicting a Protagonist. Before that info deters you, know the implementation isn’t an annoyance. It’s drip-fed with crumbs placed expertly, making me eager for the reveal.
AN EXCEPTIONAL CAST!
The contest of doom is known as The Waxing Moon Ritual, and the participants have partners. They’re in pairs, which throws a fascinating wrench into the narrative. It opens the door to plenty of banter, and it’s with a smile on my face that I can happily declare it as pretty damn superb. Miyamoto Iori and his comrade, Saber, have exceptional exchanges. It was especially delightful to see how the two developed and grew closer. What’s funny is how, given that Saber is an entity from a distant era, he’s mystified by the general peacefulness of current towns. I had a hoot watching as he walked up to several food stands, excited by the aroma. Seeing him going absolutely bonkers over rice will always capture a grin because I relate so hard.
I also have a particular infatuation with the interactions between Iori and Saber, but I also have to highlight the sibling relationship between, well, Iori and his young sister, Kaya. She’s always upset whenever her brother takes on a mission. The fear of losing him weighs heavy on her shoulders, and the uneasiness in her heart is something I felt. I could sense the stress swallowing her. Of course, she isn’t one-dimensional, and we’re shown classic sibling behavior meant to add levity to the current situation, too. It was a decent reprieve from the hefty meat and potatoes of the literary prowess – a dangerous and grim ordeal. I know I’m gushing loads about her and Saber, but rest assured, as not everyone is subpar – another endears me.
ACCURATE TO THE THEME!
What will probably be an underrated facet is how true the writing is to the setting. Nothing about it felt out of place for the period. The NPCs spread throughout the various villages never left me questioning my immersion – even those instances meant as comedic relief blended into proceedings without a hitch. On top of that, I was smitten by the excellent mixture of realism and a heft of fantasy. Usually, I’m not one to be enthused about grounded threads to stories because, to me, the fantastical is my jam and only path to take, but Fate/Samurai Remnant nailed the sweet spot. Now, I should probably clarify that the chatter from NPCs didn’t floor me. It’s all pretty generic, with the jeux ne se quoi of this adventure being the tale.
Let me dispel worries about the confusion that swallowed me before, as it isn’t a factor in Fate/Samurai Remnant – everything is concise and easy to follow. Unfortunately, I can’t necessarily say the same for the tutorials. Half are understandable, but what they’re explaining is also common sense and not really difficult to figure out. It’s when the more complicated features get introduced that the conveyance isn’t always accounted for. I was forced to learn by trial and error, which is fine, but from an accessibility perspective, even as I approached the finish line, I only maintained a loose comprehension of some of the mechanics. There were also moments I’d accidentally stumble on the proper utilization, but even then, it just didn’t click.
ELIMINATING MY FOES!
Despite trailers convincing me that this would be a Musou, it actually isn’t. Sure, whenever I’m in an encounter, it mimics the style flawlessly, but with Omega Force at the helm of Fate/Samurai Remnant, that shouldn’t be a shocking revelation. That breakneck combat is their bread and butter, and I say they delivered it in spades. Hell, they actively encourage speed, offering rewards after vanquishing a whole platoon of Foreigners or Ronin within a limit. Granted, it certainly doesn’t negate how mindless the act of mashing buttons is, as that’s cemented, but it provides the smallest iota of engagement, which makes it fun. I was striving to be quicker than expected. Reaping items in victory, such as materials, was gravy for my efforts.
CRAFTING AIN’T A THING!
Before y’all ask, a crafting system isn’t in the cards. There are two other avenues requiring resources, with the first stemming from constructing a magecraft workshop. Renovating it will need a ton of supplies, and every upgrade brings about a nifty perk, ranging from increasing the amount of health restored by potions to making the creation of gems a bit faster. Ensuring that you devote energy to this feature makes general gameplay easier for those determined to muscle through the higher difficulties. Yeah, you could lessen it manually, but those same perks would tribalize the game, rendering it a cakewalk. Keeping it the way Omega Force intended incentivizes the players to make use of this feature.
