Game Review – Fire Emblem If/Fates (3DS)

fireemblemif-113Fire Emblem If is one of the few games that makes worthy getting a Nintendo 3DS just to play it. Awakening was already a pretty damn good RPG, but this new entry manages to surpass the previous one on pretty much everything! Well, most of it, anyway…Considering that it is actually three games in one!

Story

fireemblemif-01You play as prince/princess Kamui (who you get to rename as you want, just like Robin from Awakening) originally from the “Kingdom of the White Night” Biyakuya (Hoshido in the US version), Kamui got kidnaped by Garon, King of the An’ya – “The Dark Night Kingdom” (Nohr in the US) and was raised as the Dark King’s child. Traumatized by the series of terrible events, Kamui seals his memories of the tragic events while growing surrounded the the love of his new family.fireemblemif-12As a young adult, Kamui was bestowed with the dark sword Gangreli (I swear I didn’t name it!) and was sent to Biyakuya on a simple mission, but it was all a ploy by Garon, as Kamui got captured and was taken to the royal palace. Once there, the truth about Kamui’s past was finally revealed.fireemblemif-23When the family was celebrating their reunion with a big festival, the Gangreli sword started floating around as being possessed by an evil power spreading death and panic. At the same time, a group of cloaked figures appeared out of nowhere to bring even more chaos to the scene.fireemblemif-20Kamui was to be killed by the cursed sword if it wasn’t for Queen Mikoto who sacrificed herself to shield her child from the fatal blow.fireemblemif-117Soon after, the siblings of An’ya disobeyed their father by traveling to Biyakuya just to rescue their precious family member, but they only found a confused Kamui. They begged for Kamui’s return, but the siblings from Biyakuya could not let their own family be taken away again. This is where the true adventure begins, as you get to choose Kamui’s Fate on 3 “what if” scenarios! (this was cheese, but I’m not sorry!)

Characters

fireemblemif-106Aqua (who is known as “Azura” on the US version, which sounds awful!) Is a princess of the An’ya Kingdom. She got kidnaped by Biyakuya’s royal family soon after Kamui. They had hopes of using her in negociations to retrieve their lost family, but there was no interest for her in An’ya’s side. Much like Kamui, Aqua was raised by Queen Mikoto like her own daughter and she no longer feels any attachment to her old home.fireemblemif-109Ryouma is the oldest Biyakuya prince. A strong and prideful warrior who puts his life on the line for the sake of his people. He has the spirit of a true samurai and sees the path of a warrior as much more than battle prowess.fireemblemif-116Takumi is the youngest Biyakuya prince. He’s very strong-willed and has a short temper, which is why he can’t bring himself to accept Kamui as family after the same spent years living with the enemy. This becomes a fatal weakness on many times.fireemblemif-108Hinoka is the oldest Biyakuya princess. In the past, she was very delicate and hated battles, but she was also the one who was most attached to Kamui, to the point that she became a warrior only to rescue her sibling. Now she is respected as the strongest Pegasus rider of the Kingdom. Ironically, she feels troubled to return to her former delicate self.fireemblemif-104Sakura is the youngest Biyakuya princess. A very delicate and shy lady who hates to fight and puts everyone’s wellbeing above her own. She was too young to remember the time when Kamui got kidnaped, but she felt something special when she got reunited with her sibling.fireemblemif-110Marx is the oldest An’ya prince (he’s called “Xander” in the US). He loves his family even more than his whole Kingdom, and is always protecting them from afar. He decided to take on the most troublesome jobs in order for his siblings to enjoy a peaceful life. As the eldest child, he knows just how much his father has changed along the years.fireemblemif-114Leon is the youngest An’ya prince (but he’s known as just “Leo” in the US, because “Leon” is just too difficult of a name for those poor north-americans). A very prideful magic warrior who is ruthless in the battlefield specially towards cowards who use dirty tricks. However, around his family, he reveals to be a bit clumsy and very caring, specially towards his sister Camila, which is why he shows a bit of jealousy for how she treats Kamui.fireemblemif-105Camila is the eldest An’ya princess. She was born with a sexy body befitting a goddess, but she decides to use her charm exclusively on Kamui, whom she has deep affection for. As the oldest daughter, she knows very well about the dark side of her kingdom, and this may have shattered her heart, as she feels no hesitation on killing her enemies, specially those who represent danger for her family, who are her safe-haven from all the harshness of the battlefield.fireemblemif-115Elise is the youngest An’ya princess. She is absurdly charismatic and also has a special talent to look through anyone’s true nature, which is why she is the first to notice something fishy about her father’s orders. Thanks to this same talent, she was granted with a huge amount of friends who are willing to die protecting her since she accepted them for who they really are. She feels specially attached to Kamui, her favorite sibling.

