Tale of two games

In the lat­est Fire Em­blem game, which fac­tion you choose will de­cide which game you buy.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TECHNOLOGY - By GieSon CA­Cho

IT IS hard to be­lieve, but the Fire Em­blem se­ries came close to can­cel­la­tion a few years back. Af­ter a pe­riod of de­clin­ing sales, Nin­tendo threat­ened to axe the long­time strat­egy game. Ac­cord­ing to its pro­ducer, who spoke to Hobby Con­so­las mag­a­zine in 2013, that threat lit a fire un­der the de­vel­op­ers.

The re­sult was the stun­ningly deep and com­pelling Fire Em­blem Awak­en­ing – a strat­egy role- play­ing game com­bin­ing com­plex com­bat with per­sonal re­la­tion­ships. This fu­sion cre­ated a unique ex­pe­ri­ence for gamers.

Even though the de­vel­op­ers, In­tel­li­gent Sys­tems and Nin­tendo, faced no spe­cial pres­sure this time, they haven’t let up on the gas. Fire Em­blem Fates moves far­ther down the Awak­en­ing path by fus­ing an epic nar­ra­tive with ad­dic­tive game­play.

In this it­er­a­tion, play­ers cre­ate an avatar ( let’s call him Cor­rin) who is at the heart of the con­flict be­tween the king­doms of Nohr and Hoshido.

Th­ese na­tions have been locked in a tense armistice, which blows up into full- scale war when Hoshido’s queen is as­sas­si­nated.

Cor­rin turns out to be the un­wit­ting in­stru­ment of the killing – which places each player in an awk­ward po­si­tion, since his or her avatar is a mem­ber of both royal fam­i­lies.

Ap­par­ently, Cor­rin was kid- napped and re­moved from Hoshido as a baby to be raised by Nohr’s king.

Ul­ti­mately, play­ers must choose be­tween loy­alty to the avatar’s adopted fam­ily, which in­sti­gated the war, or his bi­o­log­i­cal fam­ily, which is seek­ing jus­tice.

That de­ci­sion de­ter­mines which ver­sion of the game the player takes on – Fire Em­blem Fates: Con­quest or Fire Em­blem Fates: Birthright.

Nin­tendo has re­leased the two ver­sions sep­a­rately. Pur­chase of one means the buyer will have to pay ex­tra to un­lock the other. Each is solid, with a dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent story from the other’s. Yet alone, each has sig­nif­i­cantly less con­tent than Awak­en­ing did.

When com­bined ( and the com­bi­na­tion in­cludes a third chap­ter called Rev­e­la­tions), there’s a moun­tain of nar­ra­tive that re­quires dozens of hours to sift through. The sheer vol­ume could seem in­tim­i­dat­ing, but Fates makes the time fly with its ex­cel­lent com­bat sys­tem.

In each of the three Fire Em­blem Fates chap­ters, a player com­mands an army that con­fronts a ri­val force con­trolled by the com­puter.

Tak­ing turns, op­po­nents move their troops. The bat­tle is akin to chess, in that each pla­toon mem­ber pos­sesses skills, pow­ers and move­ments of his own.

Play­ers, of course, try to out­ma­noeu­vre foes, and they can even pair up to de­feat the op­po­nent.

Fire Em­blem Fates also al­lows play­ers to pick which troops to send into bat­tle – a prac­ti­cal op­tion, since some have ad­van­tages over oth­ers. In ad­di­tion, each sol­dier comes with a unique per­son­al­ity and back­story.

As they in­ter­act, they may be­come friends – and may even fall in love. The ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships can lead to chil­dren, who are of­ten more pow­er­ful sol­diers than their par­ents.

As in Awak­en­ing, the pos­si­bil­ity of chil­dren is an in­trigu­ing con­cept, but in Fates, the idea feels shoe­horned into the story. Apart from that is­sue, th­ese sys­tems have a solid base.

Over­all, the de­sign­ers of Fates have fine- tuned the story and added in­ter­est­ing fea­tures not found in Awak­en­ing. One great twist is that mem­bers of the royal fam­ily can tap into spe­cial ar­eas called Dragon Veins and, by do­ing so, al­ter the bat­tle­field ge­og­ra­phy or heal troops.

An­other new op­tion is base- build­ing. Af­ter Cor­rin sets up his head­quar­ters on an as­tral plane, play­ers can out­fit it in the way they want. In ad­di­tion, each base of­fers its own com­bi­na­tion of re­sources, such as food and min­er­als. This fea­ture en­cour­ages play­ers to visit each other’s bases.

With Fire Em­blem Fates, the fran­chise ap­pears health­ier than ever – and proves that, even when a se­ries loses its lus­tre, it can bounce back from the edge of ex­tinc­tion. – San Jose Mer­cury News/ Tribune News Ser­vice

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