Let's fire some emblemsHere is my main issue with Fire Emblem Fates:

This is a story where absolutely everybody has sex, but nobody knows what fucking is.

Fire Emblem Fates is the sequel to Fire Emblem Awakening, and it appears the problem starts there. The Fire Emblem franchise had always been quietly successful for Nintendo in Japan, but Fire Emblem Awakening was when FE really hit the big time both at home and abroad. This led to one amazing problem: nobody quite knew why Fire Emblem Awakening succeeded in the first place. We now have years of hindsight to confirm exactly why Awakening was so well received (it was Girl Marth), but with Fire Emblem Fates attempting to bottle the same lightning as quickly as possible, they basically tried to take everything about Awakening, and multiply it by ten. Or, in one overt change to the standards of gaming, distinctly multiply it by two

According to Amazon, there is no such thing as Fire Emblem Fates. We have Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, and Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright. This is an attempt at Pokémon’ing Fire Emblem into a split release, so the plot has very distinct, but generally balanced, branches. The rival armies of Hoshido and Nohr have characters with similar abilities and traits not to show how they could be best friends if they were not on opposite sides of a war, but because you practically must have a strong long-distance guy to balance out their strong long-distance guy. And one dragon rider per family, please! You cannot have Mewtwo in one version of Pokémon, but only Meowth in the other. Except Pokémon never hangs moral choices on your version exclusives. Fire Emblem Fates makes that mistake, so your protagonist’s desperate choice between warring families feels more than a little superficial because we had to have a perfect balance of precocious princesses on both sides of the conflict. And you chose a side before leaving Gamestop!

A clear dayBut that Red/Blue central conflict of Fire Emblem Fates somehow still feels shoehorned in. On one hand you have the plot of Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, where Corrin, an heir to the throne that was kidnapped by an evil king when they were a baby, is reunited with their biological family, and then returns to their adopted/kidnapped family as a conquering force. In Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, meanwhile, Corrin is reunited with their birth family, and then decides to side with the dude that kidnapped them because all their stuff is there. Thus does Corrin lay siege to an entire country on the behalf of a king that frequently unironically exclaims, “Bwa ha ha,” but they at least feel generally bad about it the entire time. Then again, Birthright Corrin still feels bad about fighting her “adopted” family, so Corrin sure does come off as depressed no matter what route you choose. Nonetheless! Like most Fire Emblem titles, there is an attempt at “shades of gray” here, but there is a clear side that is wearing all black, riding dark dragons, and occasionally enslaving and genociding entire peoples. Pick your faction! The noble samurai, or the dudes chucking axes at children?

And this is where all those support system upgrades from Awakening start to fall apart…

You do not want to hang out hereFire Emblem Awakening had a very tried and true plot. A grand threat is coming, but no one truly understands the scope of this new danger. In fact, it is revealed that the encroaching darkness is so deadly, it will practically destroy the world! So a brave child of our present heroes must travel back to their past and help the war effort. Other “future children” can join the battle, too, and now father can fight alongside daughter to save the world. And that works great for the Fire Emblem Awakening support system! You can marry your individual units, and then poof! There is a “future child” that just happened to bop back into a paralogue adventure for recruitment. Seeing your army happy and heterosexually married is all well and good for ethereal feel-goods, but what really feels good is getting a fresh new soldier as the result of that union. And for those of you that absolutely min-max everything, there is even the meta game of producing children that have maximum genetic stats. Sure, you are basically applying eugenics to blue-haired anime pretty boys, but you are already committing a host of war crimes across Archanea. What’s one more sin for the pile?

Fire Emblem Fates borrows this system wholesale: you can and will produce “future children” that will instantly grow to be the same age as their parents and gain an inherited bloodlust. The only hangup this time is that the overarching plot of Fates has nothing to do with time travel or noble teens tearing space and time a new one. There is a nebulous timer for an encroaching darkness, but it is only revealed in one (DLC) route, and it is about as significant as “Meteor will hit the planet in seven days”. So the justification for our child soldiers this time is that everybody has kids all of seven seconds after getting married, and, thanks to “the war”, children must be stowed in Narnia, where they grow up immediately and then pop out with spears an’ such ready to serve. Lucina, daughter of the future of Fire Emblem Awakening, is so central to the plot, she wound up in auxiliary materials before her own dad (who is arguably the main character!). The future children of Fates, meanwhile, are so perfunctory, you could play through the game three times and never encounter one (predominantly because you keep trying to make everyone in the cast lesbians. It is a valid game path. Particularly for Odin).

