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When Friends Become Foes in Fire Emblem Fates

Jenni Lada | 15 Sep 2015 15:00
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The two scenarios illustrate how real war isn't a situation where one side is completely right and the other wrong. You can never know what's happening in the opposing force's lives. Likewise, the characters of Fire Emblem Fates show how people can be both valiant and villainous at once.

Flip sides, follow the Conquest characters, and it's easy to see more virtuous elements in Nohr's story.

Xander, the elder brother on the Nohr side, could go either way. He's a proud character, cold and matter of fact, but his bluntness is his way of being honest. He's aggressive, but doing what he believes is best for Nohr and his family. His armor and weapon are intimidating, but his blond hair and paladin class suggests a righteousness and sense of purpose that isn't entirely dark.

Hoshido's Ryoma, the other elder brother, possesses qualities that could be considered stereotypically good and evil as well. He's physically imposing, perhaps more so than Xander. It wouldn't be out of line to call his appearance beastlike. His determination is almost overbearing, and he aggressively defends his country. The way those traits play out in the story could be considered positive and negative. In one route, it heroically leads to glory. In the other, it comes across as obstinate and foolhardy. The dominant appearance identifies a king at a glance and impresses, but makes him look more fearsome than Xander.

The leading ladies are the same: Camilla looks like the stereotypical femme fatale. The eldest Nohr princess, her personality in both routes can be seen as brutal. She makes no qualms about being willing to kill. This is tempered when playing the Conquest route because people are seeing why she behaves in such a way. Her family is most important to her, the player character especially, since she acted as something of a surrogate mother. It's an odd contrast. Someone who can be so cruel in Birthright is downright maternal in Conquest.

She isn't the only character to have a softer side that people only get to see if they play a certain way, demonstrating that everyone has masks they wear and elements to their personality that don't always shine through. Hinoka, Hoshido's eldest princess, is another. Like Camilla, someone only sees a more tender nature when Hoshido is the winning side. In her first appearance, she goes from a stalwart warrior to one who openly weeps upon being reunited with the player character. Otherwise, her warrior princess tendencies take over. All someone sees is a determined pegasus knight who will always charge into battle. Fierce is an accurate word to describe her, for better or worse.

A single point of view on events events isn't accurate.

Altogether, these story and character elements pull together to show that a single point of view on events events isn't accurate. There's no sense of realism if conflicts aren't multifaceted. The third campaign, called Invisible Kingdom, serves as a foil to the Birthright and Conquest plotlines. Invisible Kingdom is what someone expects from games. The player pulls everyone together, as unlikely as it may seem. Everybody patches things up to fight a mutual foe.

As positive a message as that sends, it doesn't have the same nuance as the original two campaigns. It's too clean, too easy. The Birthright and Conquest stories in Fire Emblem Fates ring true, because that's how wars really go. Things get complicated, and good people can be on opposing sides. Certainly, Invisible Kingdom follows video game logic, but the other tales stand out and feel more substantial because they force people to think about whether their foes are really wrong.

Fire Emblem Fates is an oddity among video games. You're picking a side and fighting an opposing army, but the fact that you could be siding with your foes the next time you play makes you think about the motivations behind the conflict. Seeing the characters from both sides provides a deeper understanding of human nature: The enemy in your game is a dear ally and close friend in someone else's.

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