FIRE EMBLEM FATES: BIRTHRIGHT ON NINTENDO 3DS
Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is a worthy successor to the series’ lineage, and one that instills the tried and true formula with enough new ideas to engage old fans and bring in new ones. Splitting the game into three different versions doesn’t hold anything back from the experience either, as Nintendo and Intelligent Systems have still provided a full-fledged 30+ hour experience.
Fates is split into two major releases, Birthright and Conquest, with a third DLC campaign, Revelation, releasing later. Birthright doesn’t feel limited by this fact though, as it has its own storyline, characters, options and distinctive style. It never feels like anything is missing, with the exception of an ending that hints at an unseen force possibly being at play behind the story. It’s small and not in your face, but the culmination ultimately feels like it’s pushing you to play the other versions.
The first six chapters of Fates introduces you to the world and characters of the two opposing sides of Hoshido and Nohr. The peace loving Hoshido are reminiscent of feudal Japan, while the Nohrians are harsh people with a more European design. Hoshido could be seen as the traditional “good guys” defending from invasion, and there are a few aspects of the story that can be seen as the white and black, good vs. evil comparison. Even considering this though, Birthright brings up a bit of ambiguity and grey area in terms of morality.
At the beginning of the game you create your own avatar named Corrin by default. Your character has the strange ability to transform into a dragon. While this character is of your design, he or she still has a strong personality and interacts with others like any character would.
Once you reach the “Branch of Fate” in chapter six, Birthright has you following the Hoshido side, fighting off the forces of Nohr. This version of Fates tells a sweeping story of light prevailing over darkness, and the avatar learning about the family and land that was lost to them since the player is actually a Hoshidan royal stolen away by Nohr at a young age.
Birthright has some surprisingly heartfelt moments, with a dash of tragedy mixed in. There’s a few twists and turns to the story, and fighting against the siblings and potential allies your character spent their life with can be heartbreaking at times. On the other side of the coin, your Hoshidan siblings are overjoyed to have their sibling back, and there’s a lot to learn about the society and history of the proud nation. Support conversations return with some of the best character development of the game, providing tidbits of story and personality for characters.
In addition to over 25 main story chapters, a host of paralogues can be unlocked from marriages and each one has you helping a child of one of your characters. A confusing story mechanic is put in place to make these children playable, as they’re put in places called “Deeprealms” to protect them from the war their parents are fighting. Time in the Deeprealms advances much faster than the world of Fates, causing children to grow and approach their parent’s ages quickly. A little suspension of belief is necessary to swallow this, but the child characters are generally as fleshed out as any other.
Anyone familiar with a Fire Emblem game will feel right at home with Birthright’s gameplay. Battles are seen from a top down isometric view, with players and enemies taking turns moving units. The traditional weapon triangle of previous games returns as well, although it’s been updated a bit.
Swords and tomes beat axes and bows, axes and bows beat lances and shuriken, and so on. Fates also has a welcome change by completely doing away with weapon durability, as weapons won’t break and can be used indiscriminately now. By this same token, weapons influence a character’s stats much more heavily meaning careful planning on which weapon to use is important.
The support features from Awakening return. Characters that are placed next to each other in battle will support one another when attacking or defending. They boost each other’s stats, can add an extra attack, or defend the other from damage. Units can also be paired combining the two essentially into one, giving a huge boost to defense. Only the primary character in the pair will attack, but it’s a good way to fortify your defenses. Of course enemies can employ these strategies as well.