May 21, 2016
It took a gargantuan effort to not see or hear anything to do with Fire Emblem Fates given the late launch in Australia, so it was with immense satisfaction that I picked up my copy of the special edition last Saturday. For the context of this review, I have played mainly the Birthright storyline with some time spent in Conquest and Revelations for comparison. Having all three versions of the game on a single cartridge has been awesome, and thankfully there is an option to start a new save file at the point where the storyline diverge when wanting to experience all three.
The storyline centres around the main protagonist (either Corrin or Kamui if you stick with the default names) being faced with an emotionally intense decision. After being raised by the kingdom of Nohr from a young age, circumstances conspire to reunite you with your birth family of Hoshido. The tension builds masterfully leading up to the decision of who you will align with and the branch of fate you follow (either Birthright, Conquest or Revelations) solidified as a result.
What captivated me instantly about Fates was the beautiful graphics we have been presented with in this iteration of Fire Emblem. The fully 3D animated cutscenes of the game are stunning, and compliment the backgrounds of the levels perfectly. From plague forests to castles of both land and sky, Fates has managed to make everything flow in a way that even Awakening did not. A new feature to the game called Dragon veins also allow interaction with the stages like never before.
This seamless integration is best demonstrated in the battle sequences of the game. In Fates, the screen zooms in on the two (or more) combatants from the chessboard-like maps precisely, generating a mini battlefield that reflects the features of where the units are positioned. Gone is the delay between loading and fighting before the magnificent clashes of steel and magic also. The ability to pair up and support units has returned in Fates and is still a fantastic way to level up weaker units. Care needs to be taken however, as the AI has also been gifted with the ability to pair up units and they are rather frequent throughout the stages. This can be especially dangerous if you haven’t factored in the need for two separate kills into your manoeuvre.
I was really impressed with, and embraced how Fire Emblem Fates constructed the Hoshidan and Nohrian armies. Classic classes have been adapted and made exclusive to either culture. For example, the lightning quick swordmaster is exclusive to Hoshido whereas the stalwart Hero is Nohrian. I didn’t realise initially that the Hoshidan mages are the Diviner class and found myself with no armour crushing advantage in a chapter, so it is important to take a bit of time to familiarise yourself with both armies and their respective attributes/equipment. The Hoshidan healers have a 1-2 space heal (instead of the traditional 1 space) which is incredibly useful.
Whereas previously support conversations, shops and other NPCs were mostly accessible between chapters from either a menu or map, Fates has introduced a customisable castle as your base of operations. Said castle comes complete with:
- Private Quarters
- Resource Collection
- Bath House
- Defensive automatons and more
You can visit other castles online to collect a wider range of items, launch challenges (for EXP farming in Birthright) and even defend your castle from invasions of increasing difficulty. You spend specific points to upgrade most of what you build in order to expand the range of purchasable items and stat boons that affect your characters.
“I found the LGBTI integration lacking and somewhat tokenistic.”
Of particular interest and debate in relation to Fire Emblem Fates is the support system, which introduced same sex matches into the game. Unfortunately, I found the LGBTI integration lacking and somewhat tokenistic. The esteemed S rank support level has remained exclusive to opposite sex matches that are capable of having children (although the way in which they arrive and join your army has changed somewhat). The conversations involving two members of the same sex are incredibly platonic, there are no trans characters (at least that I have discovered), and the A+ rank assigned to them is really only useful if you want to change your character’s class in order to take advantage of class specific skills. Given the attention Nintendo’s statements were given when this inclusion was announced I really hope they can take these additional steps moving forward so that I can take pride in the franchise.
- Varying levels of difficulty to suit different players
- Great expansion of the strengths of previous games in the series
- LGBTI inclusion
- LGBTI inclusion not equitable
- 3 Different storylines = significant time investment
Even for a veteran fan such as myself, Fire Emblem Fates has been challenging, which is a credit to the developers and highly rewarding. Even in Birthright, deemed the easiest of the three titles, I have found myself having to resort to very defensive play styles in order to keep my players alive (I always play classic Fire Emblem where permadeath is the bane of your existence) even with the additional levelling opportunities Birthright presents. Nintendo has done incredibly well to present a title that rewards both old and new players alike with their investment in the franchise. I’m really looking forward to finishing all three titles and highly recommend Fates as a first point of entry into the world of strategic RPGs.