I was looking forward to this route because I’d get to find out just what the hell this Unlimited Blade Works thing was all about. Like I mentioned before, I’ve been constantly reading all of this stuff about how UBW and HF are where it’s at, so I was very, very eager to finally experience creating over a thousand blades and whatnot firsthand. And Fate wasn’t even as terrible as I’d been bracing for, so I was waiting to be blown away.
That excitement was dampened by the realization that I’d have to go through a bunch of school life stuff again. This was my least favourite part of Fate and remains my least favourite part of UBW and HF. The biggest problem I had with this was that there was about as much of it in UBW as Fate did. I’d hoped that with all of the setup that Fate had, we could get through this stuff quicker. Just like Fate, UBW gets good when we get past all of this stuff.
UBW was a very interesting experience for me because it made me realize that my assumptions of what Fate/stay night was about were off. Before playing it, I’d heard that the other routes weren’t about Saber. This was baffling to me, because I’d always thought that Fate/stay night was about Saber. Everything that I knew about F/sn indicated to me that Saber was a central character, if not the central character. After all, she’s essentially Shirou’s ticket into the Holy Grail War and the only way that he can do anything.
Now, I’ve only played a handful of visual novels, so Fate/stay night was yet another interesting take on how interesting the structure of the story for a visual novel can be. Unlike Ever17 or Umineko, where the characters’ motivations and personalities remain pretty constant, Fate/stay night takes more of an alternate universe approach, where enemies in one route become allies in another and background characters from one route are thrust into the limelight in another.
What’s really fascinating is that these alternate universes aren’t equivalent in their importance in the story. In Ever17, each route is different, but it doesn’t really matter which order you go traverse through them since they all serve the same purpose. In Fate/stay night, UBW expands on what we’ve learned from Fate, both in the mechanics of the world and the development of the characters.
UBW is the route that makes it clear that Fate/stay night is about Shirou. You could make the case that Fate was as much about Saber as it was about Shirou. I don’t think you can say the same about Rin and UBW. Yeah, she’s the main heroine of the arc, but unlike Saber, we don’t really get as much illumination or focus on Rin. Instead, it’s Archer that takes Saber’s place in smacking some sense into Shirou.
That’s not to say that Rin doesn’t do anything to help Shirou along. She does, but in a way which is much less noticeable than Archer’s head-on antagonizing Shirou for his ideals. Essentially, the role that Saber played in Fate is split between Rin and Archer. And of course, Archer’s role in Shirou’s development is much greater, given that he’s speaking, as is revealed in the game, from experience.
I can see why everyone loves this arc so much, especially compared with Fate. While Fate is fine as an introductory story with the promise of other routes to follow, I feel like UBW is just as interesting when it’s considered on its own. I hinted at it before, but for me, it was Archer who made the route, not Rin. To be honest, I don’t really like Rin all that much, at least not compared to Saber or Sakura. But I guess I’ll have to head off to HF and decide whether or not it’s better than UBW before I can say that conclusively.