Still quite a few more chapters to go (8 more, I believe), we'll probably be attacking the royal city proper from here on but there's plenty of room left for plot twists and the like. I can't say the writing has improved at all, but it's still better than the atrocity that was the Anya Kingdom story. That's a very low bar to pass. Crimson's death was dumb. At least now with the royals from both sides gathered together, I can access some amusing support conversations between the two of them.
Covering a lot of ground with this update so again, I may get things out of order. Our mission is to convince as many allies as we can get our hands on to meet us on the day when the skies change so that we can go fight the real baddies in the Invisible Kingdom, and we stop by the neutral country where the fake Anya illusionist has been pretending to be the leader, Izana, in both previous routes. This time though, Gunther is with us and he sees right through the illusion, so a fight breaks out. We beat him down again and rescue the real Izana, but there's one more guest in the prison cell: it's Takumi! He's not all that happy to be rescued by us, but Izana convinces him to calm down while he goes and beseeches some prophecies for Kamui and co. What he doesn't tell them is that in order to receive the last prophecy, he needed to give something in exchange for the divine favor - namely, his life. As he dies he tells Takumi to take the stick out of his ass and trust Kamui, so Takumi joins up. The last prophecy was 'go meet the dragon', not much to go on but it's better than nothing. RIP Izana.
We take a boat again on our journey for friends and information, but instead of being ambushed by shadow soldiers or thieves like in the previous routes, this time we're ambushed by Flora and Camilla. Flora's ice magic is so strong that she freezes the entire surrounding waters we're sailing in and grounds all our ships for a battle - we beat them down and Camilla tells us to kill her, she's got nowhere else to go because if she goes back to Anya, Garon will surely execute her. The obvious solution is having her join us instead, so we do just that. This is good since so far we've mostly just been picking up Byakuya folks so convincing anyone else from Anya was looking less and less likely. Camilla also gets a new younger brother and sister to tease and bully in the form of Sakura and Takumi, which is especially amusing in Takumi's case.
Arriving at the neutral area with the nice opera house where Aqua danced the last two routes, we find it completely burned to the ground, the whole place crumbling. Ryouma and Marx are there with their armies, each side thinking the other is responsible for destroying the place and angry as hell about it. Actually, it was soldiers from the Invisible Kingdom but neither of them will listen, so we have a tough battle where we have to break through one side's forces to get at the Invisible Kingdom troops hiding in the middle of the map. Even after we beat the invisible guys Marx and Ryouma still don't believe us, but Aqua uses her song to calm the murderous tension in the air a bit so they at least listen to what Kamui has to say about meeting us on the given date by the endless canyon before parting ways.
Next up we run into our old friend Silas again and his Anya detachment at the border. Before the battle starts, Elise joins up and literally says 'Hey, let's take a look around the enemy forces for people who we might be able to talk to!'. Maybe this is a running gag in the series or something? Anyway, how about the two people with unique portraits, Charlotte and Benoit? Bring Elise next to them and she'll get them to join the party. She convinces Benoit by calling him kind-looking, which makes him flustered since nobody's ever called him that before. Convincing Charlotte involves namedropping herself as a royal and the possibility of making lots of money. Then we go beatdown Silas, and fortunately Kamui remembers who he is and their childhood promise again this route, so I guess it's not controlled by Kamui's gender, just by route. I don't understand why he didn't remember in the Anya route, if someone reading this has an idea please tell me.
Time to meet the Rainbow Sage again! This time Kamui's not looking for power, but for answers. Specifically, who the hell is this dragon I'm supposed to meet? After we pass the trials again, the Rainbow Sage goes ahead and evolves Kamui's sword and reveals that he is the dragon. He also namedrops the game's name by mentioning that gathering all five holy weapons together can form the legendary 'Fire Emblem'. Then he kicks the bucket from old age, RIP old dragon dude. Anyway it's almost time for the skies to change so we head back to the ravine. Ryouma and Hinoka ended up believing us, so they show up, but a huge Anya army has arrived under the command of Ganz and a fight breaks out. We win, but we're pretty out of fighting power after such a tough battle.
Our army's fatigue is about to become a problem, because a second Anya army arrives under the command of Macbeth. We fight but it quickly becomes looking hopeless as reinforcements keep surging in, and then suddenly Marx and Leon show up to save the day. They're convinced Kamui is right - it helps that somehow King Garon went full retard this route and is openly blabbing about how he wants to destroy not only Byakuya, but Anya Kingdom as well, right in front of his children, and cackling even more obviously insanely evil than before. Not even Leon and Marx could deny something was wrong after all that. The fight ends and a truce is called between Anya and Byukuya for the time being, how sweet. Now it's time for Kamui to convince everyone gathered to jump off a bridge - he expects nobody will believe him, so he comes up with a plan that he'll speak of the Invisible Kingdom to them, which will cause him to evaporate, thus proving that he's telling the truth and leaving it to his siblings and allies to finish the job. Everyone tells Kamui that's not necessary though, they'll be happy to jump off a bridge into an endless ravine for him! Wow, they sure went from 0 to 100% trust quickly. We all jump down, and the writers decide to kill off the rebel leader that Ryouma was close to, Crimson, on the fall down as someone from the Invisible Kingdom hurls a fireball at Kamui and Crimson positions herself to take the hit and dies. What's with all the poorly written, sudden, forced-feeling deaths in this game?
Now that we're in the Invisible Kingdom, Aqua can finally properly explain herself. She says that the current king of the Invisible Kingdom, Hydra, killed her father, the previous king. Touma Kingdom (the proper name for the Invisible Kingdom) used to actually be pretty prosperous before Hydra came and ruined everything - the throne in Byakuya was a gift from them from way back in the day, too. Anyway, after Hydra took over, Aqua's mother Shenmei fled with her to the outside world and Hydra has been plotting to rule the world...or destroy it...or both, ever since. So our objective is now clear - give this Hydra guy a royal beatdown. After fighting through some Invisible Kingdom forces, a kid named Rontao claiming to be a page from the castle asks us to help him escape and we convince him to instead lead us back to the castle. Along the way Takumi almost falls down a cliff with Leon saving him, and Marx is very distrustful of this Rontau kid, thinking he may have purposely been leading them into traps, and the other Anya royals agree that he's super suspicious. Kamui is having none of it though and gives the kid his absolute trust. We'll see how that works out.
Still quite a few more chapters to go (8 more, I believe), we'll probably be attacking the royal city proper from here on but there's plenty of room left for plot twists and the like. I can't say the writing has improved at all, but it's still better than the atrocity that was the Anya Kingdom story. That's a very low bar to pass. Crimson's death was dumb. At least now with the royals from both sides gathered together, I can access some amusing support conversations between the two of them.
Both Anya and Byakuya routes are now finished, so I can finally move on to the third and final route, the Invisible Kingdom. This route wasn't added to the game until a couple weeks after release - when you choose it, it warns you that you're meant to have played both the other routes first to enjoy it properly. I paid another 2000 yen to unlock it, bringing my total for this game to 8460 total. I really wonder how this whole DLC thing is going to go over in the west. Anyway, I spent way too long trying to design a new Kamui for the last route, but couldn't find anything I liked, so I ended up just choosing the same male Kamui design I used in Anya. I really can't stand any of the other haircuts for him. I made his secondary class Knight, since I figure I may need the defensive skills. Difficulty is Hard + Classic (permadeath), I really want to try sticking with it this time since I have some practice with the game now.
So let's hop right back in at the decision point in Chapter 6. The Anya and Byakuya siblings all call out to Kamui to join them, and Kamui explains that he can't betray either of them. The Anya royalty are his raised siblings and he considers them family, and his Byakuya siblings are his real family and pretty cool folks too. Ryouma and Marx won't take his waffling for an answer though, and a battle breaks out between the two sides over who gets to take Kamui home. Kamui looks on while his siblings from both countries fight each other and wants to get them to stop - Aqua walks on over to him and proposes a plan. God damnit, we are not listening to another of Aqua's plans, we saw how that turned out in the Anya route. Well, her brilliant plan this time is that we should attack some regular soldiers from both the Anya and Byakuya armies - that way our siblings would have to stop fighting each other and pay attention to us. Really, Aqua? REALLY? Yes, really. We are really doing this. Felicia shows up on the battlefield and frantically asks Kamui and Aqua which army we're attacking, we tell her 'both', much to the poor maid's surprise. We attack both sides, and not surprisingly, it ends with both Ryouma and Marx yelling at us about how we've betrayed their country and will be killed on sight if we show our faces again while we run for our lives.
