So. I haven’t really played anything new, as of late. Pokemon’s two weeks away. Why not take this opportunity to talk about a game that’s well over a year old? And since we’re waiting for Sun & Moon to hit the shelves, why not talk Nintendo? So. Let’s dive into Fire Emblem: Fates from the mind of a writer. Let’s get into some Scripted Gaming.
Warning: Here There Be Spoilers
So, just for frame of reference, I more or less refused to play the base games (Birthright and Conquest, respectively) after learning a few things about them. I may get around to it, but sue me. We all know I’m not a fan of being depressed or enraged without solace. And considering the caliber of the game, I highly doubt the resolution of the game would provide me with such comfort. Is that a point against the game? No. It’s a point of personal preference, and nothing more. Instead, I went through the DLC route of Revelations. Less depression, more happy, still some pretty rough feels toward the end, but nothing that’d make me say “Nope! Never again.”
Revelations is an interesting little thing. Just to put this into perspective, I’ve played zero Fire Emblem games before this. The interest just wasn’t there. I may play Awakening at some point… may. But I wouldn’t hold my breath. I digress. With that being said, I wasn’t familiar with the franchise’s method of telling its story. And now that I’ve played through it… about 6 times, I can say that it gets the job done. Not much else, though. I… really doubt anyone plays these for the rich story. Or at least not this one.
You play as the Avata-
No. Stop that. Bad. You play as Corrin. You know. That character with the absurdly unfair upward counter in Smash Bros.? And yet they felt it was Bayonetta’s counter that needed nerfing… well, whatever. Technically, you can name them whatever you want, but their “canon” name is Corrin. So we’ll just go with that, for now. They’ve lived most of their life sealed away in this tower in the pretty dismal kingdom of Nohr. Come to find out, though, that they’re actually a part of the royal family of a nation that Nohr is at war with – Hoshido. So yeah. These places are respectively Japan and… France? Russia? England? They’re East and West, all right? So yeah. Corrin is caught in the middle of all this when her original family gets her back but the escalating conflict between both nations causes her (the first Corrin I made was female, so I’ll just refer to them as ‘her’ for the duration of this) to have to choose a side. Or, if you’re playing Revelation, you don’t. You choose not to take sides. Of course you do this in what may be the dumbest way possible. You decide that the best course of action is to attack everyone. But that’s being unfair. Because, in fairness, the two sides have no intention of listening to reason, anyway. The most likely of the eight siblings to listen to reason are the littlest sisters, and… the odds of them diffusing the situation are just plain nonexistent. So yeah. War, war, fighting, war, aaand you’re forced to retreat.
So you wind up learning about this world that you can’t tell anyone about and, oh. I forgot to mention this. Corrin’s a dragon. This is, surprisingly, not important in any way unless you invest in more DLC to get some backstory. How do I know this? After it’s introduced, it serves pretty much no purpose outside of combat. It’s never seen in the story, again. And it’s not even that amazing in combat, either. You’re better off just using Corrin’s main weapon in most cases. Though it does have the benefit of essentially turning Corrin into a wall. So yeah. Secret world, can’t talk about it, etcetera, etcetera. Corrin wants to find a peaceful solution to ending the war, which is convenient because both sides of the war are actually being manipulated by an ancient evil dragon in this hidden world. So all she needs is to convince both sides to stop fighting, and help her. Clearly easier said than done, right? Actually, no, it’s rather easily done. Most of the characters end up joining you after one or two encounters. The eldest brothers give you the most trouble, purely because they’re both stubborn as mules.
So. You have everyone on your side, now. Let’s go slay us a dragon. Except… not quite. First we have to get there. Getting there is honestly where most of the game’s challenge comes from, as this is around when enemies become… well… remotely competent. As for the story? It’s… I’ll be honest, the story around this point just kind of devolves. Without the war still happening, they were scrambling to add conflict to the thing, and wound up doing so in incredibly haphazard, convoluted ways.
Let’s talk about Gunter, shall we? Spoiler alert. Gunter’s a traitor. Except he isn’t. He isn’t even dead. He’s just being mind controlled by the main antagonist of the game. How? God knows. But here’s a better question… if he can manipulate Gunter, who is still alive, why can he not manipulate… anyone else in the group? What keeps him from just taking over Corrin and screwing everyone over? Okay. Maybe Corrin is protected by… um… hm… okay, DLC spoiler? Corrin is kind of his daughter…sort of. So… maybe that’s why? No idea. But he could still, in theory, manipulate anyone else in the group. For all we know, he can manipulate the entire group. What did he decide to do? He decided to manipulate Gunter and use Gunter to shatter Corrin’s faith in people by eventually having him betray her. Except… um… that’s totally not what he intended to do. His first traitor-y action, using Gunter, was to try to kill her at a point where they couldn’t even tell it was Gunter who did it. The result? Scarlet dies in Corrin’s place. And don’t worry. We’ll get back to that. O’ we will freaking get back to that. Because I have words about that. So yeah. The Gunter reveal doesn’t work. At all. It’s made no better by his manipulating the spirits of Arete (Azura’s mother), Mikoto (Corrin’s mother), and Sumeragi (the father of the Hoshidan siblings). His plan was, most definitely, to kill Corrin. Perhaps he was just over reaching and trying to make it seem poetic or something, by having someone close be the killer, as he felt betrayed by men because they stopped worshipping him, or something? But… that doesn’t exactly work when your targets are wholly aware the betrayers are being controlled in some fashion. Thus there is no real wrestling with that doubt. They know they’ll likely be betrayed, but also that it isn’t of their own choosing. Kinda minimizes the issue, there, Mr. Evil. All it ends up doing is make the entire Gunter arc seem utterly pointless.
You wanna know how to handle betrayal? Let’s just revisit Tales of Symphonia, again. Just… go with me on this for a minute. For anyone who’s played it, remember when Kratos all but literally stabs you in the back? Didn’t see it comin’, did ya? Or when Zelos betrays you? Okay, that one’s a bit different, but still. Both of those instances were handled infinitely better than this. Because, first of all, no one was being mind-controlled. They were all acting of their own volition, based on past events that shaped their perspectives. And even if they were being mind-controlled, that’s a detail you save for the end. You don’t blow that card too quickly, or it diminishes the effect. The resolution of Gunter’s arc actually reveals he had plenty of genuine motivation to do what he was doing, so why couldn’t they just let him do this of his own volition? Play the mind control card to mess with people’s expectations and then, “Surprise! This one’s not being mind controlled. He’s just that far gone!” (I would also like to point out that the Gunter fight was way too easy. Kratos is ashamed).
So you beat Gunter, you fight big evil dragon antagonist. After you beat the crap out of him with your Fire Emblem (aka your sword), he becomes super evil dragon antagonist. Because heaven forbid a JRPG only require you to kill a boss once. Sadly, though, this fight is actually easier than the previous one. Less enemies, more open terrain, and if you played the game right, everyone’s leveled to the point where they can tank a hit or two from the fairly heavy-hitting boss. Not to mention that you’ll know how to go a few turns without taking any damage at all. Ryoma is surprisingly good for that, thanks to Astra. So yay. You beat the baddie, and one incredibly anticlimactic ending later, you’re crowned the ruler of the hidden kingdom (we’ll get back to that, too), and the siblings promise to play nice from now on.
So. Let’s just revisit the Scarlet problem. In fact, let’s just lump her issue together with Lilith as well. So. Scarlet’s problem? Why does she exist? I’m aware that she survives the Birthright route, and manages to stay relevant enough in it. But… why is she even in Revelation? You have access to her for two friggin’ chapters, in which she does nothing of note. Then Gunter kills her. And they treat it like such a big deal, too. Not to mention so many times they refer back to her like this hit really hard, and I specifically remember someone saying “Scarlet wouldn’t want that.” What did my mind instantly say in response to that? “…How the heck do you know what she would’ve wanted? You only knew her for five minutes.” And therein lies the problem. Scarlet is an entirely superfluous character in Revelation because of the way in which they just unceremoniously kill her off. She’s in, maybe, three cutscenes that reveal extremely little about her, the only character she has any supports with is Corrin, and S-Rank Supporting with her doesn’t save her like it apparently does for other characters destined to die in previous games… which is stupid. Why is it stupid? Because the same thing goes down with Kaze, except you can save his life just by A-Ranking him! This means that Scarlet is literally a walking plot-device in this route. A non-character that serves no purpose but to drive forward a plot thread that, as I just covered, was already painfully flawed and unnecessary to begin with. They completely wasted a character who, in her brief time, was pretty fun and showed potential. And that just becomes more of a problem for Lilith, who has a similar problem. In the other two routes, Lilith dies to protect you. No matter what you do, she’s dead. In this route? She survives… at the price of never being relevant again after she introduces you to the My Castle portion of the game. It’s sad because of the amount of development that character gets in the Hidden Truths DLC, yet her overall relevance to the story is… nonexistent. What is it with this game and wasting characters in the laziest ways? Oh… speaking of characters…
Okay. Let’s just address this. The Support system of this thing is… it’s… it’s a mess. Like… a legitimate mess. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s fun. And it isn’t a total train wreck as many characters are just fine. But… they clearly didn’t think through a lot of this. I can see very clear areas where they applied more effort to certain routes than others. I feel like when they did this, they thought about it more from a formula standpoint than anything. As if they were just checking boxes on a list. Now. This isn’t a problem at all, where it concerns the adult characters. Well… Nyx is a bit problematic because they don’t state how old she is, physically, so… that’s of some serious concern… Elise and Sakura as well… now that I think of it… even S Supporting just one pair of royals makes the rest of them in-laws, and you can still… wow. This system has more holes than I initially thought about. But whatever. No, the issue lies more with the offspring. See… there are a few holes in this. If you manipulate the Support trees without paying attention to what you’re doing, you end up causing S Supports between cousins. Which is… icky, to say the least.
I’ve come across two defenses for this that people seem to think makes that okay.
- Half-arsed defense #1 – “Well, none of the relationships are canon!”
Yeah… we’ll get to that.
- Half-arsed defense #2 – “Well, that was okay in medieval times!”
