A coin has two sides, just like a story does, but even though there are two completely different sides, is there really a good choice?
I really liked Fire Emblem Awakening, the previous game of the long running series. It captivated me with it’s dynamic characters, amazing storyline, and spectacular graphics. When I played it for the first time I really fell in love.
Fire Emblem is a strategy-war game, similar to chess, in which you order your troops on a grid based battlefield to complete whatever objective the game sets in your path. Beware, if you choose classic mode then you risk losing all of your troops, for once they die in the battle, you can’t use them for the rest of the game, save some exceptions. This factors into one of the reasons I really got into the game and even though I am new to this series, I feel like I am qualified enough to compare Fire Emblem Awakening to its successor, Fire Emblem Fates Birthright and Conquest.
The moment I heard there was going to be another installment in the series I was ecstatic, but I’m going to be honest and say that I was a bit skeptical when I found out it was going to be two games. I’ve played other games like Pokemon, where both games are parallels of one another. I thought it would be strange however to have do that with the Fire Emblem series, especially considering the ideas introduced in the teasers. I am glad to say that even though I had hesitations, neither of the games disappoint. They are completely different games other than some minor parallels.
***Note: I am comparing both games to Fire Emblem Awakening because it is the closest as far as quality, and it the only one I played so far.
The storyline at the beginning of both games is as followed: you are the child of King Garon, ruler of the Kingdom of Nohr. After years of solitude with only your siblings and servants to entertain you, his majesty decides it’s time to put you on the battlefield. Through certain circumstances, you learn of King Garon’s true nature and that you are in fact the daughter of Queen Mikoto of Hoshido. You then encounter your real siblings and are faced with a choice: Fight with the siblings who raised you, or the ones who are your flesh and blood?
In general, both games were fantastic. The animation was superior to that of Awakening, and the way that both stories differ from one another make it truly a unique experience. One of the things I liked the most about the animations were the cut scenes. They were well thought out and scattered throughout the game to really add to the experience. It truly made me live in the story. Much better in fact than in Awakening. I also really like the battle animation. In the previous game, the battle animations were the same throughout the battle, regardless of your location in the area, but in the new Fire Emblem games, when you enter a battle, the backgrounds change according to your position and direction. When I first discovered that I was really excited, I thought it was so cool! I’m really impressed with how the game evolved in a mere two years.
These games were much more story-oriented than Awakening and I really appreciated that. You could invest in the story, although it does have a few unexplained events and results that I would have liked them to go into more detail on. One aspect that I was happy they brought back were the kids. In Conquest and Birthright, as it was in Awakening, you could build relationships and have kids depending on who you paired up with in battle.
One of the things I did not think was as well done in these games when comparing it to Awakening is the aging of children. In Awakening your children have come from the future to help you defeat your foes, and it fit in really well to the story line. In Fates, your children are sent to the Deeprealm, a place where time passes by faster. I found it kind of cheap. I understand that they didn’t want it to be like Awakening, but they could have probably found a better way to have your troop’s kids battling alongside you.
One of the things I liked the least in both games were how many characters died. It got old quickly after 6 deaths in Birthright and 5 in Conquest. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, and the fact that the most interesting ones died definitely put a damper on my mood. I won’t go into details about who dies how, but I really thought that it was overused. I thought some of the deaths were creative, but after seeing so much of it, I got annoyed. I appreciate the effort it must have been to decide who to kill off. Although it was a bit overused, it did get me to be emotional and I believe that was the creator’s goal.
As far as the dubbing goes, it’s pretty well done. It is awkward at times, but that’s to be expected from a game translated from Japanese to English. I was thoroughly impressed with the voice acting. It was, for the most part, smooth and well done.
Alright, let’s start with the individual games.
So let’s talk Birthright. What makes it so special? Let’s begin with gameplay. As far as the story goes, it’s acceptable. Birthright, I should mention, was created for beginners in the series. It follows the simple good/bad story, where you journey to defeat the mad King Garon. I feel like the developers focused much more on the story than the actual battles, which is fine, it just means that the goals of the battle are either “defeat the boss” or “rout the enemy”. I think they balanced this better in Conquest. The story was well thought out and after playing it through it I appreciate how complex it is in its simplicity.
As far as character dynamics go, it’s ok. I felt as if the most interesting character was the one who died. The more I played it, however, the more I came to understand the characters. I’ve played through the entire game at least three times now, so I have a much better understanding of the characters than I did at first. Some of the characters that stood out the most were Kaze, the one previously mentioned, Takumi, Camilla and Azura. Kaze is a ninja without leage who decides that he want to serve and protect you. Takumi is the second oldest of your siblings and you learn some “interesting” facts about him. Azura is a princess of Nohr taken in revenge to your capture. She is a singer who assists you throughout your journey with her voice laced with magic. Camilla is the youngest daughter of Garon and she assists the main character in her quest to find peace, at a high price, that is. Overall, the character development was well done, but there isn’t much to say on that front.
Let’s move on with Conquest.
Conquest, in my opinion was better thought out than Birthright. The characters are much more dynamic, the story is rich and interesting and the battles are a lot harder to finish.
The characters are also very different from one another. Some are more plain, others are more, how should I put it, “special”. Conquest is really well done on that front. My favourite characters were Xander, and Camilla.
The story line is also more interesting when you compare it to Birthright’s. Yes, it is less story oriented, but it plays with the idea of sacrificing your happiness for the greater good. In the end, you can find happiness, but it is bittersweet.
The battles are much more challenging than in Birthrights. Yes the traditional “rout the enemy” and “defeat the boss” are used, but there are new challenges. For example, “Defeat the boss in twenty turns or less”, “have everyone escape” and much more. Birthright’s battles are at times challenging, but Conquest’s are much more interesting.
Although Conquest is amazing, there was one thing they did not go into at all. You learn that King Garon was taken over by demons as well as Takumi’s story, but they don’t go into details about why or how. I wish they could have included this, as Takumi’s takeover was explained in Birthright (both takeovers are under completely different circumstances and are due to different reasons, I should add). I don’t know if it is explained in the third path you can take (Revelation) as I haven’t played it yet, but I feel like they could have explained it in more depth.
Birthrights and Conquest shouldn’t be compared to Awakening because I did play Awakening first so I am biased to like it more. Even still, I cannot help but to like these games nearly as much, and they come in a close second, Pokemon and Yokai’s Watch tied for third. Above all I loved the way they played around with the idea of right and wrong. It is very hard to find a good balance, but they did a really good job of doing it.
I learned that, like there are two sides of a coin, there are two sides of every story. Unlike a coin, however, right and wrong in stories are not as black and white as heads or tails. I would recommend this game to anyone older than 13, mainly because some of the themes and ideas are not exactly appropriate for kids. It really is an amazing experience and if you are feeling unsure about whether or not to buy this game, just buy it. I fell in love with this series in Awakening and I rekindled the flames with Birthrights and Conquest.
I chose both Hoshido and Nohr, but which side will you choose?
We were provided with samples of Birthright and a 3DS to facilitate this review. Conquest we purchased separately. All opinions expressed are our own.