It’s funny how fickle some video game publishers can be. Apparently the folks at Nintendo were planning to scrap the Fire Emblem series due to the franchise’s lack of popularity. All that changed however when Fire Emblem Awakening was released to both critical and mainstream acclaim. Now instead of seeing the series vanish without a trace we are getting two new Fire Emblem games at the same time. Much like the evergreen Pokémon games, Fire Emblem Fates has been split up into two titles. Seems like a bit of a cash grab to me, as I would rather have both campaigns housed within one cartridge. On the plus side owning one version will allow you to download the other edition at a discount price.
Fire Emblem Fates chronicles the war between the nations of Nohr and Hoshido. Players assume the role of Corrin a human/dragon hybrid that was born into the Hoshido royal family, but was raised by Nohr’s king. Torn between both kingdoms, in Birthright gamers choose to side with the Hoshido forces. Just as well given that Nohr are clearly the bad guys in this conflict. The Nohr army all dress like Goths for a start and are guilty of launching unprovoked attacks on their peaceful neighbours. Let this be a lesson to countries everywhere. Never trust the guys across the border if their head of state is best known for evilly cackling like the Star Wars Emperor.
Gameplay wise, Fire Emblem Birthright sticks to Awakening’s successful strategy RPG formula. Levels are fought on maps that have been segmented into tiles, where each side takes turns to move their units. In most stages routing all the enemies or defeating your opponent’s general is necessary to achieve victory. Just like its predecessor, Birthright gives players the option of disabling Fire Emblem’s infamous perma-death mechanic. Setting the difficulty to casual means that fallen allies will return to battle at the start of the story’s next chapter. Those seeking a challenge can however play things the old school way, meaning that slain characters will not resurrect. Only masochists need apply because there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing your MVP perish to an attack they had a 99% chance of evading.
Although Birthright and Awakening are virtually identical some notable tweaks have been made to streamline play. For a start de-buffs are more prominent, allowing you to whittle down foes via the reduction of their defensive stats. My favourite improvement however is the eradication of weapon durability. It’s such a relief not having to worry about your sword snapping mid-combat or spending hours at the store buying replacement bows for your archers. I never understood why blades had a finite number of swings in the older games. For anyone who cannot comprehend my frustrations imagine having to replace a bulb every time you flicked the light switch twenty times. That analogy pretty much sums up what weapon maintenance was like in the previous titles.
My rating for Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is four and a half stars. If you have enjoyed any of the previous titles in the series I am certain you will love this latest instalment too. Developer Intelligent Systems has been a little stingy with respect to original ideas, but the new features we get do enhance the gameplay experience. Constructing your own castle in between levels was fun for example and altering a battlefield’s terrain, through the use of draconic powers, does add some extra tactical depth to proceedings.
The only reason I am not awarding the game a perfect score is because the cast of characters under your command isn’t as memorable as their Awakening counterparts (even if I do have a soft spot for the clumsy maid and the absent minded fletcher.) I also feel that the game should be penalized due to the needless censorship inflicted upon it. Thanks to shoddy localisation by Nintendo Treehouse western gamers have been denied the ability to use the 3DS touchscreen to pet their beloved waifus. Nintendo ethics decree that murdering hundreds of Nohr citizens is okay, but affectionately caressing 2D ladies is not. Bah, if this sort of thing continues I may be forced to find a real flesh and blood girlfriend. That’s something I would rather avoid, as romantic meals and expensive dates would cut into my precious gaming budget.