By: Ashley Quirke
Greetings friend! No doubt you’ve read the other article about Fire Emblem Fates that Nohr recently released. All heresy and propaganda I assure you. Let me tell you about a brighter, sunnier world away from the dark cities of Nohr. A different choice. A better choice.
Just kidding! Just because I picked Hoshido and Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, doesn’t mean you have to. But I will certainly give you some insight in to my experience with the game, as well as talk about some of the new features in Fates! In Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, the player character (I’ll refer to them as Corrin in this article, but you can name them whatever you’d like in your play through) choses to side with Hoshido, and their birth family.
The game paints Hoshido as a bright, happy foil to Nohr’s dark lands. I should take a minute to say that the cut scenes and graphics are beautifully done. Hoshido, for the most part, has a happy sunny glow that reflects what you are told about your birth home. It seems like a wonderful place to be. The combat scene graphics are also well done. I was really happy that the models have feet now, an upgrade from Awakening. Another thing worth mentioning here is character design. Although there are still a few characters that are pretty one dimensional – I’m looking at you Setsune! The vast majority are unique, enjoyable and quirky in their own kind of way. If you compare the Hoshidan and Nohr characters, it’s easy to see a stark difference between them. A contrast between light and dark, which is prevalent in this game. The Hoshidans tend to look friendlier, and dress in brighter colors. A lot of the Nohrians dress in dark clothing, and some of them look like people you definitely wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley at night – *cough* Niles *cough*.
Birthright is definitely the easier of the two games. It is geared towards newer players and people who want a traditional Fire Emblem experience, whereas Conquest is geared towards veterans of the series. Despite Birthright being the easier of the two, I definitely wouldn’t call it an easy game. I am a big fan of Casual mode, it allows me to enjoy the story better. I’ve still managed to lose maps, or have to restart because units that needed the map’s experience got killed too early. The game also forces you to make some big choices in some maps, especially if you’re playing Classic. Do you run and lose out on exp. that will make your army stronger? Or do you fight and risk losing units? This is a game that makes you think. Each decision you make on the battle field counts, so think long and hard about what you’re sending your units to do.
Combat also got an overhaul in this new generation of Fire Emblem games. Weapon durability is no longer an issue (with the exception of staves), and support works a little differently, as mentioned in Dylan’s article about Conquest. Another thing worth noting here is that equipment differs between Hoshido and Nohr. Hoshidan equipment has a definite Japanese influence, with Naginata instead of lances, katana instead of swords and spirit scrolls for casting instead of tomes. While some of these equipment types can still be found in Conquest, for the most part you get lances and axes, typical of the Fire Emblem Series.
Another thing that makes Fire Emblem: Birthright a bit friendlier than Conquest is that you’re able to grind for Exp. The game gives you a few “Challenge” levels after each in-game chapter. These are meant to grind up any under-leveled characters (I found them especially helpful for getting Mozu to level 20). You’re also able to “Scout” an area. Giving you the opportunity to gain some gold to spend at the stores in your Castle.
Speaking of the My Castle mode, this is far and beyond my favorite addition to the Fire Emblem series. I loved designing the layout and choosing what kind of castle to make it – I chose the default Hoshido setting. The garden look is just so pretty! I also really enjoyed the fact that you could invite units over in order to build supports and relationships between them and Corrin. It’s fun to hear what they have to say about things, mostly one-liners about things they like – Asugi sure does love snack time. In My Castle mode, you’re able to use the Crystal Ball to travel to other player’s castles were you can fight their army or use their facilities. You can send your friends gifts as well! If you send your friend an accessory, you don’t lose that item from your inventory either, so it’s win/win! Being able to accessorize the characters is a feature I really enjoyed as well! You can give characters items that can help them defend your castle, help them attack better in other castles, or just do what I did and give them something you think looks nice.
Another thing the crystal ball can do is allow you to connect with Fire Emblem Amiibo! Scanning them gets the Amiibo characters to come visit the player’s castle, giving them gifts and eventually the opportunity to recruit them! A word of warning; the recruitment battles are not easy at lower-mid levels. You’ll have to work hard to get the Amiibo characters to join you! It’s more than worth it though. They’re really good! One thing I was a little disappointed with was the inability to support with them. I wouldn’t expect all characters to be able to of course, but even Corrin wasn’t able to. The characters do talk to you when they visit your castle though. Some even talk about their experiences in Smash 4!
Overall, and as a huge fan of the series, I think Fates is a fantastic addition to the Fire Emblem series. It has a ton of new features to keep veterans of the series interested, and Birthright serves as a great entry point, though probably not as good an entry point as Awakening for new players. I would definitely recommend this game to anyone interested in giving the series a try!