Pro tip: rock-paper-scissors equals sword-ax-lance.
July 2, 2017 8:14 AM   Subscribe

Fire Emblem: The History and The Resonance [YouTube] “EPN Films and Nintendo worked together to create a cool mini-documentary about one of the longest running series in videogames: Fire Emblem! Take a trip through time and around the world as Victor Lucas and his guests, Johnny Millennium from the Happy Console Gamer show, and Nintendo's Andrew Collins dive deep into this venerable franchise.”

• Fire Emblem: A European Retrospective [YouTube]
“Nintendo of Europe has shared a special Fire Emblem video. The trailer gives a look at a timeline showcasing the games of the series and which titles released when, as well as what unique features were added with each new installment.”
• The Great History of Fire Emblem (1990 - 2018) [Each Video]
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light (1990)
Fire Emblem Gaiden (1992)
Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem (1994)
Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War (1996)
BS Fire Emblem/ New Archanea Chronicles (1997)
Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 (1999)
Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade (2002)
Fire Emblem/ Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken/ Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword (2003)
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (2004)
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (2005)
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (2007)
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon (2008)
Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem (2010)
Fire Emblem Awakening (2012)
Fire Emblem Fates (2015)
Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE (2015)
Fire Emblem Heroes (2017)
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (2017)
Fire Emblem Warriors (2017)
Untitled Fire Emblem Game (2018)
• What is Fire Emblem? Learn about the classic SRPG [Games Radar+]
“Mario, Zelda, and Metroid star in some of the most beloved franchises in all of gaming, but some of Nintendos oldest properties have never really caught on in the west (and thats even if Nintendo bothered to localize them). Fire Emblem is one such series, and the most recent entry, Fire Emblem: Awakening, is just hitting US stores. Yet, as exciting as that new release might be for franchise fans, Fire Emblem leaves the majority of gamers confused by each new tactical entry. Now that interest in the series is as higher than it has been in some time, we created this feature in the hopes of clearing some things up about its substantial history and seemingly arcane rules. Whether youre totally new to the series or in need of a refresher before Awakening hits the 3DS, this should at least give you some idea of why Fire Emblem has been around for more than 20 years”
• Pocket Primer: A complete history of Fire Emblem [Pocket Gamer]
“We thought we'd take a quick trip down memory lane to look back at the complete history of this venerable strategy series. While it wasn't the first tactical RPG, Fire Emblem was still one of the earliest games in which grid-based tactical battles were mashed up with RPG-style character progression. It also featured permadeath, so defeated units would be lost forever. Most of the Fire Emblem games were exclusive to Japan, and it took almost 15 years for the first English Fire Emblem game to materialise. So, don't be too embarrassed if you don't recognise half the games below.”
• The past, present and future of Fire Emblem [Eurogamer]
“We discussed what would be possible to make in the short time until the development of the new game for Nintendo Switch really starts, and we decided it would be best to work on a remake instead of a brand new title." It's a swan song of sorts for Fire Emblem on the 3DS (although it's worth remembering that Fire Emblem Warriors, the musou spin-off, will also be releasing on the handheld later this year), and a chance to say farewell to the hardware that helped revive the series. As famously noted in an Iwata Asks interview between the late president of Nintendo and Intelligent Systems, Fire Emblem was considered a series on its way out before Awakenings revived its fortunes. After Echoes, though, there's set to be a retooling of the series when it lands on Switch next year. "I'm very happy that we were able to announce a new game for the home console, Nintendo Switch," says Intelligent Systems' Masahiro Higuchi. "I'm confident that the gameplay of Fire Emblem hasn't lost anything by being on handhelds such as Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS or Nintendo 3DS. By returning to a home console though, we can deliver a title with a level of quality higher than on a handheld not only in terms of game system, but also in terms of graphics and audio too."”
