First, I want to apologize for the lateness of this review. But I wanted to complete all three versions of Fire Emblem Fates before rendering my verdicts on each. So, onto the review!
Of the three, Birthright is by far the easiest, however, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to complete, far from it. The title not only balances difficultly well, but in the process of the story, makes every level feel important.
Set primarily in the realm of Hoshido, you play as Corrin (also known as the Avatar that you can name whatever you want) a prince/princess of the realm who only recently discovered that they are the long lost member of the royal family of Hoshido. Surprise! Once you chosen to join Hoshido, you begin a truly noble quest to stop the kingdom of Nohr from destroying your birth home, and bring justice to the land.
What truly sells the story of Fates, not just here but in the other versions too, is Corrin. He is a pure soul that just wants to live with his family. But also, he doesn’t blame his foster siblings from Nohr for what happened to him, or what the evil King Garnon is doing. He truly hates that he feels like he “betrayed” them by fighting for Hoshido, and every interaction with the family shows just how much he regrets it.
This is the other great part about the story, we see how the Nohr royal family reacts to Glyph’s decision. Some are distraught, some feel utterly betrayed and deem him an enemy that must be wiped out. While another just wants him to be her family again. It’s truly touching to see not only how happy the Hoshido family is to have Corrin back, but how sad it is to see the broken hearts of the Nohr family. As they say, there is two sides to every coin.
Throughout the story you’ll find beautiful locations, a variety of interesting characters, and challenges abound. All the way until the very end. And while I won’t go full spoilers, I will say that there are life-changing consequences for your decision to join Hoshido. Not everyone will make it through the game. While some may find this odd, it’s actually a crucial element to the story the game is trying to tell. Loyalty is a powerful thing, and we do things for people we’re loyal to that might get us killed. One character in particular I was fond of was one of the casualties, and they died in such a gripping way that I nearly cried as it sunk in that they were gone. That’s the power of this story.
While this game is the easiest to access for new gamers, that doesn’t mean that Birthright is all old-hat, far from it. The very obvious Japanese influence is in full effect. And weapons you get in Birthright aren’t available in Conquest because of this influence. For example, instead of swords and lances there are katanas and naginatas. Each with their own special effects and stat boosts. My personal favorite were the Festal staff, which have longer range than most healing items, allowing your healers to stay further back from the action and not risk getting killed. I truly missed these when playing Conquest.
The combat itself is refined to a near insane degree. It takes what made Awakening special, and added new twists to the formula. Gone are the “uses” a weapon can have before breaking, each one is able to use forever. Most classes have two, or even three, weapons they can use. What this equates to is the ability to raise a truly balanced team that plays to both offensive and defensive strategies, and you will need both before the end. For example, I had a trio of Pegasus Knights who were also healers. So in later levels, they could heal up my troops much faster than if I had a sole healer like in most FE games.
Then there’s the support and pair-up system, both of which have also been improved. You can pair up two characters to boost their stats for either offensive and defensive purposes. And like Awakening, having supports with various characters gives you stat boosts in battle. These can at times lead to flawless victories or game-saving moves. I twice let out a sign of relief when my ninja Kaze saved my character from being killed via a support and ability combo.
Now like any true Fire Emblem game, half the fun are in the conversations the characters have with each other as you build up their supports. Like in Awakening, each conversation is unique and different, many times offering different insights into the character. Also Awakening, you can support characters into marriage, which allows you to get children, and then have them grow into warriors for you. The growth of the children stat wise was surprising to me, as I used children here much more than I did in Awakening.
I really enjoyed seeing the various characters talk with one another and figure out who I should marry. Two very unlikely characters resulted in a very funny and pure marriage, one that had candy as the basis as the basis of their love. Beautiful.
Another unique aspect to Fates in general is the My Castle function. Which allows you a moment to breath before going out on further missions. Also, you’ll get to interact with characters more, and get to build your own castle that you can both customize, and defend in certain missions. Everything you build actually has a key role in both battles and how battles play out to start. It’s fun and unique way to give players more control over the game.
Now, there are some bad things about Birthright. It’s clear from the story that you need to play Conquest and Revelation to get the “whole picture”. Also, experienced veterans will not like the simplicity of the overall missions, as they lack variety. Then there’s the children, while Awakening had a very simple explanation for how the children were old enough to fight after “just being born”, here was an explanation that seemed much more random. Finally, there seems to be a desire to give enemy units very good probabilities of hitting your characters, even when they don’t have “good odds” to do so. I was frequently hit by characters that had less than 40%, 30%, and 20% chance of hitting my team. Add that to having my characters miss when they have over 70, 80, and 90% chances of hitting, and it doesn’t make sense. I had a battle where my character missed with a 97% chance of hitting the opponent. 97%. And I had to restart a game once because a character hit a critical on a 1% chance of that happening.
That being said, Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is still an incredible game. It’s beautiful in every aspect, and will be kind (mostly) to those who want a simple runthrough of the title. If you’re looking for a way to jump into Fire Emblem, get Birthright, you won’t be disappointed.