Review: Fire Emblem Fates (3DS)

Developed by: Intelligent Systems
Published by: Nintendo

Continuing with the celebration of Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia as well as the success of Fire Emblem in general, I thought it would be fitting to talk about the latest game in the series, Fire Emblem Fates. First announced and teased on a Nintendo Direct in January 2015, Fire Emblem Fates was definitely a game changer. Similar to the Pokemon franchise, Fire Emblem Fates would be receiving multiple different versions of the game, that would be split paths that tell the story differently depending on what game is chosen. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright would have you side with the peace loving kingdom of Hoshido, while Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest would have you ally with the war loving Kingdom of Nohr. Fire Emblem Fates: Revelations, a third version, would have you choose neither side, instead choosing to follow your own path. The games were met with much praise and it was a huge success for Nintendo and Intelligent Systems. However, are these games truly as good as people say? Let’s take a look!

The game starts with the main protagonist (default name Corrin) having a dream of a future battle that takes between the two most powerful kingdoms in the land of……something? The great kingdom of Nohr wishes to invade the kingdom of Hoshido’s land for…..some reason. During this dream, Corrin is taught how to fight by his/her supposed Hoshidian siblings. As the battle concludes, his siblings from Nohr step in to try and take him/her back, but the Hoshidian siblings defend him/her and they start squabbling, ending the prologue of the story. Back in Nohr, Corrin awakes from this dream surrounded by his Nohrian servants, Felicia, Jakob, Gunter and Flora. They inform him/her that he/she has to be prepared for a sparring match with his/her eldest brother, Xander. Corrin meets Xander on the roof top for more tutorials! After the two battle, Xander informs the avatar that it is their time to finally leave their isolated fortress and fight for Nohr. First, they have to travel to the capital of Nohr and meet up with the totally-not-at-all-evil King Garon who wishes to see Corrin’s strength firsthand. He sends out captured Hoshidian soldiers for Corrin to defeat. With the help of Felicia (if the avatar is male) or Jakob (if the avatar is female) as well as Gunter, Corrin defeats the Hoshidian prisoners. Garon asks Corrin to finish them off, however the avatar refuses, believing it to be unfair and sick. As Garon prepares to punish the protagonist, Corrin’s siblings step in to resolve the matter by fake killing the prisoners, calming Garon down. However, Corrin is not off the hook yet, as Garon gives them a task to complete to make up for their failure.

Corrin and a small group of his allies traverse over to the Hoshidian border in order to investigate an abandoned fort to see if it could be usable by Nohr. Once they arrive, however, they soon find out that the area is all but abandoned and Hoshidian soldiers have taken up residence within. One of the allies Garon sent to assist Corrin, Hans, provokes the opposing soldiers and Corrin’s group is left with no choice but to fight. After the battle, Hoshido calls in reinforcements in the form of Hoshido’s High Prince, Ryoma. Before he can arrive however, Corrin’s Nohrian siblings arrive to help bide some time for Corrin and his group to flee. However, Hans has other plans, and decides to attack Corrin’s group, sending Corrin’s servant Gunter off of a bridge. After the loss of their friend, Corrin slowly morphs into some sort of dragon, spooking Hans. Out of fear, Hans reveals to Corrin that King Garon ordered him to murder Corrin. In all the confusion, Corrin falls off of the bridge. As Corrin’s life flashes before their eyes, he is rescued by an unexpected ally. One of their castle assistants, Lilith, reveals herself as an astral dragon and saves Corrin’s life. She teleports Corrin into another plane where they rest up (which is the setting for the bonus content known as “My Castle”). When they return, Corrin is ambushed by an unseen force and knocked out.

Corrin awakens hours later in a village up in the mountains, greeted by two of the Hoshidian prisoners, Rinkah and Kaze. They inform Corrin that they will be taken to the castle for some unexpected news. Once there, Corrin is met by Mikoto, ruller of Hoshido and it is revealed that she is Corrin’s mother. However, before anyone can get time together, Mikoto is informed that her children, Sakura and Hinoka are in trouble, ambushed by Nohrian monsters known as Faceless. With the help of their eldest brother, Ryoma, and the two past prisoners, Corrin defeats the Faceless and saves his sisters. Afterwards, Corrin is given some time ponder his situation and meets up with the mysterious Azura, who reveals she was in a very similar situation to Corrin’s, being a Nohrian princess who was captured by the Hoshidians. However, she holds no resentment towards Hoshido and prefers to live there rather than Nohr, viewing King Garon as a cruel and merciless man. Later on, Mikoto invites Corrin to partake in a ceremony, revealing to all of Hoshido that Corrin is back safe and sound. As the ceremony begins, a hooded figure approaches and ambushes the unsuspecting people of Hoshido. Using the sword that Garon gave as a gift to Corrin, the unknown man uses it to explode the entire area, killing a chunk of the citizens including Mikoto. Outraged, Corrin unlocks their hidden power and becomes a dragon. With this newfound power, they destroys the opposition and the hooded figure fades away. Using her mysterious power through song, Azura calms Corrin down and they revert back to their normal form. After this event, Corrin is gifted with the Yato, one of the sacred treasures of Hoshido and the group is then informed that a Nohrian group is forming at the Hoshido border, led by none other than Corrin’s elder Nohrian brother, Xander. With a newfound resolve, Corrin makes his way to the border with his birthright family, where Corrin has to make the most difficult decision of their life.

