Fire Emblem Fates
Jesse Woo Jesse Woo

Nintendo 3DS


Intelligent Systems

Strategy RPG


US 2016
Japan 06/25/2015

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This was my reaction when I heard about the two versions.
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Talk to the hand!
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Isn't this a Pokémon?
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Your two parallel families.
"Fire Emblem used to be the Dark Souls of SRPGs, and though I am glad it is charting new waters, I am no longer sure where it stands in the pantheon of gaming."

Fire Emblem Fates breaks new ground on several fronts for the long-running series. It is refreshing to see such a storied and venerable franchise willing to innovate, particularly when the continued future of the series was in doubt only recently. So-called "old school" fans like myself may raise an eyebrow at some of the changes, but that does not mean they are bad.

It is impossible to talk about Fire Emblem Fates without discussing the game's split of the storyline into two versions, called Birthright and Conquest. The game's main character, Corrin, was originally born into the royal family of the peace-loving Hoshido family but later kidnapped and raised as a member of the war-like Nohr royal family, and the story branches based on which family you choose in the game's sixth chapter. The Birthright version will have you join your birth-family to repel the Nohr kingdom's invasion, while the Conquest version will place you at the head of an internal Nohr kingdom rebellion. Not only the story, but the gameplay and composition of your army will all change dramatically based on your choice.

The Conquest version will include greater variety of victory objectives and will also have a limited amount of experience available to your army. The difficulty is supposedly higher on average as well. According to the development team, the Birthright version is designed to appeal more to series newcomers and fans of Fire Emblem Awakening.

In addition, the two different versions will have different characters, although some will be common to both.

The common characters include:

The Conquest characters include:

The known Birthright characters include:

In Japan, each version is a full-priced game and is said to contain the same amount of content as Fire Emblem Awakening. In addition, a third version featuring an entirely different enemy was just released in Japan. In that third version, called Invisible Kingdom, the player must unite the warring armies against an even greater threat

The branching story and multiple versions is only one of many new features. Fire Emblem Fates' gameplay will have several tweaks and updates. Another first for the series is the fully customizable main character. Although the main character has a default look and name (Corrin), players can customize their name, look, and even gender. Other games like Fire Emblem Awakening had a customizable character, but this is the first time the protagonist is fully customizable. The main character also appears to transform into some other-worldly four-legged creature, although not much is known about that feature at this time.

Also new is "My Castle," where players can place structures to build up a custom base for their army that allows them to shop, gather items, and interact with the other characters. You can also complete other side content like feeding a pet dragon and competing in arena matches. The castle also interacts with the online multiplayer by serving as one of the battlefields.

Online matches can be played with friends, random players, or locally. Battles consist of 5 characters on each team drawn from a player's save file from any point in the game. In addition, you can set standard rules or place limitations like no items or no hero promotions. There will be no fog of war, and each player will have 5 minutes to take their turn.

A major change to combat is the inclusion of Dragon Pulses, which are abilities that allows certain characters to alter the battlefield in strategic ways. For instance, a dragon pulse can trigger a land slide or build a bridge. This ability can be used at any time, so timing is key to maximizing strategic effect, but enemy units can also use it, so beware.

Another big change appears in the weapons triangle. Instead of the usual swords > axes > lances > swords, weapon priority will now be swords and magic > axes and bows > lances and concealed weapons > swords and magic. Thus, swords and magic will be strongest against axes and bows, which will be strongest against lances and concealed weapons, which are in turn strongest against swords and magic. It appears that the magic triangle is gone as well, a trend started with Fire Emblem Awakening. However, the developers have added concealed weapons, which are a new weapon type used by maids, butlers, and ninja that will debuff enemy abilities.

In addition, all weapons except for staves will have an unlimited number of uses, which means no more worrying about your weapons stockpile. To balance this out, stronger weapons will carry certain disadvantages. For example, the weaker Bronze Sword will have 0 crit chance but +10 crit evasion. Upgrading to a Steel Sword will grant a better attack at the loss of the crit evasion, -5 evasion overall, and greater difficulty in using a double attack.

Not everything about the game is new, of course. The core SRPG combat appears to be the same, as are the leveling and promotion mechanics. For those unfamiliar with the series, combat plays out in a series of missions where you control an army of heroes on a grid-based map. Each army gets to use all of their units before ending the turn. Characters gain experience and level up by taking actions (although scoring a kill nets the highest XP) and cap out at 20. Between levels 10 and 20, the character can promote to an advanced class, thereby unlocking better stats, new skills, and often greater weapon choice. Normally, character death is permanent, and losing the "lord" character will result in a game over. However, in Fates there will be a new Phoenix mode, an additional difficulty below even Casual mode (also returning) that will revive fallen allies at the end of every turn.

Support conversations, marriages, and even children will make a comeback as well. Characters who reach S-level support with one another can pair up and get married, and in some cases will have a child who joins the army. Many questions remain, like the mechanics of this (time travel again?), or the morality of bringing your child to a war zone, but we do know that the child’s appearance and likely their stats will be influenced by their parents.

A big step forward for Fire Emblem is the inclusion of same-sex pairings. Because the main character can be either gender the male protagonist in Conquest can couple up with a man named Zero, and the female protagonist in Birthright can pair up with a woman named Shara. Both characters can also pair up with the protagonist if they are the opposite sex, so it would appear that they are bisexual.

Finally, there is a whole host of job classes, both old and new. The job classes in the Conquest version, both basic and advanced, are:

The basic and advanced classes in the Birthright version are:

Clearly, Fire Emblem Fates is trying a lot of new ideas for the series. Some I like, and others I'm not so crazy about but will wait to play before I judge. Fire Emblem used to be the Dark Souls of SRPGs, and though I am glad it is charting new waters, I am no longer sure where it stands in the pantheon of gaming.

© 2015 Nintendo, Intelligent Systems. All rights reserved.