I had never played a Fire Emblem game before Fates but I knew that the series had a huge following and was quite popular. It apparently was a following that was so large that it took up a decent chunk of my Smash Bros roster and took away my hopes of having a Sephiroth vs Cloud fight on Smash Bros. After Corrin was announced as one of the final characters for Smash, I decided perhaps it was time I looked into this Fire Emblem series. I chose to begin my adventure with Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright so here is a newcomers review of Corrin’s Hoshido adventures.
I quickly found myself enamored with the visual quality of the game and quite impressed with my Nintendo 3DS. The graphics were much better than those of other 3DS games I had played and did well to show off the power the system has behind it. What was even more interesting was how the game goes back and forth between powerful 3D graphics and almost a battlefield that looks something much more akin to the overworld from the original Final Fantasy game. At first I was a bit disappointed as I watched my beautiful 3D, colorful, modern day animations shift into something of a much older and simpler style that required text boxes to communicate story but as the game progressed, I found it rather charming instead. It turned out to be a feature that helped the game flow quicker than it might have if the whole thing used those 3D animations. I was quite glad they didn’t use the same battlefield style that tiles like Dynasty Warriors have become known for and the simplicity of their choice made the game much more relaxing and less tedious to keep up with. But speaking of the battlefield let’s get onto the gameplay
As I previously mentioned, much of the game uses text boxes to communicate story which is actually a good thing in Fire Emblem’s case since it is a title on the 3DS rather than a mainline console. It suited the whole handheld platform convenience thing much better than if all of the story took place in long cutscenes like most JRPG’s. Combat in battles was a ton of fun and gave me a great bit of enjoyable nostaligia due to how much it reminded me of the Final Fantasy Tactics games. The mechanics were extremely similar in regards to moving around the battlefield and such but so refreshingly different as far as actual battle went. Instead of having all sorts of spells and arrows and such that one can snipe enemies safely from a distance, Fire Emblem only gives your attacks and spells a range of about 1-2 spaces for the most part and some can ONLY attack from 2 spaces away, no more and no less. Not only that but the game takes the whole “bring a buddy” thing to a whole new level and gives you various bonuses based on whether or not an ally is either in a space adjacent to you (great for offense and allows you to attack with both of your characters at once) or paired up to whatever unit is currently in combat (great for defense because it blocks opponents’ adjacent ally and blocks opponents’ main attacks occasionally.) I LOVED this mechanic because not only did it help me in a number of very critical moments (looking at you Ryoma/Corrin pair combo) but it also allowed for various strategizing depending on how a battle looked to be going and whether or not I felt confident about the ability of a character to survive the next round of fighting. That last part is very crucial due to the fact that if you are playing the game in its hardest setting the consequences for that character are literally fatal. What I mean is that normally when playing games of this style, if your character dies in combat then you just lose them for whatever battle you are currently in and regain them after it’s all said and done and everyone has a chance to recover at your home base or after that battle. In Fire Emblem the hardest setting totally offs the character permanently for the rest of the game…..like….completely. This probably would have led to some more interesting story developments had I played on that difficulty but I really just wanted to get a good grasp on the experience of Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright so I knocked it down a level and played through that way. The game also has an interesting home base system that gives you a castle base and is where you handle your business between battles like equipment, re-classing and what forth. Here you can build various buildings like shops and decorations to boost parties stats in combat. You can also set up defenses for your castle that help in the castle battles, the game’s online vs. mode, to fend of attackers. This is also the main hub to progress relationships between characters even to the point where your various army members start to fall in love and get married to each other and have children, who can also become army members through some fancy timey-whimey alternate reality stuff. You can also go online to visit other players’ castles here and get various item and equipment ingredients, buy things from their upgraded shops, and recruit some of their army members for your own battles (which is cool because you can visit the shops from the alternate version of the game and get normally un-obtainable equipment and characters for your army.) But now let’s move on to the story of our hero Corrin
Fire Emblem Fates focuses around the story of a character named Corrin. Corrin, who can be male or female depending on what you choose at the start, gets caught up in a war between two kingdoms, Hoshido and Nohr, and eventually must pick one side or the other to stand with and fight the other. Whatever kingdom you choose basically is picked for you depending on whether or not you buy the Birthright version of the game or Conquest version but you choose the side opposing your physical copy of the game and download that story for 20 dollars. Initially I was apprehensive to this idea and found it to be a money grab on Nintendo’s part and was sort of ticked off about it but as I played through the game, I understood how drastically different the games would be depending on which edition you purchased and began to see it as two completely different games that shared the same 6 chapter origin story instead of one game with some type of alignment system that makes more minor changes in the story like KOTOR. That may sound odd to call KOTOR’s choice system minor but the difference between your decision in Birthright and Conquest takes the game into two ENTIRELY DIFFERENT plot lines and validates being two different games for purchase. As far as actual story goes because of the different plots between the two editions, regardless of whichever one you choose, by not playing through both you are left with a bunch of unanswered questions for some of the mysteries that the story brings up. This was something that I actually found to make logical sense given why your character would never have learned the answers to those mysteries but still annoying as a player who wants to have complete and total resolution of all the plot threads.
Fates fails in this regard due to the fact that after the endgame, there really isn’t anything left to do besides either go online and raise your power level via the castle battle system or by purchasing the other path for Corrin to choose. Which two be fair, is 20 bucks instead of 40 since you already bought the first choice and is a whole other games’ worth of content. In addition to that the 3rd path, Revelation, is unlocked today for 20 dollars and features an entirely different route to choose and can only be obtained by picking up either Birthright or Conquest.
Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright 7.5/10
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