Themes & Routes

fireemblemif-78First and foremost: This game has 3 different routes and by buying only the main game you get to play only 1 route for free while the other 2 are DLC. This has become quite the polemic topic around gaming communities, but I must agree with what most FE fans point out: Pokemon always comes in two different versions sold separately for full price, while offering just few differences between versions (like some legendaries). On the other hand, FE-if is being sold for around 5,000 yen and each additional scenario goes for 2,000 yen, which is less than a half you pay for the basic package. You get a completely different campaign on each FE-if scenario, and most ally units are exclusive to each story. I think it’s a good deal, specially for Pokemon fans!fireemblemif-28v2Now for the campaigns: Biyakuya is pretty much your usual “hero against evil empire” type of setting. Nothing too impressive here. This story treats war in a very black-and-white manner and it reveals nothing about the real plot of the game. It’s still a pretty good adventure with some cool moments here and there. It just isn’t nearly as good as the other two.fireemblemif-05An’ya story has a very intriguing setting, where the protagonist tries to change the Kingdom said to be “evil” from inside and learn many shocking secrets going on behind the scene and decides to create a rebel army from inside the enemy’s own army by picking the most trustworthy soldier from An’ya and revealing to them their King’s true nature. It’s a very gray story about war, but it also features more of its shortcomings. It’s much more common to see important characters dying during main events in this route than in the other 2 (your playable allies will not suddenly die, though), this story is also full of all kinds of twists, and even the final boss was quite the surprise for me.fireemblemif-83v2The Third route, also known as “The true route” only got available a few weeks after the game’s launch. As previously hinted, this story reveals all the truth about the real enemy that was controlling things behind the curtains. It’s a complete story that explains everything about everything. It’s a really great campaign, probably the best among the 3.fireemblemif-91Now to address the elephant in the room: Yes, Soleil is a lesbian, she likes women and she is always talking about dating and doing dirty stuff with them. She doesn’t want to just get into a friendly relationship with ladies. FE is far from being an innocent franchise. They can use those mature themes with no problems…or so I thought…fireemblemif-92However, Soleil has no S Support with female units, not even one! And all of her S support events are pretty much like: “You’re not my type, but you’re a nice guy! Since you’re insisting that much, I guess that’s ok”. She isn’t very romantic when around guys, but she has nothing against them. They just are not her thing. And yet, no girlfriends for her. Poor Soleil…fireemblemif-89v2Foleo, on the other hand, is not homosexual. He has a liking for cross-dressing, but different from Soleil, he never shows any romantic interest for people of his same gender. I can understand why he doesn’t have any S support with guys.fireemblemif-72“But you forgot to mention how Foleo gets all lovey-dovey around his father!” No, I didn’t! AND SO WHAT? EVERYONE DOES THE SAME IN THIS GAME! Yes! All the children units in FE-if suffer from a huge father complex! They keep talking about their oldmen during almost all of their support events! Even when its not a FatherXChild or MotherXChild event! It even gets awkward many times! Like how two characters become a couple just because they agree upon how awesome their fathers are. They are fathercom buddies!fireemblemif-118You can, however, get a homosexual marriage by playing Biyakuya’s path with a female avatar and dating Syalla (Tsukuyomi’s daughter who looks just like Tharja). Or you can play An’ya’s route with a male avatar and get marriage with Zero. You also get the opportunity to do those two shippings on the 3rd route.

