About three weeks ago I finished my play through of Fire Emblem Birthright on the 3ds. I am going to be writing my thoughts not just about Birthright but about Fates as a whole using what I know about Conquest and Revelations from reading plot synopsis and forums. Going into Fates I had knowledge of the several controversies that hovered around the game at the time of release such as the accusations of gay conversion in regards to one character, the problems with the localization, and the removal of head patting mini game. The overall consensus online being that FE Fates was trash. So with that context out of the way I will continue.
Heavy spoilers ahead
I have not seen a game waste its potential like FE Birthright since Dead Space 3. On paper this game should have been amazing. A followup to the successful Fire Emblem Awakening which gave it a perfect base to build from, Samurai versus European Knights, three games that cover different perspectives, your avatar is the main character, new online capabilities like the castle! This game should have been amazing. Instead they fucked it up, turned the three game model into a cash grab, suffered from terrible characters, awful writing, shoehorned child system, explained important plot details in the DLC, and basically said that if you want the real story buy Revelations.
The game does an okay open with your character sparring with your big brother. This works in Birthright especially as it shows the power level of your character compared to another and if the game was better written could have been used so well. They introduce the Nohrian family which is a decent introduction. It doesn’t take long for it to all start to fall apart. Your character is taken in front of your obviously evil dad, and his obviously evil advisor, given an obviously evil sword, and told to execute some prisoners. Your character being similar to Chrom and other FE lords says no for obvious reasons. A chapter passes and you end up in Hoshido. The contrast between Hoshido and Nohr is the biggest problem in this game. Hoshido is a literal utopia. There are no problems in Hoshido, the nobility is loved by all and they work for the benefit of the people. Corrin’s mother, who was marked for death as soon as you saw her, is basically a goddess who put up a barrier that causes Nohrian troops to lose the will to fight when they cross the border. Nohr for the evils sends mindless flesh golems across the border to terrorize Hosihdo. Listen if you have to send flesh golems across someone’s border you are the bad guy. Nohr is the cause of all the games problems, Hoshido is innocent. This fact makes one of the central pillars of the game, the choice of who to support absolutely stupid. There is no real choice, your dad tries to kill you using you as a suicide bomb with that evil sword he gave you killing your mother revealing that he killed your real dad and sealed your memories. THAT IS A FAMILY SITUATION YOU DO NOT RETURN TO FOR MANY GOOD REASONS. Yet the game tries to paint it as some kind of difficult choice. There is no grey area, you side with evil or you side with good, and if your character was less noble even that could have worked, but instead the game shows that Corrin is incorruptible in her nobility and trust. If they were going to write the game this way they should have scrapped the three game idea and expanded birthright instead.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how dumb this games story is. There is a random side chapter where you go to meet a sage to get some power. It is so obvious when you meet him but it has this chapter where you climb a tower to find nothing at the top then the sage basically says “the power was within you the whole time” and it is the most bullshit chapter in the game with basically no story impact except for a dumb prophecy, some directions, and a weapon power up, all of which could have been done without this silly chapter.
Constantly Corrin tells her former siblings, “look dad is obviously evil” and basically all your siblings realize that except for Xander (who suffers from having a very different personality in supports compared to the main game in Conquest) who acts like a total fool in the game and acts that way because the writers wanted an epic confrontation between him and Corrin, however because the fight is fought on such a dumb pretext it loses its emotional weight.
Another problem with the story is the undue attention Corrin gets and the unnecessary elements added to the plot. For how bad the story is it has way too many moving parts. Corrin is a prince/princess, a dragon, the wielder of Yato who is fated to bring peace to the land, leader of the army, and loved by basically everyone you meet. It is silly how much of a mary sue they make your character especially considering that your character is very young, caused the death of the Hoshidian Queen, and really shouldn’t be that important considering there are several other princes and princesses wielding legendary weapons who by power level, experience, and position are more important. So many supports revolve around Corrin or mention him/her in some way. This is part of the reason that making your avatar the main character was a terrible idea. Avatars should be side characters in these games like Robin to Chrom, it stops the plot from jerking the player off.
The plot is incapable of eliciting emotional responses from people and has no understanding of how to use the noble sacrifice, or betrayal trope. They use it three times in birthright and all three times it fell so flat and I just shrugged my shoulders. You are never given enough time with any of those characters and none of them have a gameplay impact so it really doesn’t matter. The other problem with two of the sacrifices is that it is caused by your character suddenly becoming really weak in cut scenes. In game my character was a beast who could basically kill anything with her dragon form. In cut scenes she suddenly has trouble dealing with people she would two shot in game. A terrible case of gameplay cut scene dissonance. There are a few betrayals in the game but the problem with them is they have no consequences, nothing changes because of them. You could actually remove every betrayal except for the first one and nothing in the story would change. There is not shock, and the betrayal is usually dealt with in a single cut scene.
The final issue with the story I will be discussing is the awful implementation of the child mechanic in the game. In Awakening the child mechanic was perfect because of time travel. In this game it take a weird turn because they say the child grows up in the deep realm where time moves faster so they grow up faster. Then they usually need to be rescued and ask really nicely to be a child soldier in your army. It is a big case of fine if you don’t think about it, totally fucked up if you do. You deny these kids a childhood with their parents, you deny them a childhood period, and you turn them into child soldiers. This also does not work well with the darker tone of Birthright. In Awakening it worked because of the lighter tone and also the fact that the kids were coming to the past from a future where they didn’t have the choice of if they want to fight or not.
Now the game was not a total disaster. The gameplay is a big step up from Awakening with varied win conditions, the new dragon vein mechanic make the maps more dynamic and interesting to play around, new terrain effects, and the ballistica launchers made for new tactics and ways of playing. The change to the pair up mechanic and how supports help each other made the game less breakable, and made for a thoughtful approach to how to arrange your units, unlike Awakening where if you S rank two powerful units you win the game. Weapons not having durability made inventory management less of an annoyance. Weapons with varied effects made your choice of weapon more interesting and made carrying more weapons viable beyond you don’t want a sword breaking in the middle of combat. Ninjas were a great addition to the game as it made going up against certain enemies less of a stat check because of their ability to debuff.
Beyond gameplay there were a few standout characters in Birthright who were full of personality, and most of the character designs at least were top notch. Silas a type of bland best friend of the character turns out so much better than I thought he would being damn smooth with the ladies and well spoken, he was also an allstar in my run being the only mounted knight you get in Birthright. Takumi the little Hoshidian brother is great being one of the few characters to really not like Corrin and who goes through actual character growth during the game. A lot of the side characters were great like Reina a mounted archer who on the battlefield delights in killing people but outside of battle is a caring mom like figure; Orachi a fortune teller who messes with everyone, and a few others. The problem it seems is that most of Birthrights good writing is in the supports. Most of the supports I have watched on youtube or unlocked in game were good. Which makes it extra shameful how bad the story for Fates was.
A side note the main song of the game Lost in Thoughts All Alone is really good but quickly becomes overused destroying any impact it had.
There were a lot of other problems with this game but if I was to write about every single one this would quickly become way too long and would turn into nitpicking. If you want more just search around for it many people have written about all the problems with Fates.
Overall as a 3ds Fire Emblem fan I enjoyed Fates as in it was playable and I didn’t hate myself while playing it and the gameplay is solid. If you like the Fire Emblem gameplay and don’t care about story Fates is a solid pickup. If you like Fire Emblem it is a mediocre to bad Fire Emblem game you might as well play Awakening DLC, buy Shadows of Valentia, or play an older FE game. If you are a new to Fire Emblem and are looking for a game to start with, play Awakening.