• Fire Emblem reaches into the past to give the series a fresh new feel with Shadows of Valentia [Retronauts]
“I very nearly embarrassed myself with my take on Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. If I hadn't realized a few days ago that the latest 3DS entry in Nintendo and Intelligent Systems' strategy RPG franchise is a remake of an old Famicom game, I might have waxed rhapsodic about how it offers a "welcome burst of inspiration" or "finally helps add some interesting new innovation" to the series' formula. As it turns out, though, the "innovation" that makes Valentia so appealing was in fact laid down 25 years ago in the original version of the game: Fire Emblem Gaiden. If you remember Shadow Dragon, that remake simply brought the original Fire Emblem for Famicom up to approximately Game Boy Advance standards. It boasted nicer, more detailed visuals and more elaborate text than the older version, but otherwise, it felt pretty similar to the 8-bit release. Valentia, on the other hand, brings an older to the standards of the original 3DS Fire Emblem titles — and then takes it a step further. The combat engine comes straight from Fates: You shuffle your little strategy pawns as 2D sprites around a slightly tilted battlefield, and once a combat encounter commences the camera zooms in and blurs to a cinematic 3D sequence in which your characters' actions play out against a foe. This time, however, the 3D view serves an expanded role. It's not just about looking pretty; once you claim certain map areas from the foe, you're allowed to venture into that building or dungeon. ”
• Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia Takes a Calculated Risk By Revamping the Strategy RPG [IGN]
“For those who were lucky enough to find a way to play Fire Emblem Gaiden, it soon became apparent what set it apart as the black sheep of the Fire Emblem family. Many new and odd mechanics were added to Gaiden that would either never be seen again, or slowly return as the series finally expanded for release overseas. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia faithfully brings many of these interesting mechanics back - but also tweaks them with new features that seems to avoid some of the pitfalls that Gaiden faced back on the Famicom. [...] Battles may look familiar enough at first glance, but there’s a lot to take in quickly if you want all your units to survive. For starters, the familiar weapon triangle is gone. No more swords beating axes, or spears beating swords - nor is there a hierarchy for magic. And speaking of magic, your casters are even more like glass cannons this time around. Spellcasting, while powerful, drains various amounts of health per cast, forcing you to guard them closely or rely on lifestealing magic like Nosferatu to gain back lost health.”
• Fire Emblem Heroes review: deftly striking a balance between free and fun. [The Verge]
“Fire Emblem Heroes is trying to be two very different things at the same time. On one side, it’s a major new release from Nintendo, in this case the latest entry in a long-running and greatly respected turn-based strategy series from renowned studio Intelligent Systems. With a dedicated fanbase, it has a lot to live up to. On the other side, it’s a free-to-play mobile title, a game designed in part to get players to fork out cash to play longer or unlock new characters. These two disparate halves should seemingly lead to a game that feels at odds with itself. But for the most part, Heroes deftly balances the two, resulting in a streamlined strategy game that mostly resembles Fire Emblem, but in a way that feels at home on your phone. [...] The biggest difference between combat in Heroes and other Fire Emblem games is the sense of scale. Skirmishes are much smaller here with each map is designed to fit entirely on your phone’s screen. Your team of soldiers is limited to four, comparatively small to the dozen-strong armies of its predecessors.”
• Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright and Conquest [Kotaku]
“Fates is a tactical role-playing game that allows players to control an army of fantasy chess pieces. Each piece has its own rules for movement and combat, and more importantly, each piece is its own individual character with his or her own specific hopes and dreams. The more you fight alongside your troops, the better you’ll get to know them outside of the battlefield. Fire Emblem is as much about relationships as it is about war. While the long-running Fire Emblem series has let players foster relationships with troops for a while now, Awakening intensified things by letting characters have kids with each other. It was a decision that split the fanbase between those who loved the military maneuvering but feared the series was turning into “anime garbage,” and those who were delighted to have an unusual brand of dating sim to play. The game’s makers at Intelligent Systems must have noticed that divide, because the latest Fire Emblem is split into two versions: Birthright and Conquest. Each game has unique aspirations that cater to the tastes of the two camps, and depending on which one you choose to play, you’ll get an entirely different set of characters to meet, war scenarios to conquer, and narrative threads to explore.”
