Fire Emblem has reached its 25th anniversary as a series and in celebration, developer Intelligent Systems has crafted Fire Emblem Fates. The title is a bit ambitious in light of the anniversary. It's split three ways, which will probably be confusing for many people. All three versions have 25+ chapters, putting them at roughly the same size as Awakening's main plot.
Birthright is the first game, putting your Avatar on the side of the Eastern-themed Hoshido. It's the easiest of the three titles, with a single straightforward objective in every map (kill everyone), easier map layouts, and the ability to grind battles endlessly to make your army stronger. This is aimed at new players who really jumped into the series with Fire Emblem: Awakening.
Conquest is the second title, leaving your Avatar with your adopted family, the Western-styled Nohr. Conquest has more varied offensive and defensive objectives, complex maps, and outside of a few cases, lacks any extra maps for players to grind on. It's meant for those that were honed on the classic Fire Emblem games and want a harder strategy title, while hardcore Awakening fans just want to pair their army up.
Finally, there's Fire Emblem Fates: Revelations. In Japan, this was DLC released later that filled in holes in the other two titles, with your Avatar taking neither side of the conflict. It's mix of both games in gameplay and you can actually use building from both sides if you're playing Revelations.
Here in North America, you can either buy Birthright or Conquest for $39.99. No matter which one you choose, you can pick up the other path and Revelations as DLC for $19.99 each. For folks who don't have the all-in-one package of the Special Edition, Revelation won't be launching until March 10.
For the purposes of this review, we've treated Birthright and Conquest as completely different experiences. This is because they are: though marketing and the covers themselves may make players think they're two sides of the same coin like generational Pokemon releases, they're really not. Both games give you a relatively complete story and unique style of play. You're supposed to choose which game you'd rather enjoy. (Mike has issues with this idea, mostly because he'd like to interact with the Nohr cast playing the Birthright experience, but it is what it is.)