Posted by K-Off on 14 April 2016 with categories: Game Reviews

Now that Revelations has been out for a month and I’ve had a chance to thoroughly replay all three games and virtually explore all of their gameplay elements, I figured now would be the best time to review the latest editions to the Fire Emblem franchise.

As a pretext, I’ve decided to review all three games at the same time in this spoiler free review, because they’re essentially the same games in terms of their core gameplay aspects. I’ll be breaking them down first with respect to their gameplay, then I’ll split my discussion about their stories into a spoiler-free review.

First, is Gameplay.

Arguably the most important part of a Fire Emblem game and 99% of the reason why people like Fire Emblem, is the gameplay, and here, it’s better than ever.

Streamlining:  During the development of Awakening, Nintendo decided to streamline the traditional gameplay even more to better suit newcomers (though to much controversy) and it’s safe to say that Nintendo has continued that trend with Fates. It’s friendlier to new players than ever before (even despite where they may have gone overboard like the unnecessary inclusion of Phoenix mode, whereby fallen units return to the field only a turn after they fall), and Fates smartly breaks the monotony of previous and more traditional Fire Emblem games by doing several things right:

    • Better character customization, there are many more options for character customization before and during the game than was allowed in Awakening. There are multiple options for hair, eye shape, facial details, and this doesn’t even include all of the different outfits that you can wear via the accessory shop. Which brings me to,
    • My Castle, which compresses the overworld map in previous games into a much appreciated, much streamlined single location that acts as your home base. You can build, upgrade various facilities like accessory shops, armory, rod/staff stores, and interact with your party/listen to support conversations; the list goes on to dozens of many other things–which in previous games would have been scattered all over the world map.
    • Getting rid of weapon durability. This was one of my biggest gripes with Fire Emblem for a while, because it’s very annoying to have to constantly restock your weapons, and of course high level rare weapons can’t even be restocked. I hope this stays for good, this is just a personal preference of mine.


Battle UI and animations are marked improvements over Awakening


Weapons:  Next, the most notable change that veteran players will find immediately upon returning are changes to its weapon triangle, since the new addition of throwing knives, shurikens, and the decision to give bows a strength buff have slightly complicated the traditional triangle. Weapons now have color coded weaknesses on top of the traditional “swords beat axes, axes beat lances, lances beat swords” rule. Now, Green weapons beat Blue, Blues beats Reds, and Reds beats Greens, and so on. This is a marked improvement, the classes are much more balanced because weapons like bows and staves get additional buffs simply by being included into the main weapon triangle. Now my archers can actually be more than just a pegasus killer.

Combat:  On the list of changes to gameplay is combat, and the Pair Up system has gotten an overhaul. In Awakening, we were allowed to pair up 2 units into a single space, and this would give them boosts to both attack and defense. In Fates however, they’ve split the system into two different stances, Attack and Guard, for balancing reasons.

  • The Attack stances allow two units to attack an enemy unit regardless of their support level,
  • The Guard stance is a little more complicated, it essentially relies on support level, and successions of block rolls to determine the chance of a successful block.

These are changes I can’t complain all that much about, it makes the pair up system less powerful and makes it less likely that you can just have one tanky pair plow through a field of enemies, switch, then destroy the boss and end the battle.

Field:  Last but not least on the list of gameplay changes are the introduction of Dragon veins, which add an additional aspect of strategy by allowing you to physically alter the landscape of your battlefield on set, limited areas. For the people who were looking forward (though they shouldn’t have) to dynamic, landscape altering, you’ll be disappointed. It’s really nothing more than a gimmick, and in Revelations especially they get really carried away late-game and have levels just for the sake of showing it off. On the other hand, now that we have it, it’s surely better than not having the ability to alter the landscape at all.

Overall, all of the changes to the gameplay are definitely positive, the developers managed to include things we didn’t know we needed, and that’s always a plus. Whatever was in Awakening’s gameplay, here, it’s simply better balanced, more accessible, and more engaging than ever before, and it’s clearly where they spent all of their effort. 

That’s good, because unfortunately, the game starts fraying apart at nearly every other aspect.


I can tell there was once a good story in here somewhere.


