Before I begin, know that I did what only “professional” gamers and live streamers can do and pulled two all-nighters to finish Conquest before Thursday. I bought a physical copy of both Conquest AND Birthright and then bought the other campaign digitally in both games over the weekend. I set the money aside well in advance for this so…yeah. Oh and I also bought Map Pack 1 in BOTH games so I’m set through April as the DLC content is released.
Now on to the game. One look at Fire Emblem Fates as a whole and you can’t help but ask the question “Why didn’t Nintendo just release both campaigns as a single Wii U title?” and you wouldn’t be wrong to think that. The fact of the matter is Nintendo has been selling its flagship console at a loss since it launched two years ago. When Awakening was in development, Nintendo decided to bet the franchise’s future on how well it did. It exceeded all expectations when it was released in 2013. In an interview, one of Awakening’s developers explained they originally wanted to release the game on the Wii U but the late Satoru Iwata declined, feeling it wouldn’t sell as well. We all know it did!
Fast forward to Fates, which was codenamed “if”. The initial idea was for the protagonist to choose from one of two sides. It wasn’t until the games were released in Japan last year that we fully understood what that meant: The story would span 3 campaigns. In addition to Conquest (Nohr in Japan) and Birthright (Hoshido in Japan) there is a third campaign, Revelations (The Invisible Kingdom in Japan) that is digital-only. Nintendo stated the reason each campaign is its own game is because each campaign is as long as Awakening’s. Having just finished Conquest earlier today, I can confirm this indeed true.
With the mechanics used, Birthright and Conquest represent the series’ past and present: Conquest has alot of overt references to the earlier games in the series, most of which were never released outside Japan (except the remake of the first Fire Emblem, Shadow Dragon that was released in 2009 on the Nintendo DS). It goes without saying Conquest is the harder of the two main campaigns. It lacks the extra EXP and Gold making Scout mechanic present in Birthright. This mechanic is part of Birthright’s campaign just to clarify. On the same note, I was able to also confirm what Serenes Forest reported with the Japanese release two paid DLC maps outside campaigns, paralogues and Invasion maps are your only opportunities to earn extra EXP and Gold outside the Nohrian campaign: You can get EXP from the free DLC map Before Awakening (takes place just before Awakening begins) in Birthright but not Conquest. It also appears unlike Awakening, DLC Maps scale to your level and progress at least in regards to Conquest.
The campaigns for both games is the same up to Chapter 5. Based on the subtle hints dropped that point to Revelations I think both campaigns are canon. The open references to parellel universes and other dimensions are why I say this. It’s simply a matter of which nation Corrin (The main Lord, avatar and protagonist of Fates) decides to side with…or not. Or neither in the case of Revelations. At the beginning of Chapter 6, you will have to choose which family and country to side with: Hoshido and the family you were born into or Nohr and the family that raised you? Revelations aside, picking one makes an enemy and a traitor to the other.
In Conquest, Corrin decides to side with the family she grew up with. After helping her adopted family dispatch her blood relatives, Corrin returns to the Nohrian capital where she plans to change Nohr from the inside. It’s easier said than done as despite her decision to side with Nohr, King Garon doesn’t trust her. Without spoiling anything, Corrin will learn despite her best efforts victory will not come without sacrifice. Corrin resolves to win the war with Hoshido for Nohr without killing but there are some instances where the deaths of loved ones are unavoidable. Such is the nature of the Fire Emblem games when you think about it.
…Any more than that and I’d spoil major plot points for those still playing through Conquest =O
Streetpass returns from Awakening but has been expanded upon and integrated with My Castle, a headquarters in a separate dimension that serves as your main hub in both campaigns after Chapter 6. You will have access to shops and many other neat features from here and is likely where you will spend the bulk of your time outside fighting. The customization is something else. Wireless and Online play involving My Castle comes into play. You can visit the My Castle of other players and use most of their facilities yourself to get more resources and other perks.
One of the coolest multiplayer mechanics puts a twist on vs. play: You can choose to fight Streetpass/Wireless/Online teams in your My Castle or in theirs. Beating them in theirs with no handicaps will allow you to take your pick of their units to recruit into your ranks plus an additional reward.
The game is outstanding but it’s not without its flaws. This is where I separate myself from random forum posters and “professional” reviewers with what I’m about to say. Alot of the criticism I’ve been seeing since Fates’ North American release on the internet is around Conquest specifically. The two main issues raised by the so-called “Fire Emblem Experts” has to do with the game’s plot and the game’s difficulty.
The thing about Fates is in order to understand the full story, you WILL need to play all three campaigns. So, if you only bought Conquest, you will need to play Birthright and Revelations, too. I won’t go into specifics due to major spoilers in this regard.
As for the difficulty, this is the second game in a row–after Awakening–in which the fans got exactly what they asked for: The Hardcore crowd complained about how “easy” Radiant Dawn, Path of Radiance and Sacred Stones were. Awakening’s unforgivingly brutal Lunatic Mode answered once and for all weather or not Nintendo could “still” make a challenging Fire Emblem experience: Those who weathered the storm and cleared Lunatic Mode would then have access to the near-impossible Lunatic+ difficulty setting. Both are back in Fates just so you know.
The controversial Casual Mode returns as well. For those who skipped Awakening–shame on you if you did–the game introduces the ability to turn off the series’ Permadeath Mechanic that set it apart from every other strategy RPG ever thought of. Casual Mode brought fallen units back after the battle is over. Permadeath meaning once a unit falls in battle, they’re gone forever. This meant you had to be more careful compared to other SRPGs to avoid losing units for the rest of the game. Awakening shocked longtime fans of the series by giving players the OPTION of turning Permadeath off.
Fates took it a step further with the introduction of Phoenix Mode: Units who fall in battle return the following turn. It goes without saying this is easily a game-breaking mechanic: Not only is the danger factor removed completely, it eliminates the need to use healers or healing items: Why use them when the fallen unit will simply rez next turn? For those who want to play Fire Emblem the old fashioned way, that’s what Classic Mode is for.
That said: I am not ashamed to say I ended up using it to finish my first playthrough of Conquest. Emphasis on “Not Ashamed”. I’ve played every Fire Emblem game ever made. I never imagined I would use this new game-breaking mechanic on my very first playthrough. Even so, I have no regrets. I do plan to try again. One thing I can say for sure is at least I did it without the equally game-breaking EXP and Gold DLC Maps. Both are hard to come by even with RNG abuse. You will also definitely want to get the Gold DLC Map in Conquest if you want to class change all of the playable characters in a single playthrough because it’s not cheap!
Overall, I give Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest an 8/10.
It delivered on difficulty, I’ll give it that. The added challenge of unique map objectives is a nod to older games in the series. The lack of a postgame mode means your save before you face the final two bosses is the final save of the game. As of this writing, the third campaign Revelations will be released next week: Nintendo spaced it so the third campaign is released two weeks after Conquest and Birthright. It will sell for $20 and is purchased from within the game. You can get Birthright at the same discounted price. There are bonus items you can only get by owning two or all three campaigns so there’s added incentive right there!
Having cleared Conquest, I have turned my attention to Birthright. I left off after clearing Chapter 7 so I could finish Conquest. Now it’s time to finish where I left off =D