Fate Grand Order & FGO Arcade: The Popular Gacha Phenomenon

If you didn’t already know, Fate/Grand Order is one of the most popular mobile games both inside (and outside of) Japan – a long-running role-playing game with an intricate turn-based battle system, a compelling story, and a wide cast of quirky characters based on history’s most prominent warriors.

To call the Fate series and its mobile game entry Fate Grand Order ‘popular’ would be a huge understatement: the game continually charts on Japan’s various app stores, has tons of merchandise and is generally pretty present in all areas of the ‘otaku’ sphere. It’s well known for its various collaborations with other popular artists from different works, as well as its popularity in independently published manga circles.

As of 2021, the mobile game is the seventh highest-grossing mobile game of all time (estimated at over $5 billion!) with over 32 million downloads and a highly active player base. It’s numbers like these that might make people who aren’t fans of the game wonder exactly what it’s all about.

In addition to the mobile game Fate Grand Order, there is also an arcade version of the game that remains highly popular in Japan’s game centers. This version of the game transforms the tactical 2D battles of the mobile game into a full 3D action-RPG experience, alongside a physical collectable card mechanic that represents the characters you collect the game.

Since arriving in Japan, I’ve been able to enjoy both versions of the game to their fullest,
and concluded that although it may not be the most popular game or franchise in Japan’s ever-evolving pop culture zeitgeist, it’s certainly a name that’s always around.

But what’s the appeal? Is it the right game for you? And if you already love it, how can you access some of the Japan-exclusive merchandise that dominates the shelves of Japan? We’re here to answer all your questions and more.

What is Fate Grand Order?

FGO is arguably the modern culmination of the Fate franchise, a series that started all the way back in the early 2000’s with the release of the now-iconic visual novel Fate/Stay Night. Fate/Stay Night told the story of a young Shirou Emiya’s involvement in the Holy Grail War – a mythical battle fought between the heroic spirits of literature and mythology for control over the Holy Grail. The winner of the Holy Grail war is granted a single wish, making it an immensely desirable prize for the world’s greatest wizards and warriors.

Since Fate/Stay Night, the ‘fate’ franchise exploded in popularity and has gone on to release a number of additional entries across a variety of mediums. From pseudo-sequels and spin-offs to the original Fate/Stay Night to stories set in alternate universes, the Fate franchise has been prolific in the world of Japanese media to say the least. In the past 10 years, a new addition to the Fate series has popped up at least once every couple of years in a variety of mediums.

Fate/Grand Order was released at the height of the franchises’ popularity, intending to capitalize on the success of both mobile games and the flexible nature of Fate’s central premise – with an infinite amount of mythology and literature to draw from, there’s always room for more ‘heroic spirits’ – the cast of characters that keep the wheels spinning in the games intricate gacha character collection system.

The gameplay of Fate Grand Order is both accessible and complex at the same time. After being introduced to the story of the ‘Great Holy Grail War’ in lots of text-heavy story segments, players will be thrust into short turn-based battle sequences, where you’ll control three ‘servants’ – the spirits of legendary heroes from myth and legend.

Each servant will have a selection of different moves to use, drawn from a ‘combat deck’ of cards. From here, you’ll select a few moves per turn, and gradually work on taking down a variety of enemies and rival servants alike.

For most of the game, these battles will be broken up into short encounters that gradually tell you the story of each region that you travel to, which will in turn unfold the story of that region’s mythical hero. The game’s settings include Camelot, Babylon, Medieval France and many more, and tells stories about heroes like King Arthur, Gilgamesh and Joan of Arc (in a rather anime style).

Over the course of the game, you’ll need to level up your servants by augmenting them with experience cards and ‘craft essences’ – cards that add to your servant’s stats. Over time, your servants will ascend to the highest possible levels and take on new appearances and abilities.

Why is Fate Grand Order so popular?

