Developed by: Intelligent Systems, Nintendo SPD
Published by: Nintendo of America Reviewed on: Nintendo 3DS
Fire Emblem Fates is a trilogy comprised of three separate, yet intertwining, games: Birthright, Conquest, and Revelations. Of the three, Birthright is the natural successor to the massively popular Fire Emblem Awakening. Birthright brings back all the familiar game play elements as well as the easier difficulty curve from Awakening while introducing a variety of new classes and game play tweaks. Unfortunately, like Awakening, Birthright also suffers from an unimaginative plot, simplistic map objectives, and feature creep.
Unlike the prior games, your avatar plays a central role in Fates. Early on you find yourself having to choose between your blood family, the Hoshido, and your adoptive family, the Nohr. Both sides are in an unavoidable conflict, so your decision will be considered a betrayal to one of your families. Purchasing Birthright locks you into the Hoshido path unless you have a digital copy of Conquest. Despite all the fanfare surrounding the contributions of writer Shin Kibayashi, the overall plot of Birthright is slightly underwhelming beyond the initial decision. The plot begins to pick up towards the end, but in an somewhat inconclusive fashion as you’ll need to play Conquest and the Revelations DLC to get the full story.
Much like Awakening, the supporting cast takes a back seat to the core players, the Hoshido royal family. Much of the characterizations occur in Support conversations, which are triggered after units reach a certain affinity level via collaborative interactions during battles. The first 15 chapters of the game constantly adds new characters to your army, most of which aren’t quite as interesting or compelling as the main cast. Thankfully there’s ample opportunity to grind for both experience and support conversations as you can initiate random battles between chapters.
Visually, Birthright is a marginal improvement over Awakening. The character models have more detail and actually have feet this time around. There’s also more details in the backgrounds to enhance the illusion of grand scale battles. The biggest additional visually are the well animated Live2D character models used in the new My Castle features. Key gameplay moments told via beautiful CG animation. Also like Awakening, the soundtrack is serviceable, but not particularly memorable. The limited voice acting is now only available in dubbed form. Birthright’s score has an East Asian flair to accentuate the game’s noble, honorable Hoshido theme.
The main campaign is comprised of 28 chapters along with optional paralogues, skirmishes, and invasions. The stage layouts are more interesting than the ones in Awakening due to the additions of obstacles and field altering Dragon Veins. Unfortunately, most of the objectives come down to simply defeating every enemy unit on each map. Another new wrinkle is that enemies can now pair up to obtain their own stat boosts. Weapon durability has been removed, although rods still have a finite number of uses. A welcome addition to Birthright are interesting new classes such as the basara, blacksmith, merchant, and mechanist. These Hoshido exclusive classes are interesting alternatives to traditional Fire Emblem classes found in Conquest. Like its predecessor, the game doesn’t offer much challenge on Normal. Those looking for a satisfying challenge should play it on Hard or play Conquest instead. Overall, the combat system is as satisfying as ever, the support conversation feature is still very addicting, and the new classes are uniquely fun.
The My Castle feature is expanded version of Awakening’s Barrack’s feature. Instead of scrolling through menu options, you can now wander around your base of operation, purchase items from shops, and see your units. You can also visit other players’ castles via Streetpass or the internet to battle for experience, collect resources, and even recruit their units. You can also scan in Fire Emblem amiibo to unlock Marth, Ike, Robin, and Lucina, although their usage will be limited due to their lack of support conversations. Overall, My Castle is mostly a distraction that doesn’t add much to the overall game play. Another unnecessary addition are the new seals that can be used to promote your units to advanced classes. Instead of one master seal, now there are Heart, Friendship, Partner, and Offspring seals to diversify the promotions available.
While it’s not quite the evolution I was hoping for, Birthright is still a worthwhile addition to the Fire Emblem lineage. It’s definitely a must play for fans who became familiar with the series through Awakening. Old school fans will feel more at home playing Conquest, which is much less forgiving and has more varied objectives.