So, I think it’s time we had the talk - about Fire Emblem.
Prior to the release of Nier Automata, a Fire Emblem game was my favourite of all time. The weird thing was which one it was - the Wii iteration, Radiant Dawn. Not the typical answer for a favourite FE game, let alone of all time - often it is referred to as the black sheep of the series. It was the first I played; I fell so head over heels for it that I played it over again twice after finishing it the first time. I bought a Wii U based on the (incorrect) assumption that Nintendo would release a Zelda (they kinda did) and a Fire Emblem (they did not) for the system. Since the last console release, Nintendo have released 3 more FE’s - all on 3DS.
I played through the entirety of Awakening a few months after release. I was so happy to hear the world sing its praises - the series was saved! - but if you ask me now what happened in that game, I couldn’t answer. I can barely even remember the characters, which is so important for a game all about the characters. Fates came along a couple of years later, with the promise of 3 separate storylines - yet, it still sat on my pile.
I think I have to admit something - I’m not a typical Fire Emblem fan. The horniness of the 3DS releases is well known at this point, which is one of the big draws for a lot of players. Now I’m not shy in the slightest about some horny in my games - my sweetest memories of Dragon Age: Inquisition was my time with The Iron Bull - but something about the way it’s focused on in 3DS FE’s just rubs me in a weird way. I totally get that others are into it, definitely no judgement here, it’s what has kept the franchise alive more recently - but I can’t shake the feeling that I used to be the target audience, yet am no longer.
It was with a heavy heart that I shut down my play through of Fates for likely the final time this week. I had tried twice to work my way through Birthright, both times getting around 12 maps in, yet all I could feel was frustrated at the battles and couldn’t care less about the story. It just wasn’t working for me. The story was excessively dramatic, the characters felt overly caricatured and shallow and weirdly enough there were too many characters. The game throws them at you 2 or 3 at a time - you barely get a chance to be aquanted before you’re whisked away to another group of newcomers. Even the number of classes are excessive - there’s just too much to wrap your head around.
What makes my favourite in the series so good to me is it’s restraint - though the story flourishes into a world spanning anime ass anime story, the beginnings see you following a group of half a dozen rebels fighting back against a cruel occupying force. There’s political intrigue and character conflict, racial tensions and strategic warfare. I can barely remember any of this being key in Awakening, and Fates feels even further from that.
I was resigned to my fate (heh) and was planning to leave it at that, but I still have 1 more 3DS FE left to cross off the list. I chucked the cart in not knowing what to expect, though I was optimistic - the story of Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a retelling of a much older game, when the series was simpler and smaller scale. The story also follows 2 separate protagonists - another common link with Radiant Dawn. The fact that this game got only OK reviews and not much attention, weirdly enough, gave me hope.
I’m glad I dropped Fates and moved on. Shadows of Valentia is everything I hoped it would be. The story begins as a simple group of ragtag commoners fighting in a resistance against a lavishly hostile regime. The parties remain small throughout, with a total of less than 30 across 2 different character sets 20 hours in. The story unfolds with satisfying reveals at a quick pace. There is still a bit of horny present - I’m all in on the unabashedly gay Leon, and the way Claire handles Grey’s attention is just sublime. In short, it’s everything I’ve wanted in a Fire Emblem since Radiant Dawn.
It’s tough, coming to the realisation that you are a minority in a fanbase. We all love the same basic concept, yet all come at it from slightly different angles. That being said, I hold no bitterness for the fans that are passionate for this series in ways I’m not - they are the ones helping it flourish after all, and we wouldn’t have this fantastic remake if it weren’t for them. And hey, who knows - Nintendo may end up making another Radiant Dawn yet.
Games Left to Play: 107
Currently Playing: Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Budget Remaining for 2018: $300