Fire Emblem Fates is very different than previous entries of the Fire Emblem series, as it tells different perspectives of a story through multiple versions of the same game. The Birthright version of Fire Emblem Fates is what new players to the series will want to start with before playing the Conquest or Revelations versions. This is the version for those that just want to enjoy playing Fire Emblem without stressing over the series’ more traditional elements. The easy difficulty of Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright won’t cater to hardcore fans, but the emphasis on character relationships and personalization will appeal to everyone.
As someone who enjoyed Fire Emblem Awakening, I was surprised to see a lot of improvement on elements that carried over into Fire Emblem Fates. The weapon triangle that dictates the rock-paper-scissors hierarchy of strengths and weaknesses is explained better through a color-coded presentation. This was incredibly helpful when planning out my next move in each stage and commanding my units. I found myself utilizing characters that I would have otherwise kept far away from battle because of the weapon triangle.
Throughout the experience I was able to use every unit to their peak potential in one of many tactical ways. No one unit was ever truly useless in battle. My mage and healer characters were effective at defeating enemies despite their inability to take physical damage from enemy units. Leveling up characters in my army wasn’t a long process since Birthright offers plenty of opportunities for units to gather experience.
Unlike the other versions of Fire Emblem Fates, Birthright keeps the focus on the story and relationships between characters instead of gruelingly tough tactical gameplay. The story follows your character caught in the drama between the Hoshido and Nohr kingdoms, which can be shallow due to bad pacing and cheesy dialogue. There is a critical decision the game presents to you at the beginning of the story, but there isn’t a real freedom of choice if you don’t already own the other two versions of Fire Emblem Fates.
This is overshadowed, however, by the connections you build with the characters in your army as you play. Pairing units together in battle gives various stat boosts and opens up extra dialogue that details their backstory and personalities. It was exciting to learn more about characters in-between stages and garner a bond with them in and out of battle. Some character designs and personalities were a bit annoying at first, but they general grew on me over time.
The Castle Domain in Fire Emblem Fates adds a better level of customization over its predecessor. I enjoyed being able to visit other player castles and defend my own against invaders through the use of the 3DS StreetPass feature, which gave me items and friendly units for use in the main story. What you add to your castle not only increases the stats of your characters, but also opens up some new events and dialogue between them. I built a hot-spring in my castle and enjoyed seeing my characters interact with each other as they relaxed outside of battle.
It did take a while to build useful structures that generated good weapons and equipment, much longer than I would have preferred. Completing a stage or challenge can get you at least one upgrade point for your castle, but sometimes the costs necessary to add or upgrade buildings can be a lot. I ended up replaying some challenges many times in order to gather the points needed to build something for my castle before continuing on with the story.
Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is a great entry point for newcomers of the series. The story may not be the best out there, but the relationships you build with characters and the time you put into creating your castle are great. Hardcore fans of Fire Emblem may be disappointed to see the difficulty of the series take a back seat in Birthright, but the deeper level of personalization will still keep them satisfied. By the time I finished playing through Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, I was eager to see how everything unfolds differently in the other two versions of Fire Emblem Fates.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright for the Nintendo 3DS provided by Nintendo.