Okay. Yes. That WAS okay in medieval times… in the real world. Problem. The real world doesn’t have magic and dragon and werewolves and kitsune, and… do you see where I’m going with this? This is a fictional universe. A universe in which you are entirely free to determine the rules of society. Therefor you chose to make that a thing that was okay. Furthermore, if we’re really going to get into “But it’s true to the era!” then you can’t just use that to defend this without using it to call bull on all the crap from that era that the game just outright ignores. No. That doesn’t work with me. Sorry.
So back to half-arsed defense #1… yeah. Technically none of these supports are canon. Except there are 3 reasons that’s not an excuse.
- That doesn’t make it okay. It’s still there.
- They clearly exhibited knowledge of the concern. How do I know this? Because Midori and Asugi are cousins, canonically. There’s nothing you can do about them being cousins. Their dads are brothers. So what did they do? At least in the game’s English dub, the dialogue is written as to not even have any romantic implications, let alone full realizations. Now. If I recall correctly this isn’t in the Japanese version of the game. Which means that the English dub of the game went to the extra effort to tweak that. In other words, there was absolutely nothing stopping them from doing that with the other characters. All that would have been needed was the extra coding to make the game smart enough to tell who the kid’s parents were. And I obviously don’t mean that to say coding is a fast or easy process. I get it. But come on. (This is just kind of an afterthought while on the subject, by the way, but why is it, exactly, that none of the royals have daughters? Excluding the princesses, who only have whatever offspring their spouses have… and yes, I know that’s a gender thing, flipped from the last game, but… that doesn’t dismiss the question).
- You can S Support Corrin and Azura. Guess what. They’re cousins too. Canonically. Revealed very sloppily towards the end of Revelation. And it honestly affects jack all. The only thing it does is make it so Azura can crown Corrin the ruler of the hidden kingdom. That is literally the only reason for it. And not only is that canon, but the game seems to what that support, itself, to be canon, as well. Which is… what was the word I used before? Ah. Right. Icky. So… so icky.
And that’s really just one problem with the Supports. Please don’t get me started on the oddity that is Soleil. Because… I can’t even deal when it comes to her. She’s just a bloody conundrum. They totally wanted her to be anything but straight. And… I guess they tried? Kudos to them? But… her S Supports kind of all throw that out the window, so… granted, all but the ones with Forrest and male Corrin seem to imply just everlasting friendship. Which is fine. But… there’s not a single female S Support option for her. Doesn’t quite work if ya don’t commit, guys. Meanwhile a female Corrin can S Support with Rhajat… can we just… can we be done talking about this? It hurts my brain, trying to figure out how they came up with any of this.
In terms of side characters, most of ‘em are fun. Some were annoying at times, but that was intentional at least some of the time. Azama, in particular, quite honestly bugged the crap out of me more often than not. He got a few laughs but his whole outlook just irritated me, at times. And while I love Velouria, at times she was a bit too blunt. Though if I’m honest, I think there is issue to be had. For the better characters in the bunch, their Supports revealed nice bits of background that let you see how they tick and what makes them do the things they do. Most of the royals got this treatment. Nyx, Severa, Inigo, Owain, Peri, Charlotte, Beruka, Niles, the majority of the offspring, and a few other characters. It also made it more interesting, reading some of the subtext, or looking into their actions. Other characters were just fun, like Selkie, Setsuna, and Arthur. Also… Dwyer is my spirit animal. Seriously. The snark. My god, the snark. But there are some characters who were a bit… lacking. I’ll focus on Oboro since she was the one that kinda disappointed me. Oboro… is a likeable character. But she also pretty one-note. And by that I mean that in nearly all of her supports they wring the “my parents are dead!” towel so dry it can qualify as sandpaper. And again. She’s one I like. She’s funny, nice, and actually surprisingly useful throughout the game. But that’s… that’s basically it for her. Every aspect of her character goes back to that one thing. All of it. She’s not really the worst example, though. If we’re honest, Kaden may well be the worst offender, as there’s no background on him at all. He’s a charming character, I guess? But honestly he’s pretty forgettable in the grand scheme of things. If not for the fact that he spawns what is easily my favorite character in the game (Selkie! So adorable!) I swear I’d forget he was even in it.
Corrin, by far, won the lottery on this one. Not only does the gender actually somewhat influence their personality, but sheer exposure to the plot allows Corrin the time to really develop. You get to see more and more of the person that their upbringing ultimately led them to become as they’re thrown into these new situations and are forced to make decisions. Meanwhile, these situations never lead them to compromise who they are. It explores how someone who came up in that environment might react to things. It comes across in everything from their hobbies, mentioned in support conversations, to their actions in the actual plot of the game. So kudos to them for that.
Overall, it’s a fun game, and I like it. Some problems in localization (lordy, the typos), some holes in the final act and Support system, and a few uninspiring characters hold it back a little. There’s some laziness going on in the storytelling, but also some funny moments, and solid main character to follow. Could my introduction to this franchise have been stronger? Probably, yeah. From what I’ve heard, I really should’ve played the Ike games first. But, eh. C’est la vie. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go back to waiting on Sun & Moon. Thanks, as always, for reading.
Keep up the awesome, and take care