If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too? Kamui's answer is yes. With nowhere to go and being wanted outlaws in both Anya and Byakuya, the three of them decide to believe Aqua when she tells them that there's a special safe place they can go to, and all they have to do to travel there is jump off a bridge that hangs over an endless cliff. She can't tell them more than that, just 'trust me'. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound, right? Kamui agrees, and poor Felicia also follows behind as the three of them jump headfirst off a bridge. They fall for what seems like miles until they teleport completely safely into a mist-filled grassy area, which Aqua reveals to be the Invisible Kingdom. You can't speak about the Invisible Kingdom outside its borders or else you'll evaporate, which is why she couldn't tell them specifics earlier.
The ruling king of the Invisible Kingdom is named Hydra - this is the god King Garon was praying to all the time in the Anya route, if you recall. Aqua's father was the previous king before Hydra killed him, and her mother is a woman named Shenmei - again, we learned in Byakuya route that she was Garon's second wife. So now it makes sense why Aqua acted weird in both routes when Elise called her sister - she's not blood-related to any of the Anya royalty through her father or mother, she's actually the rightful princess of the Invisible Kingdom. Hydra has been turning the people against each other and brought the kingdom to ruin, and now he's pulling the strings outside in Anya and Byakuya too in order to destroy those countries as well. Our conversation gets interrupted by some of the ghostly warriors attacking us, and we meet Gunter, who also ended up here from when Ganz dropped him off the same bridge we jumped off of. He's glad to see us, and joins up.
We resolve to get Anya and Byakuya to work together to focus on the real threat of King Hydra in the Invisible Kingdom, but there's a major problem - like mentioned earlier, you are not able to speak of the Invisible Kingdom while outside it or else you'll die. So they have to try to convince both sides to trust them without explaining the reason. Also, there's a time-limit: we only have until the next time the skies change. It seems that every few dozen years, the dark skies over Anya and the bright skies over Byakuya switch sides, and at that time the entrance to the Invisible Kingdom opens and closes. We head towards Byakuya first to try our luck there, and run into the top general, Yukimura. He is incredibly not happy to see us and doesn't believe us for a second - it seems that in the chaos after Kamui ran away, Ryouma went missing and Takumi got taken captive by Anya. A fight ensues and we beat them down without killing them to get us to listen, but Ryouma's ninja retainer Saizou is still pissed and tries to self-destruct to take everyone out with him. Suzukaze and Sakura run in and stop him, saying that they believe Kamui, and they calm things down. We tell them to meet up for some cliff-diving by the bridge on the given sky-changing date if they choose to believe us and we head off, with Suzukaze and Sakura joining our party.
Next up is an almost completely re-used scene from Byakuya route where we attack some Nosferatu and they end up being people from the wind tribe - again, it's the Anya royal advisor Macbeth's doing, and again we go fight the wind tribe to test our strength and convince the village elder, same as last route. Rinka joins up with us here, helping convince Fuuga that we're not lying, since she's the daughter of the fire tribe's chieftain. Fuuga sends us off with the brat Tsukuyomi again, and we head off towards the neutral country of Izumo to learn more about Kamui's sword - the wind village elder Fuuga mentioned that it is said to 'even be capable of killing a god', so maybe it can work against Hydra. Oh good, I was worried I might end up playing a JRPG that didn't involve killing any gods for a minute here.
Hard Mode + Classic is going alright so far - it forces you to be very careful. Unlike Anya route though, I can grind as much as I want, so there's no danger of realizing you built the wrong characters or one of them hogged too much experience, so I'm just taking things slow and making sure to raise everyone I can. We recruited Lv.1 peasant girl Mozume again (she's recruitable in all three paths near the beginning) and I've been raising her into a bow-user, she's actually ridiculously strong if you take the time to level her up thanks to her unique skill that gives her higher growth rates. Right now she and Kamui are my main sources of firepower while the other support them - with endless grinding I can go pop out the child characters for any of the men in my party whenever I want to, I'll try to do that when I can so I can give some of the ones I never tried before a shot.
Time to finish the more popular version of the game up. Our party is using a secret route the Rainbow Sage told us about to sneak into the capital. We hop into the capital to find it...nearly totally deserted. Silas tells us that if people wander around outside too much, they get attacked by Nosferatu or thieves. People have little food and lead desperate lives. Ryouma promises that when he becomes king, he'll give Anya Kingdom food for free since Byakuya has so much. Speaking of thieves, a whole gang of them attack us, but we beat them down and it turns out that their leader (who we also recruited in the other route) has old ties to Byakuya, his old clan got wiped out and the remnants scattered to become thieves in Anya. He helps them sneak into a hidden underground city in exchange for Ryouma's promise to help rebuild his lost clan after the war is over. The hidden underground city is lively with civilians and merchants everywhere, and apparently the authorities don't know about it. Really? The whole capital is nearly deserted but there's a bustling underground city with what looks like hundreds or maybe even thousands of people, and it's a secret? A flower-girl calls out to us and tries to get us to buy, we're about to turn her down when...hey, it's Elise! What's she doing here? Turns out she comes here often because the rest of her family's gone wacko - Marx is cold, Leon is missing, Camilla has shut herself in her room, so Elise has been making new friends here. She offers to help guide Kamui to Garon and Marx because she thinks she can convince them to stop without fighting.
We also learn some stuff about when King Garon first started going crazy - seems it was around the time his second wife, Shenmei died. When his first wife died he swore he'd never marry again but somehow Shenmei convinced him, and he's been weird ever since she left. She's said to have had an amazing singing voice...all eyes go on Aqua and they think she's Shenmei's daughter, but Aqua's a little hesitant to confirm or deny it. We head off through some hidden passageways into the castle with Elise's guidance, but we run into Camilla on the way. Camilla has completely snapped - she says she'll slaughter everyone there except Kamui and Elise so that they can live together as a happy family again. We beat her and Kamui promises to end this so they can live as family again, and Camilla faints, carried off to get some rest by her retainers while our party marches on. We pop up right into the middle of the Anya Kingdom training grounds, with Ganz, the crazy axe-murderer guy who dropped Kamui and Gunter off a cliff at the beginning of the game, now acting as a general in the army. A fight breaks out and...once again, Lilith takes a fatal blow for Kamui, this time from Ganz's axe instead of a Nosferatu attack like in the Anya route. Pretty much the same scene otherwise, though. Poor Lilith, fated to die long after most players have forgotten she even exists outside their pocket-dimension castle in both routes.
Let's see, our remaining obstacles are Macbeth, Marx, and then Garon. Macbeth first - he takes control of Takumi and makes Takumi choke Aqua. Takumi is so obviously under control of the curse from earlier again, but Macbeth tries to make everyone think Takumi is betraying them of his own free will. Poor effort, everyone trusts Takumi by now and their trust weakens his control and buys enough time for Aqua to get loose and sing to undo the last remaining bit of his curse. We deliver a well-deserved beatdown to Macbeth, who once again pleads for his life, and since we can't stain Kamui's pure hands with even completely reasonable and necessary murder, Leon shows up again to kill him for us and wish us luck against Marx and daddy Garon. He also tells Elise that she should stay back for the next fight, things are going to get hairy. She doesn't listen, she's convinced she can convince Marx to stop fighting. We get to Marx and he demands a one-on-one duel with Kamui, which she accepts for some reason, and loses badly. Marx pulls back his sword hand to deliver the finishing blow, and...Elise jumps in front of it and takes a fatal slice. Low blow, game! It's one thing to kill off the older brothers or side-characters, but killing Elise (and in a well-animated cutscene no less) is over the line! She dies in a shocked Marx's arms begging him to stop fighting, but Marx is mad as hell now and it's time to fight. Similar to the fight against Ryouma in the Anya route, Kamui and Marx are locked in one area together, while Marx's retainers fight the rest of the party. Unlike the last route though, this time my Kamui is built to use a sword, so she just goes right over to Marx and bashes his face in within two turns to win the map. While Marx is dying, he gives us a nice line, telling Kamui "there's no point thinking about 'what if'. You can't change the path you've chosen", namedropping the game's title pretty hard. You totally can change it, Marx, you've just gotta fork out for the DLC!
