Out of all the games that came out in 2016, by far the one I was most disappointed in was Fire Emblem Fates.
This may come as a surprise to some people, especially those who believe that I blindly praise every Nintendo title that comes out, but I am not a blind fanboy. I take what I do on this blog and other outlets very seriously and always give my sincere opinion.
I genuinely LOVED Color Splash, Star Fox Zero, and Metroid Prime: Federation Force. I could not stand Fates, and to this day I have only completed a single path on it.
When Fates was first announced, to say that I had high hopes for it would be an understatement. I consider Awakening to be one of the best games on 3DS and one of my personal favorite games ever. Fates seemed to be more of the same with an interesting new premise and improvements to the combat. What could go wrong?
Something no fan could have seen coming: The in house writers outsourcing talent and bringing someone outside on board.
Let it be known that although I am aware that there are critics out there who dismiss Fire Emblem stories as being trite and cliche, I personally adore them. I feel as if the games bring a unique flavor to this kind of story, one that can’t get enough of. A big part of that is due to the characters, and how each and every one of them has a unique design and personality. You end up caring about all of your units and what’s going on in their lives.
Fates’ biggest problem, in my mind, is that it is impossible to take the characters and overarching conflict all that seriously. As I understand it, why this is depends on what version of the game you’re playing. I only played Birthright, so forgive me if I end up referring primarily to that version to explain what’s wrong with Fates’ plot.
And this brings us to our first major problem with Fate’s narrative, and quite possibly the most baffling design decision I’ve seen in my life. The decision to split the games into two different version, with the opposing path as DLC.
This was an ATROCIOUS idea and should have been shot down from the start. This runs directly against the major theme of the game. The idea that you’re ‘making a choice’ on who to support. In reality, you made your choice before you ever even played the game.
And that leads us to the problem with the tutorial. You are rushed through a tutorial where you are introduced to a number of characters that you don’t know anything about before you are railroaded into supporting your chosen side.
Birthright’s problem, I think, is that it absolutely BOTCHES the idea of siding with your family. You are given no real reason to turn your back on your family in Nohr, and in fact later revelations (See what I did there?) Elaborate that the entire thing is pointless. You aren’t related to the Hoshido royal family at all. I would know… I married Hinoka.
The thighs of a goddess.
It’s bizarre how you travel from place to place, and how little any of it means in the long run. Meeting Leo again later on is barely impactful. You never really got to know him. Saving Tamaki from being possessed doesn’t really mean anything in this campaign (From what I understand he’s the final boss in Conquest in something… I really should play through it someday) You aren’t given a reason to care about Xander dying. Same with Elise. The only thing I found even remotely amusing about her in this is that she sells flowers in a city where they can’t grow… exactly like Aeris.
Still a better death scene than anything in Fates
And don’t even get me started on Camilla, who I find to be incredibly creepy. I’m not sure what is with the FE team and putting in these psycho broads into their games, but I’m sick of it.
At the very least, Faye in Echoes isn’t a main protagonist and at LEAST the game seems to acknowledge she’s creepy.
So speaking of Echoes… how does Echoes plot hold up against it?
Honestly? It may be the best Fire Emblem plot thus far. I found myself, almost right out of the gate, absolutely enraptured in the plot and characters. Every character here, even the aforementioned Faye, has tons of character and things to say. It feels like, to me, these characters have a history. A sense of belonging in the world. They have goals, interests, they talk about their pasts, why they’re fighting in the army. Right from the get go I felt significantly more engaged with the plot and characters than I ever did with Fates.
So what changed?
The writer they outsourced Fates too didn’t return. That’s it. He was the reason all the characters are so bland in Fates. He’s the reason the overall plot is incoherent and just plain offensive in some ways (I’m thinking specifically of the Dragon Ball Z time chamber where you send little babies to grow up and fight your war for you. That might be the most disgusting thing I’ve seen in any game, ever)
I was amazed when I looked up the design details for Fates and found that the characters I genuinely liked, specifically Oboro and Hinoka, were NOT in the original script and were added by the real development team. It really put the whole situation into perspective for me. Fates, as a game, is perfectly fine. It does feature several gameplay improvements over Awakening and is probably still worth a play if you’ve played Awakening and Echoes to death.
HOWEVER. It also fails as a story. It fails to make the conflict and situation interesting, and in some ways actively insults the player with nonsensical asspulls. I think that, overall, is it’s greatest weakness. It certainly isn’t a bad game. Really, the more I compare this game to some of the game that win awards on other consoles I remember just why I am a Nintendo fan.
But that also doesn’t mean that the game should be excused for it’s downright terrible elements. I don’t feel as if this game got nearly enough flak for what it did, especially since games like Star Fox Zero and Federation Force were slammed for no real reason at all.
Fates, to me, was one of the biggest disappointments of 2016. Echoes is one of the highlights of 2017.