Fire Emblem Fates, the latest iteration of the acclaimed tactical turn-based tactical combat RPG developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo, came out on February 19th in North America, just two weeks ago. And since the title finally just got its European launch date (May 20th), this article is both a revision and timed appetiser detailing the many new features, without any spoilers.
A painful choice
The most striking element of Fire Emblem Fates is its division into two titles with different names and content, in the style of a Pokémon game. Perhaps division is the wrong word here, since this is not a game that has been split, but two full and genuine Fire Emblem titles with all the same amount of content and story as other titles in the series.
Playing the role of the prince (or princess) of Hoshido, but raised by the royal family of Nohr, the players face a tough decision of whether to support their birth family or those who raised them. The player makes this decision when buying the game, since each title of Fire Emblem Fates represents one of these options/campaigns.
In Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, the main character supports his birth family and the realm of Hoshido. The development of the story centres on what the series Fire Emblem has been from Sacred Stones, very similar to its predecessor for Nintendo 3DS, the amazing Awakening. The plot develops through successive episodes where the main objective is to defeat a boss or an enemy army. There's also the possibility of playing optional battles within every episode to gain experience and relationships among the characters. This new option opens Fire Emblem up to those who were reluctant to play such challenging and harsh games.
On the other hand, Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest follows the steps of the main character supporting his step brothers of Nohr in order to conquer their neighbour. This title is closer to the classic Fire Emblem titles that weren't released over here. It offers new episodes with variable goals that hardly let the players train their units or strengthen their bonds, and we predict Conquest is more difficult to complete than its counterpart. There's also a third DLC title, with the fashionable name of Fire Emblem Fates: Revelations (launching June 9 in Europe), where the main character can refuse to make a decision, but we don't want to spoil the story, so we'll leave these details wrapped in mystery.
Weapons, classes and castles
Beyond the choice between the two realms, each game offers exclusive and totally new content for the Fire Emblem series, and in some cases they change the rules of the game. The weapons triangle, the elemental law by which swords, spears and axes attack each other in a rock-paper-scissors system, has been redesigned and now it has magic, bows and clubs with their own pros and cons. They have also eliminated the number of times each weapon could be used. In the old version, each weapon had a limited number of uses and then it broke and had to be replaced with another forged or bought weapon. Now the player won't have to worry about the number of uses (except for healing canes, which keep the old system). Instead you'll need to worry about the materials used to make the weapons, since some may want to make a stronger weapon with less precision or vice versa.
The characters of each game will also be different (some basic ones are shared), and with them they brought new classes for each realm, from samurai or puppeteers of Hoshido to the new mercenaries or wyvern riders of Nohr. With these new characters and archetypes there are new ways of understanding Fire Emblem.
The possibility of building and keeping a castle is one of the most remarkable new features in Fire Emblem Fates. Around a stronghold you can build different types of buildings, such as shops or armouries that will support you in the main campaign. You will be able to construct deeper relationships among the characters or besiege other players' castles through SpotPass. All the features of "My Castle" are still kind of a mystery since we haven't been able to sample the European game yet.
It is also important to mention the controversy around the changes in the content and the western localisation of the game.
First of all, they have changed the feature of giving a substance to Soleil that gets her to perceive the world and sexuality in a different way, and they have also eliminated any mention of pouring "magic powder" or any other substance into the drink of the warrior.
Besides that, they have changed the ability of calling other characters to the main character's private bedroom at "My Castle" and improving the relationship through 'petting' them by using the touch screen. The relationship between the characters is the same, but you don't have to touch them with the stylus. However, they kept a minimum interaction with the spouse or fellow S or A+, where you can click on the screen or speak through the microphone of the console to wake them up or catch the attention of the couple. There isn't much information available that confirms the removal of certain swim suits for female characters in the western version.
Fire Emblem Fates comes out in Europe on May 20. Meanwhile, fans have a bit more time to decide which realm they're going to support. Good thing you can buy both games...