Video game review: Fire Emblem Fates

Series’ latest installment features three branching stories

Fire Emblem Fates for the Nintendo 3DS features three different sub games: Conquest, Birthright and Revelations. The story of all the games follows an avatar who is forced to choose a side during a war between two nations, Nohr and Hoshido.

Fire Emblem is a role-playing game franchise that became widely popular in the United States in 2003 when its seventh installment became the first one to be released in English. In Fire Emblem, the player directs a small army of unit characters to complete tasks on individual maps. Each unit falls under a class that has both strengths and weaknesses against other classes. These classes can be upgraded to higher ones if the player chooses to do so.

Fire Emblem games are very story driven around elements of the mystical and supernatural. The franchise is also known for its battle systems, character recruitment, character development, and “permadeath.” Permadeath happens when a unit in your army loses all of their health points and becomes unusable for the rest of the game. Fates makes this feature an option, but having it on adds another strategic element to the game.

Fates is the fourteenth installment in the series and has both new and old elements. The wide selection of difficulty settings upon starting a new game makes the game very accessible for series veterans and newcomers alike. On top of the difficulty sliders, Fates also has the best avatar creator in the series up to this point. The avatars will all have the same general look, meaning you won’t be able to make one that looks just like you, but being able to create your own makes you feel like more of a part of the story.

The first six chapters are a good tutorial and refresher for players. Your avatar is introduced to their siblings they grew up with and their birth siblings they didn’t grow up with. You’re asked to pick a side in chapter six and if the player has more than one path installed on their 3DS, the context. You make this choice on a bloody battlefield and it feels like an amazing soap opera. The stories of both Conquest and Birthright revolve around taking down the king who’s responsible for causing the war between the nations.

In Conquest, the avatar sides with the nation of Nohr, the country that raised them after they were kidnapped from Hoshido. More experienced players will enjoy this path since it plays like an older Fire Emblem game and enemies are generally tougher. There aren’t many opportunities for grinding your units and gold used to buy items is scarce. Story wise, Conquest probably is the best. The story makes you feel bad about betraying your birth siblings but there is an emotional payoff as it progresses.

In Birthright, the avatar sides with Hoshido, the nation they were born in and kidnapped from. This path is a great one for series beginners because there are grinding opportunities and more gold. Grinding allows players to pair up their units and let them bond in the battlefield more easily. Bonding unlocks support conversations and allows you to learn more about characters through their interactions with other. If a female character develops a high enough relationship with a male character, they’ll produce a child that can join your army. The story in Birthright isn’t as satisfying as Conquest’s. I mentioned that choosing a side in the games felt like a soap opera. The last few chapters of Birthright felt like too much of a soap opera with its drama and sacrifices.

In Revelations, the avatar chooses neither side. After your siblings from both sides make you feel like crap for making this choice, your avatar is suddenly on the run from both nations. As the story unfolds, we learn there’s an even larger force behind the scenes that’s causing the war between Nohr and Hoshido. Revelations is a great third path to play because it connects the stories of Conquest and Birthright and also combines the game elements from both paths. Players are able to recruit the characters from both nations that they grew to love in the other two paths. This leads to you having over 50 units in your army and making tough decisions as to who will make the cut for most maps that only allow the use of 10 or so of them. Mixing elements from the other two games doesn’t bode very well and actually causes this path to be the easiest of the three. Players looking for a real challenge won’t enjoy Revelations in this regard. However, this path still wraps up the installment nicely.

Fire Emblem Fates has a crazy amount of replay value. Just one of the paths has an unlimited number of ways to play it, which difficulty to play on, and which characters you use. The MyCastle hub is a feature used to communicate and battle with other players around the world using your game’s army. This will only add to the replay value the game offers.

The whole installment in the series feels complete. By playing for both nations, you’re able to see perspectives of the different characters and see what different conflicts arise from your avatar choosing their side. It’s a perfect starting point for series rookies and a solid game for veterans.

Gabe Hewitt

Gabe is a junior mass media student at MSU. He's usually up for anything. You can find him on Twitter (@gabehewitt) or you can email him at gabriel.hewitt@mnsu.edu.

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