Kataron’s Visual Novel Playhouse #4: Katawa Shoujo

Howdy, folks. Visual Novel time again! And this time, we’re here to talk about Katawa Shoujo.


Logo! I really don’t know what else to say about this image.

This particular Visual Novel has a fair amount of controversy surrounding it, for multiple reasons. First off, the name itself had a bit of trouble. Katawa Shoujo translates roughly to Disability Girl, although apparently Katawa ends up being translated a little more harshly than that, so it comes out as Cripple Girl. Either way sounds bad, I know. But it sort of works for the context of the game. In this game, you play as Hisao Nakai, a character who has arrhythmia, which means that his heart doesn’t work properly and may beat faster or slower than it should. Either one is bad. He ends up at a school that focuses on helping disabled teenagers become productive members of society.


So…You probably either knew all this coming into this discussion, or you’re just putting the pieces together now. Either way, yes, the game is about you romancing one of five different girls with varying physical disabilities. And yes, that’s kind of a risque subject to go to for making a VN, but given where it came from…


This project all came about from a single piece of art that popped up on 4chan some years back. It was drawn by a doujinshi artist, someone who self-publishes their own work. So manga and stuff, drawn by the artist, and then they handle all the other aspects too, instead of being part of a big company that does it all. That bit’s not super important to the idea, but more knowledge is better than less. At any rate, this image popped up on 4chan’s /a/ board, and it got people talking. And before you go any further, you should probably be aware that despite its reputation, not ALL of 4chan is a festering cesspit full of awful images and terrible people. Granted, that’s there, but those folk, generally referring to themselves as /b/tards, tend to hang out on 4chan’s “random” message board, also referred to as /b/. The rest of the boards have their own set purpose, varying from wallpapers and backgrounds, television and film, gaming, and just all manner of pornography. But usually when you hear 4chan referenced, people are talking specifically about /b/ and those who dwell within it.


So the image popped up, this one right above here. And that…inspired people, I guess? They came together, and quickly, and ended up forming a makeshift production company, called Four Leaf Studios, naming themselves after the four leaf logo of 4chan. And they worked. For five years, they worked at this game. When it was finally released, it was free, controversial, and a huge hit.


A game which translates to “Cripple Girl”, by a company of folks from 4chan, wherein you meet and date girls with physical disabilities. And you can sleep with them. What could go wrong, right? People were all set up to hate this game. But that’s when things ended up taking a turn that not many people expected. The game was…good. The game was VERY good. And today we’re going to talk about why.



To start things off, this game is mechanically beautiful. Even disregarding all of the content, the game is BUILT fantastically. I was particularly pleased when I accidentally skipped over something in the text of the game, and scrolled back up to see what it was. I expected the game to do what most other VN’s I’ve played have done, and let me see a text log of whatever was said. Instead, it simply rewound the game by one screen and showed me what was happening. So not only do I see the text, I also see the character with whatever expression they had when they said the text, and I miss nothing. AND if you scroll up and down really quickly, you can make the characters look like they’re dancing. Not that I wasted my time on that…more than a couple times.


So mechanically? Impressive off the bat. The soundtrack? Forty-six different songs of varied emotions and length, most of them quite good. In fact, I’m listening to it right now as I write this.


But the best part, the best part by FAR, were the characters and the story. Each route can be quite a bit different, ranging in both content and length, as well as interactivity, but each route is worth the time and effort. Well, mostly. And probably the most impressive feat in the game was how well they handled the subject of the disabilities. It was all handled with a respect I would have not thought possible coming from 4chan. Most companies wouldn’t touch subject like this, but these folks disregarded the stigma and went for it with gusto, and ended up crafting a world of interesting and unique characters.


And as mentioned briefly earlier, you CAN sleep with the girls of Katawa Shoujo. There are sex scenes in the game. Which can be weird. But they’re handled pretty well, some of them are even relevant story-wise, and there’s an option in the options menu to turn the sex scenes off. So if that sort of thing bugs you, you can enjoy the story of the games without the boobies.


So let’s talk about the ladies of Katawa Shoujo, the five (plus one) major characters of the five different routes in the game.


katawashoujocharactersFrom left to right: Lilly, Hanako, Rin, Shizune, and Emi. Adorableness abounds.


First up, to clear up any confusion about the plus one bit there, is the Student Council President, Shizune Hakamichi. She may be deaf and mute, but she’s still the President. With her best friend and fellow council member, Misha as her translator, co-conspirator, and minion, Shizune manages to rule the school and keep things going. She can be a bit of a hardass when it comes to doing things “the right way”, and getting work done above all else, but she also has a playful side. And by playful, I mean she will whoop your butt at Risk or any other game, and will also force you to wager on the outcome. Not for money, but you may end up owing her a favour or two. Watch out for her, she’s easily the most manipulative of the game’s heroines.