Anyway, time to fight Garon. Not much to talk about here, it goes pretty much the same as it did in Anya route except with a different set of siblings delivering the encouragement as we beat him down, evolve our sword to its final form, have Kamui nearly die taking a near-fatal blow (this time meeting with Marx, Elise, Flora and Lilith in the afterlife instead) and then come back to life and kick Garon's ass after he turns into a huge dragon. Aqua once again uses the last of her power singing to weaken the final boss (dragon Garon, instead of possessed Takumi like last route), except this time we get to see her die after the battle's over, evaporating into the mist from using too much of her song. Ryouma inherits the throne with Leon and Camilla in attendance, and he promises to work together towards peace with Anya and coexist, sharing resources and food with them like he promised and all that good stuff. Leon's set to be the next King of Anya - Camilla is actually next in line for the throne, but she declined it, she doesn't want to be queen. I guess that means Anya is actually more progressive about rights of succession than Byakuya is - in the other route, Hinoka only became queen because both Ryouma and Takumi died. Even though Takumi was her younger brother, she mentioned that he was higher than her in the royal succession order. It presumably only goes to a daughter if there are no sons left in Byakuya, whereas Anya just gives it to the oldest living royal.
Overall thoughts about this route is that it was better than the Anya Kingdom route, but it still wasn't anything special. At least there were no completely retarded plans like last route, but there was still a bunch of really hamfisted forced drama near the middle and end. The two routes also recycle so many plot points, using them almost the same with just a swap of the characters involved. I guess maybe it's supposed to be artistic or symbolic, but it just feels lazy most of the time. My hope is that these two routes will actually just be the setting and background building blocks for the Invisible Kingdom route. Despite everything, I still have high hopes for that route. Also, I am really looking forward to trying my hand at Hard difficulty on the third route! Since it's the final path, I can take my time and raise my characters carefully. I'll start on Hard + Classic and see how long I can last, I hope I can make it to the end without budging from those settings, but we'll see.
With the Anya Kingdom route of Fire Emblem if done, I handed 2000 yen over to the Nintendo e-shop and downloaded the Byakuya Kingdom route. I'm leaving it on Normal since I just want to power through this route so that I can start on the third route ASAP. Last time my Kamui was male with Sorcerer as his secondary job, this time Kamui will be female with Samurai as her secondary. The game gives Kamui such a nice sword that keeps getting upgraded and I didn't get to use it at all last time, this time I'll put it to good use. As for looks, the default settings for fem Kamui are plenty cute so I just stuck with them. Again, I don't want to think too hard about this route, I'll save harder difficulties and decisions for the Invisible Kingdom route.
Skipping ahead to the decision point in Chapter 6, this time Kamui opts to side with Byakuya Kingdom at the battle with all the siblings. This decision made a hundred times more sense than last route, and Kamui didn't come off sounding like a moron in it either. When I sided with Anya last playthrough, Kamui was convinced that the whole 'being sent on a suicide mission with an exploding sword' thing was just a misunderstanding with Garon (Ryouma couldn't believe the stupidity), but this time Kamui herself points out to Marx that if Garon really cared about her, he wouldn't have tried to throw her life away like that. After chasing away the Anya siblings, our first mission is to help Sakura tend to the wounded. An Anya strike force led by Kamui's old childhood friend Silas interrupts us and attacks - we beat them down and force Silas to surrender, but Kamui realizes that he went easy on her forces. He couldn't bring himself to actually kill Kamui when the whole reason he became a knight was to meet her again. When he joined in the Anya route, Kamui couldn't remember anything about them being childhood friends, but this time Kamui remembers quickly about the knight's vow he made to protect her. I'm not sure if this difference is because of Byakuya/Anya difference or Kamui's gender, but it makes our relationship with Silas a lot less awkward than it was last time when Kamui couldn't even remember him.
We get word that Ryouma and Takumi have gone missing after the latest battle, so Sakura and the rest of us set off to find them, meeting up with Hinoka and her retainers on the way to join forces. Along the way through a neutral tribe's territory, we're attacked by wild Nosferatu, but when we strike them down they are actually warriors from the neutral tribe. It turns out that King Garon's right-hand man Macbeth put illusions on both our party and the neutral village's warriors to make us see each other as Nosferatu to make us fight. Fortunately we clear things up with the village elder Fuuga (the same village elder that we met much later in the game in the Anya path, once again he's very interested in Kamui's legendary sword) and he lets us pass. He also sends a kid named Tsukuyomi with us who has always wanted to travel outside the village. From the wiki earlier I know that this kid is the father of Syalla, so in order to gay-marry his daughter I'll be having him pair up with someone in my army ASAP. Isn't he like 13 or so? Maybe I'll pair him up with Orochi since they're both spellcasters. This would make Orochi quite the criminal since she's a proper adult, though. I think Tsukuyomi's time-travel-aged daughter is going to be older than he is. Sometimes it feels like this isn't a game, it's a twisted eugenics simulator.
Anyway, we're off to another neutral territory - the same one that we visited in Anya Kingdom route where an Anya impostor named Zoura disguised himself as the ruler before capturing the Byakuya royals. He's up to his same old tricks here, luring Kamui and Sakura into a room pretending like he's going to have his country's specially trained doctors tend to the party's wounds but actually attempting to execute them. Fortunately Hinoka saw through the ruse and counter-ambush him. He tries to run, but Leon stops by to execute him, telling him that he's a cowardly failure who doesn't deserve to return to Anya. Kamui stops Leon from executing him, and actually allows him to join her party when he begs to. I don't think this will end well, but we'll see.
Since two neutral territories in a row wasn't enough, we head through a third neutral territory full of ninjas on the way to search for Ryouma and Takumi. However, it turns out they have dropped their neutrality and sided with Anya Kingdom in exchange for being promised a lot of territory after the war is over, so a fight begins. Near the start of the battle, Takumi wanders into the battlefield and everyone is relived to see him, but he's possessed by some magic and shoots at Hinoka and everyone else, muttering about how nobody pays attention to him and everyone loves Kamui more than they love him, boo-hoo. If you bring Aqua next to him and talk, she can use her song's magic to dispel the magic controlling him and he'll join up, he's a real beast of a unit at this point thanks to his amazingly powerful bow. After the fight we make up with Takumi, who apologizes for being such an ass, and explains that during the last battle he actually fell down the endless chasm that divides the two countries, the same one that Kamui and Gunther fall down in Chapter 2. He doesn't remember anything between when he fell, and when Aqua dispelled his curse here. Hmm. Remember, in the Anya Kingdom route Takumi is the last boss and he's too far gone for Aqua's song to do anything but weaken him a bit by that point.
Next up we're headed to find Ryouma. So far I like the Byakuya route story more than Anya. It's nothing special yet, but it's also not offensively terrible yet like Anya was. Just standard JRPG stuff, which is fine. I like most of the characters who have joined up so far. Sakura's samurai retainer Kazahana is seriously sizzling, if I was playing male Kamui again this route I'd probably choose her for S-rank. I have a feeling I'm going to be overloaded on sword-users this run though between Kamui, Kazahana and Ryouma all using swords. I'm also terribly overloaded on ninjas, for now I'm just sticking with Saizou since I already had Suzukaze last route. Compared to the Anya Kingdom route, Byakuya route is full of infinite grinding and money-making opportunities with repeatable overworld battles. There's absolutely no stressing about characters 'hogging' experience because you can always just fix it later in free battles. If I was playing this route seriously I would reset and play on at least Hard, because there's absolutely no challenge on Normal, but I just want to get through to third route so I'm sticking with this.
Finished up the Anya Kingdom route of Fire Emblem if today. Let's see how things turned out in the end.
