Fire Emblem Fates, the fifteenth game in the Fire Emblem series, released today. For the first time, the series follows two distinct storylines across two different versions, Birthright and Conquest. Since the series’ humble beginnings in 1990, Fire Emblem has become one of the largest strategy RPG game series with a strong fan base across the world.
Fire Emblem was a Japan-only game series until two characters, Marth and Roy, were included as playable characters in the 2001 fighting game Super Smash Bros. Melee. Their popularity in the West eventually convinced Nintendo to release the next title, The Sword of Flame, in western regions under the title Fire Emblem in 2003.
However, it wasn’t until the 2012 release, Fire Emblem Awakening, that the popularity of the series really took off in the West. Awakening included several new features for the series, such as character relationships, that have given fans more ways to connect with the series’ strong characters. The large roster of Fire Emblem characters in recent Smash Bros games has also been a big reason for the series’ growing player base.
What elements of Fire Emblem have made it such a success today? Let’s take a look at what makes this game series so special.
The name “Fire Emblem” has become entirely synonymous with the strategy RPG genre, though the game’s creators have dubbed the series an “RPG Simulation” game. Players take control of an army of unique characters based around different classes. Players move across a grid-based battlefield, defeating enemies and accomplishing objectives.
There is a “rock-paper-scissors” element to the gameplay as well, featuring swords, axes, and lances. Each weapon has a distinct advantage over the other in close-quarters combat. This added layer of strategy gives the player a variety of options to each battle. The freedom to choose your units, their weapons, and their approach makes the gameplay a blast and offers great replayability.
The Fire Emblem series is well-known for its consistently strong character design. All of the playable characters are given their own unique illustrations, and have their own avatar in battle. The designs are often very colorful, with a wide variety of hair colors, armor types, accessories, and other details.
The appearance of characters can also change as they rank up their class. The evolution of each character’s look can be a great motivator to use them in battle. With the sheer amount of characters per game, it’s amazing how each one feels wholly different.
The characters of Fire Emblem are often given memorable personalities to match their unique look. Despite the games featuring an immense playable cast, the series does a notable job of showcasing each character’s personality in a small amount of time. The characters’ personalities feel distinct, and they often have goofy quirks that make them even more endearing.
The Fire Emblem series feature well written and exciting storylines in each game. Each title begins in a similar fashion, with a major character (usually a lord) dealing with global struggles against major factions and enemies, big and small. The themes of friendship, loyalty, and love are common in each game. The storylines themselves often feature a surprising amount of political intrigue. The plots of Fire Emblem games are more mature than many of Nintendo’s other franchises, but are still suitable for a younger audience.
Fire Emblem is notorious for its use of permanent death, or “permadeath.” If any of your characters perish in battle, they are gone forever. This adds an immense amount of pressure on the player to complete battles without losing a single party member. It is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying when one of your favorite characters has low health and is surrounded by enemies. Most players would rather retry a battle than suffer any losses, and the strive towards perfection can become addicting. Newer games, such as Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates, do not have this feature enabled by default, but it can be enabled by increasing the difficulty.
Fire Emblem Awakening popularized another key feature of the modern series: the ability for players to romantically pair characters together. Characters can be joined together in battle, giving them stat boosts. By repeatedly pairing the same units together, affection will slowly grow between them. The player is rewarded by seeing unique scenes between the two characters, and many of them can lead to romance. These romances can eventually lead to children, who become playable characters in the second half of the game and combine the traits of their parents! There is a certain joy that comes with being able to pair off each member of your army, and then watch their progeny grow to become heros on the battlefield.
Learn more about Fire Emblem Fates and previous games in the series at the Fire Emblem Wiki.