Developer: Intelligent Systems
Release: 2015 / 2016
Genre: Fantasy / Tactical Roleplay
OFLC Rating: M
Fire Emblem, Nintendo’s tactical roleplaying franchise that has enjoyed success across all their platforms. This franchise was only ever released domestically in Japan from 1990, up until 2003’s “Fire Emblem” for the Gameboy Advance. But even then Fire Emblem’s franchise releases weren’t exactly common until the 2012’s franchise debut on the 3DS with “Fire Emblem: Awakening”.
Fire Emblem is a franchise with rich lore set in a medieval fantasy universe and seems to revolve around two mythical dragons opposed to each other. Each game has featured a setting with feuding states to set the scene for the given story, yet places a deep focus on the characters within these stories. The game plays a lot like your typical turn-based strategy game with strong roleplay elements. Combat relies heavily on preparation and plays out automatically (once engaged) based on the statistics of all combatants involved. However, these battles are not depicted with simple animations but with a cinematic that allows you to view for few different perspectives. The battle outcome takes into account a given combatant’s personal and weapon stats, along with any buffs and debuffs they may have. Because you’re able to engage battles fought 2v2, you also have the given affinity between the given team mates adding to the statistical equation. Battle’s are more or less numbers game when you look at them “Under the hood”. When using characters to team up you can do this in one of two ways – either have both characters aligned with one another on the battlefield when engaging or place a character upon another selecting the “Pair Up” option (which can be disbanded via the “Separate” option, and for good reason). Characters fighting side by side will have the ability to unleash an all-out attack, whereas paired combatants will attack and parry. The more you have characters team up with one another, they gain affinity with one another leading to off-field relationships – Character affinity will allow you to see off-field plots happening as bonds are formed and developed. Through this you can even see characters married and have offspring, thus leading to new ones. Fire Emblem’s characters are so well written that you are put tested emotionally as well as mentally – Referring to a Fire Emblem title to as “XCOM meets Game of Thrones” is putting things lightly, especially when you take this latest entry into account. Because in Fire Emblem if you lose a character in battle, they’re gone for good. However, recent titles have included difficulty settings that allow you play where fallen characters are able to return post-battle.
Enter Fire Emblem: Fates, a story featuring two feuding states where the lead character is quite literally at the centre of it all! With any modern Fire Emblem game you customise the “Avatar” or central character’s gender, appearance, stats and name – An avatar’s name (according to writers) is present by default and can be changed. In the case of Fates, you experience the story from Corrin’s point of view.
Fates is (initally) focused on the conflict between Nohr and Hoshido. Nohr bears a striking visual resemblance to medieval Germany with a slight Japanese flare. However, Nohr’s lust for power makes them look like a cross between Napoleon’s France and Sweden under Charles XII. While Hoshido on the other hand appear very much to be a parody of Japan from the Sengoku period.
Without giving too much away – Corrin is a Hoshidan prince/princess who was abducted and raised in Nohr’s royal family. During the first five chapters you will learn this, with the following chapter really pulling at your heartstrings where Corrin must decide between his/her real family, the family he/she knows or refuse to take a side. Each decision will begin three very different campaigns with a story that comes full circle – These are entitled “Birthright”, “Conquest” and “Revelation”.
Birthright’s campaign caters toward series newcomers, as it offers simple clear-cut victory conditions and allows players to “Grind” (develop their characters through side-quests and challenges, etc.). Conquest on the other hand is both challenging with brutal opposition and objective based gameplay while being potentially hard to swallow given the character exchange you are faced with in the open five chapters. Revelation’s campaign is flagged with a recommendation to (at least) complete either one of the previous campaigns as it “Contains Spoilers”. However, Revelation plays as a happy medium between the other campaigns and focuses the direction on the real adversary present in the story.
It is in that decision Fates comes across as oddity from a consumer point of view because unless you were fortunate enough to secure the Special Edition copy of the game – Fire Emblem: Fates retail release ships with either the Birthright or Conquest campaign (as indicated on their respected game covers), leaving remaining two available as expansion packs available for purchase and download within the game’s “Explore Fates” option. Alternatively you can purchase the digital version allowing you to choose your initial campaign and purchase the remaining campaigns as previously mentioned. What Nintendo have done here is like serving up a pie and cutting into thirds charging the price of the whole thing for a single portion, while turning around asking for half that price to secure each the remaining portions. Normally, I wouldn’t blame you for feeling pretty cheated by this move by Nintendo’s sales & marketing department. But, Fire Emblem: Fates is no run of the mill corner shop pie for one – It’s rich and hearty deep dish pie that gives The Elder Scrolls (Chapter) V: Skyrim a run for it’s money with the total playable content on offer. On top of that you also have booster content selling for a few dollars each which can be purchased collectively via the “Map Pack” options. DLC is very weird in Fates as you can only purchase and play it all by going to the “Dragon’s Gate” on the map during an existing game.
One of the features Fates offers during character downtime, is your Avatar’s fort. This feature offers a somewhat base-building experience. For the most part, your fort serves as hub where you can have your avatar interact with other characters as well as being the Streetpass social centre and the main competitive multiplayer arena.
Fire Emblem: Fates is not only a rich satisfying gameplay experience, but has a beautiful artstyle and a memorable soundtrack. Overall, this game definitely has a great deal to offer.
Having played and enjoyed Awakening, Fire Emblem: Fates continues to serve up a strategic roleplay experience that is both mentally and emotionally engaging. Be warned! Fates is one of those addictive franchises that will have staying up to all hours of the morning… And it’s a 3DS game! As far as purchasing, I would highly recommend the digital version if space on your SD card and internet connectivity aren’t an issue.
So, is Fire Emblem: Fates worth going “All In” for?
If you are passionate about Fire Emblem, definitely.
If you love good character drama, this franchise will not disappoint.
If you are a connoisseur of strategy and tactics, Fire Emblem is sure to satisfy.
If you love a game that doesn’t hold back the challenge… Crank up the difficulty and be prepared for the fight of your life!
If you’re looking for another reason to take up the 3DS, then consider this one of them!