Fire Emblem, Nintendo’s valued strategy RPG fantasy series, has recently released its latest installment, Fire Emblem Fates (IF in Japan), and is set to be released in America in 2016 under the names Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest and Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright. After the success of Fire Emblem Awakening that saved the entire series’ existence, a bit of a surprise announcement came this year, producing continuous amounts of hype until its June 25th release.
In Fire Emblem Fates, you take on the role as Kamui, the main unit who must choose a side between his/her adopted family, Nohr, and their “blood-related” family, Hoshido. Each side is at war with one another, with a gameplay emphasis on the weight of choices. However, since its release in Japan, there has been some controversy surrounding a certain support/character interaction, surprisingly sexual dialogue, and debates about marriages and relations.
Despite the seemingly never-ending complaints, Fire Emblem Fates, has become an overwhelming success, selling over 300,000 units at launch (according to Game Asia). There are many reasons to be excited about this new Fire Emblem title, as it may even be the best Nintendo 3DS game yet.
So, without further ado, here are 8 reasons to be hyped for Fire Emblem Fates
1. Three Games, One World
Fire Emblem Fates is not only one game, it’s three games in one universe (if you include the Invisible Kingdom DLC). Players must choose to side with Hoshido, Nohr, or both, in one shared route. Depending on which side the player chooses changes character interactions, support options, and the entire story. Fates will be sold as separate games or sides, much like Pokemon titles. This may be a downside to some, but buying all three routes triples the amount of gameplay, allowing the player to experience the narrative from three different perspectives. Will you choose to side with the Hoshido, the seemingly good-natured birth family, Nohr, the apparent antiheroes who kidnapped you at birth, or neither, since choosing one side can be problematic in it’s own way? It’s a difficult, yet captivating choice left in the hands of the players.
2. Large Amounts of Replayability
The player avatar is entirely customizable, allowing for both female and male protagonists along with several classes, weapons, and attributes to choose from. Fans of the other Fire Emblem titles know that there are also several ways to play a certain level, with different characters, teams, and set-ups in order to obtain items and EXP. Classes include a base class that can be leveled up to level 20. At level 10, players can choose to use a Master Seal in order to achieve an advanced class. Since characters have many options, the game can be played in many different ways. These attributes, along with the story, combine to make a unique experience every playthrough.
3. Marriage, Supports, and Children
Fire Emblem has always had a unique feature of gameplay that involves teaming up characters together to achieve supports, or interactions/dialogue between two characters. After fighting together in battle, units will gain affinity towards one another which will result in a short event/cutscene that occurs between the two. Ranks range from C to A for friends, and C to S for potential lovers. When two characters achieve “S rank”, then there is a confession and they get married. Fire Emblem Awakening introduced child characters, in which skills and stats were inherited between a couple and passed onto the next generation. Not only does this system provide backstories and characterization, it also is incredibly fun and dynamic, adding another element to the gameplay. Fates has two different games with several marriage options and supports. This results in players having hundreds of options and possibilities to discover even more about the characters.
Affection levels can also be increased by taking the characters “out” on dates or through the Pokemon-amie like face touching minigame. There’s mixed reactions about this because it’s definitely a weird feature and there are many reports of suggestive dialogue. However, it has not been confirmed if this feature is skippable so it can be avoided by those who do not wish to participate in the mini-game. Knowing what happened with past localizations, it’ll more than likely be censored.
Despite the controversial claims that the player can marry blood related siblings on the Hoshido side, it has also been noted that there are no incestuous relationships within the game.
According to some fan translations, the avatar is not related to either the Nohr or Hoshido family. There is a different mother but the avatar was taken away at birth and believed to be blood related to the Hoshido siblings.
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4. Same-Sex Marriage
Although it’s very limited and limited to one character per sex and route, same sex marriage is definitely a start towards progression of LGBTQA+ representation in media. Players, as a female, can marry Shara, from Hoshido, or as a male, Zero, from Nohr. The catch is that they can only marry the main character. Despite this announcement, the choice of characters for same sex marriage in Fates has caused some controversy among the community. One problem being Shara and Zero’s personalities, as well as choosing them specifically when there are other characters who might fit better in this position. Kotaku touched on one of the controversies, detailing the story of the implied bisexual character, Soleil, who can only marry men and the male protagonist despite claiming to only be interested in women. However, there are some translation differences and cultural differences to be accounted for before jumping to conclusions about Soleil’s role in the game. Either way, this is the first time the series has seen same-sex marriages and children, and that is a definite step forward into the future, even if it is limited.
5. Enhanced Gameplay, Battle Mechanics, and Difficulty Levels
Fire Emblem Fates has polished the classic gameplay of the strategy-RPG series in several ways. There are a few new classes, such as maids/butlers, that allow for new movesets and stat differences for the characters. The weapon triangle was also redone, so now that concealed weapons/lances have an advantage over magic and swords, magic and swords reign over bows and axes, and bows and axes win over concealed weapons/lances. It is also worth noting that in older titles, weapons and magic tomes could only be used a certain number of times before breaking. Now, there is no durability and weapons can be used an infinite amount of times, minus staffs. To counter this, stronger and more powerful weapons have some drawbacks. Either way, the thought of keeping a weapon without it breaking after 30-some uses is a really great feeling.
Another feature added to Fire Emblem Fates is the new difficulty level. Phoenix Mode. With this, fallen units revive after their turn on the map with 100% health. Some may say this makes the game too easy, especially with the addition of casual mode in Fire Emblem Awakening that prevents permadeath, a classic Fire Emblem feature . However, the developers believe that it will draw newcomers into the series, as it will reach a wider audience, allowing many more to enjoy the story Fates has to offer. Don’t worry hardcore players , you will still have Lunatic/Lunatic+, Classic mode, and Nohr (the more difficult path) to challenge you, or make the game twice as long.
In addition to largely customizable avatar units, players now have the option to change character clothing and armor. Most notably, players can now alter their town, in a brand new mode called “My Castle”. Here, players can build structures that allow for several events, allowing for a more open world experience and additional gameplay features. “My Castle” interactions range from battles triggered by enemy units to a visit to the hot springs with fellow army members. Players can also spend time in their rooms, building relationships with other characters in the “Barrack” like format that was present in Fire Emblem Awakening. This is a great feature that allows players to experience additional content outside of the main storyline.
7. Music and Visuals
Despite being on a portable console, Fire Emblem Fates has very impressive graphics and visuals for both battles and cutscenes. Despite Nintendo’s constant backlash for not having the graphic capabilities of other consoles, Fire Emblem Fates’ 3D rendered cutscenes look absolutely stunning. 3D battle sprites also appear to be more polished than Awakening, as well as the 2D characters that move around the battlefield. As with every Fire Emblem game, the music is unique and beautiful, fitting the setting quite well. It is a combination of soothing vocals and professionally orchestrated instrumental music that add to the wow factor of Fire Emblem Fates.
As stated before, Fates will focus more on a storyline that involves the rivalry between two royal families, Hoshido and Nohr. Hoshido has more of a traditional Japanese influence, while Nohr is heavily influenced by European culture. This provides interesting historical analysis and basis for a deep and intriguing storyline. With such an emphasis on player choice, there is sure to be many twists and turns in the narrative that will provide a different experience every time. Not much can be said without spoilers, however, there are sure to be some intense moments.
Despite the controversies that have followed this game, Fire Emblem Fates still offers fans quite a bit to be excited about. Older fans may not be too happy with all of the new features, but it is safe to say that Fates appeals to all types of gamers, offering a unique experience for any fan of Nintendo games, Japanese games, and SRPGs. All we can do is wait until there is an official translation and the official copy is released worldwide. Hopefully 2016 will come sooner.