Ever since Roy’s appearance in Super Smash Brothers Melee, I have avidly sought out Fire Emblem games. Considering I don’t live in Japan and I don’t do emulators, the first one I played was the one with Lyn, Eliwood, and Hector. I have since played every single Fire Emblem game available to the U.S.
The more I play these games, the more I discover some reoccurring patterns… not just with gameplay, but with narratives… and Fire Emblem Fates is no exception.
But of course, since this franchise basically owns my soul, I played the new game profusely. Now that I’m done with all three story lines, I’ll go ahead and give my thoughts on all of them, because they all have varying degrees of quality. But first, I’ll start with all of the similarities.
Our hero avatar is Corrin, a man (or woman) so generically Fire-Emblem-protagonist-ish that he is both utterly boring and underdeveloped. Basically, (s)he’s a prince character that’s so pure and noble that he naturally brings people to his side with his overflowing sense of trust and compassion.
Corrin is essentially a cutout of Eliwood, Ephraim/Eirika, Marth, and Chrom, but without all the things that made any of them interesting.
See, even though Eliwood’s an uninteresting boy scout, he still had the brash Hector and the defiant Lyn to compliment his personality.
Ephraim and Eirika had each other and the fact that their kingdom was brutalized by some of the most nefarious villains in Fire Emblem history.
Marth… well, Marth has the same problems that Corrin does. Nevermind.
Chrom was not JUST compassionate, he also had a vicious bite to him, AND he and the avatar character (Robin) played off of each other rather well.
Ike, by the way, was different in the fact that he wasn’t a prince, and he actually had some valor and salt to him. It’s what makes him the (arguably) best character in the entire Fire Emblem franchise.
Corrin has none of these positives. (S)he just has his two royal families that absolutely adore him to an obsessive degree, until you inevitably betray one of them and thus making them hate you… until they eventually adore you again because you’re such good guy.
So the story is that you are the prince of a country named Hoshido, which is basically Japan. However, you were kidnapped as a child and have been living your whole known life in Nohr, which is basically white Europe. You spend the first seven missions taking turns learning about each side so that it might make it harder to choose which side you want to fight for.
Except it’s not a hard choice: Nohr is run by an insane man who instigated a war by killing innocent lives. Hoshido did nothing to deserve these attacks, and you are blood relatives with the Hoshidans (sort of). So, will you choose Hoshido, who you are related to and who did not start this war, or will you choose Nohr, who is completely at fault for this conflict under every sense of the imagination (oh, but the king’s children are nice to you and one of them has bouncy breasts that barely fit into her armor, so there’s that)?
I quickly sided with Hoshido when the time came… there was just one problem.
See, I got Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, so that meant I was able to play the Nohr campaign for the $40 I got this game for… but if I wanted to play the Hoshido campaign, I would have to pay an ADDITIONAL $20.
There’s another story mode later on (Revelation) that also costs an additional $20.
In total, if you want to play all of the story modes, you must pay roughly $80, and that’s if you don’t want any of the additional DLC. This pissed me off. I was under the impression that Conquest and Birthright were like Pokemon Sun and Moon: both the same game, but each had a few tidbits in them that made the games slightly different and encouraged multiplier. Nope, they’re completely different games, and if you want to play them all, you’ll have to pay the equivalent of three different games.
This shit has never happened before with Fire Emblem. Fire Emblem Awakening introduced DLC, sure, but you wouldn’t have massive chunks of the story missing if you didn’t purchase the DLC.
Anyway once you choose your faction, you are given a terrestrial territory to establish a base, and each side comes with its own weapons, classes, and characters. There’s a few characters that take your side no matter what like Silas and Kaze (because they’re bros), but the vast majority of characters don’t overlap.
With Nohr, you get Mercenaries, Knights, Dark Mages, Wyverns, Fighters, and Cavalier, among others.
With Hoshido, you get Samurai (repurposed Myrmidons), Ninja (repurposed Thieves), Diviners (repurposed Mages), Pegasus Knights, and Oni Savages (repurposed Fighters), among others.
This makes for some interesting gameplay because there’s some differences between the factions. The aspects ultimately don’t emphasize any meaningful differentiations, but they do leave for some good subtle changes here and there.
The gameplay is similar to Awakening in graphics and execution. They changed the battle dynamics to where you can put allies next to your soldier to initiate a double attack, or you can pair two units together to initiate a defensive positions. What’s even more challenging is that, unlike Awakening, now your enemies can take advantage of this too. This may have been the biggest differentiation from all the Fire Emblem predecessors.
In between battles, you go back to your nether-base and set up weapon shops, create buildings for you characters to take turns working at, and create places that give you additional mini-games. You can buy extra clothing for your characters (which never organically adds to the game), you can create your own house to invite allies to in order to strengthen your bond with them (but not to any better degree than simply fighting next to them in combat), you can take a quick bath in the hot springs and possibly get driven away if you walk in on characters of the opposite sex bathing…
All of these mini-games and additional content were almost completely meaningless and added almost nothing to the gameplay.