I’ll be completely honest, the story in Fates really sucks. And it’s mainly for its wasted potential. Fates has such an incredible premise, choosing which kingdom you wish to side with in the incoming war is immensely fascinating, but only if done right. But it isn’t. You have one ruler that is clearly batshit insane and totally evil, while you have another one who is such a goody-two-shoes. What I’m getting at is that there is hardly and sort of grays displayed in the game. Sure, when you choose the path of Conquest, you are shown that many of your allies are…kinda good-hearted, but it isn’t really enough for it to be even remotely interesting. An idea way better would be to have two kingdoms that weren’t all good and weren’t all bad fighting among each other, and you had to choose which one you thought had the better qualities. You know, something that gives us more gray areas, because that’s far more fascinating than to have yet another battle of good vs. evil. Another thing about the game’s presentation that bugs me is that there is little to no world building in any of the games. You have Nohr, Hoshido, and another named kingdom in the third route, but after those three places, there is nothing. Heck, we aren’t even given what the name of the continent. Most of the previous Fire Emblem games, whether they did it well or not, gave us some sort of illusion that this was a realistic world where people lived. Even The Sacred Stones, one of the shortest games in the series, had a better amount of world building than this game, and that’s just sad. Honestly, there’s hardly much to salvage from the game story wise. It just straight up sucks and it is, in my opinion, the worst in the entire series.

Even if the story sucked, it’s good to see that the gameplay is still great and if not better than previous titles. The gameplay is the same as you might remember it, you are given a group units with their own individual strengths and weaknesses and fight against the opposing army. Something unique to only Fates is that there are three campaigns you can play: the Hoshido route, the Nohr route, and the neither route. The Hoshido route is the easiest, the Nohr route is the hardest, and choosing neither is the medium route. Birthright is made with newcomers in mind and, no offense to newer players, but it just sucks. Every map has mostly the same objective: route the enemy or defeat the Boss with very little to nothing interesting added in between. The Neither route has a few interesting gimmicks added and is a lot more challenging than Birthright, but Conquest definitely has the best maps and gimmicks that really make you think out every move you make.

A new feature added to Fates is that of the Dragon Veins which are things you can interact with in almost every map that can help turn the tides of battle. For instance, using the Dragon Veins in Chapter 20 in the Conquest route can freeze the enemies in place for a single turn. If you could figure out the past route, you can potentially defeat the chapter without fighting a single enemy unit. Another example, Chapter 24 of Conquest, by using the Dragon Vein, you can increase your movement range by a large amount, but by doing so, you also increase the movement of the enemy, forcing the player to think when the best time to make use of the Dragon Veins. It’s an awesome feature that I hope returns in future games.

Fates also introduces the My Castle feature, which is the multiplayer mode of the game. At a certain point of the game, you are given a plot of land you can decorate and customize. You can share this with other players from around the world through Wi-Fi. You can also view other people’s castles and even challenge them in their own castles. Some of the buildings placed in the castle can benefit the players, such as two dragon statues, one that can heal allies for ten health each turn and another that can deplete the enemy unit’s health by a little each turn can really make certain castles difficult to defeat. But by doing so, you can potentially take one of the player’s earned through the campaign and use it as your own.

Other features include and updated version of the Pair Up system from Fire Emblem Awakening, which now allows enemy units to use the system against the player. If a unit is attacked with another unit placed adjacent to them, it will show how much damage the adjacent unit can inflict. Skills return from Path of Radiance and Awakening, throwing newer skills into the mix and nerfing older skills introduced in the earlier games, such as the most powerful skill in Awakening, Galeforce, which allowed you to move again after defeating an enemy unit. Most of the newer skills in the game have a “double edged sword” effect, which can benefit both you and the enemy such as the skill Life and Death which grants the user ten points of damage given and received. Character units also have their own personal skills to go with the ones they can learn. Another interesting feature is that weapons have unlimited uses now. However, to counterbalance this, most of the deadlier weapons in the game have a side effect such as the powerful Silver Lance decreasing your strength after use. Overall, all of the additions made to the game have made Fire Emblem more challenging, but more fun as a result.

While I think this game undoubtedly has the worst story and world building in the entire series, it at the very least stays true to previous Fire Emblem gameplay and in fact makes it even better in some areas. One thing about the games that does irritate me though is how they are split into three versions. Those that want to enjoy the entirety of the game have to pay at the minimum $80, and that’s not even counting the DLC. For those that are looking for a challenge, definitely go for Conquest and Revelations. If you are completely new to Fire Emblem…I suppose you can go for Birthright. Overall, with the exception of the story, the gameplay is still solid and I recommend you pick it up if it’s on a sale. Otherwise, just play Awakening instead. Better story, characters, and world building and it’s actually affordable.

Final Verdict:
Wait for a Sale. Story is the worst in the series, but the gameplay is just as great as it’s ever been.

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