As expected, the next battle was against Ryouma. When they meet up with him, Kamui is trying to keep the whole issue of what happened to Hinoka under wraps, but Macbeth forces Kamui to announce what happened to Hinoka in front of Ryouma. Since Kamui can't admit that he let her go, he awkwardly, slowly, with probably a thousand 'this is a lie, don't really believe it' winks at Ryouma, says that he killed her. The camera zooms in on Ryouma's shocked face as he goes berserk and attacks Kamui - the poor guy just couldn't take the hint that it was a lie. The room they're in shuts out everyone but Kamui and Ryouma for a duel. This map had a bit of a trick to it, the room Kamui and Ryouma are in is impenetrable until the rest of the party takes out at least one of Ryouma's retainers. Anyway, we win and while out of earshot of King Garon and Macbeth, Kamui tells Ryouma that he let Hinoka live, and to believe in him, that he'll end things with as few sacrifices as possible. There's no time for more talking though as Garon and Macbeth come back and order Kamui to kill Ryouma. Kamui can't do it, but Ryouma's so goddamn Japanese that he commits seppuku right there on his lightning katana to save Kamui from having to do the deed, and entrusting the future of the country to him.
With the Byakuya royals all defeated, it's victory for Anya Kingdom. King Garon walks into the throne room but orders everyone to stay out until he's done praying to this Hydra guy again. While the siblings are waiting outside, Macbeth takes aim at Kamui to kill him, but misses. He announces that his forces found out that Hinoka escaped and that Kamui is to be executed, but the Anya siblings are having none of this and they decide that, no Macbeth, it is you who will be executed. With King Garon busy praying to his god in the throne room, they're free to slaughter Macbeth and his innocent-slaughtering forces out of his sight, and then just blame it on some Byakuya stragglers after it's over. Macbeth begs for his life pathetically after his side loses, and Leon is once again the one who carries out the execution.
The Anya siblings are getting ready to celebrate, but Kamui and Aqua tell them that it's not over yet, and spill the beans about King Garon actually being a monster. They refuse to believe at first. They think he's crazy and Marx even suggests that he might have 'betrayed back to Byakuya'...what? Not even Kamui can believe this, and he points out that if he was a Byakuya traitor, he would have backstabbed them a long time ago. They agree to enter the throne room to confirm if he's telling the truth or not, and sure enough, King Garon is sitting on the Byakuya throne in all his true form slimy monster glory. This is the part of Kamui and Aqua's plan where everyone kills Garon, but the Anya siblings can't bring themselves to kill their dad, so he's free to attack them without them fighting back. Again, nice plan Kamui and Aqua. Fortunately Marx finally grows a spine and strikes back, rallying his siblings as well, and awakening the final form of Kamui's sword (which I'm still not using, tsk).
We kill Garon and now it's finally over - or is it? Once again the conclusion is delayed as Takumi suddenly appears in the throne room, muttering about how "I'll do it myself!" as he glows with spooky evil magic and shoots arrows all over the place. Aqua concludes that he's been completely consumed just like Garon was and that they need to put him down. Kamui has a different plan and he walks up to Takumi and tells him to go ahead and take out his anger on him, hit me with all you got. Takumi proceeds to do just that, shooting Kamui point blank, and everyone bawls as Kamui passes out near-death and Takumi's attack also shatters his holy sword. I really don't understand why anyone thought this was a good idea.
Kamui is woken up by his mother, Empress Mikoto, and Ryouma to go spar with him. Oh, right, it's the afterlife and we're all dead. Takumi and Lilith are there too. They tell Kamui that he can still go back, he's not quite dead yet, and Takumi explains that the real him is already dead. He gives Kamui his sacred bow to use to repair the broken sword and Kamui goes back to the land of the living for the last battle of the game. Aqua sings a song to weaken him like she sung earlier to attempt to kill Garon at the theater a few chapters back, but she mutters something about this using up the last of her energy before she does it. This battle was a real nightmare of a fight, endless reinforcements of monsters summoned from the abyss, nowhere to hide or take cover, and a field-wide attack to dodge every few turns. I had to retry several times, and each time you lose here, you have to restart from the previous battle against King Garon, so it's a real pain on Classic mode where you can't save mid-battle. We finally put him down though, and now the war is finally really over. Aqua seems to have disappeared, though...
With Garon dead, Marx is crowned the new King of Anya. Instead of conquering the now-defenseless Byakuya, he pledges to work together with them from then on and acknowledge the atrocities his own country committed. Hinoka and Sakura are in attendance and they thank Marx for his generosity. Hinoka says she never thought she'd become queen since Ryouma and Takumi should have been in line before her, and admits that it'll take her some time to be able to forgive Anya, but that she'll try. After the big celebration, Kamui stops by the lake he first met Aqua at and has a vision of her singing, but when it's over she's gone, disappeared into the lake again. We're treated to a nice cutscene of the Anya siblings together with Kamui listening to Marx talk about how they won't let the sacrifices they made go in vain and make a better future together, and the credits roll.
Okay, so the ending could have been worse. I think the whole 'Kamui taking the hit on purpose from Takumi' thing was completely retarded, but besides that, finally getting to kill Macbeth was satisfying, and I liked that some real sacrifices were made. Ryouma and Takumi are dead for good and now poor Hinoka and Sakura have to deal with the loss and rebuild on their own. There was no happy 'everyone comes back to life and lives happily ever after, the end' nonsense. That being said, the ending being okay doesn't excuse how badly written the rest of the game was. If I were to boil down the main points that I didn't like about this game's writing, it might be the following:
Basically, for this route to have worked well, Kamui either needed to toughen up quick and be cold and calculating for the greater good, or it needed to be an actual 'evil' choice. Having him waffle around and cry pathetically while everyone else around him made the hard choices and carried out atrocities was just dull and sad.
For good things about this route, I liked most of the Anya royalty, especially Marx and Leon. The gameplay itself was very fun, with varied maps and objectives, and a sense of caution raising your units because of your inability to grind outside of story battles. You really have to choose well when deciding who to raise and what to buy.
I'm going to head right into the Byakuya Kingdom route next. I think this one will be better - a naive protagonist like Kamui is a better fit for a more straightforward battle. I really just want to rush through so that I can get started on the Invisible Kingdom route that was just recently released, but I'll finish Byakuya first. I'm looking forward to getting to know the characters on their side better.
Moving away from the side-content and hopping back into the main story, it's time to carry out Aqua and Kamui's plan of 'conquer Byukuya so we can have Garon sit on the throne and prove to Marx, Camilla, Leon and Elise that he's a monster, and then kill him together'. Keep in mind that we haven't shared this plan with any of the royal siblings, it's Aqua and Kamui's little secret. I really think we should at least try to convince them first, they're actually pretty reasonable people, but oh well, let's get this invasion over with. We stop by a village in a neutral country and find - surprise - the Byakuya royal siblings are all also visiting the same village! Tempers flare but the village elder forbids fighting on neutral grounds and makes everyone throw down their weapons. Once the weapons have been thrown down, he reveals himself as an imposter from Anya Kingdom and suddenly calls in Anya troops, capturing the Byakuya royalty. Kamui and the Anya royalty can't go along with a cowardly plan like this, so a battle ensues where we wipe out all of our own country's forces here and save the Byakuya royals. Leon executes the imposter so that he can't tell King Garon what they did, and surprisingly Kamui allows him to finish the execution instead of trying to play the eternal pacifist again. The Byakuya royals are all huffy about the whole ordeal and refuse to say thanks, because they would have done the same thing if their positions had been reversed. Everyone's so honorable (except Takumi, that boy ain't right), they have dinner together with the real non-imposter neutral village chief, and then go their separate ways to fight another day.
Next we take a shortcut through the mountains to avoid a Byakuya army, which instead means slaughtering a bunch of fox-men, which Kamui is again very upset about. It's a war Kamui, get used to it already. It's not like they were cute foxgirls you slaughtered, there's no need to be sad. Past the mountains we arrive at a village on the edge of Byakuya - the village elder is surprisingly friendly towards us once he sees Kamui wielding the legendary sword. I forgot to mention earlier, but in the battle after Kamui's original evil looking bomb-sword exploded way back before the path choice, he got a neat holy sword to replace it, which has been evolving into new and better forms as the game goes on. I'm a sorcrerer damnit, I don't use swords. Still, the village elder wants to test the wielder of said sword to make sure Kamui is worthy of it, so it's time for a rooftop battle. After we win and he lets us pass through, King Garon's right-hand evil-man Macbeth is plotting to make Kamui suffer like Garon's Hydra god wants by either making him kill people he doesn't want to, or getting his allies killed. So instead of normal border guards, the final hurdle to enter Byakuya is blocked by a horde of lifeless Nosferatu hulks from Anya. The victory conditions for this fight are to make it to the exit without getting a single party member KO'd, which means nothing if you're playing on Classic mode and reset any time a character dies anyway.
A pitiful scene takes place as we push through the Nosferatu horde - Marx and Aqua tell Kamui to run on ahead and leave holding off the Nosferatu to them, because if Kamui dies then it's all over, he's the leader of the army. Okay, so it sounds like Marx and Aqua might be sacrificing themselves because it's a really hopeless fight and Kamui would die if he stayed and fought with them, right? So Kamui runs on ahead, but there's a Nosferatu there too which gets the jump on him, swings, and...Lilith suddenly swerves in front of Kamui and takes the hit for him. Oh, geez. Okay, fine. Kamui gets mad, then he gets sad, then he cries as Lilith turns back into a human for a moment and then dies. Then...Marx and Aqua catch up, completely unscathed after having apparently dealt with the Nosferatu just fine on their own? Then why did they tell Kamui to go on ahead without them? This was all so completely unnecessary and felt way too forced and heavy-handed by the writer(s). If they wanted to kill off Lilith for drama they could have done it in a better way, this was just bad writing. Whatever, she's dead, Kamui gets a talking to about facing the reality of his comrades dying, and we move on.
As our invasion force finally reaches Byakuya, we're met by Sakura and her retainers' army. This is currently Chapter 22 of 26, so I'm thinking we're about to enter a boss rush of the Byakuya siblings from youngest to oldest. We beat Sakura's forces and as usual Kamui plays the pacifist and tells them to drop their weapons and surrender, and they won't be harmed. Unfortunately for Kamui, King Garon and his advisor Macbeth's forces join the fray and start slaughtering all the Byakuya forces that just surrendered while Kamui just sits and watches, grinding his teeth because he can't go against King Garon yet. Nice plan, Kamui and Aqua. They do at least manage to save Sakura and her retainers from execution and just have them taken prisoner.
Sure enough, next up guarding the route further into Byakuya is none other than younger royal brother Takumi. This kid's been acting weird all game and Aqua thinks he's possessed by something because of how violent and menacing he's been acting. Apparently he hasn't always been like that, maybe it's something that gets dealt with on the Byakuya route a lot. To us he's just another enemy - we defeat him, and instead of surrendering, he glows with some 'I am obviously possessed' flames and throws himself off the castle walls seemingly to his death. When we go to check for a corpse though, there's nothing there. Takumi whereabouts: Unknown. Oh well, let's keep moving.
Boss rush continues, next up is older sister Hinoka, the pegasus knight leader. This map is a flurry of never-ending enemy reinforcements, it was a good map for grinding levels since you can't grind outside story battles on the Anya Kingdom route. I almost lost it all when I went to go surround and finish Hinoka off and missed six 50-ish% attacks in a row, good old Fire Emblem. Fortunately I was saved when Hinoka also missed her own high-% attack that would have finished off Elise and made me reset that long fight. I like how the music gets so dramatic when a character is in danger of being taken out during an attack, it adds to the 'gritting your teeth and praying for a miracle miss' suspense. We spare Hinoka after beating her and convince her to pretend like she's got killed and hide until the fighting is over, because we need to make King Garon and Macbeth think we executed her. She gets convinced and leaves us her weapons as 'proof' of her death and runs with her retainers. It's worth noting that the Anya royalty (Marx, Camilla, Leon and Elise) have all been completely on-board with Kamui sparing the Byakuya royalty so far. They're all completely repulsed by King Garon's massacres and they help Kamui deceive Garon constantly. I really think they would believe Kamui and Aqua if they just explained that Garon is taken over by a monster and needs to be stopped. They still haven't been told, though, and will presumably not find out until dad sits on the throne.
Next up is Chapter 25 out of 26 - I'm sure the fight with Ryouma is up next, and then probably a fight against King Garon to finish things off, and any plot twists they'd like to throw at me. If the story progresses as it seems like it will, I'm guessing we beat Ryouma and then Kamui's sword evolves into its true form that everyone keeps talking about and he uses that to kill or un-curse King Garon. It might seem like I'm being unnecessarily harsh on the story so far, but it's really just disappointment because the setting and premise had so much potential. This is a good game, but it could have been so much better. I'll write up more about it later, assuming it doesn't redeem itself somehow in these last few chapters.
In this update, I get completely distracted by the marriage/children system, so let's get what little story advancement I got done out of the way first. With the medicine in hand and Aqua's help applying it, Elise is cured and she and Aqua warm up to each other a bit. Happy times aren't a long-lasting thing in Anya Kingdom though, since next up King Garon sends the same mass-murdering axe guy who dropped Kamui off a cliff in the first chapter on another rebel suppression mission with him. Being the doormat he is, Kamui goes along with it, and axe-murderer guy ends up leading a mass public execution of civilians after the fight has already been won. Kamui orders him to stop, but the guy says he gets his orders from King Garon. The Anya royal siblings tell Kamui that again, they really hate this kind of stuff, but if they go against their dad then he won't hesitate to kill even his own sons and daughters. So in the end, Kamui walks away from a mass slaughter letting it happen due to dad's orders. Not so heroic.
A bit later we're watching a dance - King Garon is in attendance and congratulates Kamui on the mass slaughter of innocents he allowed to happen. Aqua takes the stage in a different outfit and she dances and sings. It has a magic effect on King Garon, who almost collapses in pain, but he recovers and orders all the dancers killed. Aqua shows back up at the party and...wait, what, nobody realized it was Aqua on the stage dancing, that was supposed to be a disguise? How many singers with long blue hair do we know exactly? Anyway, she 'reveals' that it was actually her on stage dancing to Kamui and laments over how she just got a bunch of innocent dancers murdered. She's shaping up to be almost as big a failure as Kamui. Little brother Leon shows up and helps Kamui buy time to let as many of the innocent dancers escape as possible by pretending to search for them but actually letting them slip by out of dad's grasp.
Kamui is pretty depressed by now, and while walking in the woods he hears Aqua singing again, and sees her sink into a magical water fountain in a lake - thinking she might be drowning, he jumps after her, and lands in a strange place where shadows of the dead roam. Aqua explains that it's a country that can't be seen, but that she can travel to it through various means. They get surrounded by angry spirits, when none other than Gunther shows up to save the day! Turns out falling down that ravine landed him here, where he and Aqua have saved each other a few times and become war buddies and all that good stuff. Aqua tells Kamui that this country can't be spoken of to anyone outside of it, and they head back to their own world with Gunther in tow. While waiting for Gunther to catch up, Aqua shows Kamui an orb that displays a vision proving that King Garon has been consumed and taken over by a horrible looking monster. She tells Kamui that if he wants to end this conflict, they need to kill King Garon. Now that's what I'm talking about, finally someone suggested it! Maybe Aqua's not so bad after all...is that I thought for a moment, but then the dumbest thing in the game so far happens. Aqua says that since they can't prove Garon is a monster to the other Anya royal siblings, the best way to settle this is to have Garon sit on the Byakuya throne, which is enchanted with a spell that shows a person's true form. In order to have Garon sit on that throne, they will help him conquer Byakuya. Okay, so let's go over this: just so we can convince Marx, Camilla, Leon and Elise that dad is a monster, we're going to help him conquer and entire country and have him sit on the throne to prove that he's a monster, and...then we kill him? This is absurd. The Anya siblings all trust Kamui and they all know what a horrible person their dad is, it's got to be worth a try explaining the situation to them - but no, we're not even going to try to explain, we're just going to keep slaughtering innocents and Byakuya forces until Garon can sit on that dumb throne. Wow. What a plan, Aqua. Way to agree with it, Kamui. I hate you two so much.