While the second avenue is referred to as crafting, I don’t recognize it as such. I’m essentially reinforcing what Fate/Samurai Remnant calls Mounts. We’re not talking about rideable horses. These are the many parts making up the Katana, like Scabbards, Guards, the Braids wrapping around the handle, and tiny emblems or trinkets that masquerade as decoration. They’re the equipment of this title, with each one I acquire having a passive, sometimes two, attached to amplify Iori’s abilities – from bolstering the lethality against monsters or humans to seeing the loot you receive after battle get a good bump. If that isn’t enough, I can further fortify their default buffs by refining them with special mallets – sounds swell, but issues arise.
My gripe lies in those extra bonuses. I love the notion that, for a price, I can alter what they are, which is effectively just a form of build customization. Upon initially seeing this facet, I was enthused beyond belief by the possibilities. See, if one thing gets me all hot and bothered, it’s the ability to beef up my character. I want them to reach the degree of slicing through enemies like a heated knife through butter. Replacing said bonuses is, to my understanding, random, but when utilizing it, I don’t think that’s the case. Instead, I jump between similar variations, alternating between enhancing light or heavy strikes with no deviation. The RNG feels like an illusion when, in actuality, it seems tied to a restrictive algorithm.
What ultimately led to me ignoring this feature for the majority of my session was the expensive cost. Well, that and the fake RNG – they made it not worth taking the risk. There’s zero reason to waste something crucial if I can predict the outcome. It’s already tough grabbing the materials needed, and while most can be bought, money wasn’t a plentiful resource for me. I had to prioritize unless, by the grace of Lady Luck, I obtained a Scabbard or Guard with a passive that raises drop chances. At least then, it manages to supplement the difference slightly, but sadly, it isn’t nearly enough to make a huge dent to convince me to partake. Frankly, I’ve been complaining about what’s basically just a nitpick, but it’s aggravating.
QUESTS AND LEVELS!
Fate/Samurai Remnant is an Action RPG, so of course, grinding is a valid concern, but I can say with a hundred percent confidence that it shouldn’t be. The balance of your foes compared to Iori and Saber is impeccable. See, when an uptick does happen, though, the only benefit I see is to my health, whereas physical power is negligible. I only began noticing a shift when outfitting my sword with the best of the best. At that point, the life of the opposing forces drained quickly, and subsequently, a rush of dopamine flooded my brain. It’s without hyperbole that I declare combat as bloody delightful, and luckily, there’s a ton. Due to being linked to the main story, a large percentage is unavoidable, but as they only clock in at a minute or so, it’s trivial.
If, however, you want to kickstart one purposely, there are minimal areas within villages to do just that. You’re probably curious as to why, given I’ve already established that there’s no need to engage, you’d want to. Well, eventually, mini-quests become available, although not in the traditional sense. These are tasks you can radioactively finish without having to accept anything from an NPC formally. They each come with a straightforward goal, like massacring a certain number of Ronin, and when done, what you profit does admittedly helps to cushion my prior grievance minutely. Thankfully, since killing proved to be a blast, I did find myself searching out the red circles on the city map that indicate a skirmish so that I could murder fools.
If you yearn for those old-fashioned side-quests, rest assured, as they appear at specific story intervals. As I’ve alluded to, there are numerous locales to visit, and sometimes, what’s known as a Digression may pop up. I wholeheartedly recommend diving headfirst into these. Doing so imparts some tasty tidbits to flesh out what’s occurring, as well as the characters. I quite liked learning more about the Waxing Moon Ritual, but also why sometimes, I tripped on other Heroic Spirits like Saber, albeit without a partner in crime. A handful of these side-quests can also be challenging, raising the bar regarding engagement. I will note that based on what I discovered, having a robust experience is aided by completing them.
IS THIS A BOARD GAME?!
When I’m not jogging through the streets or petting dogs and cats, which, as an aside, is adorable, then I’m in the overworld. Occasionally, I’ll be teleported to what I describe as a board game, where I move a single space at a time – something my enemies can do, too as they gun for the town Iori resides in. I must plan my route, intercepting the monsters at every turn, and while I did enjoy that, it’s also a feature I was largely winging it on. I wasn’t very positive about the intricacies that spun the wheels, so I had no choice but to improvise. Thankfully, I wasn’t totally blind as I understood a sliver of the tutorial, and luckily, that knowledge helped me clumsily stumble my way to victory.