And it is a shame that this “future children” concept is there, but extremely easy to miss. Why? Because these extra characters are the only hard evidence that the protagonists of Fates know what sex even is.

It's morphin timeCorrin is an extremely centrist hero. The key conceit is that they are drafted into being a major general in a war between two nations, but they (one way or another) will have to fight against their family. And Corrin responds to this challenge by deciding that they will only kill when their opponent is actively summoning demons or is secretly (“secretly”) a mud creature of pure hate. Other than those special circumstances (Oh! And when dealing with the guy that threw her adopted father off a bridge [even if he got better]), Corrin leads an entire battalion of super powered maniacs that miraculously do not kill their opponents. We have heavily armored knights charging forward with spears, but they are leaving their opponents breathing because they used the blunt end of the polearm (?). And, give or take a few dramatic suicides, Corrin is never punished for this quasi-pacifism. They are the hero, and this is a magical world where wars can be won without bloodshed. And that’s fine! Not everything has to be Mortal Kombat or Game of Thrones. It is nice sometimes to have a fantastical world where people aren’t bleeding all over the landscape and whining about war being hell. “War is generally annoying” is a fine moral for a 3DS title rated T for teen.

But “we can win this war with hope and friendship and nobody gets hurt” feels at odds with the whole “pet the boob armor to make Camilla happy” minigame…

Feel the magic

Fire Emblem Awakening had a lovely little system for units building trust between each other and (if the stars aligned) eventually marrying. Naturally, this meant that your player avatar could also join in the fun, and potentially marry one of your random soldiers. Weird power dynamics aside (“I love you, Cordelia, but you didn’t do the dishes last night, so go fight that archer to the death.”), this marriage was mostly treated just as inconsequentially as any other coupling in the game. There was never a point in the story where “your” spouse took a special place in the plot just to generate some extra, Persona-esque pathos. Fire Emblem Fates similarly does not overemphasize your avatar marrying, but it does introduce a new wrinkle for how “you” can encourage specific relationships. For Corrin and only Corrin, familiar units can be invited to our protagonist’s abode, and, while they are chilling, “you” can use the 3DS to touch “your” guest all over while they coo and caw. And does that sound lurid and indecent? Nintendo of America thought so! So they removed this feature for localization except for when dealing with “your” spouse. And that somehow makes it worse, because now it is explicitly touching that is only allowed with a lover. Petting Peri is only the purview of a pair of permissive parents!

And it is bizarre that we have this Disney war where the heroes are pacifists and the bad guy is a secret swamp monster and/or dragon, but between battles there are sexy minigames available. This would be like if Steven Universe had the occasional episode where Steven groped Amethyst for ten minutes (and if any of you are objecting on the basis that Steven and Amethyst are literally family, I will point you to the fact that about half the cast members here are legally Corrin’s siblings). For crying out loud, these characters aren’t even allowed to for-real cuss!

Those dastards

But they are getting up to hanky panky back at the tents after a hard day’s battlin’!

GET IT!?And I am all for hanky panky in a videogame. Just pick a lane, guys. You can have magical babies pop out of green and white eggs to fight a bloodless war, or you can have rewards for petting (hopefully) grown-ass women, but you cannot have both. It is no wonder that Fire Emblem as a franchise eventually veered into debating which of its teenage protagonists committed the most atrocities, as the plot finally caught up to what was happening when everyone put down their swords and started playing with their other weapons. The Virgin/Whore dichotomy has been pervasive across literature for centuries, but it is goddamned weird to see it presented within the narrative of a game on the same system as Dream Drop Distance.

But here on the 3DS, we will always have Fire Emblem Fates, and its protagonists that can only understand sex when you whip out your stylus…

