PLOT Swords, sorcery and sore relationships spread over two games.
RATED T for Teen
DETAILS Nintendo 3DS; $39.99 per game
BOTTOM LINE Family (drama) comes first.
Though it’s filled with swords and sorcery, including a main character who can turn into a dragon, Fire Emblem Fates is really about family drama.
The player’s avatar, which can be male or female, was kidnapped at a young age and raised as a warrior prince (or princess), and his father the king is a monster. Dear old dad tricks the prince into laying a deadly trap for his birth mother, and here is where Fire Emblem Fates splits into two different games — one is called Conquest and the other Birthright — each is sold separately.
Narratively, Birthright feels more logical, but the battles in Conquest are tougher and the riches are sparser. The first five chapters of each game are the same (if you buy both editions, you play the opening only once), and players in chapter six will make a decision regarding which side in a war is the more just. (A third game, Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation, will be available for a $20 download on March 10. In Revelation, your character basically goes rogue and refuses to pick a side.)
Fire Emblem Fates succeeds in making war feel reckless and pointless. That’s not to say battles aren’t fun. They’re once again treated as mini-puzzles — maneuver troops around a grid-like board, and line up color-coded weapons to try to have an advantage over the enemy. Then watch them fight.
Even when dealing with matters of the heart, there is action. This goofily engrossing fantasy series allows characters to hang out in a hot spring. It’s not as racy as, say, “Game of Thrones,” but things can get steamy. Despite the winding story, lengthy crusades and familial power struggles, the game’s thesis is a familiar one: Make love, not war.