YUP, I’M IN JAPAN!
When it comes to the soundtrack of Fate/Samurai Remnant, it’s pretty damn good. A few tracks are catchy, and I hummed away as I wrote this review. The most vital thing is that it seamlessly fits the aesthetic. The music didn’t feel out of sorts, complimenting the setting pristinely. I can’t say I had my mind melted, but to say it’s just serviceable would also be a disservice because it is more than that.
As for the dub, well, there isn’t any, with voice acting only being in Japanese. Now, I’m that weirdo who selects English whenever possible, but I couldn’t picture doing it here. The language, much like the score, is a sublime fit. The puzzle pieces are slotting in cleanly, and the full picture reminded me of an older anime. The inflection in the performances is great on the serious lines, but when it came to the sillier ones, the delivery could’ve been better. Still, that didn’t detract from my overall satisfaction – the session was quaint.
ARE YOU NERVOUS STUTTERING?!
Okay, here’s the nitty-gritty: when it concerns the hybrid, performance isn’t terrible. It’s still very much playable, seeming to float around or being bang-on, 30fps during battles. Naturally, I tried putting it through the paces, unleashing a barrage of skills in succession, but no matter what, it stood modestly steady with the smallest of drops. That’s why I find it odd that strolling through town is a strain. When Iori slashes or slings fireballs at my foes, it is far less extensive than strolling through the streets where NPCs pop in whenever nearby; it’s a conundrum. Now, it isn’t immense or causes headaches. I reckon that with a bit more optimization and patching the game, it would help iron out the mishaps.
AREN’T YOU A LOOKER!
Yes, the resolution on the Nintendo Switch does take a minor beating. It still looks good, but you can see a bit of anti-aliasing at the edges that, while it never bothered me during my session, could for others. As if much of a surprise, Playstation 5 is crispy. I couldn’t see any issues, or none were obvious to the naked eye. As for color contrast, the OLED screen really props up the hybrid, but there’s still a tiny bit of a washed-out look, whereas, again, the PS5 excels. The blacks are deep black on both, but the bigger brother console allows these models to feel more robust. Fate/Samurai Remnant won’t be overexerting Sony’s powerhouse, nailing a silky 60fps, and it looks gorgeous doing so – and hey, the portable edition is very playable.
AND THE SAMURAI’S VERDICT…
Fate/Samurai Remnant brings the redemption arc that sees me becoming a fan. Literary prowess is concise, being explained incredibly well, to the point my dumbass understood the nuances hidden in the words. There’s a noticeable focus on making sure it was riveting, and I’d say that mission was a success as far as I go. The buttons were responsive on either platform, and the actions I wanted to execute did. I didn’t find some decisions made for an intuitive experience, but due to the ability to remap in-game, it’s not troublesome. Accessibility is here in some regards, and for me, it’s a slam dunk, but there are some options I couldn’t find, like enlarging text. Whichever console you decide on, the experience is superb and definitely worth a play.
The game doesn’t look bad on Nintendo’s hybrid. Sure, there’s pop in and anti-aliasing, but it’s not a big eyesore, especially on the OLED. Of course, if you did buy it on the PS5, then expect perfection. I was amazed by the visual integrity of it.
The loop is fun, but I did find the balance of finding materials compared to the cost of refining weapons and such felt lopsided. I feel like with a bit of adjusting, Fate/Samurai Remnant would benefit greatly.
The music is great, and it fit the overall setting. I was never taken out of the experience. The voice work was well-done, and the Japanese only feels appropriate. As a pleb that enjoys a good dub, I have to admit it would stick out here.
There’s not too much I can say. I like hacking my enemies and going on rampages. Yeah, I could see the combat system adopting the Musou ideology being a hindrance, but I friggin adore it.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Fate/Samurai Remnant is available now on PS4, PS5, PC and Switch.
Reviewed on PS5. Comparisons also made with the Switch version when noted.
A copy of Fate/Samurai Remnant was provided by the publisher.