Next up is Lilly Satou, the blind class rep from across the hall, and mortal enemy of Shizune. A former student council member herself, Lilly prefers a more laid-back approach to management, rather than Shizune’s slave-driver method. Whereas Shizune is rarely seen without Misha, Lilly travels everywhere with her friend Hanako Ikezawa. But unlike Misha, Hanako has her own route, so we’ll be discussing her in a few paragraphs. Lilly doesn’t rely so much on Hanako as Shizune does Misha, but in this case Lilly tends to end up in a motherly role for those she meets. She’s kind, caring, and patient. All qualities that befit a mother. She’s also a prim and proper lady, coming from a wealthy foreign family. Hers was also my favourite route in the game, all things considered.


Then there’s Emi Ibarazaki, the most energetic and outgoing of the game’s characters. She’s missing both her legs just below the knees, after getting into a nasty car crash years earlier. She doesn’t let that stop her, or even slow her down, and has since mastered her prosthetic legs to the point that she can run track with them. She refers to herself as “the fastest thing on no legs”, and this is no lie. She can lap your character with ease. Although to be fair, your character DOES have a heart disorder. Emi spends all of time either hanging out with her friend Rin, or running at the track. She can be a bit of an airhead at times, and isn’t the brighest of the game’s characters, but makes up for that with heart. And also cuteness.


Rin Tezuka is up next. Assigned the room next to Emi because they were deemed suitable for one another, Rin is an artist who spends most of her time staring blankly at clouds or other inanimate objects, and then painting strange and beautiful pieces of art. She also doesn’t have any arms, so she does all of her artwork with her feet. She’s probably the strangest character in the game, rivaling even the dude who lives across the hall from you (who believes that feminists are moments away from launching an all out attack on men everywhere and taking over the world). Her route is the most complicated of them, because interacting with her is just…difficult. She doesn’t say much, stares blankly a lot, and is just generally a strange person. Not my favourite route, but interesting if nothing else.


And last up is Hanako Ikezawa. A shy girl who literally flees from you the first time you talk to her, Hanako’s only friend in the school is Lilly. Not just her only friend, but pretty much the only person she doesn’t actively run away from. She can be tricky to befriend, but once you get your foot in the figurative door, things get easier. She suffers from burns down the right side of her body, face, arm, torso. She was in a house fire when she was much younger. Which is one of the main reasons she hangs out with Lilly. She’s blind, so to her, Hanako is just another student, another friend.


All right. So those are the five heroines of the game, the five different routes you can go through, the five different ladies you can date. Some of the routes are awesome, some of them are just…confusing. Each route had its own different writer, so each story has its own distinct feel to it. And honestly? That’s a pretty good way of handling it, to make the routes more unique, instead of just more of the same.


The routes vary in length, time period covered, and interactivity. Some of the routes have a number of choices you can make to determine your eventual end. One of the routes has only one choice separating the good end from the bad end. In my opinion, either method is acceptable. Some people would like more choices, but personally I’m in it for the story, and as long as I’m interested, I’m having a good time. Although more choices can make you more invested in the outcome, as you’ve played a larger hand in making it happen.


The game is divided into four acts, in each route. The first act is shared by all five routes, the next three acts are unique for each character as you get to know them and experience their story. Act one is always the same, and will be the determining factor in which route you get locked into. There are a lot of choices in this act, as there are a lot of things that go differently depending on which girls you try to befriend. And there’s always the chance you’ll just mess things up and end the game drinking on the roof with the crazy dude across the hall.


I won’t go into the different routes in this write-up (that’s going to be coming up next time), but overall they were quite enjoyable. And again, surprisingly respectful to the characters and their disabilities. Each route was written by a different person, which gives them all a much more unique feel to them. Plus each route has its own supporting characters, some popping up briefly in other routes and some never seen outside of one route in particular. Except Kenji, that dude is just…everywhere.


katawakenjiYou and me, Kenji. WE DON’T NEED ANYBODY.


So that’s it for now, that’s what I know about Katawa Shoujo. Well, aside from the contents of the various routes. That will be a whole different thing, to keep this one here relatively spoiler-free. If you’re interested at all in Katawa Shoujo, you should check it out. It’s completely free on their website. And again, the options allow you to turn off any sort of adult content, so there’s no need to worry about that if that’s not your cup of tea. It’s a damn fine game, and even now (a couple months after I played it), the soundtrack still evokes all sorts of emotions in me. Good ones, bad ones, and whatever ones you feel when Rin’s on screen. Still not sure.


Duke Watches: Space☆Dandy

Howdy, folks. Duke here again, with more anime-watching goodness!


