Fire Emblem: Fates – First Look

A new Fire Emblem title but does it burn bright or fizzle out?

First of all, this is not a full review, it’s more like a “I have been building a nursery for my coming child but have also had Fire Emblem Fates for a week  and this is what I think” kind of thing.  My amazing wife preordered the special edition for me as a Christmas gift so I that is the edition I’m going to talk about.

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As cool as Marth is, Mega Man is obviously cooler
Fire Emblem is my favourite game series currently in development.  It is close to my favourite, but Mega Man Legends will probably hold that place in my heart forever.  The last two releases, have been stellar, but ever since I convinced my little brother to buy Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (even though he didn’t play it for years afterward because it was really hard) I’ve been in love.  I’ve played numerous fan translations, and all of the games that were actually released in english, and “Fates” is my favourite for sure.
I’ll start with my thoughts on the special edition presentation and awards first.  The box art is beautiful.  I haven’t even opened the 3DS carrying case because I’d rather keep it in good condition.  The hardcover art book is spectacular.  It looks much better than the one included with “Awakening” and is also quite a lot bigger.  There is concept art that covers locations, playable characters, NPCs and enemies as well.  I love the pixel sprites and the pages of box art for every Fire Emblem release was a nice touch.
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It really is the best “special edition” of a handheld game I’ve ever bought.

Full disclosure, I haven’t finished Conquest yet, but now that I’m getting close to done with my construction project I expect to sink more than a few hours into it this weekend.  The story is obviously a Fire Emblem one.  Evil advisors, dragons, political intrigue and maniacal laughing are here, and they’re as good as ever.  One thing I’m loving about the story of Conquest is the love between siblings, both natural and adopted.  I found the passionate care and even self sacrificing behaviours of the adopted siblings incredibly touching.  The adopted siblings grew up together not knowing that the main character was adopted, but even when they found out that he was from a rival kingdom by birth.  Being a foster dad I am learning how to love those who are not naturally my own, but by the grace and the glory of God and for our good, now are.  Another theme that reoccurs at least in the first half of the game is reliance on others to complete impossible tasks.  We can sympathize with this in our own battle with sin.  Without the help of the Holy Spirit, and the corporate body of believers, our church family, we would be helpless.  I hope that this continues, I’m really engaged by the story, though as I have already mentioned, it is obviously a Fire Emblem title.
There are both new, and redesigned features that really make the game stand out from it’s predecessors.  Support between characters follows the same formula as in “Awakening” but is enhanced by it’s complexity and I feel that the conversations between the characters you often pair up are better than they were previously.  The pairing up feature has become a must, if not in Birthright, absolutely in Conquest.  This feature has been the only way I’ve been able to beat a few chapters.  Basically you get two characters to team up and based on what class/level and support level the characters have, attributes of the character you will be using are enhanced.  It is helpful to give a tank a bit more DPS or a rogue more defence when they need to be used to take out an enemy they may have an advantage over, but need a boost to resistance, speed or whatever else is helpful.  A totally new feature is the “My Castle” part of the game.  It really boosts the multiplayer aspect and adds resource management, crafting, design and character interaction is greatly benefited by this.  In regards to the multiplayer, you can take resources, buy from shops, be inspired by others creative layouts and even challenge them to battle either in your own castle or at theirs.  When editing/building your town you can build defences and place units where you’d like in hopes of being able to keep the enemy team from seizing your throne.  There are some bonuses for fighting and defeating enemies who are a higher level than you and your team which makes it fun and rewarding to use this feature.  DLC looks like it will be about the same as in Fire Emblem: Awakening, but most of it has yet to be released.  Another new feature is “Dragon Veins”.  A square on the battle map where heroes with royal blood may alter the map in some way.  A gameplay mechanic that is not available in Conquest, is free roam and grinding opportunity, which makes the game harder, but also lends itself to the urgency that is felt by each quest in the story being told.
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*stares in Japanese*
The visuals are the best they’ve ever been. Skills initiating in battle look really cool, my favourite is Dragon Fang, it reminds me of “Dragon Aspect” from Skyrim.  Another nice touch in the battle sequences is the backgrounds.  They reflect the environment and even include standing armies that really help with the feeling of immersion.  The over world map is quite nice, it looks quite realistic and the colours are lovely.  Character design is probably the best it’s ever been.  I love the costumes for most of the characters, though a few of them could use a few more inches of fabric.  Looking at the kingdom you build from the third person view is really enjoyable and I’m glad they included it, even though it doesn’t really do very much.
If you are a fan of SRPGs in general, or a seasoned Fire Emblem veteran as myself, I recommend this game whole heartedly.  If you’ve never played an SRPG before, start with Birthright.  I cannot wait to finish, and see what the other two versions of the story and the DLC have to offer.

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