Fire Emblem Awakening is one of the best games on the Nintendo 3DS. Awakening included memorable characters, an excellent battle system and fantastic character interactions, all of which are considered to be staples of the Fire Emblem series. It’s been three years since Awakening was released, and now Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright and Conquest have been released. Both are very different and each have their own quirks. In this review, I’ll be covering the prior. Fire Emblem Awakening has left some huge shoes to fill. Is the new Fire Emblem up to such a difficult task?
Fire Emblem Fates takes place during a time of increased tensions between the kingdoms of Nohr and Hoshido. You play as Corrin and begin your journey as a prince of Nohr. Certain events transpire, however, as you will eventually face the decision of where to place your allegiance. In Birthright, your allegiance will be given to that of Hoshido. That’s as far into the story as I’ll elaborate on, to prevent spoilers. The story is presented in a beautiful, cell-shaded anime style that is extremely beautiful. I actually really wished that the game had more of these beautiful cut scenes. Overall though, I really enjoyed following the Hoshidans and getting to know the several characters that fight alongside you. With permadeath on, you’ll fight very strategically, aware of the fact that any character can be gone forever. This creates tension that makes every single move you make important.
Speaking of moves, Birthright plays like its predecessor. You’ll have numerous characters on a battlefield grid, each able to move a certain number of squares and each able to attack different squares. In addition, the rock-paper-scissors combat returns with a few more additions. Thankfully, the game color codes everything and makes everything much easier. Also new are Dragon Veins. Dragon Veins are squares on the battlefield that can be activated by very specific characters. If activated, Dragon Veins alter the battlefield in certain ways that help or hinder your army. On one map you’ll find yourself fighting in an icy tundra with mountains of ice that will hinder your character’s movement. If you use a Dragon Vein, however, you’ll be able to melt the ice mountains, allowing your characters to move normally. Dragon Veins are an integral part of coming out of a battle unscathed and are a welcome addition to the series. They definitely help in managing the difficult missions that you’ll encounter – and there are many of them.. Overall, Birthright’s combat and gameplay mechanics are excellent, and are better than Awakening in every way, shape, and form.
Complementing the combat is the relationship system that was introduced in Awakening. The more that characters fight together, the more their relationships develop. Eventually, these relationships develop into combat buffs, fun conversations, and children. After two characters develop their relationship to the point of having kids, you’ll be able to choose to accept a side quest in order to recruit their child. These side quests are often tough, but are well worth the trouble as these characters are often very powerful. This relationship system is nearly identical to that of Awakening, which is awesome.
A feature new to the Fire Emblem series, present in both Birthright and Conquest, is base building. Following every combat scenario, you’ll earn a Dragon Vein Point. With these, you’ll be able to build arenas, staff and weapon stores, hot springs, and much more. Other than being a place to buy supplies for your armies and hosting battles against other player’s characters, base building really didn’t do much for my experience in Birthright. In all honesty, if base building randomly disappeared from the game, I don’t think I would notice.
In conclusion, I really loved Birthright. The story was fun, the art direction is brilliant, combat is immersive and challenging, and the characters are lovable and interesting. However, there were a few parts that seemed very difficult and the base building didn’t really feel important at all. Even still, Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is an excellent game and is a fantastic follow up to Awakening.
Final Score: 9.0/10