Intermission time! I realized that at the rate things were going, I wasn't going to be able to get S-rank between that many characters and decided to take a peek at a wiki to read up on how the marriage and children system works. I figured I'd see if any of the 2nd generation characters looked interesting and focus on them. One stuck out - an adorable looking wolf-girl named Velour. It seems that the 2nd gen characters are tied to their father character - get the right father to S-rank with any woman he can S-rank with and you'll be able to recruit the child character. Now I was curious how this worked - I remembered hearing something about time travel from the last game, so I figured it would work like that again. Anyway, the dad is Flannel, a beast-man I picked up in the last mission who was just looking for directions. In order to grind support, I did online castle assault/defense a lot, you can do this infinitely and while it doesn't award any experience, you can still raise support. I paired Flannel up with a unit I'm not using, an axe-knight named Charlotte who loves money and status. Flannel is dirt poor and he thinks things like piles of dust and hairballs are treasure, so this relationship was a bit rocky. At C, B and A rank, Charlotte has heard that Flannel has treasure and keeps trying to see it only to find out his 'treasures' are all worthless. At S rank Flannel suddenly tries wooing Charlotte over by convincing her that even if he's poor, he's a good hunter so he can provide for a family, and asks her to marry him, she says yes, and...
And...I'm treated to a breaking any suspension of disbelief as the child system is explained to me. See, there's a hidden village where it's safe and time flows differently, and the couples pop out a baby and immediately go dump it in this hidden village to be raised so that they can keep fighting. Then some event happens where the 'child' unit (who is now almost as old as their parents) can be recruited. So the kids basically get thrown in a time chamber. I guess this marriage and kids thing is just complete fluff outside the main story and isn't meant to be taken seriously. Anyway, the important thing is that wolf-girl Velour is all grown up now and ready to be recruited to our team. I hope Flannel doesn't mind that Kamui is about to be putting the moves on his daughter.
Velour is a beast-transforming unit like her dad, she turns into a huge wolf monster in battle and hits pretty hard. She's always sniffing things, and people. She collects worthless things like dust heaps and trash paper like her dad does. Anyway, we recruit her and I go back to grinding support in network battles again for what seems like ages - since Velour starts at zero support with Kamui, along the way grinding I ended up maxing Kamui with a bunch of other characters too by the time Velour finally hit S-rank. I saved my game before the choice so that I could see what the other S-rank (wife) options were like. Amazingly, Elise is an option - the S-rank conversation was really disturbing, in C, B and A Kamui is just supporting her and helping her with her training and self-confidence, and then in S-rank he suddenly brings her flowers and asks her to marry him, which 'isn't a problem because we're not related by blood!'. Really now...what would Marx, Camilla and Leon say about this? I reloaded the save point and tried a few others (including Aqua), but in the end I stuck with my original plan of having Kamui marry the wolf-girl Velour. No regrets.
I hope Flannel and Charlotte are okay with being grandparents now, because this triggered another child event where we go to rescue Kamui and Velour's daughter, Kanna. Kanna is being raised in time-capsule-land when we stop by to visit and she gets attacked by enemies. Kamui tries to fight them off but almost gets hit, so Kanna transforms into a dragon to save him and a fight ensues. Unlike Velour (who looks like an adult, or at least as old as some of our other party members), Kanna really is a little kid, but somehow she convinces Kamui to let her join the party and fight. I mean, I guess we did also recruit that peasant girl way back earlier in the game, but I'm really not into having kids in my party. I looked around at the other 2nd-generation units on a wiki and some of them are really young - like Harold's son literally looks 7 or 8 years old, having a unit like that in my army would break any remaining suspension of disbelief I might have had. I think I've wasted enough time with the marriage/children aspect of the game and will continue with the story next time. This stuff feels so disconnected from the main storyline that it seems like they should have just put a disclaimer in somewhere that it's not canon at all instead of trying to pretend it is with this time-capsule village nonsense. If I really want to, I'll have unlimited grinding in the Byakuya Kingdom version to get all the 2nd-gen characters, I'm tired of grinding support rank in network battles. Speaking of network battles, even though you can't grind experience in the Anya Kingdom version, network battles are so incredibly exploitable that it almost doesn't matter. When you defeat other castles in PvP battles, you can recruit one of their units to your party, or learn one of their units' overpowered skills. A lot of people online leave a bunch of perfectly-crafted maxed-out units in their base with no weapons equipped (which means they can't attack), so that other people can easily win and recruit them or learn their skills. I'm going to refrain from abusing the network function any more than I already have for support rank raising for the moment.
Things are finally starting to look up a bit for Kamui, and word is getting around Anya Kingdom that he's different from the normal royals. The only problem is daddy - whenever Kamui does something good, King Garon messes everything up by trying to get Kamui to do something evil or get one of his siblings to execute him. Really, the Anya siblings should all just kill Garon and have Marx take over the throne, things would be much easier. They don't seem to be in the mood to assassinate their dad though, so we've got to deal with his antics in the meantime. He keeps praying to some god named Hydra who is ordering him to drive Kamui mad with cruel missions and assignments.
In the meantime, Kamui is off to find the Rainbow Sage, who is said to be able to bestow power upon those who seek him out. Along the way we run into a lot of old friends. First, Aqua is being held captive by Byakuyua troops. We rescue her and find out that since Kamui's betrayal, Byakuya has been cracking down on anyone with any ties to Anya. Elise meets Aqua for the first time and is excited to have a new older sister, but Aqua doesn't seem to like Elise very much and Kamui gets the impression that she's not actually Elise's sister, although he keeps quiet about it for now. We also pick up a new sorcerer character, Nyx, in this mission. Nyx talks like an old woman despite looking young - I just got done playing Stella Glow with Hilda who had the same thing going on, this trope is pretty popular. After fumbling around I found an item that allows Kamui to change class to the one I chose at character creation, so now I'm finally a proud dark mage and not a weak sword-wielder! I wasted a lot of battles that could have been spent grinding Kamui's book aptitude up, but oh well. Better late than never.
With Aqua in tow, next up we head to a port city to catch a boat to get to the Rainbow Sage, but the port is under attack by Byakuya troops. Leading them is none other than Takumi, second royal brother on the Byakuya side. This map has a bunch of artillery that our units can use to blast enemy units from afar, very handy. Soon the enemy deploys some pegasus knights that threaten to overwhelm our position, but big-sis Camilla comes in riding her dragon with her retainers to save Kamui. Camilla is really, really strong. One thing I did remember from FE 6 and 7 was that it's best to try not to over-use these pre-promoted characters because they'll hog all the experience, and apparently Anya Kingdom version will not allow unlimited grinding to make up for it, so I had her only come out when necessary. We kick Takumi's ass and let him escape with his life, as usual.
We get to the village where the Rainbow Sage is said to be and surprise, he's up in a tower on a mountain that's said to be a real trial to climb. Also, Byakuya forces have taken him into protective custody, led by Byakuya royal older sister Hinoka. A fight ensues and we also chop through Rinka and Suzukaze on the way to reach her - once again, Kamui orders his forces to not take any lives, so we somehow manage to suppress Hinoka's forces without inflicting a single casualty on their side. I don't really know how our archers and mages are 'shooting to injure and not to kill' but apparently we are, somehow. We force Hinoka to retreat, but Suzukaze is so impressed by Kamui's determination to change Anya Kingdom from the inside that he betrays Byakuya and joins up with our party. This is kind of crazy because Suzukaze's older brother is one of Ryouma's main retainers - he's willing to throw away his brother and be a traitor for life for this? Okay, I guess. Also, I would have thought that some of the Anya folks would be a little suspicious of letting a Byakuya ninja join our party, he could easily slit Kamui's throat at night in base, but nobody says anything. Whatever. One good thing here is that Kamui clears up to everyone that his main reason for betraying Byakuya was for the sake of his Anya brothers and sisters - he makes it clear that was his primary motivation. I mentioned earlier that I wished he would have made that clearer at the time of the actual decision, but better late than never.
We reach the Rainbow Sage and Kamui asks for his blessing of power. The Rainbow Sage...tells Kamui that the trials he endured getting to the Rainbow Sage were the blessing, the power was inside him all along! Also, some stuff about being the key to a fire crest...wait, fire crest, fire emblem? I think I get it. Seriously though, this guy - it's amazing nobody's killed the sage is warriors regularly make the trip to him only to be told that the trip there was its own reward. Speaking of killing the sage, King Garon's right-hand man appears via illusion and orders Kamui to kill the Rainbow Sage. Kamui doesn't want to, but the Rainbow Sage is kind enough to end his own life instead, so mission complete for daddy! That was convenient. Tragedy strikes on the way back home to the castle though, as Elise falls ill to a disease that she caught earlier while we were looking for the Rainbow Sage.