• Fire Emblem Fates Isn't Afraid of Big, Bold, Choices [Killscreen]
“You must decide whether to side with the people you just met who claim to be your real family (Birthright), the warmongering family who raised you as one of their own (Conquest), or strike out on your own (Revelation). In and of itself, this presents a radical alternative to the kind of end-game decision-making that you see in games like Mass Effect (2007) or Bastion (2011), where the player finally makes a choice with world historical consequences and is rewarded with one of a few end cutscenes depending on what they chose. The question Fire Emblem Fates asks is: What would happen if that choice were practically the first one you made? What if you could choose your family? Those divergent paths allow for you to get to know characters on both sides of the battlefield, making the morally uncomplicated instruction you’re often given to start battles—”rout the enemy”—much less of a given. Whether you see a certain character as friend or foe depends entirely on that choice you made, one that is irrevocable except by quite literally “playing out” the alternatives to it. Your family in Birthright becomes your sworn enemy in Conquest and something else altogether in Revelation. As motivations reveal themselves, sympathies shift. .”
• Fire Emblem Awakening - Higher Ground [Polygon]
“Awakening's story focuses on a player-created Tactician character and Prince Chrom, heir to the throne. His country of Ylisse faces imminent invasion from a neighboring nation and an outbreak of attacking undead soldiers. As Prince Chrom's new tactician, you lead his ragtag army of assorted job classes into battle against the warring nation. The plot of Awakening is linear, but there are enough extra missions and unpredictable plot twists to hold attention. Picking up optional fighters via sidequests adds narrative depth — especially when these characters have connections to others currently in your party. The relationships between characters develop and strengthen through cutscenes that are alternately humorous and heartfelt. As you eavesdrop on conversations in the barracks or take part in direct dialogue using the support feature, you'll learn the backstory and personalities of individual characters. These relationships become the game's main draw, adding a layer of humanity and warmth to a game of military tactics. The characters matter beyond the story as well. Each of the dozens of recruitable allies has a unique class or abilities that can completely reshape the battlefield. You never have to send the same team to battle twice, so missions never grow tedious.”
• Fire Emblem Awakening - Games That I Like That I Become Obsessed With [Kotaku]
“This is the core of the new Fire Emblem. It's not squarely a war game. It's a game about relationships. This was most unexpected. There have been Fire Emblem games on many Nintendo systems. We've gotten a bunch of them in America. The Sacred Stones was back on the Game Boy Advance. Shadow Dragon was on the DS. Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn on the Wii and GameCube. All are marvelous and rival the likes of X-Com, Final Fantasy Tactics and Advance Wars in the turn-based strategy genre. Fire Emblems stood out. They stood out for putting the genre in a dark fantasy sword-and-sorcery setting and for daring players to enjoy one of the great sadistic design choices in video games: permadeath. What the older Fire Emblems did for death, the new game does for relationships. What the older Fire Emblems did for death, the new game does for relationships. In some of the previous games in the series, characters could "support" each other. By standing next to each other in battle—based on where you placed them, of course—they'd gain an affinity for each other. They'd receive a stats boost and occasionally chitchat during or between missions. That once-obscure system is now one of Awakening's most prominent features. Characters can pair up, occupying the same square and boosting each other's stats.”
posted by Fizz (19 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
For anyone wondering where to start. Fire Emblem: Awakening is a great place. It's where I jumped into this series and I've been hooked since. If you're able to find a 3DS, do yourself a favour and immediately download/purchase this game. You'll not regret it. The story, the artwork, the game-play, it's all very engaging and tense.
posted by Fizz at 8:19 AM on July 2, 2017

