A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know Fire Emblem Fates is a turn-based strategy game involving swords, magic, and arrows. The violence depicted is relatively moderate and without gore. That said, depending on the difficulty level chosen, important characters who die due to player mistakes may remain dead forever. The story concerns a prince or princess (the lead character's gender and skin tone are customizable) who is torn between her birth and adoptive families, resulting in strong themes of family, friendship, loyalty, and betrayal. Characters can also fall in love, including two of the same gender -- a first for a Nintendo game. Parents should be aware that some of the female characters are highly sexualized, especially in an anime scene in which the camera lingers on a sexy character's bikini-clad crotch, buttocks, and breasts.
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What's it about?
FIRE EMBLEM FATES is actually sold as three separate games: Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, and Fire Emblem Fates: Special Edition. All three games are identical for the first few chapters, depicting a prince (or princess) who is torn between her birth and adoptive families, rival rulers of neighboring kingdoms. Eventually the hero is forced to choose between them. In Birthright, he or she sides with her birth family, a group of good and honorable people. In Conquest, the hero goes with the adoptive family, also composed of generally good people but led by a tyrant king. The Special Edition version lets players choose which path to take as well as offering a third path called Revelations in which the hero refuses both families and goes off in search of the origin of the two kingdoms' conflict. These three paths differ greatly in terms of characters, maps, and story, and some are more challenging than others, but they all follow the same basic structure. Players engage in turn-based missions set on gridded battlefields upon which they move units with varying abilities like chess pieces, matching heroes against enemies they feel confident they can defeat. Between missions, players visit a customizable fortress in the astral plane where they build shops and defenses, initiate dialogue between characters to strengthen their bonds inside and outside of combat, and collect resources. Players continue alternating between missions and castle-building activities until the end of the game.
Is it any good?
The thing that makes this title -- and indeed all the games in the franchise -- so memorable isn't solely its terrific turn-based combat or bevy of interesting activities between missions, but it's really the characters and story that stand out. By diving deeply into the personalities of our warriors, exploring who they are, where they come from, and what motivates them, we come to care for them much more than we do the faceless units in other strategy games. And what makes the game so intense is that -- assuming you're playing on classic mode -- they're all terribly mortal. Any of them can die, permanently, at any moment due to a player's mistake. You'll never know what they could have become or whom they could have loved. It's tragic. And compelling. And with three story lines -- each full of original characters -- to play through, there's more epic narrative here than in any other Fire Emblem game to date.
All of this said, the top-notch combat is a pretty strong draw, too. It facilitates a variety of play styles, ranging from cautious to bold to strategic. Players need to develop a good understanding of each character's strengths and weaknesses and -- thanks to the game's complex relationship-building system -- whom they fight well with. And the new fortress-based activities between missions provide a wealth of ways that players can give their units extra advantages, from cooking up bonus-bestowing meals to equipping individual warriors with special accessories built from rare resources. It's a massive package for a hand-held game. All you need to decide is whether you want to side with the good guys in Birthright or the not-so-obviously good guys in Conquest, or if you want to experience both stories plus the game's "true" ending in the Special Edition.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of violence in media. Most games don't allow important characters to die permanently due to player mismanagement, but this one does, so how do you feel when one of your favorite heroes falls in battle? Do you feel the need to restart the mission so you can save him or her? Or do you accept your mistake and move on?
Families can also talk about sexuality. Most of the women in this game are just as strong as the men, but why do you think they're frequently presented in much more sexual clothing?
- Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
- Subjects: Language & Reading: reading
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, decision-making, prediction, strategy
Emotional Development: empathy, persevering, perspective taking
- Price: $39.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release date: February 19, 2016
- Genre: Strategy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters
- ESRB rating: T for Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes
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