Gameplay

fireemblemif-25Each route have their own tweaks of difficulty: The easiest one is without a doubt the Biyakuya (Hoshido) route, but if you’re playing on Classic mode, it can be pretty challenging and even frustraiting to keep everyone alive. In order to accomplish that, much grinding, free saves and sharp strategies will be required!fireemblemif-61One of the main reasons for why this route is so easy has to be Ryouma – the strongest character in the game by far! He’s super resistant and strong, as he can one-hit-kill most of his enemies in the game, which includes the final boss, but if his attack is not enough to kill his target, he will still be able to do it anyway, because 95% of his attacks goes critical. Well, when you play Nohr’s side, you do get Marx in your team, who is also a terrifying monster himself, but not as broken as his Hoshido equivalent.fireemblemif-66On the subject, An’ya (Nohr) side can be a nightmare even when played on casual mode! Much of this difficulty comes from the fact you don’t get free battles to grind your units (although there are still some battles in your castle from time to time). If you don’t want to burn with rage, you can always use Phoenix mode, the super-cheap mode where all of your units revive at the start of every new turn. It’s pretty impossible to get a Game Over from dying while using this mode (maybe if you manage to get your whole team killed on the same turn), but since this campaign involves a lot of gimmicks and unusual requirements, you can still fail at some missions, even though you’re immortal!fireemblemif-82The third route gives you the best of both worlds. You get free battles to grind your units to your heart content just like in the 1st route, but you also get battles with lots of gimmicks that are commonplace in the 2nd route. You also get nearly all the units from both routes to join you, and you can even get people from different Kingdoms to marry each other. This is the scenario where the true plot of the game gets revealed and all the teasers from the other routes were leading to this. In my opinion, it delivers! This story is pretty great!fireemblemif-119Regardless of which route you pick, the game itself can still be quite difficult, even unfair sometimes! It feels like the odds are always against you, because you almost never hit your target when you get around 70% of chance, but it’s the opposite for the enemy side. It’s a pretty usual occurrence seeing a sequence of enemies attacking your units one after another and hitting all their attacks with less than 50% of chance!fireemblemif-123You can use Free Saves to pause halfway through a battle (an important feature for a portable title), but it’s no use to keep going back to the same situation over and over again until your attacks hit its target, because the results are pretty much set in stone, but if you do something that changes your percentage, you can still get to abuse on it!fireemblemif-16As for the combat, nothing changed that much, but the system got some improvements! Noteworthy to how weapons don’t get destroyed from being used in battles anymore! Everyone used Chrom and Lucina in their Awakening team because of their indestructible Falchion, but now players will be able to choose their favorite units more freely! Healing Items still have limited use, though, but I find this to be fair! The weapon weaknesses also got slightly changed, but nothing that is too hard to memorize!fireemblemif-19v2You also get a new feature called “Ryu Myaku! which roughly translates to “Dragon Pulse”. It’s very similar to the Hamon technique from Jojo, being based on a Chinese concept where you manipulate waves of energy that exist within anything to transform things around you. You just need to move to a grid with an energy mark and use the “Ryu Myaku” command to do things like creating bridges, burn forests that are blocking your path or causing damage to a group of enemies. It’s fairly useful, but only characters with royal blood can use it (which is indicated with a crow icon on the top of their portraits).fireemblemif-103The biggest new feature has to be the “My Castle” system, which initially makes you feel like you’re playing a “castle tycoon” of sorts, but you soon notice that this is actually a huge step further for the FE franchise into becoming a Dating Sim!fireemblemif-93As you build your cattle, you get new establishments like a “hotspring bath” and an accessory shop that includes cute items such as “cat ears” and “fox tails”. You also get your own room, and it’s there that you get to spend some quality time with your favorite units! You can invite any of your allies to your room, male or female, just so you can get more “in touch” with them, if you know what I’m saying!fireemblemif-62You have an assorted list of funny things to do, but once you get married, your repertory gets expanded. You will be welcomed by your “waifu” or “hasbando” everytime you visit your room, and now you can do all sorts of cutesy stuff with them. Like waking your beloved up to see cute reactions, taking a bath together, or you can just blow your lover up (literally).fireemblemif-54To get things even more interesting, now your partner will be much more lewd and risky than before during your “touch moments”. FE is becoming less and less a game you would want to play in public…fireemblemif-88From time to time, your castle will be invaded by NPCs or by other player’s characters. You can upgrade your profile and look at the ranks to challenge other people’s teams. It should prove to be a delicious new feature for those who enjoy online matches.fireemblemif-31Much like in Awakening, your units can also get married, which opens a bonus scenario where you can recruit the couple’s children. This time, however, the child’s appearance and personality is linked to the father, rather than the mother, the opposite from Awakening.fireemblemif-57Conversations between the child and its mother are pretty much the same for whoever the mother of the couple is, much like it was for FatherXChild Support events. The avatar’s daughter do have some subtle changes for each mother, which is better than nothing.