SBC #27 Corrin & Fire Emblem Fates Birthright & Conquest

Corrin in Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Eat Dragon

  • She any Good? Corrin, the forgotten DLC character of Super Smash Bros. 4. You have to love the continual dragon morphing like somebody let a Darkstalkers character on the roster. She still feels like a “sword guy”, but with enough flourishes to be her own person. However, is Forward+Special supposed to be an ineffectual little hop? What’s that about?
  • That final smash work? Corrin going full-dragon feels more significant before you actually play her game. In Fire Emblem Fates, she can freely transform into a beast before the prologue is out, and it is about as effective as a sword swipe. Here, it is treated as a critical attack on par with Marth’s death blows. Weird choice.
  • The background work? There are more Fire Emblem characters than Fire Emblem stages, so we are assigning Corrin to Yoshi’s Island (Brawl). She’s a dragon-person from a storybook world! It is related! Regardless, this is the Yoshi Island with the full papercraft aesthetic. It is mostly flat and nondescript, and those ghost platforms never work the way you want them to work. Lousy randomness saving Little Mac from an early grave…
  • Classic Mode: Between White and Black is weirdly literal as we get fighters wearing their whitest or blackest outfits. There are a couple team battles here, and some of the princess patrols do feel like approximations of Fire Emblem Fates characters. The finale is the Hands. Could Crazy Hand at least wear black for the occasion?
  • Smash Trivia: True Corrin is on the Classic Mode complete mural, not Boy Corrin. True Corrin is true.
  • Dancing?

  • Amiibo Corner: Thank you, late WiiU DLC nonsense that gets us one of the few gender variant amiibos. Boy Corrin is proudly displaying his chainsaw sword, but True Corrin is doing some kind of sweeping motion. True Corrin wins. Disappointed that we do not get any “dragon parts” on either protagonist, but I’m cool with everything else happening. Anyone have a count on how many amiibos have capes?
  • Does Smash Bros Remember Today’s Game? You would think there would be a stage for Corrin and her Fate-y friends, but this is likely the curse of being DLC from another game. Other than that, Fates feels properly represented with a playable character, which is more than we saw for Fire Emblem… uh… That other one on 3DS. Not Awakening. The other one with Amiibos.

Corrin in Fire Emblem Fates Birthright & Conquest

  • Get 'emSystem: Nintendo 3DS. Are we eventually going to see a modern collection of these pivotal Fire Emblem 3DS titles? Will there be more complaints about censorship then?
  • Number of players: Hey! There are head-to-head castle invasions in this thing! That might be fun! Now I just need to find a single other person in this universe that still has the game in their 3DS…
  • For the Sequel: Fire Emblem Awakening gave us casual mode, and now Fire Emblem Fates brings us “Pheonix Mode”, where your fighters are practically immortal zombies. Somebody “dies”, and they just pop back in ready to go for another round. I am all for making a Fire Emblem game easier for beginners, but this does feel vaguely like… Steamroller Mode. Actually, you know what? Can there just be a mode in the next one where you get a tank?
  • Downloadable Content: Fire Emblem Awakening was the first first-party Nintendo game to include paid DLC content. That was apparently successful enough that Fire Emblem Fates went hog-wild with DLC chapters and entire routes. I am not faulting Nintendo for exploiting anyone that wanted to pay cash money for a Fire Emblems beach episode, but it would be cool if that Revelations route was a little easier to access in modern times…
  • So, did you beat it? I played all the way through Conquest, and a portion of Birthright to see if it had the same tone. It did. From there, I just read up on the basic goings on of Birthright and True Neutral path. Apparently they stuck all the deep lore in the DLC path that can no longer be purchased in any capacity? Bravo.
  • Favorite Soldier: It still holds true from Three Houses: give me the weirdo woman with an axe. Charlotte is my pick this time, because… she’s a weirdo. She wants to marry money, and drive her axe into many, many skulls. I am happy to have her on my team. And apparently she is the first base-fighter female in the franchise!
  • Amiibo Corner: All the Smash Bros. Fire Emblem characters that were released before Corrin (sorry, Byleth) can visit your base through the magic of merchandising. They do not appear to join your army from an amiibo summon, but they can provide cute hats. And it is adorable bear hats that really win wars.
  • She's so radAnime gonna anime: Some mad lad combined the dark wizard Tharja with the eternal child Tiki and spat out Nyx, the eternal child dark mage. She is living with a curse because she got a little murderous a few years back, so now she is going to look like a preteen forever. But don’t worry! She’s the oldest and wisest out of everyone in the army! You can marry her! This isn’t creepy at all!
  • Did you know? The previously mentioned Nyx is one of the few playable characters in Fates that is never fought in any route or DLC. Her contemporaries are Mozu, the perennial “optional graduated farmer child” character, and Izana (who is kind of an edge case, because you do fight an Izana imposter). Everybody else is fair game, so have fun fake-killing your friends!
  • Would I play again: Nah. This is a good game that gets me hungry for more Fire Emblem, but there are games that are less confused about their intentions in this franchise, and I will replay those first.

What’s Next? We just talked about armies, so how about an army of turtle-people? The Koopa Kids are coming to the world next week! Please look forward to it!

Now you guys are just messing with me

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