Replay Review: Fire Emblem Fates for Nintendo 3DS
Re-examining one of the Fire Emblem franchise's most beloved titles
When I started my replay of Fire Emblem Fates earlier this year, I went in with a few things in mind. Coming off of the last 5 years of Fire Emblem Heroes and my love of the most recent title in the series - Three Houses - I had to wonder how well Fates stacked up. That skepticism came mainly from Fates being the most controversial, but also the best-selling, title in the franchise over the six years since its release.
I was also motivated to play the DLC for Fates. Among the other titles, from Awakening to Echoes to Three Houses, I completed most or all of the DLC maps, but for some reason, I skipped over Fates. Deciding that I wanted to make a new team and get all the child units for the first time, I started a new file on the Revelation DLC route and went from there.
All things considered, the criticism of Fates hasn't aged well. Most of it is directed at the writing of the overarching storyline or related to the localization of the script. Even though I find that several games in the series have admittedly better plots overall, the complaints about Fates do not hold up. Six years later, it's still a heavily addictive and highly enjoyable game that lasts as one of the best games on the 3DS and as a hallmark in the series.
I do have a few mild things to address in my review that tend to stand out. With that said, I hope you will enjoy the review!
Fates revolves around the protagonist, Corrin, and their ability to turn into a dragon. Born in Hoshido and raised in Nohr, the character must pick which country's family he chooses to side with. In the Revelation route, he chooses to pick neither. This canon route ends up unifying both sides against a threat greater than either the Birthright or Conquest DLC routes.
Many of the issues regarding the story come from Corrin's attempt at non-violence and not killing enemies in battle; an unrealistic perspective that diminishes the consequences of war. Moreover, the "silent enemy of which I cannot speak" curse also keeps Corrin from mentioning the realm of Valla and is the reason why he cannot immediately recruit his siblings who accuse him of lying. Both are relatively meager attempts to create a storyline centered around trust among one another.
Despite that, Fates continues the series tradition of wonderful character design and support conversations.
Despite a few flubs in localization, engaging in support conversations will surely bring you closer to the characters in the game. You'll come to appreciate the interactions amongst one another and with the protagonist. I found these parts of the story to be the most enjoyable in an otherwise relatively pedestrian JRPG storyline. Despite that, it's certainly not a dealbreaker the way forums have widely exaggerated it to be.
Running on the same engine as Awakening, Fates features both the 3D models of Awakening's style as well as the 2D sprites from the older games. You could call the 3D models new and improved since they added feet to the models in lieu of the stumps the Awakening characters walked on. While I otherwise barely notice a difference, this was a major point of contention among parts of the fanbase.
Per series tradition, Fates has some amazing music. Like with Awakening, the map themes become more dynamic once you engage in battle. If you're keen to do so, you can save time by turning off attack animations. While I personally don't think Fire Emblem attack animations will ever again be the spectacle you got from the GBA titles' sprite work, this still serves their purpose, complete with satisfying sound effects.
Fire Emblem Fates features the same addictive Strategy RPG gameplay that made previous games so beloved. If you've never played Fire Emblem, it's part grid-based gameplay - where you move units around a map - and part JRPG - which includes equipping weapons and items while leveling up stats and promoting units.
Taking cues directly from Awakening, Fates introduces a more balanced Pair Up system. I like that you can choose to attack in teams or strategically pair up to increase defense instead of letting Pair Up break the game. It also makes changing classes easier since you're no longer confined back to Level 1 from using a Second Seal (now known as a Heart Seal).
I enjoyed the multitude of maps, though I found some weren't as great as others. The Wind Tribe area and the ice-covered village were challenging and sometimes a bit much to deal with in terms of obstacle layout. Most of the game was incredibly fun and challenging so these lower points weren't a dealbreaker for the game as a whole.
Hoshido and Nohr units each get their own classes. Hoshidans get Swordmaster, Ninja, Master of Arms, and Onmyoji while Nohr gets more traditional series' classes such as Cleric, Mage, and Paladin. With Hoshido's Japanese influence, these new classes offered an incredible amount of fresh variety to choose from with classes. Each promotion also allows you to select one of two classes, and even then, with various seals, you can pick a class outside of your promotion route.
Much like in Awakening, you can also bring units together for Support conversations and breed them together to create the Child Units. Attempting to get all those units is quite difficult: it is an absolute timesink and there are units that are missable since only certain people can get with Corrin. Make sure you bring units together in Birthright and Conquest and pick which ones you like most before you bring them back in Revelation. It takes a long time!
In spite of the issues laid forth by a vocal portion of the fanbase, Fates is also one of the most popular entries in the series, and for good reason. The addictive gameplay, memorable soundtrack, character interactions, and variety in gameplay make it a hallmark title in the Fire Emblem series. I'm honestly glad I gave myself the chance to beat it again.
The DLCs are quite tough and even a bit wordy. I would recommend watching a YouTube guide to clear the maps or even just watching the story of Heirs of Fate. For the main game itself, and for the DLC maps outside of that arc, however, all of them are worth playing.
If you have not played Fire Emblem Fates, I have no problem saying that this is one of the best games on the Nintendo 3DS. It's among my favorites including The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Fire Emblem: Awakening, and Metroid: Samus Returns. I strongly recommend it and hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did!
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