This time around, the series I’ve chosen to consume is Space Dandy. I’d heard about this one well before it actually came out, as the director of this particular anime is the same gentleman who brought us such delights as Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. So even before it got going, it had a lot to live up to, and a lot of hype. And when it ended up coming out, it definitely got some criticism from viewers for not being what they expected. They wanted something more along the lines of the previous shows, with more of an overarching and possibly serious plot. If you want an epic adventure of science fiction with a serious and far-reaching story, then this is NOT the anime for you. If you want to see a dude run around in space and get up to mischief, with absolutely NO effort at continuity or seriousness, then this is something you might be interested in checking out.


The first episode came as a bit of a shock to me, as I (like many others) was expecting something more in line with the previous shows. However, once I was able to shed my assumptions and take the show for what it was rather than what it might have been, I found myself having a good time.


But be warned, the humour of the series might not be for everybody. If you’re not okay with crude humour and animated boobs EVERYWHERE, then you should probably watch something else. The series spends a lot of time hanging around a “breastaurant” simply called “BooBies” (picture Hooters but with aliens also in skimpy outfits). They meet one of the crew there (a customer, not a busty employee), and the FIRST thing the main character goes into after the opening of the first episode is how boobs aren’t everything, butts are important too. If that’s the sort of humour you can get behind (no pun intended), then you will probably enjoy the show. If that’s not your cup of tea, then ah well. No harm done, just watch something else instead.



There’s more than meets the eye to Dandy’s Spaceship. Or at least, there was in one episode.


All right. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get into the series. The show has three main characters. Dandy, an incompetent alien hunter with a penchant for scantily clad women. QT, an incompetent and outdated robot that (somewhat) functions as Dandy’s sidekick and pilot. And Meow, the incompetent cat-like alien that they meet in episode one who becomes their companion. Sensing a pattern here? That’s right, whereas Cowboy Bebop had a crew of hardened bounty hunters with all sorts of skills, and Samurai Champloo focused on a couple of skilled warriors, the main characters of this show are idiots. Just complete morons. Their job is to find new aliens and bring them in to be registered. Undiscovered alien species are worth a lot of money, if you’re the first one to bring one in and claim the reward.


That’s all you really need to get into the show. I can’t really discuss the plot, as each episode is entirely stand-alone. The first episode introduces a new character, Meow, but aside from that every single episode is completely independent of every other episode. So much so that despite the fact that it always says “to be continued” at the end of the show, when the next episode starts all is forgotten. Character died in the last episode? Eh, whatever, don’t sweat the details. Planet blew up? I don’t remember that, might as well just go on with the show. Characters get left behind or infected with horrible viruses? Whoa man, don’t get so bogged down in trivial stuff. Just go to the next episode. So obviously, given that there is NO continuity whatsoever, a higher plot is kind of out of the question. Instead, each episode is an adventure within itself, where the crew goes out and screws something up.


They really go all over the place with their episodes. I mean, there’s a zombie episode. I won’t go into any details, because it’s better that way, but it was hilarious. I may be biased because of my unhealthy love for all things zombie, but I stand by it. It’s a well-built world, too. Apparently each different alien species was created by a different artist, so there is a LOT of variety when it comes to the various aliens you’ll run across in the show.
With that said, some of the episodes are better than the others. Episode five, for instance, is in my opinion the high point of the entire series. Dandy learns about life and love, and that maybe money isn’t the most important thing. Plus there’s one PARTICULARLY FANTASTIC montage scene, complete with awesome music. Does it make any difference whatsoever when they get to the next episode, where aliens are waging a war about underpants versus vests? Nope! It’s completely ridiculous, but I enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, there’s only one episode that didn’t do it for me, one involving giant sentient plants. Aside from that, I had a blast with the assorted adventures of Dandy and his crew.



Dandy doesn’t spend any time worrying about what’s going on. He just does things. Awesome things.

What I was expecting most, when I first heard about this series, was an awesome soundtrack. Cowboy Bebop had some amazing jazz to it. Samurai Champloo had some awesome hip hop music. But I found Space Dandy’s style of music a bit harder to define. It’s best to do with examples. Rest assured, however, the music in this show is up to par. It’s what I was most expecting from this series, and I did not walk away disappointed. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack over and over again, and can’t wait for the next season of the show to see what else I’ll get to listen to.


Other than that, there’s unfortunately not much to say about this show. There’s only thirteen episodes so far, and with each episode being completely stand-alone, there’s no real plot to discuss. By now, you should have somewhat of an idea whether the show is for you. It’s easy to pick up, since you don’t have to remember any plot. This one is available for stream through Funimation’s website, so it’s free to check out. The second season will be starting this summer, with more crazy adventures in space. There’s no telling what they’re going to screw up next time.


