When Fire Emblem comes to mind, many of us often think of its turn-based strategies, permanent death, insane difficulties, and the frustration that occurs after our favorite characters get killed by an enemy. Fire Emblem Fates, the most recent installment follows that tradition, however we are now introduced to new ideas that force us to rethink how we play the game. Fates is rather unusual as it’s the first time in the series a story is split into two games. Under normal conditions I would think that having two different versions is highly inconvenient; just ask any Pokémon fan about catching every single Pokémon. It’s a pricey task, however this isn’t the case, Nintendo has made it into something far more creative. Instead of a few differences here and there, you are actually getting two separate games that relate to a bigger picture. Playing Birthright and Conquest will give you an inevitably different view of the story on almost every level.
Aside from the latest installment, my only experiences and knowledge of Fire Emblem (outside of Super Smash Bros. and few of my diehard FE friends) happens to be the 2013 Awakening. Awakening is implied to be the “jumpstart” of FE and for good reasons, to name a few: great visuals, new mechanics and even DLC that is persistent on keeping the game fresh and relevant. Naturally I expected similar praise from Fates, and it not only delivered that expectation, it took steps further beyond I presume even the expectations of die-hard fans.
When I started up the game, I was introduced to a breathtaking cinematic showing us the essence of what the game’s entirety conveys and its key conflict. Not long after I went to the avatar creation screen–which was much more diverse since Awakening, although I wish I could’ve make Corrin tanner but I still felt comfortable with the avatar I was able to make.
The introduction showed us Dragon Veins and its ability to affect terrain all while bringing us to a climactic scene. During the prologue we got introduced to Hoshidan classes, a class with ninja like qualities. That alone brings a strong eye opening experience that tells you this game will make you rethink how you view FE.
As I played through a few chapters, the game felt much smoother than Awakening. To begin, the animations were far smoother, the characters are more expressive i.e.: Arthur and his justice hammer (and even hammier!), when in comparison to Awakening, the battle animations feel static and stale.
Another improved feature would be the StreetPass function. We are introduced to a fort that allows players to set buildings which aids in case of any upcoming battles depending on where the StreetPass match occur. Because of this, the game was more vibrant as you are allowed to choose which castle to take the battle to, yours or theirs.
The concept of Dragon Veins shows us that this game is not afraid to explore new heights as it even lets the player have some effect on the terrain which ranges from trivial, such as forming bridges to drastic–cutting down frozen mountains; in doing this it changes how players and enemies advance throughout the battle. Because this game has a split, not only is the story line and perspective different within each version, so are the conditions. Conquest gives a more difficult learning curve while Birthright has a more forgiving game style. A unique idea in Fates is during chapter 5 where the main character transforms into a dragon and we were able to play as said dragon; we usually control human sprites, not to mentioning tearing down opponents as a dragon felt empowering.
Lastly with the introduction of the Hoshidan come new classes all of which are deeply influenced by Japanese culture such as its exciting soundtrack simulating music befitting of samurai engaging in battle. Thanks to these additions hopefully it can carve a corner stone for introducing new classes and game play features ultimately making more unique.
The game takes advantage of the amiibo functionality by engaging the crystal ball in the player’s fort and selecting the amiibo option. Players have the choice of Fire Emblem amiibo such as, Robin, Lucina, Marth, and Ike. Tapping in an amiibo prompts the respective character to chat with your avatar and rewards an exclusive gift. After meeting them twice, you will have the opportunity to face them in a battle. Upon defeating them, they will join your team and assist in your adventures. This reminds me of Code Name: STEAM in which these amiibo assisted the Steam heroes. A good example would be that the repeated usage an amiibo gives off items exclusive to that amiibo. There are also witty references to previous games in the dialogue which rewards longtime FE fans.
Fates contains DLC which will enhance the life of Fates and further continues on the DLC trend introduced in the more recent Nintendo games. Thankfully the first DLC is free and gives users a taste of what the future DLC can offer. Players can purchase DLC separately or pay $17.99 for a season pass.
Fates, currently the best selling in the Fire Emblem series, shows promising potential for upcoming games and serves a strong follow up to this increasingly popular series. The separation of the story into two games in addition to Revelations will keep us entertained for quite some time. Fates challenges the typical RPG/strategy game, utilizing multiple perspectives and tackling the game in as many ways as possible, preventing single-sided perspective and a complete story. This in turn allows us to get the most out of what Fates has to offer us. Fire Emblem also caters to more players new to the series by letting them play the game casually in the game difficulty option; one does not need to subject themselves to the frustration that is permanent death.