Fire Emblem Fates, as a series, has always been something of a middle step child when it comes to appearances in the West. Many players in North America and Europe had their first experiences with Fire Emblem characters through the Gamecube game Super Smash Bros: Melee, in which Marth and Roy, of Fire Emblem fame, showed up in a localized game for the first time on non-Japanese shores. Since the Gameboy Advance iteration of Fire Emblem, which was actually the seventh entry in the series, the series has had a bit of trouble maintaining a following until the 3DS’s Fire Emblem: Awakening.
Awakening was a game that divided what fan base was left for the Fire Emblem Fates series, since its simplistic maps, low difficulty, and the ability to level grind at the player’s leisure further lowered the difficulty. Nintendo, seemingly wishing to appease both fans of the older, tougher Fire Emblem games as well as the easier style popularized with Awakening, has released Fire Emblem Fates in three separate parts, each promising their own styles of adventure. Revelation is the third game which completes the full meal course that is Fire Emblem: Fates, and it is highly recommended that you finish both Birthright and Conquest before delving into the third game; Revelation is bursting at the seams with content, as well as a new story that fully elucidates driving motivations in the other two games.
Fire Emblem Fates is the tale of a young man or woman who is caught in a war between two countries. The Avatar character you create spends much of Birthright working with his family in the country of Hoshido, fighting against the despotic, conquering nation of Nohr. In Conquest, players try to protect their adoptive family and change Nohr from the inside, out. Revelation, on the other hand, has the avatar character working to discover what is pushing the war from behind the scenes, making it the true story, so to speak. Plenty of events in Relevation will not have the proper weight or impact if Conquest or Birthright had not been experienced prior, hence why this title is recommended for the third run of the game.
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The Fire Emblem series is a long-running franchise consisting of some of the greatest turn-based strategy gameplay on any platform. The addictive, yet tense, decision making sparked by the potential to lose one of your favorite characters forever creates a constant deluge of risk versus reward elements that will constantly release endorphins in your brain after successfully surviving a potential loss due to a 5% crit. That’s Fire Emblem: Strategy RPG gameplay that makes you cheer at your lucky crits and underdog survival stories, but cry BS when your opponent dodges your lance with 98% odds to hit, then then kills your Songstress with an attack that had a quarter of the hit chance. The RPG elements of Fates is quite prominent, since most stat gains for level ups are randomized thanks odds being used to increase your parameters; it’s all a numbers game, and if you hate the % sign then you may wish to stay away.
Birthright and Conquest both has completely different manners of progression: Birthright was like Fire Emblem: Awakening, in that you could level grind in between story chapters and build your party at your leisure; it’s the easiest of the three games. Conquest, on the other hand, was more like older Fire Emblems in that your experience, items, and gold are limited, so the challenge is significantly higher. There are points of Conquest that seem much more intricate and challenging than what even Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn could produce, for example. Revelation, on the other hand, plays more like Awakening and Birthright, with a lot more challenge: Those who found Birthright too easy, or Conquest too difficult, will more than likely be right at home in Revelation. Maps have a variety of objectives, but never teeter toward the more unfair end of the spectrum.
An interesting note about Revelation is that it brings together the whole cast of Birthright and Conquest, both. This is important because several classes were almost exclusive to one version of the game outside of just one unit- easy examples of this are how Silas the Cavalier and Scarlet the Wyvern Lord were the only units of their types naturally available on the Birthright side. Getting those classes on other units involved strategic planning of supports (which were limited, since non-Avatar units can only have one S and A+ support), and then using a Seal item to switch to their friend or spouse’s class. These kinds of restrictions also apply on the Conquest side, with classes like Master Ninja being more difficult to obtain: Those kinds of problems don’t exist in Revelation because you get access to every character and their children.
An important aspect of Revelation is that you have access to practically all of the characters available in the Conquest and Birthright routes (there are a few exceptions, but this is a spoiler free review), which provides you over sixty characters with which you can craft your perfect strategy team. Customization was already a tremendous, nigh overwhelming, aspect of Birthright and Conquest, but Revelation really pushes it over the top. Not only will players have easy access to practically all of the character classes, but it’s really worth putting effort into combining some of the skills you could normally only obtain in Birthright with those normally only found in Conquest: Such as a General, a powerful defensive unit of Nohr, obtaining skills from Hoshidan classes that allow them to attack first when wounded or return full magic damage dealt to them back to the attacker, which makes dealing with the General’s high defense even more difficult.