Heh, talk about serendipity – I have been on a Fire Emblem Awakening binge this weekend (couldn't drag Zelda BotW on the Switch out any longer, looked around for another game, and FEA had been on my New 3DS XL for a year). So very, very much fun. Once I have put the kibosh on Grima (hopefully later this evening), I'll be turning my attention to Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE on the Wii-U.
posted by bouvin at 8:51 AM on July 2, 2017

I'm just beginning Fire Emblem: Echoes and I feel like it's a very much a throw-back entry for this series. Obviously with the fact that it's a reboot of Fire Emblem Gaiden, but also just in gameplay. It takes out a lot of the relationship-building/social dynamics of the last few games. Which may or may not be a good thing for fans who like that part of the game. Echoes seems to really be focused on the fighting and less on the social and it's a bit refreshing.
posted by Fizz at 9:47 AM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

They stood out for putting the genre in a dark fantasy sword-and-sorcery setting and for daring players to enjoy one of the great sadistic design choices in video games: permadeath

The thing that makes permadeath sadistic in FE versus say X-Com, is that recruiting new units is done in combat, by keeping existing units alive for special events. If an archer ambush takes out your first pegasus unit, not did you lose that unit, but you lost all the units it might have recruited, and all the units its recruits might have recruited (no triangle attack for you!) That sort of thing. And you don't typically get farmable EXP to make up that hole in your army, so if your army suffers enough casulties, you'll drop below the size and exp standards designers build levels around, making further losses more inevitable, and eventually your campaign stalls out.

As a result, most people just soft-reset to restart the level the moment anyone's death scene comes up. Which is pretty often given that:

1. Virtually all maps feature more enemy units than you can bring to the battlefield, and you need to kill them all for EXP.
2. A lot of the strategy is about planning who takes the hit when the enemy advances on their turn.
3. Critical hits mean that a myrmidon with a killing edge can one shot units, but also anyone if you're just that unlucky.
4. Ranged weapons that would put you outside of this risk (further than 2 squares) are incredibly rare and break quickly.
5. Hit percentages vary strongly depending on weapon type. Axes are strong, but prone to whiffing, which makes them difficult to rely on tactically.
6. Enemy AI will send their units into certain death. Usually you can just place a high def tank down on a choke point, and take your time killing one enemy unit a turn. If you choose a high spd build, instead you end up in a cycle of violence where someone punches you for 5 HP, you counter attack them twice, slaying them where they stand, and free up the space for another henchman to immediately march up and repeat the cycle of violence. All you can do is watch Guy's health bar slowly erode, hoping for just one more dodge.
7. In some FE games the AI straight up prioritizes getting a single kill.

Fates tried to fix this core frustration by allowing players to turn off permadeath, but if you do that, it removes all the challenge -- maps are balanced with permadeath in mind, and there are very easy strategies to end up killing 2-3 enemy units per allied casualty.

Really the best strategy is to just play Advance Wars instead. Or, if you crave medieval fantasy combat, patiently wait for WarGroove.
posted by pwnguin at 11:43 AM on July 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

Really the best strategy is to just play Advance Wars instead. Or, if you crave medieval fantasy combat, patiently wait for WarGroove

You said WarGroove but you really meant Valkyria Chronicles!
posted by Fizz at 1:42 PM on July 2, 2017

Although, WarGroove looks dope. Thanks for sharing, that wasn't on my radar.
posted by Fizz at 1:43 PM on July 2, 2017

I've never managed to play Fire Emblem; pretty much all I know is that for the last decade the character Titania is incredibly popular among "women in armor" image threads. I mean, someone will put out a request along the lines of "Does anybody have images of badass women in practical armor?", and within half an hour an image of Titania will show up.

In a medium full of "stripper armor",her design is kind of refreshing.
posted by happyroach at 2:51 PM on July 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately, Titania's sort of an unusable character -- she comes pre-promoted, and more powerful than the rest of your units. Sounds great, except every kill she nets costs you a like half a level for someone else while gaining her 1 percent of a level. So if you use her to say, solo a map, the next level you'll be pretty boned, as the enemies leveled up but none of your army did. Eventually she can't carry your team and you've discovered yet another way to strategically stall out your campaign with no real solutions other than starting over and using her sparingly. Late game, she's not nearly as useful, as every character has unique stats growth rates, and hers are average at best, and prepromoted at level 10, rather than waiting till level 20.