Duke Watches: Log Horizon

Howdy, folks. Duke here. It’s time to talk about anime again! This time around it’s Log Horizon, a recent series. Spoiler alert, it was awesome.


So this anime is another video game one, wherein players are trapped in an MMO. This may sound VERY familiar to you, and yes, it’s a premise that’s been used before. Sword Art Online being the one that comes to mind right away, but to a lesser extent it’s similar to the dot-hack series (if I recall correctly, in the first iteration of that series it was only ONE character trapped in the game, whereas the two others it’s all players). But while the series may not be breaking new ground, I found it to be VASTLY superior, especially to Sword Art Online. SAO was an interesting concept, and started off interesting, but quickly got muddled up with a romantic subplot which became more of a main plot as the series went on. It ended up dragging the show down, especially after they added the child thing. At least, in my opinion.

After Sword Art Online, I was hesitant to check the show out, but a friend had mentioned multiple times about how good it was. So I ended up folding and watching the entire thing in a couple of sittings. And I was pleasantly surprised at the result.


loghorizongriffonHere’s one of the characters just being awesome.


As mentioned, the show is about an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game in which the players become trapped after the release of a new expansion pack. Whereas there were more justifications for how this happened in Sword Art Online, this series doesn’t really dwell on it. In SAO, there were virtual reality headset things that allowed the players to experience it, but I don’t recall anything like that in Log Horizon. So it leaves open the question of exactly how they got trapped in the game, what’s happening to their real-life bodies (presuming they weren’t transported in whole into the game somehow), and other similar questions. But honestly? I couldn’t care less about the justifications. Whatever plot device they would use to make it work is entirely irrelevant to me as a viewer, I just want to see what goes on while they’re in the game.


The game itself is pretty cool, too. If given the option to play the game of Sword Art Online or Log Horizon, I would take Log Horizon in a second. Their game features a really interesting map that’s actually just a partially ruined version of Japan. So players find themselves in a place that is both familiar and not, all at the same time. A very neat world, even before you get into the overall mechanics of it. I mean, in any sort of realistic sense, it’s completely unfeasible to build such a huge world based on the real one and keep things both true to reality and interesting as a game. But since getting bogged down in details like that runs counter to my enjoyment of a show, I’m not going to care about the realism of it.


At this point I’m going to note that I have played a lot of MMO’s in the past. Particularly World of Warcraft, in which I was in a raiding and roleplaying guild (Kingship of the East on the Emerald Dream server, if you’re curious) before I got burned out and couldn’t bring myself to keep playing. Which can happen if you’re raiding three nights a week for an entire expansion. There were a lot of times in the show where I could clearly see the influence of games in the design and direction of what was going on. As a gamer, I loved all that stuff, and it was nice to see that they understood a fair bit about how the games worked. Seems like an obvious thing when writing something like that, but if you mess it up, people notice.


The characters in the show? To be frank, I’ve seen better, but they serve their purpose and remain to be entertaining. The main character ends up not being some crazy overpowered dual-wielding warrior, and instead is just a smart dude. He’s not the guy in the raid tanking or topping the damage charts, he’s the one giving the orders while still maintaining his own role. The voice in your ear that you follow unconditionally, because you know that they know what they’re talking about. I like this type of main character more, the smart kind rather than the strong kind. Things tend to get solved in a more interesting way with them.
Add to that his two main companions, a female ninja who serves the main character after he does her a favour in the first episode. She starts off as a male character, playing the opposite of her usual gender to avoid the…attention that can be given to female characters in games like that. Which is funny, because in my experience it’s generally the other way around, with male players playing as female characters. I saw a LOT of that in World of Warcraft. I always found roleplaying as the opposite gender to be weird, but I’m not gonna judge. So the main character has his ninja companion, and then another dude from back in his raiding days, a heavily armoured tanking character who also happens to be hilariously perverted. Add to this a very fatherly cat-man who is always ready to give advice or slash things up with rapiers, and you make up the main cast. There are others, of course, but they come in later and tend to take side roles in the show.


loghorizoncharactersHere we have the main cast of characters. The four I mentioned, plus some others that join along the way.


So that’s the characters and general backstory as to what’s going on. Where the show really shines, however, is the plot. And no, not THAT kind of plot, you perverts. The story. The story!


In fact, it was my friend’s brief description of some of the story that convinced me to finally give the show a shot. In Log Horizon, it’s not all about fighting monsters and such. That’s DEFINITELY a part of it, and it comes into play regularly, but it’s usually because of other plot points. We end up getting stories about things like in-game stalking, whether NPC characters have rights, exploitation of lower level characters by the more powerful ones, giving lower level characters the tools and skills needed to get by in what is now not just a game but their very lives. Add to that kingdoms of NPC’s, the idea of quests and rewards, and what players can do (good or bad) when left to their own devices, and we have a good idea of what we’ll come across in the show. Diplomatic relations with NPC cities and people, as well as guild politics and intrigue? Oh, yes please.


