Intelligent Systems’ Fire Emblem series, alongside its Wars brethren, has always been a mainstay of Nintendo’s handheld output. The tactical gameplay has consistently offered a depth that its relatively simplistic graphics belie, and in Fire Emblem’s latest iteration Intelligent Systems is offering you more content than ever before, with two full physical releases appearing alongside a third DLC offering.
Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation represents that third way. While Birthright – reviewed here – sees you side with Hoshido, the nation of your birth, and Conquest takes you through the narrative as a captured and adopted Prince of Nohr, Revelation begins with your refusal to pick a side. It’s unlikely that you’ll pick this for your primary playthrough – the game does warn you that it’s best to experience it after playing both of the other paths first due to various spoilers – and it’s for the best.
Revelation’s core conceit, that you simply can’t fight against either side, perhaps rings truer than either of the other paths which see you forsake someone you’ve either grown up with or those you’re related to. However, what ultimately happens is that both sides see you as a traitor and you embark on your adventure with only faithful maid Felicia and songstress Azura in tow.
Thankfully, you recruit members from both sides as you progress, ultimately allowing you access to a huge roster of protagonists, with all of their weaponry, foibles, and potential offspring at your disposal. Given how well realised most of the characters are this makes the whole thing a joy, and the set-up allows for fresh interactions that couldn’t happen before.
The tactical combat remains unchanged here, mirroring the other Fire Emblem Fates releases. Of course, what that means is that you have over thirty more hours of some of the best tactical videogame action possible, with new opportunities to pair different characters and their skills together, and with different weaponry to wield.
As in the Birthright and Conquest games, you’re gifted a home castle that sits in another plain of existence. You can progressively expand your base with new buildings and features that open up extra shops or character boons, but in Revelation you’re able to choose from the line-ups for both Hoshido and Nohr, making for a much more distinctive and useful home. The relaxed moments that you spend here between chapters and side missions remain a fun sideline from the core action, and a cool way to personalise your experience.
While the narrative gets off to a slow start that sees you hamstrung by being unable to tell anyone about what’s actually going on, matters do improve. It does a good job of tying together the various strands of Birthright and Conquest as you journey through the kingdom of Valla, facing off against its despicable ruler Anankos.
As the third path it’s fitting that the game strikes a balance between the accessibility of Birthright, with the same Challenge side quests appearing to assist in levelling up your characters, alongside the variation of Conquest’s missions. On Normal difficulty it sits somewhere between the two as well, making it feel very much like a separate entity, though there’s a great deal of choice when it comes to where you want to set the challenge. There’s something for everyone, with the leniency of being able to revive fallen characters now ingrained in the series, but veterans might prefer to play in classic mode and endure the perils of perma-death. Every encounter can be excruciatingly tense and every missed attack by an enemy is liable to make you jump for joy.
Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation offers more of the same fantastic gameplay found in Birthright and Conquest. Fans of the series will be well served by the extra campaign, and for anyone that’s already played through at least one of the other storylines, it’s an essential addendum to one of the 3DS’ finest titles.