When I picked up Fire Emblem: Awakening
in 2012, I had no idea I was about to play what would become not only my favorite 3DS game to date, but one of my favorite games of all time. I had never played a strategy rpg, but I was aware of the Fire Emblem
series' reputation as both a quality franchise and also a brutally difficult one. I might not have gotten into Fire Emblem
if it weren't for the controversy surrounding developer Intelligent Systems' decision to make the series' trademark permadeath completely optional.
In the Fire Emblem
games dating all the way back to the Famicom era, if one of your characters died, it was for good. For Awakening
, the developers decided to make this punitive gameplay mechanic optional as a concession to modern gamers. Though some purists cried foul, this change put the series on my radar, and when looking for a top notch title for my then new 3DS XL, I took a chance on Fire Emblem: Awakening
What I experienced was one of those once in a while experiences where you really can't put the game down. I was completely enthralled by the story and enamored by the amazing 3D graphics in the cutscenes and even the repetitive battle animations (which I never skipped or fast-forwarded). This was my first time playing a strategy RPG, and I was hooked. I feel now as I did then, that I wouldn't have even had the slightest interest in this game without the controversial softening of the difficulty. It would turn out that Intelligent Systems thought they were making their last Fire Emblem
game with Awakening
but the game became somewhat of a runaway success, selling almost 200,000 copies within a month of its release. I have to believe that democratizing the gameplay helped launch Fire Emblem
into the mainstream, and saved the franchise (though by all means the inclusion of Fire Emblem
characters in the Smash Brothers
games didn't hurt).
The follow up to Awakening was not without controversy. Fire Emblem: Fates
was released in three separate forms, each with its own characteristics. Birthright
is easier than Conquest
, and is less objective oriented. The download-only campaign Revelations
offers a third story path. Some criticism was levied against Nintendo for separating the campaign into three segments, and thus overcharging consumers for variations of the same game. I had my issues with this set-up. After purchasing a bundle of both Birthright
from Gamestop, I assumed I could play both games right away. It turns out that you have to play the campaign to Chapter 6 to open the "Dragon's Gate", which is basically your DLC hub, in order to play the other campaigns. I should mention that Fates
, much like Awakening
before it, has a generous amount of free DLC available as well in the form of playable missions that tie the two games together.
I'm currently playing Birthright
, and although I'm not quite as amazed by it as I was by Awakening
, I am enjoying it quite thoroughly. The gameplay is simple but intricate, wherein the player arranges party members on a grid and coordinates their actions based on their capabilities. I set the difficulty to casual and my characters will revive at the end of battle. There is a new option in Fates
where a character can be revived immediately after he dies, but even I think this is a tad too easy.
The character here is actually very similar to mine.
The structure of Fates
is a series of main story chapters and side battles. I tend to grind hard on the side battles so I can mop the floor with my enemies during the story battles. You will coordinate your main character, whom you can customize at the beginning of the game and throughout the campaign via the new castle mechanic.
The new castle addition certainly reminds me of Suikoden
, if not nearly as fleshed out. The player can build his castle using points earned in battle and then put the assets in the castle on the line against AI opponents looking to destroy said assets. From my experience, in which I save reverted to before I completed a castle battle, the AI goes hard against all the assets you've built rather than engaging the player. In order to preserve my castle, I abandoned the castle battles completely, which is one of the things I love about this game. I can bounce back and forth between the story missions, the side missions, the free DLC, and the castle missions as I please.
Although I am only halfway through Birthright
, I am excited for the the future of the Fire Emblem
franchise. I am certainly looking forward as well as backward being that I own a few of the older titles and have an eagerness to give them a shot.
What do you think of the "nerfed" difficulty of the modern entries in the franchise? Have you been a fan for longer than I have? Should I go back or enjoy what's going on now?