Title: Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Genre: Tactical Strategy RPG, JRPG
Rating: T (Teens) – Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes
Release Date (JP): June 25th, 2015
Release Date (NA): February 19th, 2016
Review: Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright
Fire Emblem Fates has been divided into three different games, each with a different storyline and ways to play. This review covers the “easiest” route out of the three games: Birthright. With Birthright being the easiest route out of the three, does it still manage to provide an enjoyable experience? Most definitely.
No matter which copy of Fire Emblem Fates you decide to pick up first (although it’s strongly suggested you purchase Conquest or Birthright as a starting point) your first six missions will be practically identical. However, from that point going forward, the game will dramatically change. If you choose Conquest, you turn your back on your blood-related family and instead side with the Kingdom of Nohr, known for their strength and for their conquest of other nations. If you choose Birthright, you side with your blood-related family and side with the Kingdom of Hoshido, known for their peaceful culture and prosperity. If you choose Revelation, you side with neither nation and embark on your own destiny. However, this review is aimed at Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, which means the only story I will be reviewing is Birthright’s.
Birthright seems to follow a script that is fairly cliche for the fantasy genre. The protagonist has to form an army to take on a powerful dictator, who seems to be winning the war at every neck of the woods that you come across, and constantly impedes you with varying threats for you to overcome. Meanwhile, you wrestle with your own feelings along the way because friends or family close to you instead have chosen a different path, and they soon question their own emotions about wanting to fight you as well. These cliches are things you learn to deal with when you’re a fan of the JRPG genre, but Birthright follows the script to such a note, that hardly anything feels surprising. If there was one weak point of Birthright, it has to be it’s painfully bland and boring story line.
Luckily, if you can look past the main story and instead focus on the side stories that the character cast provides throughout many of these bonding moments, you should still be able to find enjoyment throughout the game. If there’s one thing Fire Emblem continues to get right, it’s the sometimes funny and awkward out of combat dialogue between different characters, which in return ends up strengthening their bond when they’re fighting together on the battlefield. “Anime tropes” seem to occur throughout these dialogues, and if they annoy you, you’ll probably be annoyed with some of the silliness that comes along with it. Luckily, not all of these dialogues involve them, but it’ll be practically impossible to avoid them all, so your mileage may very.
A returning element from Fire Emblem: Awakening is how when bonds grow strong enough between a Male and Female character, they eventually get married and end up having a child, who can then be enlisted almost immediately after to join your army when you complete an epilogue side mission. You’re probably wondering how mere children can join an army (and trust me, you’re not wrong), but with the introduction of Deep Realms, a loophole was found to involve them within Fates. Time goes by faster within these Deep Realms, which causes the children that are left there for safety to age faster, and within months they’re old enough to enlist beside their parents in your own personal army. Heartwarming.
A pleasant introduction into Fire Emblem Fates was the inclusion of romantic same-sex bonds. While Fire Emblem in the past has allowed some characters of the same gender to reach an S-rank Bond, it was only made of friendship, rather than love as it is with Male and Female characters. Now, for the first time in the series history, two characters are capable of reaching that same romantic bond with the protagonist. The two characters are Rhajat (featured in Birthright and Revelation) and Niles (featured in Conquest and Revelation) who are bisexual characters who eventually join your army within the game. Looking towards the future, we’ll have to monitor if Fire Emblem will continue with this progress within the franchise and see if they’ll add additional options for players who want to pair together more varieties of units for different bonds.
The characters involved within Birthright may seem unoriginal at first glance, but the tropes associated with most of them are easily disregarded when you witness their growth firsthand. Unfortunately, the protagonist feels like the only character that doesn’t actually grow or develop enough, which is a shame because the protagonist is YOU. If there was a character that needed to be more entertaining, or a character that you should’ve grown more attached to, you would hope and think it would be yourself. However, with how bland the script of Birthright was, the character performs and acts exactly as expected throughout the entire story, never becoming anything special or memorable.
In the end, Birthright’s story isn’t incredibly satisfying with how cliche and predictable it is, especially with how character dialogue constantly hints to remind you of “how things could’ve been different in a different world” (paraphrasing), but perhaps these comments are things lost in translation or purpose when converted to the English version of the game. It’s not exactly an enjoyable thing to be reminded about how if I spend a little more money, I may have a more complete experience or adventure. However, Birthright can still be an enjoyable ride for those who have no interest in checking out the other two paths for Fire Emblem Fates, especially if you haven’t tried out the franchise before.
One of the major strengths of Fire Emblem Fates is the returning gameplay and combat from Fire Emblem: Awakening that made it such a success. It’s strange that a game simply based off of “Rock Paper Scissors” combat can end up feeling so satisfying, but it manages to do so again and again. The combat of Fire Emblem Fates is a refined simplicity that’s easy to understand and even easier to enjoy when you go and play. As an example, a Pegasus Knight or Wyvern Knight can navigate the battlefield faster than any other unit, but they have a very distinct and severe weakness against characters that use Bows. This is a reoccurring theme for just about any class and weapon type in the game. Once you learn, it’s something you can continue to use and do as you see fit. If you don’t? You’ll end up being punished by some of the crippling counterattacks that can occur if you don’t strategize properly.