And while there IS some romance subplot, it stays just that. Subplot. It pops up every now and then, but it doesn’t envelop the entire show and drag it down into a mess of ridiculous nonsense. It’s really easy to do romance subplot wrong, but I found myself enjoying it with this show. It manages to stay funny, and it doesn’t interfere with the regular plot of the series. It can be a little weird at times, but since it stays in the realm of humour, I found it okay.


I won’t lie, I haven’t exactly been subtle about my digs in this against Sword Art Online. Some may find it inappropriate to draw so many comparisons between the two shows, as SAO has a much more heavy focus on romance, so the story ends up being quite different. But given that they’re both shows about players getting trapped in an MMO, it’s going to be obvious that connections will be drawn between them. They both go about their stories in COMPLETELY different ways. And I’m not saying that there’s a right way or a wrong way. I am saying, however, that I have no interest in the next season of Sword Art Online, but find myself waiting with eager anticipation for more Log Horizon. Just sayin’.


loghorizonglassesBut I mean, in terms of glasses being pushed up noses, Log Horizon comes out WAY ahead. If that’s your standard for measuring anime.


So obviously, personally, I loved it. The whole damn thing. It may not be your cup of tea, but if you like the idea of some of the story points I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, you really should check it out. It would probably appeal to you more if you’re more familiar with MMO’s and such, but either way it has some cool ideas. And the whole thing is up on Crunchyroll right now, so you don’t even have to be a dirty pirate to enjoy it. Plus the next season will be coming up this Fall! They’ve already introduced the world, the main cast of characters, and given us an idea of what’s going on. So now we have the set-up out of the way, hopefully the next season will have even more fun and intrigue.


Kataron’s Visual Novel Playhouse #3 – Fate/Stay Night Route Examination

Howdy, folks! Duke here. This is the second part in a two-part look at this game, the first being an overall examination of the franchise, this one being a much more in-depth view of the game itself and its three routes. I won’t go into the mechanics, though, as they are fairly basic for a Visual Novel (and this one IS a ten year old one at that).


So for now, we’ll be delving more into the three individual routes. At this point, we will be entering into spoiler territory. Read ahead only if you are familiar with the series, or if you don’t care about plot points and desire to be spoiled.


emiyashirouWondering why his arm is wrapped up? Spoilers! You’ll have to go down to the Heaven’s Feel route section for that.


We’ll start with the Fate route. Because…Well, it’s first. It’s also the route that the anime covers. Mostly. It also contains some elements from other routes, but not enough that the routes get spoiled. So this was the route that I was the most familiar with going in. This is also known as the Saber route, because Saber is the lady you romance in it. Well…There’s also a threesome, but let’s not get into that.


So you, playing as the main character, Emiya Shirou, summon Saber and enter into the Holy Grail War (if you are wondering what this is, refer back to the previous article discussing the series). You are barely even an apprentice magus, having learned magic only through your adopted father, who died before the game begins. He was not keen on the rules of the magic world, so your training was not nearly what it would have been for a normal magus, and definitely not what it should be for entering the Holy Grail War.


So you, relatively untrained magus, summon a servant and enter a war that you knew nothing about, against mages that are MUCH more talented than you are. But hey, it’s a video game, and everybody loves the underdog. Thankfully, you team up with Tohsaka Rin, another master in the war. Partly because she doesn’t view you as a threat, partly because she’s kind of into you, and partly because your servant injured hers early on and she feels that you owe her for that.


The game progresses as you wander around and die in a variety of entertaining ways. Each death has its own “Tiger dojo”, where you are scolded by one of your teachers (named Taiga, because wordplay is yay) for dying , as well as one of the other masters. It’s odd being sometimes scolded for dying BY the character who killed you, but hey, why not. I put a lot of work into dying in every conceivable way, because honestly, the death scolding was pretty entertaining. And helpful, if you don’t know what you’re doing. Sometimes you’ll get vague hints, telling you to be brave or to rely on others, but sometimes you will get VERY specific hints, like not having enough love flags with a certain character, and where to get them. There are a total of fourteen deaths in the Fate route, out of forty in the entire game.


This route is the first one, so it introduces you to all of the other servants, though it gives a lot of focus to Berserker, who you learn is Hercules. That’s right. They took an already ridiculously powerful hero, Hercules, stripped him of his sanity, and made him even stronger. With a blood thirsty yet adorable young girl as its master. Oh, and since we’re discussing identities, Saber is actually King Arthur. Yes, King Arthur is a lady in this series. The only other servants you learn the identity of in this route are Assassin and Lancer. Lancer, because he uses his Noble Phantasm like…right off the bat. He’s Cu Chulainn, hero of Ireland. Assassin is Sasaki Kojirou, who just comes out and introduces himself when he faces off against Saber. Talk about a gentleman.


