The Fire Emblem Nintendo Direct has brought us an array of new announcements, and it’s time to dig into just what Nintendo has in store for the series.
First off is Fire Emblem: Echoes – Shadows of Valentia. Perhaps the most unexpected game from the Direct, Shadows of Valentia is a “re-imagining” of the Japan-only Fire Emblem Gaiden, which released way back on the Famicom in 1992. Many fans, myself included, were shocked to see Nintendo and Intelligent Systems focusing on a title that could very well be the black sheep of the Fire Emblem franchise. Gaiden was only the second entry in the Fire Emblem series, and many of the features that would become series staples had not been introduced yet. As you can see in the trailer, the game appears to be running on the same engine as Fire Emblem Fates, but there are a number of interesting, revamped inclusions this time around.
Most noticeably, there will be a 3D dungeon-crawling aspect outside of battle, where you can control your character and freely move around the area—a first for the series. If done right, this could add an enjoyable new layer to the gameplay, allowing for players to explore and immerse themselves in the world, and it would be a nice change-up to the formula. Also seen is a a segment from the Famicom game, showcasing the ability to explore towns. Both of these additions look great, and I think there’s a lot of potential to be had from updating Gaiden’s many gameplay quirks, as the NES was quite limiting in terms of the scope that the original was trying to aim for. However, Gaiden was also a relatively short game and its maps were repetitive and frustrating. Intelligent Systems will have to find a fine balance between creating a faithful remake while also modernizing its more antiquated aspects, which hopefully results in a better retreading than Shadow Dragon.
Newcomers to the Fire Emblem series are familiar with the support system, where you can have characters befriend, and later on, marry each other. This was not a mechanic in the Famicom entries, and as the Direct said, this will be a faithful recreation, so perhaps we won’t be seeing Supports return for this title. I can’t help but wonder that, if true, would it still appeal to the more casual crowd of Fire Emblem fans? However you may think of its inclusion in recent games, that feature has been undeniably important to the Western appeal of the series, and going without it could negatively impact sales outside of Japan. Awakening is what managed to revive the series, from adding tons of great support conversations, to offering a casual mode for players who were more interested in playing a romantic army simulator rather than a strategy RPG. While I don’t think that having a support system is necessary for the game to be fun, I do think that it should be added in order for Nintendo to hold onto the audience that they’ve gathered and have it sell as successfully as Awakening and Fates have.
On the subject of Awakening, here’s little fun fact, for those who don’t know: after the events of Gaiden, the continent of Valentia gets renamed to Valm, which some of you may remember as the empire that Walhart rules over during the middle of Awakening‘s story. This reason might just be why Nintendo has decided to remake Gaiden, since it has ties to the game that saved the franchise, and that little detail could definitely help push sales.
One of my favorite parts of the video was seeing the art for both Echoes (and later on, Heroes). The character portraits for Alm and Celica were quite nice, and I’m liking the art design a lot. Studio Khara also seems to be doing a good job with the animation cutscenes, going off what we’ve seen so far.
Fire Emblem: Echoes – Shadows of Valentia will be releasing worldwide on May 19, only one month after the Japanese release, which is impressive, seeing as how most games in the series take upwards of 6 months to receive a localization.
Overall, this was a fantastic reveal, hitting a lot of high notes right out of the gate. A worldwide release fairly soon, high quality story animations, and a remake of a game that has a lot of potential. When I see the tagline “Echoes,” I can’t help but think that should this game sell well; we might just see a series of remakes of beloved, yet dated, older games on current hardware.
Onto the next reveal: Fire Emblem on the Nintendo Switch. Interestingly, this marks the first home console Fire Emblem game since 2008’s Radiant Dawn on the Wii. Announcing the game so early in development was likely done in order to show that the series won’t be turning into a handheld-only franchise, seeing as they stressed the fact that this will be a “a full home console experience of Fire Emblem.”
We also got to see Fire Emblem Warriors again, and there’s actual gameplay footage this time. There’s about ten seconds of Chrom mowing down enemies in typical Warriors fashion. Everything looks to be fairly standard, all things considered. It was then announced to be coming specifically to the New 3DS as well (a N3DS exclusive? Now that’s rare!), which I find to be a bit of a bad choice. I would think keeping Warriors as a Switch exclusive would help sell console units, but at the same time, I won’t argue with being able to have more Fire Emblem goodness on my 3DS.
Taking up the brunt of the Direct’s 20 minute run-time was the expected mobile title, Fire Emblem Heroes. Though I am wary of phone games, I have to admit that this actually seemed entertaining, at least going off of the video’s explanation. It’s going to have a standard “gacha” mechanic to it, but the game offers the familiar turned-based strategy gameplay that Fire Emblem is known for, just with some streamlining. The 8×6 grids appear small enough to be completed on-the-go, while still requiring tactical planning.
Not to mention the inclusion of so many characters both new and old is an exciting prospect. You can see many fan-favorites in the screenshots of the Direct, with representations from just about every mainline entry from 1990’s Shadow Dragon to 2016’s Fates. Of course, we’ve yet to see if the game will be balanced well or if it has a decent amount of content.
Despite the actual presentation claiming that the iOS version of Fire Emblem Heroes would be hitting the App Store after the Android version releases, the Nintendo of America Twitter wound up announcing that both will come out on the same day. Sorry, Android fans, you don’t get to gloat after waiting so much longer to play Super Mario Run. Guess we’ll see how it turns out on February 2nd.
With the recent successes of both Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates, it seems like Nintendo has realized that the series is quite profitable, and they are now heavily focusing on the franchise. The IP is having a bit of a renaissance, seeing as there will have been eight separate titles in only three years by the approximate time that Fire Emblem Switch launches. Even if you consider Fates as a single entry, that’s still 6 games involving the series: Fates, Warriors, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, Heroes, Echoes, and Switch. Not to mention, to the chagrin of some, its large representation in the Super Smash Bros. roster. Fire Emblem has managed to transform from a dying niche series into one of Nintendo’s most recognizable IPs. After years of neglect in the West, the future is looking incredibly bright for Fire Emblem fans.