There’s a weird thing in this game where they brought these characters in from Nohr: Selena, Laslow, and Odin.
However, anybody who has played Fire Emblem Awakening knows they’re exact replicas of Serena, Inigo and Owain. Below is what they looked like in Awakening:
At first, I though this was just a blatant ripoff… I mean it kind of fits with the theme of Fire Emblem Fates as a whole: laziness and coasting. However, after looking it up online (and playing some of the DLC), I discovered that Selena, Odin, and Laslow actually ARE Serena, Owain, and Inigo. Why? Who knows. How did they transport themselves from Awakening’s world to Fate’s world? Reasons. Why did they go there in the first place? The game seems to imply that they did this because they were bored.
The game itself never flat out says that they’re from the Awakening universe unless you play a few DLC maps or if you initiate support conversations, so I can’t help but wonder what the point of all of that was? Fan service? Were Serena, Owain, and Inigo really that great of characters? I rarely used any of them when I played Awakening, that’s for sure. I can only assume that they did this out of laziness.
The game also brought back the children aspect of the game: when you get your characters to marry, they’ll spawn children that will immediately grow up to be fighting age so that you can recruit them. This was nice and all, but it felt extremely tacked on. When Awakening did it, they had a justifiable reason for it: Chrom’s daughter went back in time, therefore splitting the universes apart and conjoining to each other. This allowed the children from the future to join Chrom and friends.
Why are you able to do it in Fates? Well, there’s this nether-region where time goes by super fast and stuff and shut up just play the stupid game.
The map selection screen is excruciatingly vague and unhelpful. They should have done what Awakening did: copied off of Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones. They should have had a visible map that had every single point laid out so that you had a good idea of where everything was. Instead, you just get a generic map that shows you nothing.
Finally… there’s this song that constantly plays throughout all three story modes. It’s sung by the girl above named Azura, and it was the most annoying part of this game. They seemed to think it was such an amazing song because it’s EVERYWHERE. The song is even sung during the final chapter battle of EVERY story mode, forcing me to play every last level with the volume completely down.
After constantly hearing “You are the ocean’s great waves…” my body has developed a knee-jerk reaction where I roll my eyes and angrily turn down the volume. It’s the absolute worst.
ALRIGHT. So now that I’ve got a bunch of the similarities out of the way, let me judge all three stories as a whole.
Birthright was the first story I played and it is undeniably the weakest of the three. In this game, you side with your big brother Ryoma and your siblings Takumi, Hinoka, and Sakura.
You’ll fight against Nohr, where you’ll learn that Nohr is totally evil and Hoshido is totally good, and you’re so pure and good and totally the protagonist of the story. Your benevolence knows no bounds and your siblings love you and holy crap is this the most boring thing in the entire universe.
None of the characters hold any sort of depth or mystery to make Corrin any less dull. What’s worse is that they all have Japanese-sounding names. So who are you gonna choose? The happy, cheerful lancer named Oboro? The happy, cheerful samarai Hinata? How about the happy, cheerful pegasus knight Subaki? Oh hey, what about the SARCASTICALLY happy, SARCASTICALLY cheerful archer Setsuna?
Not only this, but they basically change the name of EVERY weapon. A sword is now a katana. A bow is now called a yumi. A lance is now a naginata.
This mode rips away so many points of reference and then fills the story to the brim with cookie-cutter characters.
So basically, you go around the whole world being grand and lovely to all you behold, and then you beat all that is evil. In regards to the story, Birthright is the absolute worst.
Gameplay-wise, Birthright does add the side missions that you can use to get extra experience. This gave the game the ability to really hone all of your characters.
It’s a shame that most of the characters have a crippling weakness that renders them a lot harder to use.
For instance, Hana never earned additional HP during level ups. Rinkah never earned additional Strength. Orochi never earned additional Speed. (Yes, I had to look all of these damn names up.) Don’t bother training Kaze, by the way, as he dies unnecessarily, midway through this campaign.
The only characters worth any salt are your siblings. I trained up Swordmaster Ryoma and Archer Takumi, and they are absolutely amazing in combat.
When the story isn’t force-feeding you about how awesome Corrin is, it tries to set up these emotional moments that fail miserably. There’s characters that have these dramatic deaths, but they never ever establish the connection they intended to.
There is a scene where a girl who betrayed you feels so bad for betraying you that after you defeat her in a fight, SHE LITERALLY SETS HERSELF ON FIRE AND DIES. All the while Corrin starts sobbing and cursing the main villain in this game for causing your female friend to set herself on fire. It was HILARIOUS.