There's a place nearby that we can get medicine to cure Elise's illness, but it's being guarded by Ryouma and his forces. This mission was interesting, previously we had a 'survive for X number of turns' mission against Takumi, but this time it's 'break through the enemy lines within X number of turns' or else Elise succumbs to her disease. We get more reinforcements, this time it's Marx's two retainers who join our party. Along the way we fight Ryouma's retainers, one of them is Suzukaze's older brother Saizou. I have Suzukaze deliver the finishing blow to him just to rub that Byakuya traitor salt in their wounds a bit more, but as usual they escape with their lives. Ryouma guards the spot on the map we have to break through and he's probably really scary to fight, but I just took out his nearby guards and then snuck right past him to clear the mission. Maybe Camilla could have taken him on, but the mission was so long I didn't want to risk losing someone and having to reset.
The home base stuff is interesting. There are missions (only one so far, but I'm sure more will come) where enemies attack your base and you defend it - your buildings provide you with bonuses and since you can control the layout of your base, you can try to set up good defensive positions. There's also a dungeon where you can use certain characters to capture enemies in battle and keep them imprisoned, possibly recruiting them into your party eventually. I captured some Byakuya spearman to test it out and had him join me, but I don't see much point in using generic characters when the named ones exist, since they get support bonuses and conversations with each other and I doubt generics do.
Some of my characters are getting closer to Lv.20 so I have promotions to look forward to. My support conversations have also been moving along - right now Kamui probably has highest affinity with Felicia, Elise, Nyx and Aqua. I'm not sure who I'll pair him with when it comes time to decide - probably not Elise for obvious reasons (or maybe not so obvious, since the game makes it an option), leaning towards Nyx or Aqua. It depends on if you get any bonuses from the spouse, like if Nyx would provide Kamui with bonuses to his spellcasting or not. Kamui also has a dragon orb that he can use to transform and attack from a distance, but Aqua warned him that if he used his power too much he might lose himself, so I'm thinking that might lead to a bad end if I rely on it too much. I might pair Harold (clumsy Captain Gordon foreigner stereotype looking guy) with Effie, and maybe Silas (knight childhood friend) with Elise. Not sure who to have Felicia S-rank with. I've got a shortage of male characters with support options right now since I don't use Zero or Odin much, but that'll probably balance out if/when Marx and Leon. I'm probably choosing all the wrong combinations for min-maxing but oh well, I'm just going with my gut this first playthrough. P.S. I'm going to just stick to calling the countries Anya and Byakuya kingdom, it's too confusing to keep switching names between the localized and original versions.
So last time we left off, Kamui was tagging along with Ryouma to go save our Hoshido sisters, Sakura and Hinoka. They were helping evacuate civilians when huge, soul-less Nohr monsters surrounded them and cut off their escape route. Sakura is a miko and Hinoka is a pegasus knight who can hold her ground well, it's really just a rush to get to them before a monster climbs around the back side of the mountain and KOs Sakura. We rescue them and report back to mommy, who is still expecting Kamui to treat her like his mother even though he doesn't remember her at all. Fortunately he makes it clear that this doesn't make sense to him either, and mom backs off a bit.
We meet the Hoshido royalty a bit more in depth - everyone is really happy to see Kamui back, except Takumi, the younger royal brother, who doesn't trust him since Kamui has grown up in Anya Kingdom for almost his entire life. The game makes him out to be a real jerk for this, but he's got a point as we'll soon see. Also living in Byakuya Kingdom is Aqua, who reveals that she is actually one of the Nohr royalty and she was kidnapped from Anya Kingdom by the Hoshido side right after Kamui was kidnapped by daddy Nohr. She's quick to mention that she's actually happy that she got kidnapped though because Hoshido is such a nice place to be, and they only kidnapped her to use as an equivalent bargaining piece for Kamui anyway, so all is forgiven...I guess? The Hoshido royals treat her well, except for Takumi who doesn't trust her because...I don't know, he's racist or something? It makes sense that he doesn't trust Kamui, but Aqua grew up on the Hoshido side almost her whole life. Kamui calls him out on this and he doesn't have a good answer, he's just got a stick up his ass. Anyway, Aqua's happy to be on Hoshido side now. Kamui walks around a Hoshido town for roughly 30 seconds and a nice old lady sells him some food and is kind to him, which is the game's way of reminding us yet again that Hoshido is full of good folk.
Then something really ridiculous happens - mommy Hoshido decides to present Kamui as the returned prince to everyone in a crowded town center. A robed, masked man appears and takes control of the evil sword Kamui was given by daddy Nohr earlier and makes it explode. Mommy Hoshido blocks the shards from hitting Kamui, getting killed protecting him and dying in his arms. Kamui goes berserk and turns into a dragon, but the masked guys already planned for this, and they brought mercenaries with dragon-killer swords to take Kamui out as well. After a really frustrating battle on Hard difficulty, the masked guys are cleaned up and hey, look, Takumi was right, maybe letting Kamui in so easily wasn't so smart. Now the Empress is dead along with her protective power, and now Nohr is attacking at the border right after she's dead.
Okay, so Hoshido royals rush out to the battlefield to meet the Nohr royals attacking. I couldn't believe it, but only 2 hours or so into the game, I'm being forced to make 'the choice' between the two factions. From the player's point of view this is completely ridiculous - Hoshido has been portrayed as being so obviously good and Nohr as so obviously evil that no sane player would choose Nohr here unless they wanted to be evil. And they can't want to be evil, because Kamui is a big pacifist softie as we saw earlier, so it's not like he's likely to embrace the evil role and make it enjoyable. This choice happened way too early. There is one saving grace that could have prevented this choice from being completely retarded, and that is the fact that even if the player only met the Nohr royals a couple hours ago, Kamui grew up thinking of them as his real brothers and sisters. They clearly love Kamui as their brother, and Kamui clearly loves them too. So that could have been the angle - the Nohr choice could have been "I know Nohr is evil and the king is an insane psychopath, but I've got to save my brothers and sisters first". Instead, have a picture of the choice dialog. The choice wording is terrible. Assist Anya for the sake of King Garon, who everyone, even your Nohr brothers and sisters, knows is batshit insane? Assist the invasion? Kamui has not been shown to be this kind of character at all - he pissed off daddy Nohr earlier by not finishing off Hoshido opponents and he was really mad when the crazy guy daddy sent with him on his first mission attacked Hoshido soldiers, why would he ever make this choice as worded?
The choice is not actually mine to make at this point though, I made the choice when I bought the Nohr version of the game, so Kamui actually decides to go back to Nohr. Again, he could have made his main reason about wanting to get his brothers and sisters out of King Garon's grasp or something like that, but he just mutters things about how this is the country he belongs to. Ryouma and the Hoshido royalty are shocked - really, I would be too, and they're about to have salt rubbed in their wounds as a fight ensues and our Nohr royals kick their asses and make them run. So let's recap what happened to Hoshido this week: they thought they got their long-lost prince back, but he was an unwitting walking deathtrap with an exploding sword which ended up killing their empress and mother, and then he defects back to Nohr anyway despite how well they've treated him, and then he helps the Nohr royals give them a beatdown on the way out for good measure.
Now that Kamui has ruined everything, we report back to daddy. Marx and the other siblings think he'll be happy to see Kamui back alive and well, but they'd be wrong. In fact, he's so not happy to see Kamui that he orders Marx to execute Kamui on the spot, to the shock of all the siblings, who all beg him to reconsider. Marx can't bring himself to do it, and Garon is pissed, but then he decides to give Kamui yet another 'mission' to 'prove himself' to be accepted again. Hey Kamui, remember what happened last time he sent you on a mission and you ended up carrying a bomb-sword and accidentally assassinating a queen? Think this time will be different? But Kamui is relieved and swears to carry out the mission, which is to suppress a rebellion in a village. This village happens to be the same village that Felicia (the maid from earlier) is from, along with Felicia's sister. Garon orders Kamui to take on the task alone, but along the way a bunch of characters join up with him at Kamui's siblings request. Felicia comes along, then a childhood friend who became a knight just to meet up again with Kamui shows up to help, and then Elize herself (youngest sister of the Nohr royals) shows up with her two retainers to help too.
