I’ve written about Fire Emblem Fates’ other two paths already and felt like now, before the fall 3DS rush starts – Ace Attorney 6, Dragon Quest VII, River City Tokyo Rumble and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse are all due before the end of September – was the best time to finally get to the third and final FE Fates path, Revelation. I sped through it only about a week or so. It does everything the middle path of Fates’ side choosing main game should do, yet I don’t know that I like it very much.
How Nintendo and Intelligent Systems differentiated the Birthright and Conquest paths was effective from a gameplay standpoint. The classes and weapons were all different and with a few exceptions so were all of the characters. They aren’t quite separate games, even ignoring the identical first five chapters, but they are very different experiences. Revelation takes those two sets and mashes them together. It doesn’t pare them down to an interesting mix of both casts; it is the entirety of both casts made available. That means that no one’s favorite character is left out, but it also means that you get more than twice as many characters as you could possibly use. It really compounds a problem that both of the first two paths had: the glut of royal characters. When each half of the cast gives you four royal siblings and map tend to allow 10-14 characters to be deployed, that only leaves up to five other characters to be deployed, assuming that you are using all of both of your families. Which is tempting to do, since those siblings tend to be some of your best characters. And that’s without even getting into the second generation.
Actually, let’s get into that second generation of characters. In Fire Emblem Awakening, the children of you characters coming back in time to stop a dreadful event was the entire conceit of the game. It gave an end goal to the supports, which had been a big draw in the GBA games and were gutted in the GC/Wii ones, with each pairing producing an offspring that could join your army. It worked in that game because that game was designed for it. They kept the mechanic in Fates, but it lacks the conceit. They come up with some half explained reason for the children, who haven’t been born yet, to grow up somewhere where time passes differently and they grow to adulthood in no time, but it is unsatisfying. It feels like it was kept because it was a popular feature and not because it has any place in the game. It feels like an afterthought; the child characters, as fun as some of them are, do not have a role to play in this story.
The cast is a big reason why Revelation only works as a second or third path. There are so many characters that few have a chance to make much of an impression. But holdover feelings from the first time through game give the player a reason to try and use them.
My hope was that the big cast would give reason for big maps. Let the player deploy twenty or more characters and fill the screen with enemies on a truly massive battle. That is not the path that Revelation takes. Instead, each and every single map is a gimmick map. I don’t mind gimmick maps, they can be a fun alternative to the normal ones. Elements like environmental hazards, fog of war or shifting terrain make for a good change of pace. In Revelation, they are the pace. There are no normal maps, except maybe the last one; every last one has some sort of twist. It isn’t fun, it is exhausting. I eventually had to switch over to classic mode, since there were too many variables for me to keep track of.
They are actually pretty finely crafted stages, for the most part. It is just that the rules continually change. Classic Mode, which I am glad exists for people who don’t want the same Fire Emblem experience that I want, feels like a cheat to me, but I also found it necessary. Losing the penalty for a character dying fundamentally changes how I play the game, shifting from my usual cautiously aggressive tactics to ones that are downright reckless.
The story is the story that both of the previous paths made obvious was out there. Both of those games danced around a central problem while solving ones that seemed much less pressing. This one has the player’s avatar deal directly with the mysterious entity that has been manipulating both countries. It doesn’t flesh out the conflict that greatly, keeping things more personal than political, but it works.
Fire Emblem Fates Revelation is a mixed bag. It is altogether too much of a good thing. Its solution to every problem is more. More characters, more stuff going on in the maps, more supports. Like eating too much candy, you kind of love it even as it makes you queasy. Fire Emblem Fates is a monumental trilogy that I loved even while I wished that they pared it down somewhat.