A lot of people point at major Nintendo releases like the 3D remastering of Legend of Zelda classics Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, or the modern versions of Pokemon and those in the Super Mario series as the best games to play on the 3DS gaming console. Whilst these are all fantastic options the lesser known strategy game Fire Emblem Awakening is quite possibility the most addictive I've experienced on the handheld console thus far...
What is Fire Emblem?
Fire Emblem Awakening was the fourteenth instalment in the Fire Emblem franchise, but the first made for the 3DS. The series in short is comprised of tactical role playing games utilising control of multiple characters in a grid, turn based battle environment. Each battle won moves the story forward and the narrative plays out around through the words and actions of the player's team characters. Unlike other games of this type, a notable aspect of Fire Emblem is the permanent death of characters when defeated in battle (though there was an option to disable this in Awakening).
Awakening was intended to be the final game in the series which had been suffering from a decline in popularity since the early 2000s, but the commercial and critical success prompted Nintendo and Fire Emblem developer Intelligent systems to continue the franchise, which it did with Fire Emblem Fates.
The Differences Between Versions Of Fates
The next instalment, Fire Emblem Fates was released in Japan this past June and has been met with very favourable reception in the East. In Japan it was released in two different versions, each following a different storyline, an unusual tactic for video game marketing but one which has worked well for Nintendo's Pokemon series. The versions are as follows:
Birthright - physical release
Conquest - physical release
Invisible Kingdom - downloadable content, released in a little later July.
In each game the story unfolds differently. Each one has the player character (the Avatar) having to make the choice between siding with and fighting for the Hoshido Kingdom (where the Avatar was born) or the Nohr Kingdom (where the Avatar grew up). In Birthright you side with Hoshido, with Conquest you choose Nohr. In Invisible Kingdom you instead rally the two countries against another common enemy, instead of against each other.
Depending on which game you purchase the story differs from then on with different chapters, allies/battle units, maps, playing styles, weapons and other items like tools in each version. Clever marketing, as to play different sides players would have to purchase all three versions.
Fire Emblem Fates' Elusive Release Date
However when Fire Emblem Fates finally releases in the West at an unspecified point next year it looks like we're going to be getting a bundled version of the game, which might explain the big time delay between the Japanese release and the Europe/America release.
We haven't received any news from Nintendo about how it's going to be released yet, but according to the European version of Amazon.com Fates will be releasing in one version only. This would also explain why we don't have any official artwork for the Western version yet.
Given the standard pricing of the game it seems very unlikely that we'll be getting all three games in one bundle though, according to the Amazon notice it seems that the Avatar's choice will be left up to the player making the decision in-game rather than having to purchase the corresponding physical copy. Presumably Invisible Kingdom will remain as DLC content that can be purchased via the Nintendo eShop should players wish to do so.
This means that we may be able to play both sides without having to make additional purchases, but we'll have to wait until we get a solidified release date before we'll be able to say for sure. Hurry up 2016!