Kamui collapses outside the village and is saved by the village elder. When he comes to, Kamui almost introduces himself as a prince. Yes, he almost introduces himself as royalty of the kingdom that this village is rebelling against, to the village elder. Luckily his knight friend stops him, but wow, what a moron. It turns out Felicia's sister Flora is also here, she ran away from the castle where she cared for Kamui earlier in the game, and she thinks Nohr is pursuing her. Then Elize walks in and spills the beans about the whole 'rebellion suppression' thing anyway, so it's battle time. Us versus this village - some eyepatch bow-user and a really edgy, chuunibyou sorcerer show up to help us (Nohr royal brother #2 Leon sent them to help Kamui). We beat the rebels up but don't kill any of them, which impresses the village elder and convinces him to call off the rebellion for now. Hey, I think this is the first thing Kamui has done so far this game that didn't end in disaster! Flora joins back up with us again, too. Maybe things will start looking up from now on.
As far as gameplay goes, it's humiliating but I have to admit that I turned the difficulty down to Normal. Playing on Hard + Classic (permadeath) was just too stressful and aggravating when one of my characters would die and I had to reset over and over. I needed to either switch back to Hard + Casual (no permadeath) like I started playing on, or Normal + Classic to keep my blood pressure down. I went with the second option. I'm not proud of it, maybe I can restore some of my wounded pride on subsequent playthroughs.
P.S. This whole support conversation/S-rank-marriage-goal thing is stressful. I didn't play Awakening so I'm not used to it. You're telling me that I don't just have to choose who my protagonist pairs up with, I also have to choose who everyone else pairs up with? Playing matchmaker with characters who aren't the protagonist feels very odd.
Fire Emblem. It's the talk of the town right about now, but I'm not too familiar with the series. About a decade ago, I played FE: Path of Radiance and FE: Radiant Dawn. I don't remember that much about it, really. Now that I have a 3DS I figure I'll give the series another shot. I never played Awakening and I haven't been following the news for this game all that closely, so what I know about it is limited mostly to a few blog site posts and reading the backs of the game preorder boxes. This run may be embarrassing.
So, the first question of course is - Anya or Byakuya version? Black box or white box? Nohr or Hoshido? When I first heard about this choice I was interested. Okay, so Hoshido is clearly Japan here, and it appears that their country is being invaded by the evil Europea-, er, Nohr folks. The box text suggests that Anya Kingdom is plainly evil and Byakuya Kingdom is plainly good, if you side with Hoshido you're fighting against the forces of evil, but if you side with Nohr you're 'being a glimmer of light in the darkness'. Okay, whatever, but then I heard that Nohr side will have some interesting mechanics about not being able to grind levels, and having more strategic goals than Hoshido. Also, I'm already a white guy living in Japan who blogs about JRPGs, so if I sided with Hoshido from the start I might hit critical weeaboo levels and have a meltdown. Nohr it is.
Forcing me to make one tough choice wasn't enough though, and the game immediately makes me pick the game difficulty, my character's gender, appearance, and class. Fem Kamui is cute but I decided to go with M Kamui for my first run. Maybe next run I can play cute lesbian Kamui on Hoshido side, but for now I'm going with this. What kind of person would try to change a warring country from the inside when given the choice of fighting them directly? That's the impression I was given of my role in Nohr, and it sounds like something that you'd have to be either incredibly smart or incredibly stupid to attempt. I have a feeling it's going to be incredibly stupid, so I made my Kamui an intelligent Sorcerer because he's going to need all the smarts he can get for this task. For difficulty, I went with Hard. I've heard Normal is too easy, but I'm too out of shape from the series to try the Lunatic difficulty right from the start, so Hard it is.
The game starts with Kamui having a dream - the pure and innocent Hoshido are being attacked by the cartoonish villains of Nohr. Kamui is with some Hoshido folks who call him their brother, and some mooks wander one at a time into our area so that we can have a tutorial battle. Cut to a battle between a prince of Hoshido, Ryouma, and a prince of Nohr, Marx. Ryouma wields a giant katana whose steel has been folded a thousand times through superior Hoshido smithing and it crackles with electricity powered by pure bushido. Marx rides in on a horse wielding some really evil looking sword crackling with dark magic that some dirty, unholy sorcerer probably enchanted. Marx gets a good hit in on Ryouma, but then Ryouma flips out and slices Marx a thousand times, and they're evenly matched.
Kamui wakes up, this time with the Nohr princes and princesses calling him their brother. It turns out the royals of Nohr are actually pretty nice folks, they're all big softies when it comes to Kamui and doting on him. I do some sparring with Marx to hone my swordsmanship - wait, wasn't I supposed to be a sorcerer? Oh well. Kamui has been declared ready to venture out of the castle he was raised in and go out into the world! Before that though, he has to go see daddy. Daddy Nohr is scary and everyone knows it.
Earlier I mentioned that I made sure intelligence was my Kamui's strong suit, but the game doesn't seem to care, because Kamui is a complete moron and decides that despite training his sword skills for years, he's a pacifist and he refuses to finish off the Hoshido captives that daddy is having him fight to prove himself. One of his brothers covers for him by teleporting the Hoshido folks to safety and pretending like he actually killed them, and daddy Nohr is pissed, but he still gives Kamui a ridiculously evil looking sword - again with the swords, I'm a sorcerer! Why let me choose when everyone will treat me like a swordsman? Maybe it'll change later? Kamui meets up with the Hoshido folks he spared and tells one of them, Rinka, that he doesn't want to fight them and would instead like to become friends with them. Huh? Isn't there a limit to how naive someone can be? These two kingdoms are supposed to be at war, but Kamui is already laying the "let's all just talk it out and be friends" JRPG protagonist act on thick. Better hope his plot armor is just as thick.
Daddy Nohr gives Kamui a new mission to prove himself, and a reminder of what a lovely kingdom Anya is by assigning a mass-murdering lunatic to accompany him on the trip. Fortunately we also have our reliable mentor-type old man figure Gunther, and a maid named Felicia coming with us. In the first real battle of the game, I immediately failed when Felicia got wrecked by archers. Now, when I started the game, I was given the choice of casual mode which makes characters never die for good, and the other option which means if they die once they're gone. I picked casual and I immediately felt like a tool when Felicia let out a dying scream and the game zoomed in on her like she had just suffered a critical injury, but then she just said she was withdrawing from the fight anti-climatically. It shamed me so much that I reset and restarted on hardcore, and Felicia immediately got picked off again by archers, permanently, muttering about how sorry she was for being clumsy to the end. Whoops. I can't be losing characters this early, so I reloaded and had Gunther and Kamui form up and take point for an easy win as long as Felicia stayed way back.
Nohr bros and sis come to save the day and send Kamui and Gunther back home, but on the way back, crazy mass-murderer guy drops Gunther off a bridge into a ravine for what looks like a fatal fall, and attacks Kamui, who sprouts some dragon appendages and smacks crazy guy around with it, but not before he also falls off the bridge. Some girl from the castle turns into a dragon and carries Kamui to a safe zone, and I come back to the real world to get smacked upside the head by Rinka and taken in front of the Hoshido royalty. They claim that Kamui is actually their long-lost brother and was abducted as a child by daddy Nohr. Someone who claims to be Kamui's mom hugs him. Now look mom, I don't want to be rude, but my Kamui is pretty close to the default art, and Kamui clearly looks, how to put it, not Japanese? He looks just like his Nohr 'brothers and sisters'. Were you messing around with some Nohr man behind your husband's back? I look nothing like big bro Ryouma. Next up I'm being taken alongside Ryouma and to go save our Hoshido sisters who were selflessly helping evacuate civilians in a village when the dastardly Nohr folks attacked it. I get it game, I get it!
So about the game itself, coming to this from playing Stella Glow is interesting. It's hard to get used to the ultra-low quality battlefield graphics at first, but it clearly must be a stylistic choice because the rest of the game is so high-budget - gorgeous cutscenes, character portraits, and usage of 3D. I'll get used to it, I'm sure. I'm looking forward to continuing playing it, I hope it surprises me and Kamui isn't just a naive pacifist-turned-killing-machine like I expect he will be.
Random JRPG blogging about the games I'm currently playing.