I have finally played through all three of the Fire Emblem Fates trio of games — despite the fact that they have been out for about a year and a half. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with this trio, I will admit. Overall, Fates was an excellent addition to the Fire Emblem family, but there were definite aspects of the games that irked me as well. As always, this is just my personal opinion. Feel free to share yours in the comments!
Title: Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, Conquest, Revelations
Release Date: June 2015
Console: Nintendo 3DS
How I got the game: I bought them.
Warning — there may be story spoilers!
Fire Emblem games are a turn-based tactical RPG franchise, allowing the player to raise and direct his/her/their own army of characters. The majority of these games feature a permanent death aspect — once your character’s hit points drops to zero, he/she is dead and gone from the game. The newer installments of this series has different game modes, where the permanent death mode is called Classic (or Lunatic, for an extra challenge) while the Casual mode allows characters to return for the next battle. Fates also introduces the Phoenix mode, which enables fallen characters to revive on the very next turn, allowing even novice tacticians to enjoy the games.
I played the Fates trio of games with the Casual mode because I am a sucker for character development and backstories. The Casual mode also allowed me to enjoy the story of the three games without worrying about any of the characters — such as the secondary protagonists of the avatar’s siblings — dying and missing out on main events.
Like the previous Fire Emblem games, Fates has a plethora of unique characters and classes for said characters. Swordsmasters and Paladins, Troubadours and Clerics, Wyvern Riders and Pegasis Knights, to name a few familiar classes. Birthright and Conquest each star a different kingdom and, thus, have different character classes than the other, some of which are new to the series. Birthright has more lance and dagger/shuriken users like ninjas, while Conquest features more magic-orientated classes like sorcerers. It was an intriguing difference between the pair, with the player needed to adapt to the cultural differences between the countries when it came to creating strategies for battle.
Fates had a Castle feature, a safe spot for the player and the army to rest after each battle. The Castle had the weaponry and item shops, along with fun little features you could build like a hot springs to chat with fellow soldiers, a mess hall where cooks could create dishes to give your soldiers small stat boosts for the next fight, and a private quarters so the avatar can grow closer with the soldiers. The Castle was also the battleground if other online players ever “invaded,” letting you pit your army with another’s.
An important game play feature of the Fire Emblem series is the support system, where two units can grow closer and grant each other stat boosts during battles if they are stationed next to each other — or paired up and sharing a space — often enough during fights. If two units gain enough support, they may marry and have a child unit (if a male/female pairing) or be able to change into each other’s classes (if a same-sex pairing). Fates is the first Fire Emblem game to give the option of a same-sex marriage, but there is only one option per gender and depend on which game you are playing. While both options are available in the third game Revelations, the lesbian option is featured in Birthright while the gay option is in Conquest.
With the marriage aspect of the game, I did find some of the “bonding” experiences to be odd. After marriage, the avatar’s spouse will live with the avatar in their private quarters in the Castle feature. While the little chats could be cute, once in a while you would need to rub the touch screen to wake up your sleeping spouse (half the time I accidentally smacked my husband) or blow through the microphone to, I dunno, dry off your spouse after they had a bath. Perhaps I just don’t understand how that could be appealing or romantic. I know in the Japanese versions of the game there is a patting mini-game, which I probably would also find a little strange.
Child units made a reappearance in Fates after Awakening, unlocking new paralogues and maps that serve to recruit the children into your army. While the characters were interesting, I didn’t feel as if there was a point to the child units. In Awakening, most of the child units were optional as well considering they would exist only if you decided to marry some of your first generation units, but they had a point to the plot. With Fates, the children served to bolster your army (which, I suppose, can be necessary if you’re playing the Classic or Lunatic modes) and for some cute support conversations, but that was it. Indeed, when I was playing Revelations, I only had my unit marry quite far into the story along with one other pair (merely because they had reached that point in their supports).
Despite the few newer features, the game play for Fire Emblem Fates was very similar to the other games in the franchise, and it was fine. You can’t fix what’s not broken, right?
The graphics of this game were wonderful, with clean and smooth cut scenes when appropriate, even if the character models seem to be a bit clunky at times. Considering that the main character is your customizable avatar and its on the screen the majority of the time, the graphics work well. The battle animations weren’t bad, but they did get tedious enough for me to turn off the option to watch them. I preferred to watch the little pixel models smack each other to save time.
The Fire Emblem franchise has some of the best music, and Fates did not disappoint. I adored the main theme and Azura’s song, “Lost in Thoughts All Alone.” The music always matched the tone of the battles, especially during the final fight with a version of Azura’s song playing in the background. There are a couple of versions of “Lost in Thoughts All Alone” available to buy and download, but I’d be ecstatic if I could find the full soundtrack!
The stories for the Fire Emblem Fates trio were okay. I enjoyed them, but having them broken up into three games — even though all three were fully fleshed out — was not my favorite aspect of Fates.
