Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright (3DS) Review

Fate is a cruel mistress.

Before I delve into this review in earnest, I must first address the pink striped elephant in the room first.

The controversy surrounding the localization of this game, and in truth the reality of what it really means to translate a game from its native language for a new audience.

First, I will state that I believe that the best type of localization is one that doesn’t adhere to one strict philosophy and is adaptable based on each situation.

There are those who think literal translations in all but the most extreme of circumstance is the right way to go, just as there are others who believe that the script should be rewritten to better fit the audience.

MSRP: $39.99.
Platforms: 3DS
Voice Acting: ENG only.
Length: 30~ Hours

I say that there’s a delicate balance to be made in between the two, and the only way to walk that fine line is to truly and deeply understand the source material.

However, even this is not without faults, as there is always room for interpretation in that understanding, as there is no one correct answer in many cases.

In that light, I found the localization as far as the translations go to be serviceable, if not unremarkable.

The games I tend to criticize for their localization tend to be deeply flawed in their writing, to the point it’s hard to read in more ways than one and/or have added bugs present in the build that wasn’t in the original release.

Fresh in my mind are titles like Digimon: Cyber Sleuth, with its god-awful writing that made entire conversations impossible to follow, or Atelier Shallie, which launched with a game-breaking bug that hard-froze the console every time a particular menu was accessed.

Those are objectively terrible localization efforts, and I tend to stick to these types of extremes when pointing out localization as a flaw.

With that out of the way, I can finally begin the review in full by saying that much like the premise in Fire Emblem Fates, I am of two minds when I think of the time I spent fighting alongside the Hoshido clan.

Two sides of the same coin.

Two sides of the same coin.

FE:Fates Birthright is a standard SRPG quite similar to FE:Awakening, with a few notable differences.

Unlike Awakening and most other Fire Emblem games, there is no longer weapon durability that makes the weapon break after attacking with it a certain number of times.

Dragon Veins also appear on the battlefield, allowing for certain characters to manipulate the map in various different ways, like opening up a new path or creating a hazard to damage a group of foes.

There’s also a new simple base-building element, where the player is able to build a castle to call their own, with a variety of shops and other interesting structures that provide greater benefits as they are further upgraded.

Players can upload their castle for others to visit, just as they are free to visit other player’s castles as well, and while it’s not necessary to complete the game, its addition was most welcome.

While the newly added mechanics are a nice touch, they would be nothing if the core experience that the Fire Emblem games are known for was absent, and luckily, it is mostly intact.

Combat is still a good mix of strategy with a splash of luck, and the difficulty modes can be tailored such that everyone between the FE purists to the casuals should be able to find a sweet spot where they can enjoy the game.

Sometimes, the best you can do is pray to RNGesus.

Sometimes, the best you can do is pray to RNGesus.

Even though most of the gameplay remains solid, the story did not fare quite as well.

As I progressed through the game one mission at a time, I found that I was able to predict basically everything that would happen well ahead of time.

Still, I could forgive the predictable plot if the characters were interesting, but I found them to be largely unlikeable, which prompted me to skip through much of the support dialogue, which was a shame as it was one of my favorite elements of the previous Fire Emblem games.

At the very end, as the credits rolled, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed by how the game concluded with so many loose ends.

While I understand that FE:Fates Revelations most likely will do away with said loose ends, that’s just the same as keeping the true ending to a game behind a pay wall even after having the player pay full price for their title, and I do not condone or support such anti-consumer practices.

There’s also the issue of cut content with the petting mini game, spoken dialogue and more among other complaints to be made, but personally I find the release model of this game did the most harm.

Whether you purchase Birthright or Conquest determines the side you must choose. This is before playing through the prologue or understanding who these people are or what they are fighting for, but you are already asked to make a choice from the get-go.

Imagine if you were playing Witcher 2, and in that moment after the first chapter where you must choose to go with the humans or elves, you make your choice to only be sent to a store page informing you that you actually don’t own that part of the game.

In truth, FE:Fates is a game where you can buy the right game and realize that you actually bought the wrong one after all.

I’ve never in my life seen a title where I was asked to make a moral choice in a video game before even playing it, and I sincerely hope that this will be the last.

All this could have been avoided if FE:Fates was sold as a singular title with all the content in one cart just like the SE version for $49.99 or $59.99.

Instead, the SE was sold with a bloated price tag with the inclusion of an unnecessary artbook/pouch and saw a limited run, selling out in hours whenever it came in stock and are reselling for over $200.

It was pretty obvious that this guy was evil without the black eyeliner, guys.

It was pretty obvious that this guy was evil without the black eyeliner, guys.

A bad game that’s bad because it doesn’t have any redeeming qualities is a simple disappointment.

A great game that ultimately becomes less than what it could have been due to external circumstances is a damned tragedy.

While the core gameplay of Fire Emblem: Fates remains intact and enjoyable, the poorly conceived release model, along with a predictable story that feels incomplete holds it back from true greatness.

Fun Tidbit – I really don’t enjoy talking about things that aren’t directly about the game in my reviews but sometimes the external issues end up hindering the game itself too much for me to ignore.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Solid SRPG mechanics
  • Varied level designs
  • Online components
  • Shoddy anti-consumer release model
  • Lackluster story that feels incomplete
Written by
Jae has been a gamer ever since he got a Nintendo when he was just a child. He has a passion for games and enjoys writing. While he worries about the direction gaming as a medium might be headed, he's too busy playing games to do anything about it.