Part of the joy of Fate Grand Order is this aforementioned gradual progression. It’s a game with a huge amount of content, and if you get engrossed in the story, you’ll find yourself with plenty to do! From progressing through each story chapter to developing your servants over time, there’s an appeal to the game’s long-term investment and reward.

In addition, the story is regarded amongst fans of the Fate franchise to be one of the series’ peaks in terms of narrative quality. It’s definitely also the least accessible, and if you haven’t experienced at least one other piece of Fate media you may be a little confused on the basics, but it’s not impossible to get caught up just through Fate Grand Order alone (you’ll need to do a lot of homework, though). It’s a story that just might draw you in with its sprawling, high-fantasy & sci-fi madness.

But the real draw to FGO, some might say, is the game’s huge selection of characters. There’s hundreds of ‘servants’ to collect in Fate Grand Order, each with their own historical backstory, personality and unique designs. The characters are categorized into different classes: Saber, Rider, Caster, Archer, Lancer, Assassin, Berserker – indicating their preferred method of combat.

Many fan favourite characters have emerged from the Fate series. For example, Artoria (also known as their class, Saber) is the Fate series’ revision of King Arthur and has a huge fanbase, owing to their unique design and headstrong personality. Other favourites include the hyperactive Nero Claudius, The hilariously enthusiastic Alexander The Great, and the quirky Miyamoto Musashi. One of the best things about FGO is its ability to transform these iconic figures from history and mythology into these bizarre anime versions. If the story itself doesn’t draw you in, then one of the characters definitely will.

Much like other popular mobile games, the game’s character collection system is based on a ‘gacha’ – a random draw from a large pool of heroes. As you progress through Fate Grand Order, you’ll gather ‘saint quartz’, a currency that can be spent on a chance at summoning new characters. There’s also the option to pay for more ‘saint quartz’ using real money, but you’ll gather plenty just by playing the game.

When you’re summoning characters, there’s a huge element of random chance that ultimately keeps people coming back to the game time after time. With new characters and new versions of popular characters being added to the game all the time, the game appeals to the collector in the same way that TCGs do.

What’s Fate Grand Order Arcade?

Fate Grand Order Arcade

The arcade version of Fate Grand Order is a unique Japan-exclusive arcade version of the mobile game. Although much of the game is similar structurally (go out on battles, collect and level up Servants, progress through a time-travelling story), the game transforms the turn-based battles of the mobile version into more exciting 3D action. The game only offers a portion of the mobile game’s content at the moment, but much like the mobile version, is updated regularly to add new characters and content.

The arcade version also uses an interesting system to turn the characters and items you collect into physical cards printed by the machine. This turns your digital collection into a physical one, with the cards scanned by the machine to identify which characters you have access to.

This adds an even more detailed collection element to a game that already had one. Every card in the game has an incredibly rare shiny variant (known as fatal cards), and there are also seasonal variations for events like the game’s anniversary, Halloween and Christmas. Be warned that if you ever manage to play the arcade version, you will definitely get addicted to collecting rare Servant cards!

Where can I find Fate/Grand Order merchandise?

If you want to get your hands on these special Fate Grand Order Cards outside of Japan (after all, why wouldn’t you? They look pretty cool) or any other FGO merchandise, you’ll need to buy them from an independent seller in Japan. Using Neokyo, we help you with the purchasing process at major Japanese retailers like Yahoo Auctions, Amazon.jp, Rakuten and more!

To find Fate Grand Order merchandise, select your retailer and use our search bar to search up the item that you want. We’ll auto translate searches in English, but you might have more luck finding exactly what you need if you type your search terms in Japanese.

In addition to being able to find the card exclusive to the arcade version of the game, there’s also endless amounts of other Fate GO merchandisescale figures, gachapon collectables, acrylic stands, clear files, manga, music and much more. If you’re already a Fate fanatic – why not explore and see what you can find on our site? If you’re not yet a Fate Fanatic, maybe this article convinced you to give it a shot!

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