April 27, 2016

Some thoughts on Fire Emblem Fates and Nights of Azure

Posted in video games tagged , at 11:53 am by riulyn

I’ve recently finished all 3 storylines of Fire Emblem Fates and also got the true ending for Nights of Azure. It’s kind of funny that I finished these two around the same time because they kind of have opposite strengths and weaknesses.

Let’s start with Nights of Azure because it is shorter and I have less to say about it than Fire Emblem Fates. Nights of Azure is an action RPG in terms of battle mechanics but there’s a lot more managing of your action RPG than usual with the customization of the Servans you can bring along, skill point-gaining activities that you can assign to occur, etc. The emphasis is also more about the relationships between the characters than the plot point. In a sense, it feels like an Atelier game in terms of story writing/presentation style. The battle parts are simple and fun enough but not really too stimulating or exciting, and dungeons are just functional, really.

I feel like everything in Nights of Azure is done well, but there’s just not enough content to really feel satisfying. There’s enough to explain everything but I wish they had more side character development. The epilogue barely touches upon some more stuff, which was a pity. Nevertheless I enjoyed the game the entire time for the most part. Besides the fanservice that was unnecessary (and that outfit is super ugly to my eyes), of course. Personally I think it was worth the money (20% discount for Amazon Prime preorders to help with the price) to get and enjoy the game right at release, but those who want more content for the dollar should wait for a sale.

Fire Emblem Fates is a set of three games taking place in the same world with three divergent storylines. Basically, at one point early on in the story, you make a decision that sends you on one of the three pathways. Even after finishing all three games, I’m conflicted about the decision to split it into 3 paths, with two of them costing normal 3DS game prices and one at half the price. Before I get into that, though, I just want to say the battle system is overall solid. I like how the effect of pairing up units is more standardized here compared to Awakening but on the other hand it’s like the only way you need to play this game as there are only a few battles with turn limits, so you might as well play defensively and also gain the advantage of increasing support levels between units. The maps seem fine, the difficulty seems fine, the music and graphics seem fine. The dialogue is really bad at the beginning (at least to me) but improves on each story path. Still, none of the stories are particularly well-written or inspired. There are certain aspects about the story that grate on me, but I will resist telling you about them as they are spoilers, albeit minor.

In defense of the three separate games setup, each game does get a different, full set of maps. The amount of characters and supports is not cut down for each game (the third path has the same as the first two full-price ones, but combined and with extras). The storylines diverge enough that you get to see different character interactions, different consequences to your actions, etc.

However, as I’ve said before, I hate this model of separate games where you need to play all three to get the best all-around understanding of the players involved. In a sense I find this take on the “Pokemon model” more annoying because it didn’t feel right to just pick Birthright or just Conquest or to skip the third path. It feels like you need to go all in or not at all, even though the creators tried to sell it to you as separate things (well except the third path which is basically installed as an add-on to Birthright or Conquest). Also, Fire Emblem Sacred Stones had divergent paths at one point, though I guess they do connect back together later on. And, as I said in an earlier post, with all three games coming out at the same time, you don’t get the improvements (or at least changes) on the game mechanics between games.

Now if the plot was better-written and more inspired, or if they at least put more than a few anime tropes into a blender to define the character supports of the non-main characters (which is probably the reason why most of the fandom dotes on the Nohrian and Hoshidan nobles, because they actually have a reason to be around, and the few retainers that actually have interesting backstories), or if there was a bit more variety to objectives in the main storyline maps… Pretty much if there was both quality with the quantity, I’d feel happier. Still, I don’t feel horrible for ultimately paying 85-ish USD for all three games (preorder discounts bringing Birthright and Conquest down to around 32-ish each). Getting a 20% preorder discount on the 80 USD special edition would have made my day, but I have to say as someone who is now reading a lot of fanfic for the Fates games, at least I have lots of fanfics that are better written than the games to read.

I think in the end, both Fire Emblem Fates and Nights of Azure satisfy the group of people looking for those particular things, but I’m wary to say if either would be enjoyed by people not already inclined to those games. Fates would probably fare better among the neutrals because people would find it has more content (though if you go straight through the plot and don’t worry too much about grinding for supports, one story path only takes maybe 20 hours?), and I think in general more people will enjoy the tinkering with units and strategy of FE, which is a gameplay standard emulated by some other games, over the simplified action mechanics of Nights of Azure, which would not stand alone as an action game battle system. In the end, for me they were both fun and I feel like I got my money’s worth. That’s all that matters in the end.

(Still annoyed about the vita situation for Ikenie to yuki no setsuna but that’ll be a complaint for another day…)


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