Fire Emblem if review
The fourteenth Fire Emblem game and the second for 3DS: Fire Emblem if released on 25 June 2015 with two versions White Knight Kingdom (Birthright) and Dark Knight Kingdom (Conquest) available at retail with a third downloadable version Invisible Kingdom (Revelation) available shortly after for ¥2,000. Digital purchasers started with the shared prologue and opening five chapters before deciding which path to take with again a ¥2,000 cost required to own the second version. The obvious initial question is -at over ¥9,000- whether Nintendo are milking the faithful and over-charging for essentially three versions of the same game?
The logical assumption is that this is the case but to disperse with any negative assertions: Fire Emblem if is effectively three full games all with separate storylines and each containing 22 full chapters, the endgame as well as the shared prologue and opening chapters plus a number of gaiden chapters (side-quests) as an added bonus. The game is more story-driven than even Awakening with the avatar (you) making the earchoice whether to fight for his/her birth country, the country that raised you or in Invisible Kingdom where you reject both. Inevitably the language barrier can affect understanding of the story although as an English speaker, I seldom became lost.
The basic gameplay is almost second nature to those who have played Awakening with all-but the menu screens and bottom screen layout throughout. Many new features grace if from an absolute ton of new character classes to choose from (all now unisex), several new weapons plus a whole new Phoenix Mode where dead party members are revived at the beginning of each turn. The now standardised Casual Mode allowing fallen allies to return in the next chapter is back as well as permadeath for all hardcore players. amiibo support is added for all current four Fire Emblem amiibo (no news on Roy yet) with the most interesting new feature being the My Castle feature.
Although just an extension of the Barracks feature from Awakening; My Castle is certainly more complete than say the Norende Reconstruction feature in Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, even adding the potential for both mixed and same sex relationships. The latter highlighting how progressive Nintendo are becoming (even if this is more to do with the Western backlash over the Tomodachi Collection: New Life localisation than the company’s internal ethics). My Castle is accessible either side of battle and forms the basis for a lot of the core content with weapons, items and all forms of accessories not necessarily relevant to battle giving the game an extra (although not necessary) depth.
Graphically if improves on Awakening although not massively so. The sprites, cut-scenes and 3D are all superb, as is the soundtrack with Aqua’s ‘Lost in Thoughts All Alone’ simply stunning. The storyline seems solid if not sensational although the language barrier limits my praise somewhat. It’s the gameplay where Fire Emblem if truly shines however. It’s not just the content on offer (each version takes upwards of 25 hours with plenty more content for completists), and it’s not just the variety of the content (with each chapters boasting new enemies, obstacles and subsequent strategies) but the absolute joy it takes to tackle each and every enemy and obstacle, the empathy you feel for your comrades, the contempt for your enemies, and the sheer delight in their demise.
Stunning in every way conceivable. Not only easily the greatest game of 2015 but quite possibly the greatest Fire Emblem to date. Any score lower than a 10 would be almost unfathomable.*
* Please note score based on a complete playthrough of Dark Knight Kingdom plus several hours of Invisible Kingdom.