The Story of Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation encroaches upon topics mentioned in the other two routes, and, as a result, it becomes difficult to review without providing too much information. Though, it is worth mentioning that Fire Emblem has never exactly been known for its great storytelling, as most of the games localized in North America can be summed up with, “Oh no, our nation is under attack, better stop them! Oh, hey, look a dragon! The End.” Revelation doesn’t exactly win a Nobel Prize in Literature, but the plot isn’t exactly why people play Fire Emblem games… unless we’re talking about Camilla. For the most part, Revelation opens with a curse-turned-plot device, though it does improve later on with some twists that would make M. Night Shyamalan proud.
The dialogue writing is extremely competent and very humorous, though, which is really utilized in Revelation since characters that were originally enemies in the other routes hold great conversations in this particular version. For example, Azama, a monk on the Hoshido path with a penchant for sarcastic condescension, has some very amusing supports with the more stoic characters originally from Nohr where he speaks like an Internet comments section to characters who would prefer to kill him. These support conversations, added dialogue between two characters that assist one another in battle regularly, also convey a variety of tangible benefits in the game. Those who meet S rank supports marry and have children that you ultimately recruit to your cause. Supports also have a large effect on Fates’ dual guard and dual strike systems, which return from Fire Emblem Awakening, with some adjustments.
Fans of Awakening will remember the then-overpowered Pair Up system, which allowed player characters to team up on enemies to more effectively deal damage or block enemy attacks. In Fates, this system has been widely adjusted so that enemy units take advantage of it, as well, which can result in some precarious situations on harder difficulties in Revelation. Using Pair Up results in two of your units teaming up as one, with the supporting unit conferring bonuses to the lead based off of their support level, adding extra damage to the lead fighter’s attacks or blocking incoming enemy damage once a shield meter is filled. Overall, since enemies are capable of taking advantage of this system, it is much more balanced and leads to more interesting experiences when coupled with the stronger map design of Fates as a whole, especially in Conquest and Revelation.
As far as map design goes, Birthright had the largest number of straightforward objectives: Capture this, defeat that, rout the enemy, and so on. Revelation, like Conquest, provides a volume of different map objectives and interesting themes without focusing on making them extremely difficult, unlike Conquest. Revelation is a fair deal more difficult than Birthright (but less so than Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, for example), but even with that said, since players are able to partake in skirmish missions to level grind outside of story chapters, like in Birthright, it’s a lot more accessible even with the heightened level of challenge. Realistically speaking, so long as players aren’t trying to beat Lunatic Classic mode on their first run (the hardest difficulty with permadeath turned on), Revelation should pose a challenge but not require any real grinding to beat a hard chapter.
The 3D effect of Fire Emblem Fates stays consistently great in Revelation, and the online features present in both Birthright and Conquest are available here, as well. Players are able to build their own little castle, replete with a variety of features such as shops and an arena that other live players can use. Those wishing for a challenge can also try to take on other player’s team in their own castle, and should you win, you can recruit characters from the opponent’s team to your roster or learn skills that their characters know. Those who want to battle against an actual player are able to play against friends locally as well as challenge other players with a registered team of yours online.
Overall, Revelation is more Fire Emblem: Fates. If you are a person who enjoyed Birthright or Conquest, Revelation will most likely be right up your alley. There are tons of characters to use, weapons to upgrade, skills to learn, and support conversations to be had: This is all on top of an excellent strategy RPG base with some of the best map design the series has seen in years. If you’re someone who enjoyed one of the other two routes of Fire Emblem: Fates, then picking up Revelation should be a no-brainer. Those who didn’t enjoy the other routes of Fates will most assuredly wish to shy away from Revelation, as it is more of what was available in the Birthright and Conquest routes to an extreme degree.
Developers: Intelligent Systems, Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS