What makes Fire Emblem a great series? A question many people have started asking since Fire Emblem Awakening propelled the series into mainstream games. On the surface, it appears to be a standard turn-based strategy game, so why does it gain such recognition? The fact is Fire Emblem actually has many things that most strategy game RPGs contain, the turn-based strategy, a grid map for combat, diverse cast of characters and customization options. When looking deeper into the series it’s clear that the real charm of the games is in the execution and combination of the games features.
Fire Emblem has a lot of things to consider when making each and every move; however, each thing to consider is easy to grasp and account for. What makes each turn consist of so much head scratching is considering how all of these elements work together to make a successful move. This is one thing that separates Fire Emblem from other strategy games because the game’s mechanics are easy to grasp: Swords have the advantage over axes, you can’t move enemies over water unless they can fly, different terrains have different effect, these aspects don’t require heavy thinking to figure out. The game requires a lot of focus in executing each turn, but it doesn’t need a lot of focus to try to figure out how to make each action so it leaves the player to focus on the game itself.
The series also has some of the most diverse cast of characters I’ve ever seen. While you only see a little bit of dialogue from each character during the main storyline; you really gain a lot of knowledge about the stories behind the characters when they bond with one another via fighting side by side on the map. When the bond grows the characters unlock support conversations where they reveal little tidbits about their past. This is where the characters really come to life as each unique bond reveals a new piece of information about the characters. Yeah it takes a lot of work to really get to know each and every character, but the game is so much fun that it’s not a problem replaying the game several times to see more about the characters. To add to the importance of the characters, if you choose to turn on perma-death, if you happen to lose one of your characters then they are gone for the rest of the game. This makes each character much more important because every move with your characters counts. Knowing that the characters are not a permanent thing to the game makes them feel more important as a whole, after all nobody bats an eye when Mario dies because he’s just going to come right back.
The final thing that really helps to separate Fire Emblem from other strategy games is the sheer amount of customization that you can do in the game. You have so many characters that you can only pick a small subset of characters to send into battle, but the series gives you multiple characters of each type that you can choose from. This really helps because I personally find that most strategy games really limit how you can pick characters to go into battle, most of the time you’re picking a majority of the characters so really you’re just picking the ones you really don’t want to send into battle, and using the rest. Fire Emblem it feels more like you have so many characters that you’re able to pick the exact combination of characters that works for you.
Now while there are things that separate Fire Emblem from other games, that’s not the only things that make the games great. While the game’s story is very generic, you’re in one country and another country declares war, the execution is very well done. The games go all out with the stories where you’re forced out of your homes and it requires you to go to all sorts of places to recruit help before the final battle. In the process the games really deliver a lot of information about the lore and cultures of the individual games which really gives each game its own unique flair. It really feels like each game has its own complex civilization with its own rules, customs and personality quirks. While each game has the same base mechanics, each game really creates its own world to experience.
The last thing I want to bring up is the fact that each game also has a focal point. What I mean by that is there is a core topic that revolves around each game that is prevalent throughout the entire game. In Path of Radiance the game delves deep into the cruelty of racial diversity, Sacred Stones is a lot about family, Awakening deals a lot with self-realization and Fates puts a lot of emphasis on morality. This focus really helps with bringing the series to life because the games cover topics where the players can see the characters grow and mature as they get a better understanding of this topic and as a result it not only makes for a more convincing story, but the characters themselves become more relatable as they tackle personal issues that we either understand from personal experience or just know a lot about the significance of the topic.
So there you have it. Fire Emblem does a lot of unique things well from easy mechanics that pile up and create complicated choices to characters that have somehow lived entire lives before you even pick up the game. Then there’s the traditional elements that are found in most RPGs, a compelling story, interesting characters and a lot of gameplay. When you pick a set of characters you absolutely enjoy watching and making every move count to ensure there survival you consider all of the aspects of the battlefield without fear of misunderstanding them, but simply a fear of failing your characters. When the battle is over the characters grow and mature they show you more of what makes them who they are, a reward to the players for getting them through the battle safe and sound. Fire Emblem truly stands out as an excellent strategy RPG because it simply does a lot of thing well, and the things they do well bounce off of the other elements so the things they do great become even better and that creates a memorable gaming experience.