Since enough time has past between the Japanese release and there's some time before the english release I would like to give my impressions on the game for presentation and gameplay since I only understand some characters (but what I've seen is pretty much an improvement) and I don't know enough of the story to comment on that. (or rather games but I'll get to my opinion on that). I like to view Awakening as a sort of refresh on the series, so I'll be making most of my comparisions for this game as a sequel as opposed to games before that. I'll start with the presentation, the artists for the two games have remained the same but the general art direction for each side is distinct and interesting, every character appears distinct as I felt for awakening. I didn't really care for the generic portrait art in Awakening, but Fates portait art for enemies and villagers is more interesting and varied in my opinion. having their own set of portraits to display emotions and overall apprearing more meneacing or livelier, it's a logical step forward. I don't like some of the armor which is is an opinion of mine though largely didn't change from awakening, but I feel it has improved somewhat overall. Animation wise, Fates is a great improvement over Awakening, most of the animations in Awakening weren't terribly interesting however they were snappy which I appreciated. The brevity of battles has not changed in fates but new animations for when a unit is about to strike a killing blow or general crits are very awesome to behold. Most of the ending animations are more personalized as well, for example an archer like Zero would end their animation laying an arrow on their shoulder however an archer like Setsuna nonchalantly brushes her hair, it's a large improvement in conveying personality. The model quality has improved enough to include both discernible faces and feet which are put to use in the Non CGI cutscenes, the camera angles are more interesting and varied so watching a scene play out is more interesting than before. However, CGI cutscenes do return and there are more of them overall across all the paths and as expected, all of them are gorgeous. One signifcant change is the Battle environments, for the most part, Fates doesn't use any stock backgrounds (Though Forts are an exception), where a battle starts on the map is usually how the battle area will appear like with landmarks being the appropriate distance, in some cases, this can result in seeing lower resolution textures more often but the increase in variety greatly helps make up for it. There is a level of Pop in, but it isn't terribly distracting in my opinion. Music wise, enemy phase music is gone, but I view this as an improvement as instead when a unit is in danger of dying, a "Panic" track will play in battles which is very intense and to compensate for the gone enemy phase tracks, there are even more map themes than before, a number of which are different depending on who you're fighting against. The amount of memorable tracks has increased and many are very catchy, the Leimotif "Hitori Omou" is present in most tracks and for good reason, it's one of the best tracks Intelligent Systems have ever made for one of their games, being beautiful, sorrowful, joyful and memorable all at the same time. All in All, Fates exceeds the presentation set by its predecessor on the 3DS.
The biggest improvement by far is the gameplay, Awakening's gameplay systems were too easily broken and not as engaging as I would have liked. Most of the action occured on the enemy phase so it felt like I was merely sending in units of indestructible power rather than feeling than feeling I could lose a unit with a single mistake on my turn. The skill systems felt very grindy and the skills themselves weren't cleverly implemented or well balanced (Looking at you Galeforce). The AI was rather suicidal and I disliked that the pair up system ran on an RNG. Maps didn't have enough variety to be interesting. Fates basically strikes away all of these issues, enemies in all three routes are very threatening and while there are some difficulty spikes, difficulty is very well handled in general and remains hard throughout each route. However each route employs a differing method of difficulty increase, Nohr on lunatic difficulty doesn't really change the stats for enemies from Hard mode, however skills and positioning are changed. Hoshido ups stats slightly from hard mode but increases the amount of enemies (and there's some skills and positioning thrown about here and there) and while you get a super powerful unit capable of soloing maps in the mid game, its not a good idea to abuse him in the long term as you might make the game unwinnable as enemies get stronger in the late game, you still have to be careful with your units to raise them properly to handle the late game. The third route probably handles this the least well only really increasing stats of enemies, most of the difficulty is frontloaded like Fire Emblems in the past, but it doesn't ever become too easy to be a real concern but most Unit viablity in this route isn't as good as the others which is unfortunate, it is still a big improvement over Awakening however in terms of strategic value. Mechanically, its a significant improvement, pair up has been rebalanced into two stances which both enemies and players will use. Weapons excluding staves (However, Staves have more statuses for utility) will no longer break but instead deal effects, making short term awareness on the player phase a constant importance throughout each route. All types of weapons are involved in the weapon triangle including magic and new hidden wepons that inflict debuff on opponents are prevelant and well implemented. Obtaining weapons outside combat has changed to the custom castle which requires upgrading shops, forges and vendors to access higher level weaponry and increase stock counts of existing weaponry and tools which also now costs much more than before. Like Suikoden whoever is manning the shops can give sales to certain items so be aware. The second seals of awakening have been changed to parallel seals which no longer change level upon reclassing. Speaking of which, reclassing is more limited and requires more planning if you want to give certain class skills to certain units thanks to marriage seals and Buddy Seals. Map variety is a huge improvement, many maps feature a mechanic to handle or utilize and the amount of objectives is better handled overall. This is generally well handled throughout all of the paths. In addition, the AI doesn't "suicide" into your units as often anymore and weaker units have a tendency to pair up with nearby healthy units to power them up. Taken as a full product, what Fates offers is 80 unique maps, a multiplayer feature (With online play) and a base customization feature (both of which are also rather nice for the most part) for around $72, this content to price is roughly better than the previous offering in the series and I personally got a great deal of enjoyment out of all three paths because the pacing and content is much stronger than before. I look forward to the english release with all of you to experience this rather solid and enjoyable game in full.