I'm a pretty big Fire Emblem fan, but I haven't actually played a game in the series in quite a while. Actually, I haven't played an FE game since Awakening, which I'd enjoyed overall but didn't love. The Fire Emblem Fates games (for 3DS) were clearly based on Awakening, and while I was eager to play through the epic three-part experience I also was a bit guarded about my expectations.

I went with the recommended order, which is to play Birthright first as it's the easier game. The game offsets the fact that it's structured very similarly to Awakening in that you can grind for experience or gold with side battles whenever you want, by making the presentation more different than the alternate, Nohr, path in Conquest. The Oriental aesthetics are a nice change of pace, although they don't really alter the mechanics much since virtually every class in the previous games has its own "Oriental" Fire Emblem Fates analogue. The game really refines the fairly overpowered "Dual System" mechanics of the previous game by separating out offensive "Tag Team" mechanics from defensive "Pair Up" mechanics. It's nice to see a return of the marriage mechanics, and the "My Castle" features, an expansion of the usual between-battle preparation features, provide some nice diversion.

As usual supports between characters are a big draw, and there were quite a few lovable characters this time around. I have to give a shout-out to my personal favorite character, the spacey Setsuna, although she was somewhat weak since her HP and defense are so low. My VIP was definitely Silas, though, who had sky-high defense. It turns out that I used only one of the four Hoshidan royals, but in retrospect I guess that's just as well since I'll probably be able to use them in Revelations. The support conversations in general vary widely in terms of how memorable they are, and it would have been nice to see more of them be more integral to the plot, but the large cast ensures that everyone will find a set of characters that they like. As with Awakening, the large cast means that in a normal playthrough you'll really only get the chance to become familiar with about half the cast, so it'll be fun to play through the game again with completely different character combinations.

Even playing on Hard mode I didn't really need to play around with reclassing or forging, and for better or worse there's not much need to use the children characters, but I suppose on the highest difficulty level these things will become more necessary. As it was, for me (an FE vet), on that mode the game didn't get very difficult until the last few chapters, although Birthright is supposed to be the easier game in general. One of my main complaints about Awakening was that grinding made the game too easy, so it's nice to see that Conquest will provide a more-traditional Fire Emblem experience. The Amiibo integration, while welcome, didn't offer much more than the guest characters mechanic seen in Awakening (i.e. the dialog is minimal), and I'm disappointed the voice actor for Ike was different than the actor in the Smash Bros. series. It's still nice to have these cameos, though.

I played Birthright in a quick blitz, and, unlike my playthrough of Awakening, I'm not going to bother getting all the children or grinding for supports since I'll have the opportunity for some of that in the other two games. The story takes a darker turn near the end which makes it somewhat more memorable, but it was fairly generic overall because the characters don't know anything about why the war is happening in the first place. I'm interested in seeing how things look from the Nohr perspective, and I'm sure a lot of the background will only be revealed in Revelation, which I'm really looking forward to. I'm also looking forward to spending time with the Nohrian cast, who we catch only glimpses of in Birthright, as there seem to be a lot of fun characters in it. I'm going to have to take a little break, though, so I can get on with my real life and not spend all my waking moments playing and reading about Fire Emblem! Let's see how long I can hold out before starting in on Conquest...

Refined Fire Emblem Fates links:
- Official site
- As usual, Serenes Forest is one of the best FE resources online, although their Fates info is still somewhat patchy and in the process of being completed
- Entry at fireemblem.wikia.com
- NintendoLife review
- Iwata Asks interviews (R.I.P.)

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