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Fire Emblem Fates Preview - Interview with Elieson from Serenes Forest (Part 1)

+ posted by Kaoz in Interviews on Feb 12, 2016 09:36
After being released in Japan on June 25th, 2015, Fire Emblem Fates is hitting the shelves in the United States one week from now, on February 19th. The Fire Emblem franchise received a big boost thanks to Fates' predecessor, Fire Emblem Awakening, and has become one of Nintendo's core franchises in the past years. To find out what the Western audience can expect from the newest installment in the series, we sat down with Serenes Forest News Editor Elieson.

No major spoilers will be discussed.

Due to the length, we had to split the interview into three parts. This is part 1, the remaining parts will be posted tomorrow and on Sunday respectively.

Kaoz: Today we are going to talk a bit about Fire Emblem Fates which will be released in the USA next week. Joining me is Elieson from Serenes Forest. Introduce yourself, please.

Elieson: Thanks for the opportunity, Kaoz! I'm Elieson, long time gamer and Fire Emblem fan. I've been part of Serenes Forest for a number of years, but have just stepped aboard the team as Editor about six months ago. I'm a 28 year old single dad, so I don't get that much time to game. Fortunately, Fire Emblem is a super easy franchise to just pick up and put down, so I'd say it's among my favorites.

Kaoz: Serenes Forest is a place where diehard Fire Emblem fans gather, isn't it? Your very presence there usually means that you are a big fan.

Elieson: Serenes Forest has been a Fire Emblem fan site for 11 years now. While a number of others have come and gone, and a few other specialized sites remain, Serenes Forest is arguably the place to go for not only knowledge of the franchise itself, but also for what is arguably the largest community in general.

Kaoz: Right, you even research the games a lot to discover mechanical nuances. However, since not all our readers are familiar with the series, could you give us a quick rundown of what Fire Emblem is all about and what has made it popular enough to survive on the gaming market for this long?

Elieson: As for the franchise itself, it's just celebrated its 25th anniversary with an incredible concert in Japan, and just pushed out two games, each with multinational release dates drawing near. I suspect its popularity remains strong as it is one of the earliest games to take advantage of mechanics like tile-based movement, customized army building and the inclusion of percentages and permanent death. In an age of vertical shooters and beat 'em ups, having a game where you're building an army that you yourself can grow emotionally invested in, and can get genuinely frustrated at the game for not giving you exactly what you expect offers a unique challenge not offered through most other means. It's a niche field that works well in tandem with human emotion, and that's something that'll never go away.

Kaoz: Indeed, because it is somewhat chance based you can become very frustrated when an attack that is likely to hit misses, but on the other hand making it out of tough situations with some lucky dodges can be really exciting as well. Nevertheless, for a while Fire Emblem Awakening was actually rumored to be the last game in the franchise.

Elieson: The franchise has been faced with some uphill battles, but it's difficult to place where exactly the obstacles were the biggest. Fire Emblem Awakening is currently the best selling game in the franchise (in the West), and has won a handful of gaming awards (GameSpot's Game of the Year 2013 comes to mind).

Kaoz: You are correct, ultimately Awakening pulled through and became a big hit. Contributing to this might have been the shift in direction compared to the previous titles. However, some of the changes were not particularly well received by veteran fans. Could you elaborate on those a bit?

Elieson: The issues were primarily based on dialogue complaints, mostly related to the storyline and tropey characterization for pretty much the entire cast. Even within the casual audience, fans were split in their reception towards the game's self-insert character, Robin, and the main lord of the game, Chrom, both of whom you play as for the entirety of the game. Intelligent Systems (IS) recognized this and took some steps to resolve this for the Fates release. IS brought in Shin Kibayashi, an award winning screenwriter and manga storywriter, to polish the quality of the story and characters, and this has already been well-received by Japanese audiences.

Kaoz: Ah, so they got an expert to address the characterization complaints. Besides the characterization, another common complaint was about the character design itself, wasn't it? But the artist has stayed the same between both games.

Elieson: That's correct, Yūsuke Kozaki was the character designer for Fire Emblem Awakening and the Fates trio. The trend for complaints seems to be focused around armor design, which Kozaki himself had little to do with. Art director Toshiyuki Kusakihara held that responsibility, and has definitely been the one with more to overcome, moving from Awakening to Fates with a slew of improvements to be made. I remember in Awakening's early stages, Sully and Stahl often were referred to as Toilet Knights, instead of their respective Cavalier class.

Frustratingly, this holds true to an extent for Fire Emblem Fates, but fortunately, not to the extreme. There are still the impractical armor concepts for Wyvern-classes such as Camilla, and the downright silly attire for Dark Mages such as Odin and Nyx, but the design itself tends to be more well received, even if it still fits the almost "anime" standard of being too ridiculous to work.

Kaoz: In other words, ultimately, whether or not you like the designs comes down to how much you value practicality over style again.

Elieson: As in most fantasy games, you're destined to bump into a female with some silly design. At least in Fates, any gender can look impractically designed, so it isn't as much of an issue. Overall, I would say that I enjoy the more distinct character and class design in Fates compared to that of Awakening. The protagonist has an established personality which feels much easier to play through the game as, and the side protagonists and other characters have defining traits and features which make them all feel unique, but they still connect to each other when the need to do so exists.

Kaoz: That sounds promising. Since you brought up the protagonist, let's talk about a returning gameplay feature: the avatar. Just as Awakening featured Robin, Fates will star Corrin who recently also joined the Super Smash Bros. 4 roster. In Awakening, Robin shared the spotlight with Chrom as you mentioned earlier which lead to controversy in both writing and gameplay. I assume this is one of the things Kibayashi improved, but how has IS solved the gameplay issues?

Corrin from Fire Embles: Fates

Elieson: Without going too far into spoiler territory, Corrin is quite different from Robin. Early into Fates' story, you can immediately tell that Corrin has an established personality of being a generally nice guy and relative pacifist. This change was refreshing, because the story promptly follows by pushing Corrin out of his comfort zone.

For Robin in Awakening, he was just an amnesiac who happened to be brilliant at everything he did; combat, army tactics, etc. While it might be nice to play as a character who is extremely proficient in virtually any area of your choice, the player has a difficult time associating themselves with their own self-insert, mainly since story-based conflicts are so casually and easily resolved. Corrin adopts some elements of Robin and some of Chrom in this regard, but twists them into a style of his own that makes sense given the story that he's thrust into. Corrin isn't perfect, and that makes the character less "enjoyable" but more "relatable".

Kaoz: So Corrin is not a swordmaster with access to magic weapons and an, let's face it, overpowered skill?

Elieson: Corrin is quite powerful, but not as powerful as Robin was in Fire Emblem Awakening. Corrin is customizable to an extent, just as Robin was, but is significantly limited on class options, meaning that Corrin cannot do a bit of everything. Enemies are generally more difficult, especially in the higher difficulties. Corrin can do his or her job, but relies much more on the army for support than Robin did.

To explain it best, Corrin is the above average offensive front liner with pretty good defensive capabilities, but his long term survival is the biggest problem to overcome. Long gone are the days of your main character camping with Sol and the Nosferatu tome to outheal the damage you receive. Corrin is the most muscle you get for a while.

This marks the end of part 1. Join us again tomorrow for part 2 when we discuss difficulty modes and new features. Finally, part 3 will deal with localization differences and how the game has been received so far.

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