On February 19th, 2016, I eagerly opened up my limited edition version of Fire Emblem Fates, excited for the journey ahead of me in one of my favorite franchises of all time. Around a month and 170 hours later, I have completed all three paths of the Fates story: Birthright, Conquest, and Revelation.
Unlike entries in the other series, FE Fates (IF in Japan) is divided into three separate games in which the main character chooses to side with Hoshido (Birthright), Nohr (Conquest), or take the neutral route (Revelations). Besides varying levels of difficulty and different styles of maps, the Fates experience also has a narrative unique to each side. Before the launch date, many seasoned fans and newcomers to the series were wondering which path to choose (since the games were divided). Although the choice is hard, it is recommended to play every game to get the full experience.
However, unless fans played the Japanese version or looked up story spoilers online, it’s hard to determine what ending or endgame is the best. We recently discussed the best FEF marriage options, as well as the best Fire Emblem Fates children units. Now, it’s time to highlight each of the main games based on their narrative/contribution to the series and provide an analysis of the endings (with some spoilers):
It’s no surprise that many Fates players start off with this entry of the franchise, as it is the easiest for newcomers to the series and seems like the morally “good” path to take. Although Corrin has grown up with the kingdom of Nohr, it is revealed that he/she was taken from Hoshido as a child, separated from birth. The prologue before the Hoshido path shows King Garron from Nohr longing to take over Hoshido to conquer as much land as possible. In some ways, having a customizable avatar allows players to choose what role they want to play. If you feel like taking on the classic good vs. seemingly evil path, Birthright is a great way to do that.
Roughly half of the game consists of recruiting members of the Hoshidan royal family and their retainers, going from location to location, defending yourself from Nohrian attacks or helping out allies in danger. The other half is a direct attack on Nohr, trying to stop King Garron in his path of “conquest”. The plot does seem generic, but it is far from it.
Compared to Conquest, Birthright has a better overall narrative for a number of reasons. First, everything seems and feels right, fitting into place. Even though the Nohrian royalty is your family from birth, siding with them after the events of the prologue doesn’t seem 100% right, especially since Corrin disagrees with King Garon’s rule. After spending time in Hoshido, Corrin is shown a peaceful community. Uniting with peace to overcome destruction seems like the morally “good” path to go, which is one reason why Birthright works so well. Yeah, it’s overdone in many games, but with good reason. Being the hero, the “good guy”, is something we all admire whether we like to admit it or not.
The pacing is also great, both with gathering teammates and then the path to stop Nohr, infiltrating the castle and stronghold. Discovering the past about your mother Mikoto is also revealed through supports and the storyline, which is something you don’t get when siding with Nohr.
However, as great as the story for Birthright is, there are some minor downfalls .
There are also some moments where the story lags, especially in the beginning. Recruiting all of Royals and their loyal retainers can get somewhat tedious, especially when you want to move on with the story. Unfortunately, although there are many great characters (especially the Royals), some characters are one dimensional, flat, and do not have much of a significance to the story other than being retainers or simply joining for the cause of good. That being said, not all the retainers are one dimensional, as characters like Oboro and Orochi have interesting stories when supported with Corrin, adding to the experience.
Takumi’s character’s actions are also explained, especially with those left with confusion after Conquest. It provides an answer to why he is vulnerable to outside forces, filling in the missing pieces.
Because it is a war, characters dying is inevitable, especially on the opposite side. What makes it more emotional is that your Nohrian siblings and family are not inherently evil, they are just taking orders from the corrupted king. This means that Camilla, Leo, Xander, and Elise are not the “villains” even though they may be appear to be. In fact, there are several moments where a few seem like they are going to abandon their positions to be with Corrin. It gives their characters extra depth and being forced to fight them leads to some very emotional scenes, especially towards the end.
The last few chapters of Birthright really focus on stopping Xander and King Garon, the antagonist. Although incredibly sad, the last few chapters are very well written, truly capturing the feeling of fighting a family you grew up with and loved. In one instance, Xander says something along the lines of “if you would have chose differently in another world we would have fought side by side”. From this, I was very excited, because I instantly thought that there would be time travel involved when I got to Revelations. Although my expectations were not met, I did marry Xander in Conquest, really making me think about my past play through and my choices.
The very end is exactly what you would expect out of the morally “good” typical RPG, everything is bright and cheerful, and the Hoshido has found peace. Although the visuals were stunning and it was satisfying, it was not much of a surprise compared to the end of Conquest. However, what happens to Azura, our favorite singer, is fully explained, unlike the other side.
Overall, the buildup to the ending is better than the ending itself.
In video games, we rarely get the chance to choose to be on the “dark side” unless we know that from the beginning. Perhaps that’s what makes joining Nohr so enticing. When you side with Nohr you are not rescuing villages or saving people, you are conquering lands in order to reign victorious for the glory of Nohr.
Perhaps one of the coolest angles in antihero gaming history is that King Garon wants you dead. You are not working WITH him and you do not wish to harm others. However, to keep yourself alive you must comply with his deadly missions. This explains the hard mission requirements and overall more difficult maps/frustrating battles. It’s insanely epic, I have to admit.