Of all the story modes, Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is the most ridiculous and uncompelling of them all. It oftentimes felt like a chore playing this campaign. It changed things that didn’t need to be changed, and it didn’t improve on anything that could have been improved upon. The story was more ridiculous than Pokemon Sun and Moon… and that is saying ALOT, and I’m giving this game a 3 out of 10.
For all of my naysaying about Nohr, Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest was the far superior experience to Birthright. In this game, you follow your older brother Xander to battle along with siblings Leo, Elise, and weirdly-platonic, oddly-obssessed-with-you Camilla who the game often goes out of its way to sexualize.
I mean… it’s Fire Emblem, and like most Japanese games, the girl characters always bare more skin than most of the male characters (even female Corrin, who for some reason didn’t find it necessary to place armor on her inner thighs). Nearly every single Fire Emblem game has this gimmick in it… but none of them so overtly sexualize their female characters quite like they do with Camilla.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this to criticize the game. A game can do whatever it wants… but it was a little comedic just how often this happened because of how extremely unsubtle and unnecessary it was.
So regardless of who you side with, ultimately, the enemy is Nohr King Garon, a mad king obsessed with war, power, and control. He gains this control by sicking his children on all his enemies.
In Conquest, you’re on his side. This creates an interesting dynamic because the benevolent Corrin now has something to challenge him: How much of Garon’s antics can he tolerate? How far will Corrin go to ensure the safety of him and his brothers and sisters? Conveniently, in order to unveil Garon’s true, evil form to your brothers and sisters, you have to get Garon to sit on Hoshido’s thrown, thus forcing you to fight for Nohr in order to dethrone Garon, maybe?
This game definitely takes the narrative into dark places. Corrin is forced into doing things to people that (s)he doesn’t want to do. Now, he often ends up finding roundabout ways to disobey Garon without letting him find out, so it’s not like the game deals in depth with this dark subject matter.
There is no extra levels for you to play like in Birthright, so the ability to gain experience is limited. On top of that, there were a few levels in Conquest that really forces you to think tactically about what you need to do. This often made the levels significantly more memorable and compelling.
However, many of these levels simultaneously had something called a “dragon vein”, a spot in the map that, if you reach it, gives you an advantage that often nullified the challenging aspects of the gameplay.
The characters you get from this story are significantly more characterized than in Birthright. many of these characteristics are over-the-top, but at least they were able to draw you into their personalities.
There’s not too many surprises to be had from the narrative, especially when considering the standard Fire Emblem story formula, but this narrative does end up challenging our stale-as-week-old-bread protagonist the most, and it challenges you as a video game player the most, albeit merely surface-level challenging.
Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, while not as amazing as I was hoping it would be, does seem to have the most ambition, the best characters, and the best story arc for Corrin. Would it have been better if they stripped away all the dragon veins and actually forced Corrin to make more tough decisions? Yes, but I can’t be too upset with these flaws, especially considering the quality of the other two stories, and I’m giving this game a 6 out of 10.
Finally, we get to the last storyline: Revelation, where you choose no side during the pivotal fight and end up getting EVERYBODY pissed at you at once. You then go into hiding and then spend the whole campaign winning people over to your side in order to fight a nefarious enemy that nobody knows about, yet is pulling the strings of war waged against Hoshido and Nohr.
This is definitely a very interesting premise, and it allows for a lot more freedom than the other two stories. Eventually, you are able to play with every single character from both Nohr and Hoshido, getting the best of both worlds. You are also able to utilize the weaponry of both countries, allowing for the maximum usability of weapons and upgrades.
Revelation is a fun little reward for playing through the other two stories… a reward you have to pay money for, but still. The entire experience feels very sandbox-ish as your team is a lot more customizable.
Sadly, there really isn’t any sort of challenge that was provided like in Conquest, but the levels are still interesting enough to get through.
Ultimately, Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation is the fun story that allows you to have your cake and eat it too. The story itself is not surprising or challenging, Corrin isn’t truly challenged as a character, and everything wraps up ultra neat-and-tidy. You’ll have fun playing it, but all of the general downsides of the game really only neutralize all the compliments I have for Revelation, and I’m giving this game a 5 out of 10.
I had fun playing through most of this game, but I walked away disappointed from Fates. The quality is all over the place in regards to the individual stories, and the fact that the protagonist is vapid and uninteresting really weighs any benefit these stories might have.
The game makers behind the Fire Emblem series seem to work best under pressure; Fire Emblem Awakening was an amazing game that had a lot of thought put into its execution, so it wasn’t surprising that I later found out that Nintendo was going to scrap Fire Emblem as a series altogether if Fire Emblem Awakening didn’t do well.
Now with a new dedicated fanbase, the Fire Emblem team decided to experiment. They tried stretching out their game material in order to squeeze the players out of more money, they changed numerous things that needed no changing, and they kept many things the same that could have used improvement. If this is the route they’ll continue to go with their games, I will very quickly stop giving them money, and I’m giving Fire Emblem Fates, as a whole, a 4 out of 10.