Graphics

fireemblemif-111Most fans are probably aware of this already, but…people have feet now! This is certainly a huge improvement over the previous game! The 3D models look much more detailed overall, they look great for the 3DS, but don’t expect anything “next-gen” .fireemblemif-120The battle arenas are all much more complex and huge. Instead of being the same scenario when character attack each other, now it’s a more faithful representation of the 2D Map you see from the aerial camera. You can even see as the camera zoom into the 2D Map and shifts to a 3D background. It’s a beautiful effect and an admirable attention to details.fireemblemif-124Kozaki Yuusuke is back as main artist and his works are still gorgeous. It seems there’s a lack of creativity for some character-designs, but this is actually intentional. On the other hand, the “real” new faces looks pretty unique, cool and/or cute.fireemblemif-63You still get some special illustrations for some specific events, but sometimes it looks like they just use a render screenshot of the 3D models used in CGI cut-scenes. By the way: The CGI scenes look as gorgeous as before, so I guess there’s no problem about those illustrations after all!fireemblemif-67During the “touch sessions” at your Room, you get a flash animation for each of your units that use Live 2D effects. It’s pretty impressive how every single unit gets their own animation for this segment, but some characters are depicted in a…less than impressive manner…fireemblemif-74

Voices

Unfortunately, this games has very few voices. Just like in Awakening, you hear some voice clips for some sentences, but not the full event. It’s only during CGIs that you get fully voiced scenes. Although, I know how this would be complicated and expensive to fully voice this game.fireemblemif-112Mostly because of the avatar’s many voices and also because of the ridiculous number of Support events with too many possible interactions between your units. Maybe if it was on the WiiU…

Music

During battles, you get two tracks playing at the same time, but you will only listen to a relaxing music while you’re viewing the 2D Map. Once you shift to the 3D battle view, you start to listen to the 2nd track of the battle, a more energetic version of the same music from before (kinda like what happens with Yoshi’s version of Mario’s stage music). The shift between those two versions give a spectacular feel and makes for a perfect atmosphere! The music from event scenes are also great and very moody. The whole soundtrack uses orchestral instruments, which makes the BGMs sound even more epic!

Conclusion

fireemblemif-126All the 3 routes are awesome, but I think the Biyakuya (Hoshido) is the weakest one. If you only have money and free time enough for one playthrough, I recommend the 3rd route! You get to play with all playable characters from both routes in a full story that answers all the questions without leaving any cliffhanger. Don’t worry!fireemblemif-85You don’t need to play the other two routes before the 3rd one to understand what’s going on, but I guess it will feel a bit pointless to play the other 2 after watching the true ending. Therefore, if you’re a hardcore Fire Emblem player and absolutely wants to play through this whole game, I recommend Hoshido first, Nohr second and the True Route for last! Regardless, just play this game! It’s a must-play for fans of the franchise and fans of the genre!

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6 responses to “Game Review – Fire Emblem If/Fates (3DS)

  1. but the ultimate choice had always been onii-sama or onii-chan

  2. Thanks for the wonderful review Gangrelion, I can’t wait to play the game.
    Too bad for some of the name changes but, yeah, I’m used to it…
    My fault for not learning japanese. T_T

    About your Pokemon comparison though, they did it since the beginning, and yeah I feel it’s a shame but well it was like that from the start…Unlike this game, so I’m not happy !

    We already talked a bit about it, I will play the 3 routes but since there’s no point, I probably won’t enjoy it è_é

    Kozaki Yuusuke’s art is godly, where is my Tiki cameo ?!

    • I forgot to mention that each campaign is at least as big as the main campaign from Awakening (that’s why it took me so long to finish the game as a whole), so I really feel like those DLCs were a fair deal. Except for the 3rd campaign! Since it mostly recycle assets from the first 2 scenarios, you won’t feel like you’re playing something completely new if you had finish the other routes beforehand (which is also why I recommend playing only the 3rd route if you don’t have the time and money…)

  3. Hi I know this is late but I have a question. I only plan on playing through the game on the Nohr and Neutral routes. Would I be missing a lot by not playing Hoshido?

    • All the 3 routes are awesome, but I think the Biyakuya (Hoshido) is the weakest one. Biyakuya is pretty much your usual “hero against evil empire” type of setting. Nothing too impressive here. This story treats war in a very black-and-white manner and it reveals nothing about the real plot of the game. It’s still a pretty good adventure with some cool moments here and there, but it just isn’t nearly as good as the other two. If you only have money and free time enough for one playthrough, I recommend the 3rd route! You get to play with all playable characters from both routes in a full story that answers all the questions without leaving any cliffhanger. Don’t worry! You don’t need to play the other two routes before the 3rd one to understand what’s going on, but I guess it will feel a bit pointless to play the other 2 after watching the true ending. Therefore, if you’re a hardcore Fire Emblem player and absolutely wants to play through this whole game, I recommend Hoshido first, Nohr second and the True Route for last.

  4. Near death after being defeated, Anankos summons and eats the impostor Garon to regain his strength, but is finally destroyed with the Fire Emblem. In the aftermath, Azura crowns the Avatar the new ruler of Touma, and an everlasting peace is established between the three kingdoms.

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