The one problem with the narrative is that Corrin’s wish to not harm others or follow the path of Nohr doesn’t seem to fit with the player’s choice of “conquest”. Even though Corrin did not wish to kill others and does not want to conquer various villages, he/she still goes along with the orders, creating a contradiction. To explain more, Corrin goes on missions to save him/herself and attempts to cause as little harm as possible. Although this is an interesting approach, it seems if Corrin is trying really hard to be morally “good”, even though he/she picked a side that they knew would be overtaking the lands. This isn’t too much of a problem, and it honestly is done rather well at times, especially later in the story.
The puzzle piece in Conquest that is very important is the mentioning of Valla. The true enemy is explained much more in this route, which is something that was needed when siding with Hoshido.
One thing Conquest does better than Birthright are the characters and supports. It’s hard to dislike anyone from Nohr, as they all are incredibly likable and share Corrin’s vision for a better world, despite their predicament. The royals are incredible in many ways, going out of the way to protect their brother/sister at any cost. It’s also notable that the side characters have significance to the story, especially Odin, Selena, and Lazlow, three favorites from Fire Emblem Awakening who have returned in this game on a secret mission. Their supports are easily some of the best in Conquest as well. The only problem is that there is no grinding allowed in this game, making it difficult to support these amazing characters and obtain their children.
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Conquest really picks up during the last few chapters, having an epic final showdown with several plot twists and challenging battles. Compared to Birthright, the plot twists in the Endgame chapter are superior, throwing an unexpected an awesome curve that give more insight to the Hoshido characters/royals. Like Birthright, it is sad and bittersweet, but the Hoshidan path is definitely more emotional. The final ending with Xander is very hopeful, providing a great conclusion to the Conquest story. What happens with Azura, however, is very poorly explained and is only fully clear in Birthright.
Some call Revelation the true ending. That isn’t far from the truth, but it does have some implications with it.
Revelations involves the player choosing neither side, and is only recommended after beating both Conquest and Birthright. Instead of having one of two large kingdoms on your side, you have only your loyal butler/maid, Azura, and Gunter, making the first few maps a living hell with only a few units.
That, however, is beyond worth it in the long run, as you are able to recruit literally everyone from both Hoshido and Nohr, making it the ultimate version of Fates, and also the most fun to play.
The story begins with you choosing to retreat, taking a neutral stance. Neither Ryoma or Xander seem too happy about this, but it doesn’t result in siding with one and a fight breaking lose.
However, one question to explore is if is the choice to be neutral is very realistic. Although we would all say we would take a neutral stance on any given subject, being on neither side in a warring kingdom probably would not end well for a number of reasons. Uniting the kingdoms also probably wouldn’t work very well, as some members of the army would have deep hostilities towards the others, especially with Oboro and her backstory. This could have potentially been a downfall in the narrative if it wasn’t for one reason.
The Kingdom of Valla, the actual reason Garon is going bezerk and there are invisible soldiers popping up, is actually the true enemy. Nohr vs. Hoshido seems like a silly fight compared to what Valla has been up to, which is why the kingdoms are able to unite to take on the invisible threat that may destroy their world.
Although Revelations is a near perfect game, it would have been great if Valla was mentioned much more in both Conquest and Birthright, since it almost seems a bit random when the focus was on the other two kingdoms fighting. Conquest gives much more information about it than the other side, being one of the distinct puzzle pieces that bring the two games together. Those who played Birthright would not have gotten sufficient information about Valla. It’s vague in Conquest, but still is more prevalent.
That being said, going through Valla and unveiling all of the awesome secrets and filling in the gaps left by both sides is definitely a ride to remember. The maps are mostly all new and different than the other two stories, making it almost an entirely new adventure or even a sequel to the main games.
One thing that should have been emphasized more is the culture of the people of Valla. It also would have been great to have a few units from that particular Kingdom, even though most of them are in fact invisible. I felt myself wanting to learn more about the mysterious society.
Supports between characters gave entirely new options. Shipping the royals from both sides was fun, and it was great seeing them interact with each other as allies. Unlimited grinding and a full roster also gives players the most customizable options yet.
Absolutely beautiful and the definite conclusion to the game, Revelations can be called the true ending. You can probably guess what happens, as both kingdoms have worked together to obtain peace and prosperity. Everything is positive and feels good, especially after spending over 100 hours with these characters. It is the most satisfying conclusion to Fates and should be played by all fans of the other two games. I was in tears at the final cutscene and as the credits were rolling, seeing my favorite characters finally get what they deserved.
Fire Emblem Fates should have been on one cartridge (outside of the Limited Edition), as it is not three separate games, but one entire experience. Just playing one side does not explain everything you long to know about the world and characters you have grown to love . Playing only Birthright and Conquest is not sufficient without concluding with Revelations, since the true evil is never fully exposed. Just playing Revelations is definitely not a great option, especially since you do not get to see both sides of the story and it can almost be considered a sequel.
Birthright feels like it has a better story than Conquest, especially since it seems like a better way to unite both kingdoms, by siding with a peaceful kingdom who wishes to stop the attacks from Nohr. It also is significant to note that none of the Nohr siblings agree with their father’s wish to conquer Hoshido. However, their actions in Birthright are spectacular, making it a great way to see both sides in one route.
Does this mean that Birthright is overall a better game? No. Gameplay-wise, it is easier and more fun to pick up all the units and have access to unlimited grinding. However, Conquest offers a challenge and arguably better characters.
They are two pieces that fit together beautifully, leading to the superior Revelations, which combines map requirements, unlimited grinding, all of the amazing characters from each side, and an intriguing story that tells both Azura and Corrin’s backstory, creating a near perfect narrative.