You fight everybody in this route except Archer. Well, except Tohsaka Rin’s Archer, anyway. The final fight in this route is against Gilgamesh, an Archer hero who should not be in the world, but has in fact remained since the last Holy Grail War, ten years prior to this one. In fact, he plays a large role in the prequel anime, Fate/zero, where he is the servant of Rin’s father. But that’s a whole different series. Rest assured, he’s a bad guy. Also, one interesting tidbit about this route, it’s the only route in which Rider actually RIDES something. In this route, she has her pegasus mount that gets utilized in a big fight between her and Saber. In the other two routes, she just…doesn’t use it. I don’t know why.


So Saber goes around fighting everybody, and the Holy Grail war ends with her destroying the Holy Grail. Turns out, the whole thing was evil. Surprise! It’s…Somewhat more complicated than that, but I won’t get too much into it. Just take my word for it. It’s bad news, needed to be destroyed. It’s also entertaining, because it’s the second Holy Grail that Saber’s smashed up. But this time she’s down with it, as she knows a little more about it than she did in Fate/Zero, when she was kept in the dark about a lot of things that were going on.


Route over, everything goes back to normal. This route takes a while because it has to explain to the player about all of the intricacies of being a master, more about the servants, all that stuff. Things discussed in the overview article. Later routes get to skip that information, because you can’t get to them without first clearing the Fate route.


So let’s move on to route number two!


Unlimited Blade Works.


unlimitedbladeworksOkay, these blades? They may not LOOK unlimited, but there’s…more of ‘em. An unlimited amount. Yeah.


This route focuses VERY heavily on Tohsaka’s Archer, and you learn a lot more about his character. This is also easily my favourite route in the game, because not only is Rin my favourite love interest in the series (what can I say, tsundere does it for me), but her Archer is my favourite servant, even if he’s kind of a douche in this route.


This route splits from the Fate route early on in the story. When you first encounter Archer, right after summoning Saber and fighting off Lancer, you get the choice to stop Saber from attacking Archer, or letting her do her thing. In the Fate route, this choice is not offered, and Saber automatically attacks (and injures) Archer, before you can determine that he’s with Rin, and that if you wanna hit that (Rin, not Archer), you should probably leave him alone. And given that this is technically an eroge (albeit one with an awesome story that is worth it without the lovin’), you wanna hit that.


In the Fate route, Berserker and then other Archer (it’s easier to just refer to him as Gilgamesh, so from now on Archer will be Rin’s servant, and Gilgamesh will be…Gilgamesh) were the main enemies. In this one, Caster is going to be the big hitter instead of Berserker. Gilgamesh is still around for the very end, but the fight is MUCH different in this route than in the first one. And as a big surprise foe, you have to deal with a traitorous Archer. Yes. Rin’s Archer. He’s the main focus of this route, which is why it’s my favourite of the three routes.


Okay. So to properly understand this route, you need to know how the servants work. Servants are heroic spirits summoned from throughout time. A hero becomes a heroic spirit when he makes a bargain with a mysterious being. They agree to become heroic spirits, to be called upon when humanity is on the verge of falling (and also for fights for Holy Grails, apparently), and in turn they get…Well, whatever they bargain for. Now that you know that, Archer’s reasoning for his betrayal might make a little more sense.


So in the last route, we learned that Saber is King Arthur, that Assassin is Sasaki Kojirou, that Lancer is Cu Chulainn, and that Berserker is Hercules. This time around we learn that Caster is Medea, from Greek history. She’s the first big bad guy in this route, sucking life out of various innocent people and putting them into mysterious comas. She uses her power to summon her own servant, Assassin. That’s right, Assassin was summoned BY Caster. What a bitch. She also killed her master early on, and formed a new contract with a man who isn’t even a magus. But while he’s not a proper magus, he IS a cold-hearted murderer who feels no remorse for anything and uses Caster to increase his own powers to fight alongside his servant. He’s also a teacher at the school where you, as a character, attend. He shows up in the anime as an enemy, but barely actually plays a role in the first route. This route, however, he is present and ready to beat you to death with his bare hands.


