Fire Emblem has had fans since the first game debuted in the West, but it never really took off like Nintendo's other franchises. It was not Mario. It was not Zelda. Heck, it wasn’t even a Kirby. The list goes on.
And yet now it's hard to imagine Fire Emblem not being one of Nintendo's key pillars. The reason can all be traced back to Fire Emblem Awakening in 2013. How exactly did Nintendo and Intelligent Systems turn this once niche ship around? Let's take a look at all the welcomed changes since this 3DS smash hit shelves.
While Fire Emblem was always good since it debuted in 2003, the difficulty and permadeath haunted more casual players. Thanks to Awakening adding not only a more eased difficulty but also the stripping of permadeath, it became more of an open franchise. If one wants it just as hard as the previous entries than that classic style is still available too. As an added piece of trivia Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem on DS was actually the first instance of a Casual mode, but the West never received it.
Awakening was not the first game to initiate non-linear battles, but that said it did make them better. There were so many ways to grind things out on the world map from random encounters generated from the computer to side quests. Even if one did keep the classic difficulty up, this system made it possible to even the playing field a bit more without having to feel guilty. Just as a heads up, no one should feel guilty, or weak for choosing Casual mode. The main point of the game is to have fun, right?
One mechanic Awakening did bring to the table was building relationships. Yes, they existed before, but they never resulted in a time-traveling baby. Of all of Nintendo’s franchises, Fire Emblem was the last one would probably think would have time travel.
They appear late in the game so the kids may not be as useful as the party one has painstakingly put together and kept alive for dozens of hours, but hey, it was cool regardless and really fed into crowds that dig fan shipping. Talk about a DeviantArt explosion.
Despite what AAA publishers may sometimes think, games do not need to ship with multiplayer options in order to make them “good” or any thoughts like that. However, if done well, they are welcomed additions like in the case of Awakening. It allowed players to not only team up for certain battles, but it also had a fun SpotPass feature. If a friend walked by with their 3DS on, their icon would appear on the player’s map as a random encounter.
On the subject of multiplayer, there was another welcomed online feature: DLC. Yes, it would be great if all DLC was free, which this game had some, but the cost of these extra maps were cheap enough to be enticing. Not only that, but the cool thing about each set were their themes often being tributes to past games in the franchise. As an added bit of trivia the Wii game, Radiant Dawn, was going to be the first game to add DLC, but the idea was ultimately scrapped.
Of the Fire Emblem games that the West received, every story sort of blended together. They weren’t bad, but they did feel like forgettable fantasy tales told too often. With Awakening Nintendo and Intelligent Systems spiced things up with better graphics, voice acting, and an overall plot one could get behind. When in doubt, add time travel! That can backfire sometimes in terms of lore making sense, but in terms of that game, it ruled.
One of the biggest reasons why the narrative felt particularly grand was the fact that it added players to the story. Tacticians they “created” often represented players but they were silent and didn’t really add anything to the story.
Not only did Awakening allow for more customization options including gender, but also players finally got a voice and a narrative part in the plot. It was the connection this series was sorely missing for decades.
Sometimes the player can have their map riddled with too many characters. Some of which may move incredibly slow thus leaving them open to get attacked and in turn die. While party members could pair up with others to avoid this folly and to cover more distance in previous games, they weren’t able to take part in battle. It was as if they weren’t there, which logically didn’t make any sense. Well, with the aptly titled Dual System, characters could both attack making for some intense combos if planned right.
This may be a silly entry, but go ahead and look how many Fire Emblem characters there are in Amiibo form. Also, go ahead and look at how many are represented in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The answer is a lot and for good reason. Thanks to Awakening the love for this series seemingly doubled if not tripled. These statues also have some pretty cool functionality like being able to use Marth in Code Name S.T.E.A.M. as a playable character.
Overall the thing that really changed this series for the better was embracing the West. Fire Emblem started on the Famicom in 1990. The first game the West received was the seventh title and that was, again, in 2003. That was a long wait for a first party Nintendo RPG! Even after it hit it didn’t really click with everyone so Nintendo was still hesitant on localizing everything in the series. There is a phone game for crying out loud! After Awakening was a hit they haven’t skipped a beat yet and hopefully never will again.