Story (spoiler free)

It’s difficult to talk about how badly all three stories fail without revealing spoilers, much less for three games with different stories, but it essentially breaks down into this for all of them:

  • Morality, the idea so heavily marketed by these games before release, is incredibly weak. This idea can’t function at all when you have one side being basically a European-themed country of cartoonish racists, while the other is a glorious, Japan-themed utopia where no one does any wrong. This comes to a point where there is literally no plot motivation for you to join Nohr from a story perspective, and this shatters all level of immersion in the story.
  • Your family, the whole underlining idea behind the game, isn’t important to the main plot in any way, except only about one from Nohr, and two from Hoshido.
  • The villains are cartoon characters. Most, if not all of the villains are just used as plot devices to contrive battles in between major plot points.
  • Final bosses get zero buildup to the final showdown. Compare it merely to Awakening, where you spent the whole game hearing about Grima through folktales, battles with its followers, flashbacks to the future, etc.
  • In Conquest, its villain is established from the beginning, but you don’t interact with him in any other way beyond two-second cutscenes where he’s twirling his mustache, explaining his evil plans to his equally cartoonish underling.
  • In Birthright, you don’t see the final boss for long stretches of chapters until an anticlimactic ending that doesn’t subvert your expectations in anyway, and in Revelations, the characters (and we in turn) literally know nothing about the final villain of the story until it shows up during the last chapter.

The biggest sin I can point out is how most characters who were so heavily advertised (besides your siblings) are completely hollow, they exist to spout exposition and to move the story from one scene to the other. But what about when you take the support conversations into consideration? Anyone who complains about the lack of story in Fates are bound to catch flak from those who insist that the critics were simply too lazy to read the Support Conversations, and they claim that it’s what completes the story.

To that I’ll say, like every other Fire Emblem game before it, Fates has tons and tons of possible support conversations that certainly do fill in certain gaps (as  numerous as they may be) in the main story. Yet regardless of how important you think support conversations are, the ones that we’re given don’t help the story very much. They don’t explain the cartoonish villains, the overly black/white morality, nor give any of your siblings a bigger role in the story. They at best only help fill in the lore of the new world that we’re given in Fates, rather than doing anything like focusing the character motivations. I’ve probably read almost every support conversation there is in the North America version of the game as of this time, and that’s just my opinion, as far as that goes.

Final Thoughts: Overall, where the story failed, I ultimately feel that the gameplay alone made my purchase of Conquest and Revelations worthwhile. While I do acknowledge Birthright as the easier game for newcomers, since the story was just that shallow for all three games, I’d have to recommend the two more difficult games so that you can squeeze out as much enjoyment out of their gameplay as you possibly can. Ultimately, Fates gets an above average 77/100 from me. At the end of the day, the gameplay alone cannot save a game, it needs compelling narrative thrusts alongside great gameplay to push the player into becoming attached to the world that the developers are creating.


Storytelling: 4/10 – Below average, underwhelming.
Gameplay: 10/10 – Polish to an already excellent game mechanic
User Interface: 9/10 – Stat displays are much cleaner, My Castle makes your world simpler.
Production values: 8/10 – Great art, with a memorable soundtrack. The English voices are serviceable.

3 Responses

  1. Avatar swa says:

    Oh well… I was here for the gameplay anyway.
    I am still waiting to get my preorder… on May.
    Damn Nintendo Europe.

  2. Avatar Vonter says:

    It’s a hard match, japanese games have had a hard time making compelling stories. I mean sometimes gameplay does support a bad narrative, in the case of Platinum games. I mean there are also cases of good plots buried on bad gameplay like Nier or the Suda 51 games.

    • Avatar k-off says:

      I’m pretty sure it’s because Shin Kibayashi (the main writer for Fates and its sole credited writer) has almost zero experience writing for this kind of game. Awakening had six writers, but for some reason for Fates they trusted just one guy to scrap together a coherent story with 1)Little to no experience in fantasy games like Fire Emblem and 2)No other writers to offer creative feedback to his work, to tell him that the story he wrote didn’t make any sense at all. Really, they made a terrible mistake there.

Leave a Reply

Star Crossed Anime Blog

10 User(s) Online Join Server

Featured Posts

Mononoke -3 [Sea Bishop Part 1] – Throwback Thursday

Ah, another week, another terrifying horror arc from Mononoke. This week we meet a character who is both new and old, get to take a ride on a ship, and see some of the Medicine Seller’s hidden personality. Let’s jump in! Starting off, lets go over the setup and premise for this arc. Instead of […]

Vinland Saga – 7 [Normanni]

Welcome to the true start of Vinland Saga, as this week adapts what was originally the 1st Chapter of the manga. This week Thorfinn hits puberty, Askeladd makes bank and the French get laughed at. Lets jump in! Starting off, this week was a series of highs and lows for Vinland’s production. I said it […]

DanMachi2 – 6 [City of Lust (Ishtar Familia)]

DanMachi, as an anime, grew up this week. From the show that brought you the cosplaying mechanic of the “Hestia ribbon” comes an episode dealing with largest taboo in hero anime, and in some ways, Japanese conservative culture as a whole. Watching DanMachi this week is like this: you have a friend who you hang […]

Kimetsu no Yaiba – 20 [Pretend Family]

After last week’s episode, I had high hopes for Kimetsu no Yaiba this week. Sadly, I think I came away from it with more criticisms than complements. Perhaps natural, since living up to last week was nigh impossible. But I wasn’t prepared for Yaiba to undercut its best episode either. Welcome to Yaiba, episode 20, […]

Dr.STONE – 7 [Where Two Million Years Have Gone]

Ah today is a good day. The day where Dr.STONE reinforces what I loved about it when I first read it. You see this week Science takes center stage, we meet the ancient sorcerer Chrome, and the legendary Kinro gets his fabled weapon. Enough with the preamble though, welcome to this weeks Dr.STONE and lets […]

Mononoke – 2 [Zashikiwarashi – Part 2] – Throwback Thursday

There really isn’t a good way to introduce this episode. Nothing is really going to soften the madness of what I just watched. As this week Mononoke has given us one of the darkest/creepiest yet most endearing episodes I have seen in a long time. So let’s just get on with it. Starting off, a […]

Cop Craft – 06 [Need For Speed]

Cop Craft mixes up many unusual elements such as porno magazines, gay policeman, car chases and even romance into its trip this week. The result is that while it’s light in content, it proves to be more entertaining than when it deals with serious plot. While at this point I still prefer the relationship between […]

Kanata no Astra – 08 [Past]

There sure is a lot to unpack in Kanata no Astra this week. Kanata no Astra loves to give clues, and with every reveal it opens up more questions and make it think how all these puzzles fit in a big narrative frame. I must say that I am enjoying the ride so far, it’s […]

Lord El-Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note – 6 [A Girl, a Department Store, and a Gift ]

It turns out that next week will be the beginning of the adaption of the source material of volume four and five and this episode marks the end of original anime content. I rather like this episode as it breaks away from Waver solving cases and has a fun little shopping adventure with the three […]

Latest Reviews

Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel – II Lost Butterfly Anime Review – 91/100

Long time no see and strap in cause this is going to be a long one. I will preface this review with the assumption that you have seen the first movie of this trilogy and this movie as well as the assumption that whomever is reading this knows what a command spell is. So basically […]

Serial Experiments Lain Anime Review – 78/100 – Throwback Thursday

Serial Experiments Lain is weird. It is a series unlike any other, wholly unique in anime, both modern and historical. Every aspect of it, from presentation to narrative, is best described as an experience. It is because of this that I believe Lain is a must watch, if only to experience a piece of anime […]

Penguin Highway (2018) Movie Review – 89/100

You’re walking along in your neighborhood, going about your daily routine. It’s a fine morning. The sun is shining brightly. But suddenly, you see something strange. You squint your eyes; even rub them, to make sure it isn’t a mirage before exclaiming with excitement, “Oh, look. It’s a bird. No, it’s a plane! No no. […]

One Punch Man Season 2 Anime Review – 34/100

Often at the start of one of these reviews, I will wax philosophical about a series. Attempting to slowly draw you, the reader, in to whatever topic or anime I am discussing in that review. This time, none of that. This time, I have to come out and say from the beginning, that One Punch […]

Dororo Anime Review – 55/100

In the modern anime sphere, getting a complete story, start to finish, is a rare thing. As is getting an adaptation for an older work. Dororo however has, through the grace of Twin Engine, managed to get both of these. Based on the 1967 manga of the same name by legendary Mangaka Osamu Tezuka, Dororo […]

[Star Crossed Anime Exclusive] Code Geass: Lelouch of the Resurrection Review – 80/100

I was lucky enough to be at Sakura-con in Seattle on 20 April 2019 for the Funimation’s movie premiere of Code Geass’ third movie with the Director himself, Gorō Taniguchi, along with his senior staff in attendance inside a room full of raving fans. Was it was worth the decade-long wait to have a worthy […]

Paranoia Agent Anime Review – 67/100

In an era of the mundane, where every series is the same moe blob, the weird sticks out. Even the most mediocre series can get attention just by being weird. Paranoia Agent is not mediocre, and it is far beyond simply “weird”. Written and Directed by Satoshi Kon, Paranoia Agent is one of his last […]

Boogiepop wa Warawanai (2019) (Winter 2019) Anime Review – 78/100

Just like the titular character, Boogiepop Phantom the series has become some sort of urban legend itself in this medium. Its Light Novels are amongst the first Light Novel ever released, dating back to mid-90s. Moreover, the franchise has endured the test of time, as it inspires anime, live-action adaptations and Boogiepop is a well-known […]

Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai (2019 Winter) Anime Review – 77/100

Coming to Kotobuki, there are lots of aspect that catch my attention: it’s from a famed director Tsutomu Mizushima who can turn the most trashable and genre-able concepts into something intriguing; it’s an CG show about air pilots: it has extended aerial combat set-pieces. Watching it till the end, I have to tip my hat […]