I won’t go into all the details of defeating them, but they’re small fry compared to the next enemy you face. Which is Rin’s Archer! You also learn his identity. You learn that he is…in fact…wait for it…Emiya Shirou! If I haven’t made it clear enough up to this point in the article, then I’d like to apologize. But that’s you. Archer is the character that YOU play as, but from the future. Or from a parallel dimension. Or from some such nonsense. He takes the only magic your character is good at, projection, and refines it into an art form. For whatever reason, your character has the ability to basically conjure swords out of thin air using his magic. Which is also what Archer can do. Except he’s much, much, much better at it than you are. His only goal in entering the Holy Grail War is to find and kill Emiya Shirou. He wants to do this because he regrets having become a heroic spirit. He thought that he would be called upon to save humanity and be a hero. Instead, he finds himself called upon to kill people. Going from being Emiya Shirou, someone who tries his best to find the path where nobody dies, this is a pretty big change. He’s trying to kill Emiya Shirou before he can make the contract and become a heroic spirit.


One of the best things about this route is that you do most of the fighting yourself, instead of relying so heavily on your servant. He does this by observing fights with Archer (before the whole…mutiny thing) and finds himself copying his fighting style. Which makes sense, given that it’s a future version of him. Of course the fighting style would be suitable. Your character grows a lot more powerful, and ends up facing off against Archer himself. Man against servant. The whole fight is really cool, and is probably the best part about the anime adaptation, the Unlimited Blade Works movie. You face off against him, but your resolve ends up being greater, and you defeat your future self. Nice! High five!


You also end up facing off against Gilgamesh, a the other Archer, the ancient ruler of Mesopotamia, the ruler said to own all things in the world. Going along with the whole…owning everything bit, he has a seemingly endless supply of Noble Phantasms. Where each hero should have only one unique weapon that corresponds with who they were when they were alive, Gilgamesh has an unending supply of them. Which, entertainingly, makes Archer or you the best choice of character to fight against him. Whereas he can summon all of the weapons he has in his magic vault, you can use your own magic to copy those weapons and fight against them on (somewhat) even ground. It leads to a really neat fight.



And here we have Archer looking awesome after crashing right through Rin’s ceiling. Take that, ceiling!

Like I said, this was my favourite route in the game. The first route, and ESPECIALLY in the anime, it was hinted that Archer was a future version of your character, but getting not only confirmation, but a face-off against him? Oh yes. Not to mention getting a lot more from Caster and her unorthodox master who fights along-side his servant. The whole route was a lot of fun. And unlike the first route, which featured only one ending, this route has two different endings. Either the “true” ending, or the “good” ending. The good ending features Saber existing on after the Holy Grail War with your character and Rin’s. Personally, after getting a lot of Saber in the first route, I was more fond of the “true” ending, in which Saber fades from the world and you and Rin become a serious item. I’m probably biased, however, as Rin was my favourite love-interest in the series. Again, I dig the tsundere chicks. Sue me.


And now for the final route of the game!


Heaven’s Feel.


This route is a LOT darker than the other routes. I mean, damn. In this route, the leading lady is Sakura, the sister of a friend of the main character. I use the term friend loosely, as the guy was a complete asshole, and turned out to be the master of Rider, trying to kill you. In this route, it turns out that Sakura, the meek and shy girl you had thought to have no part in the war, is Rider’s true master. It also turns out that she’s Rin’s biological sister, given up for adoption to another family with magical history. If you’ve seen the Fate/zero anime, you will probably already be familiar with a lot of this.


Each magic family practices a drastically different kind of magic. The Tohsaka family specialized in crystal magic, storing magic in gems for later use. The Einzbern family specializes in homunculus magic (and being goddamn adorable), creating fake people out of magic. The Matou family practices bug magic. And yes, that is just about as gross as it sounds. So Sakura is taken in by the bug folk, and is cultivated into a “proper” heir to their magic. By locking her up in a basement full of magic bugs being violated both body and mind by gross bugs. I told you this route was dark. And we haven’t even gotten into the scene where her “brother” attempts to rape her…DARK, I TELL YOU. Seriously, this route is REALLY messed up. But since I spent hours going through it, might as well keep talking about it. I won’t be going into too many details, because parts of this route still weird me out, but some of it was pretty cool.



Here’s Rider atop her mount, Pegasus! This is from the anime, and this only occurs in the first route. Still cool though.

So Sakura ends up being the true master of Rider (who we discover is actually Medusa), who had previously been under Shinji’s command. Shinji being her douchey “brother”. Remember, she was adopted into the family. Shinji SHOULD be the true heir to the Matou family magic (seeing as how Sakura is adopted and all), but the little shit was born without a magic circuit in his body, so he is physically incapable of using magic. And he’s also an entitled little asshole. But if it makes you feel any better, he gets brutally murdered in…I think all three routes? At least this route and the Fate route. Heck, in the Fate route he gets smashed by Berserker himself. I can’t remember what happens to him in Unlimited Blade Works, but I think it can be safely assumed that he gets murdered.


This route splits off from the main one slightly earlier than the Unlimited Blade Works route, but only by about half a day. And there are bugs. Eugh. I hate bugs. But that’s what the Matou family is into, so that’s what we get in this route. You also meet up with Sakura’s evil grandfather who seeks immortality and whatnot. You know, generic evil people ambitions. If you’ve followed the series, you’ll recognize him as the father from Fate/Zero, the horrible old man. And he’s no less horrible this time around.


This route seems to like taking what you already know and understand about the story and flip it on its head. Remember the Assassin guarding the temple? He gets bugmurdered, and then his remains are used to summon another Assassin. Which I feel SHOULD be against the rules, but seeing as how Assassin was summoned by Caster, it’s already messed up. This new guy, True Assassin, is Hassan-i Sabbah, and is a lot more reminiscent of the servant(s) used in Fate/Zero.

So mysterious evil forces *cough*Sakura’s douchey grandpa*cough* manage to kill Assassin, PLUS Caster and her master. None of those three characters are pushovers, as we learned in the last route. Oh, and Lancer shows up later to see what all the fuss is. And guess what! He’s killed too, by a big scary shadow monster. And worst of all, the same big scary shadow monster eats Saber. Without Saber, you’re kind of…well, boned. And no, not the bone of your sword.


All right, this is feeling kind of confusing, as this is a more complicated route. So instead of following it entirely, we’re just going to summarize from here on out. Sakura is basically not only the love interest in this route, but also the big bad. She’s host to the shadow monster that ate the other servants, up until the end of the route where she tries to give the monster its own form. Which would be a definitively bad thing. AND she’s being controlled by a magic worm by her evil grandfather.


The shadow monster (which is actually called Angra Mainyu) proceeds to eat all of the other servants, gaining their powers in order to create an evil holy grail to bring itself to life. Or…Something like that. To be honest, I was a bit unclear on what EXACTLY was going on towards the end of the route. All I can tell you is that bad things were happening.


And not ONLY does it eat them, but it manages to puke back up Saber and Berserker as brainwashed evil slaves. You may have seen pictures of Saber Alter floating around, looking all evil and whatnot. So now on top of having to fight against a partially reborn Angra Mainyu, you have to fight against evil versions of two of the most powerful and badass servants. GREAT.



Here’s Saber Alter and evil Sakura for good measure!

Long story short, you and up getting your stupid arm severed and have Archer’s arm grafted on in its place. Given that he’s future you, it kind of works. But not very well, and will most likely end with you being dead. But hey, underdogs always win. So you and Rin go for the big bad, planning to use your projection magic, coupled with your new servant-arm to conjure a mythical sword. You get down there, kill Saber Alter with the help of Rider, and summon the sword. Rider may be Sakura’s servant, but she was specifically ordered well before all of this to assist your character in whatever he was doing. Maybe it was Sakura’s way of making sure things didn’t go too far.

You summon the sword, Rin kicks ass, and in the end, the bad guy is beaten. Angra Mainyu is not going to gain physical form, and Sakura is no longer evil. Score one for the good guys! And much like the Unlimited Blade Works route, this particular route has two distinct ends. Although, with that one both of the routes were good in different ways. This time around, one of them is depressing as hell. In the depressing “normal” end, you sacrifice yourself for the final victory. Sakura waits patiently for you to come back. Which you can’t do, given the whole “dead” thing. So she waits out the rest of her life hoping that you’ll show up, until she finally dies too. Like I said, depressing.


In the “good” end, Ilya sacrifices herself instead. Your body is still destroyed, but part of you lives on. Because why not, everything else in the damn series is magic. Your soul or whatever you want to call it is put into a magical puppet body which behaves just as a normal body would (and is NOT made out of wood or some such nonsense). You live with Sakura and Rider, and things are good. Rin survives, and in the epilogue is just coming back from London to meet with your character and Sakura, who is now acknowledged to be her sister. Everybody’s happy! Except all the people who died along the way.


Sorry if this last route isn’t quite explained well enough. It’s the longest of the three explanations, and I still am nowhere near actually putting to paper what happened during the course of all of this. Just the overall story. I could write a whole article just on the third route and it still probably wouldn’t quite cover everything I have to say about it. Instead, I’m going to choose to hope that the new Fate/stay Night remake might cover it. The Fate route was covered by the first anime, the Unlimited Blade Works route was covered by the movie, all that’s left is Heaven’s Feel. But whether ufotable has the balls to take on this crazy and dark story is still uncertain. Guess we’ll find out when the series starts up in Fall of this year!

Next time on Kataron’s Visual Novel Playhouse, we’ll look at something different. Maybe another Visual Novel by Type/Moon, or maybe something completely different! Maybe even Katawa Shoujo, created by users from 4chan. We’ll find out next time.