The grid based combat that the series is known for is back in full force. If you’re a fan of tactics styled games, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better handheld or console offering than the Fire Emblem series. There are some returning classes from Fire Emblem: Awakening, but many have been renamed and even more vary upon whether you choose Birthright or Conquest, some class types may be restricted for or against you as well, unless you recruit soldiers that you have imprisoned through an unlockable building in your castle. It’s up to you to design your own army and use whatever units fit your playstyle. This customization of Fire Emblem cannot be underrated in a genre that is normally known for strict gameplay habits in this regard.
The introduction of the Castle is one of the new ways Fire Emblem Fates offers customization. Using Dragon Vein points that you acquire from completing missions (story, challenges, epilogues, and DLC), you’ll be able to purchase and upgrade buildings to your heart’s content. You will be able to place the buildings and objects that you acquire wherever you want within the castle walls. You can also unlock varying regions for your castle to be locked within depending upon the version of the game that you’re playing.
This encourages StreetPass within the game in a totally new and different way compared to other entries in the series. It’s up to you if you’d like to challenge other players that you have passed by with StreetPass enabled(who are then controlled by AI), or simply visit their castles to give them comments upon how it looks, or share other accessories or items with them. Your imagination is the only thing that limits you, right? Well, unfortunately no, as there is a limit upon how many buildings and objects you can have within your walls, but it’s a fair restriction so loading times and gameplay don’t suffer.
Depending on the difficulty and version of the game you play, when it comes to managing your party you’re bound to have a different experience compared to another player. However, Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright does eliminate some of the issues that come with that problem due to the amount of available missions, that seem virtually endless, before you can choose to jump back into Story missions. To some it will be considered far too easy with how much you can grind gold and experience to your heart’s content, but it also offers another route and option for players that want to ensure their armies and units are always strong enough before embarking upon story missions. Afterall, not everyone is going to be interested in playing the game on a Phoenix or Casual difficulty, where death is not permanent, but some may feel more encouraged to try the normal difficulty if they can at the very least grind experience for characters to ensure they’re more powerful than they would normally be able to be for upcoming missions. It also ensures that the player doesn’t have to rely strictly upon DLC missions within Birthright to grind additional items and gold that may otherwise be required.
The engine used for Fire Emblem Fates is virtually the same one used in Fire Emblem: Awakening, but improved and better optimized to unlock and perform in different ways compared to Awakening. Fire Emblem Fates ends up feeling much more polished than any other recent entry into the franchise and there isn’t much you can find fault with considering the updates that have been added into the game. The most bothersome gameplay involved the clunkiness of the Inventory system that feels dated and tiresome to manage throughout the game. A more efficient system that allows you to easily manage your inventory with better organization (rather than simply lists) and customization would be greatly appreciated for future entries.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
If you were a fan of the art and music involved with the Fire Emblem franchise, don’t expect be disappointed with what Fates brings as well. Fates provides some of the most stunning visuals available on the Nintendo 3DS hardware. The developers ensured visuals for characters and character classes were noticeably upgraded, which included addressing the biggest complaint from Fire Emblem: Awakening: the lack of feet on character models. With new character types and more, there’s a lot to be excited about if you were a fan of the art direction that the series has been known for.
The soundtrack created for Fire Emblem Fates is rather enjoyable as well. Many battles feel epic with how the music captures the emotion involved with them perfectly. It also extends to the ever so pleasant music when the game shifts from battle to casual time as well. However, a noticeable addition and theme to the game was with the introduction of the songstress character, Azura. Azura needed a song to fit the theme of the story, and while it serves a greater purpose throughout the game, it ultimately takes away from the main protagonist: you. At points you’ll wonder if you are truly the main character or if Azura is due to all the of the situations her song and her voice will help you through. It’s nothing new for Fire Emblem games when it comes to putting focus upon other characters in your party rather than yourself, as even Fire Emblem: Awakening there was a heavy focus upon Chrom, Lucina, and Lissa throughout the game, not always involving the Grandmaster (you).
Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright offers one of the most complete experiences you’ll find on the Nintendo 3DS Hardware. The gameplay and customization offered within the game reaches new heights for the franchise that continues to grow stronger with each new entry. You’ll be hard pressed to find better tactical based combat that the series is known for as well. The graphics and soundtrack reach new heights within the series, providing an aesthetically pleasing adventure for two senses. Unfortunately, the story of Birthright doesn’t live up to the standards that the rest of the game set. The cliche tropes that Birthright follows and the lack of any attachment the player feels to the main protagonist, Corrin, is lackluster.
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This copy of Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright was purchased by the staff here at GeekTFO for the purposes of this review.
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Title: Review: Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright
Reviewed by Tyler “Hahke” Finney
Summary: different storyline and ways to play.
Description: Review: Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright