With the hype of the latest Fire Emblem game, JNL’s very own Mariëlle, who’s been a veteran Fire Emblem gamer since Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword was released in Europe, decided to join the hype train and buy the game! I will admit I loved the idea of two kingdoms and choosing a side at first, but as spoilers were everywhere, I eventually didn’t even want the game anymore. It seemed like something I wouldn’t enjoy. However, since I have always liked Fire Emblem games, my excitement grew again and I ended up getting the Special Edition.
Fire Emblem is a tactical roleplaying series. Its first game, Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Tsurugi (Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and Blade of Light) was released in Japan in 1990. 25 years later, in 2015, Fire Emblem: Fates was released in Japan. Just earlier this year, in May of 2016, the game was finally released in Europe.
Yusuke Kozaki, whom designed characters in FE: Awakening, also designed the characters in Fates.
The idea of Fire Emblem: Fates is simple: There are two kingdoms at war (three, actually, if you play the third route too); Nohr and Hoshido (and Valla). Nohr is based on Europe, similarly to every other Fire Emblem game before Fates, while Hoshido is based on Japan. Both countries have their own character fighting classes, as well as their own weapons, and each kingdom has its own soldiers that you can use to battle.
You choose one of the kingdoms, and fight for the chosen kingdom against the other. Like in Fire Emblem: Awakening, Fire Emblem: Shin Monshō no Nazo ~Hikari to Kage no Eiyū~ (Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem ~Heroes of Light and Shadow~) and indirectly Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword, Fates has a playable Avatar.
As the avatar, you are the main character in the story. You are Hoshidon royalty, but the Nohrian King kidnapped you when you were little and raised you as his own child in Nohr. After many years of living in Nohr – not knowing you were kidnapped – you find out about your true past and have to choose a side: Will you stick with Nohr, and the Nohrian siblings that you have always seen as family, or will you side with Hoshido, your true family?
The player is able to customize the avatar’s gender, name, hair, face, height and voice. Personally I love being able to customize avatars, but what I hate about in-game avatars that play a huge role in the story, is that the avatars don’t have my personality. And while I understand the writers consider the avatar ‘just another character they have to write’ and can only write one personality type, it’s tough for those who cannot relate to the character that is supposed to be them.
Despite this, however, I have to say that Corrin – the Avatars default name – isn’t as much of a horribly written character as everyone claims he is. Personally, I feel that, given his background and the storyline, he seems quite believable as a character. Sure, some of his choices are a bit dumb, but I can understand them, and I think a lot of players are just expecting the character to be exactly like them, and therefore disregard a lot of his choices as ‘horribly written personality’ because they can’t relate to the character. On a side note, I do think Corrin’s personality is quite basic – which is not necessarily a bad thing – and is very similar to a lot of anime characters that usually bother me. However, in the game, it bothered me a lot less than in anime.
What I really do hate about Corrin is how darned overpowered he is. I don’t mind the idea of multiple weapons, there’s plenty of characters who can use more than one weapon type, but a dragon stone? Really? Out of all the things you make the main character turn into a dragon? And on top of that, it doesn’t even look like a dragon at all. More like Arceus from Pokémon.
There are three ‘routes’ in Fire Emblem Fates, which are all sold separately: Conquest, Birthright and Revelation. Conquest follows the story of Nohr, whereas Birthright takes place in Hoshido. The third route, Revelation, can be downloaded separately for about 20 euros. The Special Edition of the game comes with all three games, including the Revelation route.
Since I’m the kind of person who cannot settle for one route, I need to play all three, I bought the Special Edition. This edition also includes a poster, a special case for your cartridge featuring game art, and a hardcover art book.
Choosing a side, will not only give you different stories and characters, but it will also greatly change in terms of difficulty. Birthright and Revelation are similar to Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones and FE: Awakening, meaning you can grind your units and find/win a lot of gold to buy new weapons, tonics, HP restoring items, staffs, and skills. Whereas Conquest is based on games such as Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn and many of the other older games, meaning it’s pretty much impossible to grind unless you buy a special DLC and gold is limited.
This was done specifically for the huge difference in players within the fandom. A lot of the ‘veteran’ players are used to the older games, and prefer that playstyle. Conquest’s playstyle was made specifically for those players, while Birthright was made for a lot of the newer players who got introduced to the series through Fire Emblem: Awakening, and fans who enjoy the option to grind endlessly.
Another difference between the routes is the weapons. Birthright has traditional Japanese weapons, such as the Naginata, Katana, and Yumi, while Conquest has their European counterparts. In Revelation, you will be able to buy weapons from both routes, so you can equip your units with whatever you want.
The differences and recurring features in Fire Emblem: Fates and older games in the FE series are quite noticeable. Recurring features are, for example, the separated strength and magic stats. The weapon ranks also make an appearance again, and preferential and legendary weapons come back as well.
The support system is back, but in a similar fashion to Fire Emblem: Awakening, which included an S support. They added the A+ support in Fates, however. A+ Support is a feature that allows the unit to gain access to their A+ support’s battle class, for reclassing purposes.
A new and different feature is the weapon triangle. While we have had standard weapon triangles in all the games, they haven’t changed much over the years, Fire Emblem: Fates came up with a completely new weapon triangle for Bows, Magic and Shuriken/Knifes. In the older games, Bows and Magic took no part in the weapon triangle, whatsoever. This can change the way you plan a battle completely.
In Fire Emblem: Awakening they introduced the Casual Mode. This is a difficulty setting in which your units never die. When their HP hits 0, they will be removed from the field, but will come back in the next chapter. This assures the player that all units will remain playable, no matter what tactical mistake you make. Up until Awakening, the Fire Emblem games have had Easy, Normal and Hard mode only, also known as Classical modes, where, if a unit dies, they are lost forever.
However, Fire Emblem: Fates brought a whole new different mode to the table called Phoenix Mode. This mode caused great disappointment within older and newer fans, as it is the most useless feature in the game. It holds 0 value whatsoever and completely ruins the whole point of the game. When playing in Phoenix Mode, if a unit dies, they will return the next turn, as opposed to the next chapter in Casual Mode. I personally don’t feel any hatred to Casual Mode – which also pissed off a lot of veteran players – as it is a great way for newer players to get into the game, as well as a great way for experienced players who just want to get through the game another few times for the sake of a full support log. But Phoenix mode is completely useless and just plain stupid. I know all too well you ‘don’t have to use it’ but the fact such a feature exists when Casual Mode is already a setting in the game, takes away the tactical part about Fire Emblem. And the Fire Emblem series is supposed to be a Tactical RPG. Taking away the sole purpose of the game ruins the whole point of the game. At least it does for me.
Just imagine fighting a war and you get 5 arrows in your head. Whoops, guess you messed up a little. Luckily, having all those arrows in your face and possibly some in your heart and other bodyparts doesn’t matter because you won’t die. In fact, in about 3 minutes those arrows will magically disappear, your wounds will close and you’ll happily dance through the battlefield again. Because in war, nobody dies unless the story demands it. Just how, and why? For the love of Saint Elimine, why?
I honestly don’t recommend ever using this feature, even if you wish to fill your support log. Phoenix mode kind of ruins the point of the game, especially since Casual Mode also exists. I would suggest playing Casual Mode if you wish to hurry things along or play through the game easily, as the difficulty is very low if playing Casually. Of course, playing Phoenix Mode or not is completely up to you.
Another new feature they added are the class-changing seals. In Fire Emblem: Awakening we were able to reclass our characters to a different class with a Second Seal, or promote them with a Master Seal. When reclassing a character the character would go back to level 1 of that new class. However, this was changed in FE: Fates. In Fates, there are a total of 4 different seals (not counting items such as Ebon Wings, Dread Scrolls, etc.). These are: Master Seal, a seal that allows a character to promote to an advanced class when they are level 10 or higher. Heart Seal, a seal that allows the character to change to a different class based on their ‘personality’. Friendship Seal, this seal allows you to reclass a character to the same class as the unit they have an A+ support with. And lastly, a Partner Seal, which essentially does the same as a Friendship Seal, but instead of the A+ Support, you will be able to reclass the character to the same class as the person they have an S support with.
Aside from the Master Seal, none of these seals will reset your level to 1, meaning that if you wish you gain different skills from different classes, you will have to plan carefully when you will reclass your character. At first, all of these seals can seem very confusing for someone who not played any of the games, and even for veteran gamers it can be a little confusing at first. But you get used to these seals quite fast. Using them properly, however, can take a lot of careful planning, especially if you want to get proper skills for your character, and wish to change the characters to a class that might benefit their personal growths better.
Every character, except for the Kitsune/Wolfskin characters and the Avatar (unless you play Revelation) will have two promotional options when you give them a Master Seal. Depending on what kind of gamer you are, you can choose the class that fits your style better. Especially in Conquest, these things are harder to come by, so choose carefully so you don’t have to reclass so often, and therefore don’t waste your seals.
