The fate of the Fire Emblem series was in question not long ago, but the 3DS was able to awaken new life for the franchise in 2012/2013 with the release of Fire Emblem: Awakening. With the series given new hope and new opportunity for success, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems struck while the iron was hot and forged a new installment for Nintendo 3DS – Fire Emblem Fates. Broken up into three distinct narratives, players will be faced with the daunting task of choosing to align themselves with their blood family (Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright), the only family they have ever known (Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest) or neither (Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation).
The narrative of Fire Emblem Fates is set at a time of war between the kingdoms of Hoshido and Nohr. The player is positioned in the role of a prince or princess raised in Nohr, but that is actually of Hoshido lineage. After a series of tragic events take place, the embers of war have been ignited as the two nations are now ready for a full-scale war. It is at this point that the player must make the challenging decision of who to fight alongside – their true family and the people of Hoshido (Birthright), or your adoptive family and the nation of Nohr (Conquest).
To help make your decision a little less intimidating, allow us to explain the key differences between Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright and Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest.
Outside of the narrative variances, there are slight gameplay alterations that make each game its own distinct experience. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is easier in terms of overall challenge and offers lots of optional battles, thus allowing you to gain Experience more quickly. Newcomers of the franchise or the genre will want to start with Birthright. Those looking for a more challenging and traditional Fire Emblem will want to start with Conquest. In Conquest, battles rely more on smart strategic planning. Often you’ll find yourself battling not only the enemy, but also difficult terrain, environments, and faced with specialized victory terms. Experience is harder to come by, and there are fewer optional battles in which to participate. Longtime Fire Emblem fans will want to start with Conquest.
With that said, Birthright and Conquest are two of the best Fire Emblem games ever to be released, and we strongly recommend you play both – with Birthright serving as your introductory storyline. The story and gameplay changes make each game a unique and entertaining journey.
If you are wondering about Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation, we ask that you stay tuned. Revelation is meant to be played after completing the other two stories, and it’ll be released on March 10 as downloadable content. We’ll have a full review for Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation closer to its release date.
Regardless of which version of Fire Emblem Fates you start with, you’ll be in for a lengthy adventure as each game encompasses 28 chapters, and battle situations are unique to each game.
Just as in previous Fire Emblem titles, gameplay primarily takes place on grid-based battlefields and challenges the player to use tactics and strategy to achieve victory. Each character has their own set of strengths and weaknesses based upon their class and equipment – archers are strong against distant and aerial enemies, but are weak in close quarters combat. Much like a game of chess, smart tacticians will make use of the battlefield grid to position units in ways that emphasize their strengths. Once you move all your units, your turn will end, and the enemy will make their move.
Plan ahead, study enemy movements, look at their stats, weapons, and strategize an effective means of attack. This isn’t a game you can rush into battle, move recklessly, and come out with a victory. Be patient, tactical, and smart with your moves and units – after all, depending on the difficulty you select, one wrong move and you could permanently lose a member of your team for the duration of the game.
On the topic of difficulty options, Fire Emblem Fates features three difficulty options and up to three game modes to select from. When it comes to difficulty you have the following options: Normal, Hard, and Lunatic. As for game modes, Normal has the following three options – meanwhile Hard and Lunatic only allow for the latter two: Phoenix – allows fallen units to respawn during battle, Casual – fallen units return in the next chapter, and Classic – once a unit falls in battle, they are dead for the entirety of the game. Phoenix makes the game more accessible to those new to the series and the genre, or for those only interested in the game’s story.
To make the game more manageable for players, you’ll find that weapons no longer have a set amount of uses before they break. However, healing weapons – like a Healing Staff, still have a limited number of uses. Weapons increase in rank when used in battle, and will impact the character in both positive and negative ways – such as a lower success rate when it comes to evading. Another change made to the combat system is that units will only perform dual attacks when adjacent from another ally unit, meanwhile dual guard is now exclusively tied to units paired up.
An interesting addition to the game’s combat system, and overall strategic planning, is the Dragon Vein ability and spaces. These spaces can only be activated by a member of a royal family, and their impacts on the tide of battle can prove to be beneficial by creating new pathways. Not all Dragon Veins will be advantageous, so you have to be careful with how and when you use them. The introduction of Dragon Veins adds a nice layer of unpredictability to battle, and creates more exciting battles when you have the ability to modify the terrain and leave your enemies at a disadvantage.
Another significant addition made to Fire Emblem Fates is the My Castle hub. While on this hub, you will be able to buy new weapons, items, and other supplies needed to aid you in battle. Aside from the fundamental benefits of equipping your characters, My Castle also allows the player to purchase and upgrade buildings that may give your characters a performance boost. It’s a nice way to customize and make a little piece of the game your own.
Fire Emblem Fates builds off the foundation set by Fire Emblem: Awakening and expands upon it to give players a more compelling and engaging narrative along with gameplay variety. By offering distinct storylines and game experiences, Fire Emblem Fates is able to appeal to both newcomers and longtime fans of the franchise. Those looking for a lengthy and epic adventure to play on their 3DS needn’t look any further, because Fire Emblem Fates is all you need. Fire Emblem Fates is fated to be one of the 3DS’ best games in 2016.
- Rewarding gameplay
- Lots of content
- Beautiful soundtrack
- Birthright may be too easy for longtime fans
(Editor’s Note: A copy of Fire Emblem Fates was provided by Nintendo for review purposes.)