Titania's design is fairly representative of FE's character design up until Awakening, which kinda started a downhill slide and embraced all the worst tropes imaginable. Camilla's design is pretty much cheesecake. And Fates in the US was tamed down from where they were going with it gameplay wise -- rubbing the screen to pet your virtual waifus to make them love you more. So I wouldn't exactly call the FE series stripper armor free.
posted by pwnguin at 3:50 PM on July 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh yeah- I've never been impressed by FE designs in general, they tend to be as eye-rolling bad as any video game. The gameplay problem is sad to- and makes me glad I never did try to play the game.
posted by happyroach at 4:12 PM on July 2, 2017

Gameplay isn't really too bad, esp in Path of Radiance (Titania's first appearance), where they made all the difficulties easier. Which was fine up till I had to replay the game in order to import my characters into the sequel at a difficulty setting it would recognize as valid.
posted by pwnguin at 4:18 PM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

FE: Path of Radiance is maybe my favorite game ever
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:01 PM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Eyebrows McGee, You're not a lone in saying that. I keep on hearing that this is one of the strongest games in the franchise. Sadly, I never owned a GameCube. I've considered an emulator, maybe I'll try to finally make that happen.
posted by Fizz at 8:33 AM on July 3, 2017

I'm hoping for a Switch release for Path of Radiance. I didn't know how much I'd like Fire Emblem back when I had a GameCube and I've long since sold it.

I'm excited about playing Shadows of Valentia soon. I enjoy the social parts of the more recent games a lot, but "grinding for friendship" leads me to some weird and not-always-good places gameplay-wise.
posted by asperity at 9:48 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm excited about playing Shadows of Valentia soon. I enjoy the social parts of the more recent games a lot, but "grinding for friendship" leads me to some weird and not-always-good places gameplay-wise.

Then you'll be pleased with Shadows of Valentia. It has more emphasis on the action/fighting and less on social pairings of the more recent FE games. I don't think it was something they actively wanted to remove from the game, but more a consequence of them rebooting Fire Emblem Gaiden which didn't focus on these more social elements to begin with.
posted by Fizz at 2:45 PM on July 3, 2017

Those social pairings seem to only have been introduced since Awakening. Though, I could be wrong.

If someone more familiar with the franchise can chime in about whether or not those game play elements were in the series before Awakening, I'd love to hear about it.
posted by Fizz at 3:40 PM on July 3, 2017

The relationship mechanic goes back to the SNES era, but as a filthy American, I only jumped in with the GC/GBA US launches. Supports were definitely in the first FE released in the US. They're not exactly as prominent as in Awakening, but the basics are that characters level up Supports from C -> B -> A rank pairings, and because you were limited to 5 support conversations, you couldn't get more than one A rank relationship per character. Apparently some A rank supports changed the end game story, but I don't recall much in detail.

Since Gaiden predates those, it makes some sense that they didn't try to shoehorn it in anyways. Though apparently they're considering it for a new Advance Wars:
“Personally, I’d love to do Advance Wars, but since it’s harder to create relationships between its characters compared to Fire Emblem, I don’t have a clear idea of what kind of setting it could have.” – Yamagami
posted by pwnguin at 6:46 PM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Sadly, I never owned a GameCube. I've considered an emulator, maybe I'll try to finally make that happen."

I bought the game used for $5 to play on my Wii, SO GREAT. That and Mario Kart (which my kids love) are still why I own my original Wii!

I've been playing the mobile game the last couple days. On the one hand IT IS GOOD! On the other hand, it has annoying things I dislike about Fire Emblem, primarily excessive animations you can't turn off.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:43 PM on July 4, 2017

The mobile game does allow you to turn off some or all of the combat animations, but I haven't found any way to speed up the level-up notices.
posted by asperity at 8:11 AM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was gonna plug the mobile game too! Even though it's a different-ish genre, it still feels like a Fire Emblem game, so it's a decent way to figure out if you might want to shell out for the other games. And it's really kind to its f2p players. You can defo turn off all the combat animations and tap the screen to speed things up.

Another way to dip your toes in is to emulate the old GBA games. Blazing Blade and Sacred Stones are the two that were localized into English, and I'd recommend Sacred Stones.

and for anyone who does dip their toes in there's a super-helpful fan website, Serenes Forest, that has information for all the games.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 10:59 AM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

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