With classes and promotions come skills. In Fates, every character has a personal skill that cannot be unequiped. In addition all characters can equip 5 more skills. When having an S Support, the child unit that is born will gain the last equipped skill from both parents.
Fire Emblem: Fates also introduces another new feature, called My Castle. My Castle is a ‘world’ called the Astral Plane. Here you can come and rest up, read the support conversations, and build different buildings, statues and other things. Each player has a My Castle, and depending on your region you will be able to visit other people’s castles as well. If you’re from Europe, you will only be able to visit European My Castle’s, while Americans will only be able to visit American My Castles. When visiting someone’s Castle, you can buy items, as well as battle in the arena for gems or food (which can be used in your own castle), or you can rate their castle and battle that player’s team.
Depending on the game you own, you can choose between different ‘castle styles’. If you own only Birthright, you will be able to pick from 3 Hoshidan styled castle grounds. If you own Conquest, you will get to choose between different Nohrian styled castle grounds. If you own the Special Edition, you will be able to pick from all 6. You can also change the music that will be played when you or others visit your castle.
In all routes, you will be able to buy skills from other players. If you go to their castle and initiate a battle without handicap and win that battle (either defeat all their units or seize their throne), you will be able to either recruit one of that player’s characters or buy a skill from one of their characters. Keep in mind, however, that you can only buy a skill for the character you buy this skill from. For example, you buy the skill counter from the other player’s Rinkah, then your own Rinkah will get the skill counter. You will not be able to buy counter from Rinkah and give it to Silas.
Buying skills is a fantastic way for your units to get more powerful, and for you to save your reclassing seals. Especially in Conquest, despite the limited gold you have, buying skills is highly recommended as the difficulty of Conquest is harder than the other games.
My Castle buildings can be upgraded with the Dragon Vein Points you receive by beating in-game chapters, as well as visiting other player’s castles. Each upgrade requires a certain amount of DVP. Upgrading your buildings and statues not only increase the stat boosts you get from those buildings when someone attacks your Castle, but allow you to recruit certain characters as well.
In Birthright, upgrading one of your puppets to level 3 allows you to recruit Yukimura. He cannot be recruited in Revelation. In Conquest and Revelation you can recruit Flora by upgrading one of the turrets to level 3. In Conquest and Birthright, Izana will join your party if you upgrade the bath house to level 3, while in Revelation Fuga will take Izana’s place. Let me tell you, Izana is by far one of the funniest characters in this game. This guy is so random, so weird, I love him.
Something I disliked in Fates – which was also quite poorly done in Awakening – are the parent-sibling supports. Since the conversations are all the same, no matter who the parent is, they sometimes make no sense at all. For example, if you marry Saizo with Azura, they will have Asugi and Shigure as children. According to Saizo’s conversations with Asugi, the first born son will always be named Saizo. While Asugi changed his name from Saizo to Asugi because he didn’t like the responsibility etc. that came with the name Saizo, this would mean that Asugi is the eldest child. However, in the supports between Asugi and Shigure, Shigure is referred to as the older brother, which would mean Shigure is the elder brother, which would then also mean that Shigure should technically be named Saizo instead.
I completely understand that it’s difficult and way too much work to write separate support conversations for every character, especially since there are so many marriage options, but if you do standard conversations, at least bother re-reading them and fixing them where possible to make them believable. Because mistakes like this are so cheap and dumb, and could have easily been avoided.
Speaking of marriage options, some of these bother me so much. Firstly, there are so many options for characters. While I understand that, when you’re in an army, you get to know your allies, it’s odd that so many characters can support characters they have no connection with whatsoever other than being in the same army. This often results in really bad written supports and forced endings. On top of this, I think it’s so odd that you get to marry all the siblings. I understand Nohr, since you’re not related at all to any of them, but the whole point of Hoshido was that you choose your blood-related family. But later in the story it’s revealed that you’re not blood related to them either. I get that this is fanservice, but this is so weird… I mean, you go there thinking you’re defending your family and then they’re like ‘nah mate we lied’ and you can marry them. Weird as hell, in my opinion. I’m not totally complaining though, because Ryoma is definitely worth it.
Like in Awakening, reaching an S-support between two units means you now have a child. Congratulations. Firstly, I must say I am not happy about this at all. In Awakening, I liked it because it made sense. They’re not born yet because you literally just got married – which on its own is already a bit odd after 4 conversations but all right – but the future has been set, and in this future you will have a child. But because the future is pretty much doomed, those children will find a way to go back to the present time and help you out in the war. It sounds confusing but if you’ve played Awakening you will know exactly what I mean. While it’s weird and, when you play the game further you see it’s poorly done in certain aspects, it was very easy to understand and it made sense that your children are similar age to you.