Birthright and Conquest allowed us to follow the respective country — Hoshido and Nohr, respectively — and unique cast of characters while trying to stop a war between the two kingdoms. Birthright was the avatar’s original home kingdom and family, and the avatar helps to defend Hoshido from the invading Nohr. In Conquest, the avatar joins their adoptive Nohr family in conquering Hoshido. The main villain in each game is the corrupted Nohr king Garon, a puppet to an even larger enemy. Revelations is the story when the avatar chooses to side with neither Hoshido or Nohr, instead choosing to find peace while figuring out the true enemy and inspiring both sides to work together. Each country has a quartet of siblings that care a great deal for the avatar, and the avatar wrestles with the emotions that come with siding one over the other or neither at all. These feelings drive the avatar to stop the war and achieve peace as soon as possible.
Birthright is pretty straightforward when it comes to protecting the kingdom from the Nohr king, while Conquest focuses on conquering Hoshido for its throne, which has a special magic that forces King Garon to reveal his true, monstrous form. Birthright is a classic defend-the-kingdom plot, while Conquest’s theme is the end justifies the means. Revelations figures out what is behind King Garon’s motivations, finding an ancient, evil god and fighting to prevent the god from ravaging the world.
Buying all three of these games costs about $80, which isn’t too bad if one remembers to just buy one retail copy of Birthright or Conquest and then digitally download the other two games for a discount. This does not count any DLC, none of which I bought except for Boo Camp for experience grinding and Ghostly Gold for money. If one wants the full experience of the story, then all three games should be in your game library.
While each game was fully fleshed out, siding with either Hoshido or Nohr made me feel as if I were missing half of the story. Considering the sheer amount of characters and how close the avatar appears to be with all of his/her siblings, it made me eager to not only play both sides of the game but to also dive into Revelations. To me, Revelations seemed to be the “true” story of Fates. However, after playing through Revelations, it seemed a touch rushed with all of the characters that joined your avatar’s side. Each story depends on the other two for the whole experience, which left me with mixed feelings. They were all enjoyable, but no matter the game I had a nagging feeling that I was missing something.
Characters also make up a large part of the stories in the Fire Emblem games, and Fates was no exception. Your avatar is a fantastic main character (even if sometimes they are so eager and idealistic that once in a while I wanted to shake them by the shoulders), leading the army through a war against an evil god. The support conversations I have unlocked so far reveal lots of interesting and fun tidbits of the other characters, and it’s always great to figure out each character’s reason for being in the army.
I do, however, feel that the game’s main male characters were more developed than the females. Out of the eight sibling characters, it was clear that the brothers of both Hoshido and Nohr had the games’ focus while the sisters were there to be the cute healers (in the case of the younger two) or to fulfill the games’ quota for sex appeal (in the case of the older two). It’s the four brother characters that get the most animated cut scenes, that get the most dialogue, that get the four divine weapons that combine with the avatar’s to create the Fire Emblem.
It’s a shame, for while I love the development the brothers had gotten, I truly wish that same focus was given to the sisters, especially when the women’s support conversations hinted at interesting backstories, such as Camilla’s mother using her as a pawn in politics and Hinoka’s drive to become such a strong warrior. I would have loved for their backgrounds to be played up more in the story and game itself.
I feel as if the games would have worked just as well if the number of royal siblings was cut down, despite how much I enjoyed all of their characters. For example, Hoshido could have had the older Prince Ryoma and the younger Princess Sakura while Nohr would have the older Princess Camilla and the younger brother Prince Leo trying to persuade the avatar to their side. Birthright, going along with its easier difficulty, would have the advantage of an early healer in Sakura and Conquest has early access to magic units with Leo. Ryoma is the just crown prince of Hoshido, and Camilla could have been the crown princess that showed off her blood lust in more than just snatches of dialogue. Cutting out a few of the royal siblings also would cut out the extra retainer characters, lightening up on the sheer amount of characters to keep up with in Revelations.
Despite the faults I found with the stories of the Fates trio, I did enjoy them. Revelations was my favorite, considering that it rounded out the other two stories and gave the player the “true,” in my opinion, ending.
Fire Emblem Fates has plenty of replay value, if only for the many support conversations and pairings one can unlock throughout the three stories. Considering that the avatar can marry anyone of the opposite gender (along with the one same-sex option, depending on the game), as well as reach best friend status with anyone of the same gender, pairing up all sorts of characters with the avatar during battles allows tons of different strategies for fights.
The multiple difficulty modes add on to the replay value, and players can easily create their own challenges with the ability to change the characters’ classes with the use of the item seals — Master Seals for advance classes, Partner and Friendship Seals for maxed support units, and Heart Seals, uniquely allowing a character to change to a class that’s more suited to his/her personality.
Owing all three Fates games also gives the player nine save files to fully explore all the options available to them in the games. If you have extra money to spare, there are also a handful of downloadable content with extra tales and maps to play.
With all this said, Fire Emblem Fates is a game I’ll probably pick up again, but it most likely won’t be played as often as my other Fire Emblem games, such as Awakening.
Fire Emblem Fates gets…
4 out of 5 lives.
Have you played this trio of games? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!
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