Being considered a niche game in the past, Fire Emblem has made a huge leap in the mainstream direction. Fire Emblem Awakening was a tremendous success all around the world and introduced many people to the hardcore strategy JRPG genre and the long-ongoing series which once started on the NES. Let’s find out if Fire Emblem Fates meets the high standards Awakening has set.
Like in the last game, you are free to create your very own main character. This avatar, also referred to as Corrin, is on the verge of making an important decision. Will he choose the family that raised him, or the one he actually originates from? While the first six chapters play out the same in both versions of the game, the sixth lets you decide which path you will follow the rest of the story. Since there are two sides to be chosen, there have to be plenty of people involved. The series introduces more characters than ever, but provides them with new diversified looks. When you choose the side of Nohr, strong medieval knights and lancers will accompany you. The Hoshidan kingdom, on the other hand, has plenty of samurai and other East Asian military archetypes to offer. Even though including so many influences, Yusuke Kozaki stays true to his original art style, which allows fans of Awakening to come back to something completely new, which also feels pleasantly familiar.
Birthright vs. Conquest
For the first time in forever, a Fire Emblem title is split into two different games: Birthright and Conquest. Nintendo fails to communicate that Conquest is incredibly harder than its counterpart Birthright, which is focussed on people who play Fire Emblem for the story and shipping elements. Even with the returning Casual Mode, Conquest will crush your soul by limiting resources to an extreme minimum. This sadly takes away an important part of the game, as it’s fairly hard to get the most of the social bonding part while being limited to such a low amount of characters to be leveled up. I kind of understand Nintendo’s motives for the decision to split Fire Emblem Fates, but I would prefer a combined and therefore balanced game with both the important parts that made the series so great.
Be my waifu
The one thing that allowed Fire Emblem to accumulate its level of fame and popularity was Awakening’s take on its shipping system. In Fire Emblem Fates your characters again are able to fall in love with each other – and this time even with the same gender. However, this feature is only limited to characters who don’t need to get children in order to develop the plot. In all cases, Fates heavily builds on these aspects by allowing you to put work into designing your own fort to your likes. The original Japanese version of both games even featured the so-called petting mini-game, which allowed you to touch certain characters with your stylus on the touch pad to tighten your relationships after inviting them into your private quarters. You might see now in which direction the series is heading, and as much I like this approach, there are quite some consequences attached. With the stronger focus on character relationships, the danger of losing your love interest in fight is much lower than ever. As the story plays such an important part in Fates, plot armor is necessary to preserve the red line of the narrative. This means that the sudden death, which was once so typical for the franchise, plays a much smaller role in this new iteration.
Two is better than one?
Fire Emblem Fates stands out as a superb reincarnation of 2013’s rise of the series. While being utterly similar to the approach of the last game, it builds upon the most beloved parts of the franchise to grow even fonder in the fans’ hearts, and heavier in their wallets. This also results in moving away from its origin and towards a new generation of players, eager to ship anyone with anything. While Birthright will fill your needs of finding attachment on your 3DS, Conquest will consume many sleepless nights of your beloved fighters dying – and if you fancy something in between, you’re basically screwed.
What we liked:
- Amazing character design
- Enjoyable shipping
- Focus on story
- Established combat system
What we didn’t like:
- Plot armor
- Split into two games
This review was written using a Nintendo 3DS review code provided by Nintendo. Are you ready to jump back into the Fire Emblem series? Which side will you choose? Tell us in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!