However, in Fates this is just plain bad. You reach an S-support, you get married and poof miraculously you’ve already given birth that same day and you stuff that baby in a completely different world where, conveniently, time passes by so much faster than regularly and your baby reaches his teens in literally seconds. Now you have to go rescue their butts because they got in trouble. Congratulations, they will now join your army and help save the world.
It makes 0 sense whatsoever, and it bothers me. Sure, this mechanic makes money, especially because new players will expect child-units in the game because of Awakening. But it just makes no sense and it’s so poorly done that it makes me cringe. Why the hell are child units even needed in this game? What is their purpose here? They have none, and their entire presence is ridiculous.
That said, I like some of the child characters, such as Forrest whom I think is a nice change from a lot of regular characters, and is different even from regular traps like Lucius (who’s still my favorite ‘trap’ ever). I also think Nina is a funny character, and I like her design.
A fun thing about the child units is a feature that also appeared in Awakening: The parents of the children will have a say in what kind of unit the child will become. The child units all have their base classes, as their parents do, but their parents can decide a secondary class for their children. In Fates, the fathers all have a default child, while in Awakening it was the women who had a default child. And whomever you pair the men with, will decide the child’s stat caps as well as their starting skills and even their hair color! Have fun calculating which parents is best for the most overpowered babies ever.
Now onto the artwork. I personally really like the in-game sprites, they’re pretty. You can easily see that the creator of Awakening’s sprites did the work for this game, as the style is exactly the same. This is not a bad thing, but you will notice that some of the faces you see in Fates are extremely similar to some of the faces in Awakening. Whenever I look at Subaki, I always think about Awakening’s Inigo for some reason.
Anna of course returns to this game as well, and her design in this game is definitely my favorite so far.
Something I will talk about in the reviews of the specific routes later on, is how I feel about the characters from Awakening returning in this game. Not just Laslow, Selena and Odin, but also Rhajat, Asugi and Caedori, as well as Peri.
As I said before, I like the sprite artwork. It’s pretty, quite detailed and I love the colors. The in-game battle-scenes are nice for a 3DS game, but sometimes when you follow the story, you can see the hair completely messing up. It will either go through clothes where it shouldn’t, or stick up instead of touching someone’s back when they’re lying on the floor. It’s weird to look at.
The actual scenes, however, are pretty well done. I like it, but sometimes those look a bit off, too. Overall I like the Face-sprites the best, but I think the art in general is very well done in this game. I love the style.
Fire Emblem has always been inspired by anime, ever since its first release in the 90’s, which is what attracts me to the new artwork so much.
There are some differences between the Japanese versions of the game, and the International versions. For example, in the Japanese games, the Pokémon amie-styled ‘skinship’ minigame included the player rubbing a character’s face on the touch screen. However in the international versions, this was removed due to the suggestive dialogue that the characters would respond to you with. They did leave the scenes where you stroke a character’s face while they’re asleep in order to wake them up, however, as well as the scene where you blow cold air in their face after they come out of a bath. I never understood why they removed ‘petting’ while you’re able to ‘blow’ them. Ahem.
Another thing that has been changed in the English version of the game is the Soleil scene. Soleil is a female character who flirts with and has crushes only on girls. Oddly enough, however, her supports include a lot of men, and she can only S-support with the male characters. There was a controversy where in the game, the male character spikes her drink with magic powder. This powder was supposed to make her see men as women, resulting in her falling for the male character. Obviously, this comes across as homophobic, hence why it was removed by Nintendo in the international games.
This is also the first game in the series where a character is able to marry another character of the same sex. The Avatar is the only character in the game who is able to marry someone of their own sex. If male, you can marry Niles in Conquest and Revelation, while if female, you’re able to marry Rhajat in Birthright and Revelation.
Personally I don’t mind Niles so much. I ended up liking him a lot more than when I first started playing the game; he grew on me a lot. But Rhajat bothers me a lot. She freaks me out, so I’m a little sad it’s only them and not other characters. But it’s a start. Good job to Nintendo.
Overall, I personally love the games. The gameplay is fantastic, the artwork is great. But what about the stories? The characters? I have reviewed all three games seperately. Click the links below to read about all seperate stories and characters.
Which side did you choose? Are you Nohrian Scum, or are you some Hoshidan bastard? Or perhaps you’re a Vallite creep instead?
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