A tough but rewarding game

While it may have supercharged the popularity for its series, “Fire Emblem Awakening” brought with it a number of changes to the “Fire Emblem” formula to make the game easier for newcomers, leaving series veterans wishing for more difficulty.

“Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest” seeks to appeal to those fans, and offers a much more difficult version of its counterpart, “Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright.” “Conquest” isn’t a matter of splitting “Fire Emblem Fates” difficulty between two games, however. “Conquest” and “Birthright” tell two sides of an interwoven tale.

After creating a player character, the game immediately goes into the first map. All versions of “Fire Emblem Fates” share the same first five maps, serving as a prologue. Through these chapters, players learn a little bit about the player character’s background, as well as his or her siblings from Hoshido and Nohr, two rival kingdoms loosely based on eastern and western feudal kingdoms.

In “Birthright” the player sided with his or her blood relatives in Hoshido against the Nohrian aggressors. In “Conquest” however, the player returns to Nohr, siding with the family they’ve known their whole lives. However, having now learned of the atrocities that Nohr has committed, the player character wishes to change Nohr from the inside.

Players of “Conquest” will gladly welcome support from sibling characters, as the game is much more unforgiving than “Birthright.” All three games in “Fire Emblem Fates” have three difficulty levels, as well as a casual mode where the famous “Fire Emblem” permadeath is disabled, but even with this, “Conquest’s” maps are more suited for veterans of the series or those seeking a true challenge.

The game is never unfair—rather it expects tactical planning and strategic execution. Unlike “Fire Emblem Awakening” and “Birthright,” “Conquest” does not allow for grinding against enemies outside of battle, and features a variety of victory conditions besides seizing a point or defeating a boss. For instance, in the chapter where the player chooses a side, “Birthright” only requires defeating the boss, Xander, while “Conquest” requires defeating four of the five enemies on the map.

Despite these callbacks to previous entries in the series, “Conquest” still has elements of “Birthright” and “Fire Emblem Awakening” in it. Support conversation options are unlimited for all characters, pairing up is still in the game, and weapons cannot be broken. While these elements are balanced within the game itself, veterans who were hoping for a complete return to classic “Fire Emblem” gameplay of old won’t find everything they were hoping for.

The game’s presentation is identical to “Birthright,” but with a couple of unique changes. The My Castle feature now resembles a more western castle, unlike the eastern castle in “Birthright.” The soundtrack, while similar in tone, has a much deeper pitch to it, evoking the power and aggressiveness of Nohr.

The characters, too, have changed. A handful of characters from “Birthright” appear as allies, but the majority of allied fighters are completely different between versions, from the player’s doting sister Camilla to the unlucky hero Arthur. Some characters in “Conquest” even greatly resemble characters from “Fire Emblem Awakening.”

“Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest” is an excellent game to challenge veterans of the series and an excellent strategy RPG in its own right. The increased difficulty makes the gameplay all the more engaging, and every victory feels triumphant. The story is much more interesting and engrossing than its counterpart, and the bonds made with characters makes every death more tragic.

“Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest” is not for the faint of heart, but those who take on its challenge will find a fulfilling and rewarding experience waiting for them.

“Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest”
Release: Feb. 19
Console: Nintendo 3DS
Rating: ★★★★½