Fire Emblem Awakening wasn’t supposed to be a smash hit. It was a swansong, a final curtain for a beloved Japanese franchise that had never managed to enjoy the same level of love and respect in a western world of instant gratification and season passes running wild. But for some reason, a handheld strategy game with a top-notch story, lovable cast and tactical decisions that required the precision of a safecracker to get to grips with, finally hit it big.
Awakening wasn’t the final act in a franchise that had been around for decades. It was a reinvigoration of the series that made fans hungry for more. And that’s just what they’re getting, with a three-course meal as Fire Emblem Fates pulls a Pokemon and splits the narrative across a trio of distinct paths, building on the groundwork that Awakening had cemented.
And that’s what the first part of this new saga is. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is essentially Awakening with a Japanese influence and a new cast, a different side of the same coin. And I’ve got no complaints with that decision. This time, players take a front row seat to the action, as war breaks out and lines are drawn between two royal families: The Nohrian invasion led by the bloodthirsty King Garon who rocks a beard that would make ZZ Top quake in fear, and the noble Hoshidan forces who are fighting to restore peace to the land.
Pick a side, make a hard choice and live with the consequences, as Fire Emblem Fates is heavily focused on family matters this time around. The beauty of this story is that there’s fifty shades of grey thrown into the morality of the conflict. While the kingdom of Nohr may have picked a fight with the rest of the world like some sort of medieval Axis army, the Hoshidans aren’t exactly completely innocent either.