It began in the main hall of my high school, about three years ago. My friend Hoth ‘Raka (which is his “internet name” as I like to call it) had recently picked up the latest game of a long running Nintendo Role Playing Game (RPG) series called Fire Emblem, this one titled Fire Emblem: Awakening. But he kept nagging me about it, ending some of our conversations with, “by the way, get Fire Emblem.”
So eventually I did. To my surprise, the game quickly made it’s way to the top of my personal top ten list of favorite video games. I ended up beating it twice before Hoth beat it once.
So you would imagine that I was thrilled to hear that its sequel would be released in the summer of 2015, a game with the title of Fire Emblem: Fates that was split between three games titled Birthright, Conquest, and Revelations similar to how the main Pokemon games are released. Polygon.com gave each version at least an 8/10 in their reviews, as did many other established reviewers such as IGN and Eurogamer.
I, however, was not so impressed.
FIRE EMBLEM: A GAME OF WAR AND LOSS
If you’re not familiar with the Fire Emblem series, you should look into it. It is a turn-based RPG strategy game, where the player controls an army’s movement, weapons, and classes as he attempts to vanquish the apposing army and progress through the story.
Throughout his adventures, the player gets familiar with each character in his army. When the characters fight side-by-side on the battlefield, they develop relationships which are expounded on through dialogue in between battles.
But here’s the kicker: If a character falls in battle, they’re dead for good. This puts a great deal of emotional battle in the game, making the player choose each move carefully in order to avoid loss.
THE CHARACTER DIFFERENCE
These next three sections are about the major differences I noticed between the games. This first is probably the weakest and most biased opinion I have, but I’m going to say it. Above is a pic of most of the characters in Awakening. Seems like a lot, right? I promise if you play this game you will fall in love with all 43 characters here, plus there are about six extra ones you can unlock. I’m pretty sure I can name most of them still, even though I haven’t played the game in a while. Now here are the characters in Fates:
I count 82. At least six of those characters will never be in your army, but it’s still a lot. The game was $40 when it came out. If you want to get to know all of these characters, you have to pay another $40 dollars to get the other versions of the game. I suppose it’s a good price for triple the content, as each version has different characters and a different story, but I personally feel it’s a bit overwhelming, and I didn’t want to spend that much.
But I did anyways. For my sister. She loves the game.
THE RELATIONSHIP DIFFERENCE
As I said before, your characters can form bonds by fighting together. In Awakening, these bonds will allow that character of having a better chance of getting an extra hit in, or blocking damage potentially done to the other character if he is placed right next to him on the battlefield. When the bond is between a man and a woman, their relationship can blossom into marriage. If your avatar character gets married, you get a bonus single-frame cut-scene with that character, and the best fighting support when you have your spouse with you on the field. Except for some bonus dialogue that all couples get when they land on certain squares of the map, that’s about it.
Fates does everything Awakening does in terms of relationships but makes it weird. In Fates, your avatar’s spouse moves in with you, shares your bed, along with…other things. To quote Martin Robinson on his post about the game, “I’m not particularly keen on stroking the faces of Fire Emblem’s cast,…” The stoking isn’t during a cut-scene. You can physically rub the character with the stylus. Or with your finger, if you want.
THE CLASS DIFFERENCE
The class customization was definitely my favorite thing about Awakening. Most characters started knowing a base class and could be upgraded to an advanced class using something called a Master Seal. Different classes were proficient with different weapons and learned different abilities. Another item called a Second Seal could change a character’s class to a different one, but the character kept the abilities they learned. This allowed many unique class options that were fun to play with.
The most frustrating thing about Fates is that it changed all of that. They removed the Second Seal and replaced it with four other Seals that allowed you to change classes based on who that character was in a relationship with. To put it briefly, if you wanted someone to be a Ninja, they had to marry a Ninja! This made the class customization really restrictive and confusing. The authors of the Polygon review of Fates agree, saying, “Fire Emblem Fates needlessly complicates the series’ already pretty complicated class adoption mechanic…Even once you understand how the system works, there’s so much confusion about the best way to use it…”
IT’S STILL FIRE EMBLEM
Despite everything I’ve said, Fates is still a good game. Because it’s a Fire Emblem game. It’s gameplay is unique, it’s dialogue is pretty good, and the animation is amazing. The unique objectives of Conquest are challenging and interesting. It is indisputably a very fun and well made game. But it just made me feel uncomfortable playing it, having played Awakening beforehand. And it just never stopped getting more and more uncomfortable. So I stopped playing it. I’d rather have a third go at Awakening.
But that’s just my opinion.
Picture credits in order: