Connect with us


How Fire Emblem Ignited its Fandom Overseas




In 2001 and 2002 a myriad of Nintendo fans had their first exposure to Fire Emblem thanks to the platform-fighter Super Smash Bros. Melee. Two of the playable characters, Marth and Roy, were the playable protagonist from different games in the series. Marth was the lead of the very first Fire Emblem title, and Roy was put in as an advertisement for the upcoming Fire Emblem: Binding Blade. The overall positive feedback Nintendo received for these two characters outside of Japan prompted them to begin work on localizing the game that came after Roy’s, which was simply titled Fire Emblem everywhere outside of Japan.

The story of Fire Emblem is probably one of the longest in the series’ history. It’s divided into two parts, with the first one being a glorified tutorial that introduces the basic mechanics of the game. This section of the game follows Lyndis, a young girl raised by the nomadic Lorca tribe of the Sacae Plains. She meets the player character, a tactician, and from there she’s lead on a quest to meet her blood-related grandfather, the Lord of Caelin, when two knights representing the country approach her to tell her she looks much like the late Lady of Caelin, Hausen’s daughter and Lyn’s mother. Lyn’s story, separate from the second part of the game and is its own contained narrative, doesn’t feel superficial. Despite being the “tutorial,” the beginner tips can be avoided by selecting the harder difficulty, available after clearing the game once. There’s also the option to skip Lyn’s story entirely after clearing it once, but the characters she can recruit carry over their levels and stats into the second half of the game which, more often than not, will be better than the base stats they receive without doing her section.


The second part of the game is split between Eliwood and Hector, two other young lords from countries neighboring Caelin. Initially, only Eliwood’s story is available, with Hector’s being unlocked after finishing Eliwood’s. Eliwood’s story follows the lord’s quest to locate his missing father, Marquess Pherae. Behind the scenes of the Marquess’ disappearance is an organization known as “Black Fang,” a conspiracy that encapsulates the various lands around the Continent, and other greedy lords that wish to use Black Fang’s arcane powers to conquer the lands. Hector’s story is roughly the same, with a few extra chapters thrown in and the point-of-view changed to follow him instead of Eliwood.

Where Fire Emblem‘s storytelling really shines is in its characters rather than its plot. Hector in particular makes for an interesting leading lord. Many of the altered scenes for his path involve his own struggle against the ideals of his brother Uther, the current marquess of his homeland of Ostia. His brash and upfront nature makes him a good foil for the calm and collected Eliwood, as well as the sharp-witted Lyndis. Several side characters also get some nice attention in the game’s in-between scenes. Many of the Black Fang’s higher ups are at odds with each other, dividing them between the original leader, Brendan Reed, and his second wife, Sonia, which creates a good dynamic. Exploring the many facets of the story brings about a narrative that’s full of a lot gray-morality rather than one that is purely black or white.


The members of Black Fang come in all shapes and sizes.

Even characters not featured in the between-level scenes are thoroughly explored, if the player is up to the task, through support conversations. Originally introduced in the previous game, Binding Blade, support conversations are events triggered between characters if they’ve spent enough time next to each other on the battlefield. The content of the conversations varies, but they all ultimately reveal traits and characteristics that would otherwise be over looked in the game’s immense +40 playable cast. This is a very interesting system, as a lot of characters have very little to do with the main plot outside of being a retainer of the one of the three lords, but the support conversations can make them into memorable members of the cast. It’s very easy to get attached to particular units after learning their quirks and backstory. Each of these backstories then helps to create a thriving world within Fire Emblem. Support conversations do give in-game stat benefits depending on the characters involved, but they are more likely to be remembered for stories they tell.


The sprite work still looks pretty solid to this day.

Mechanically the game is simple, at least compared to other Fire Emblem titles. Much of what is does was already introduced in earlier entries, and there are no real gimmicks to movement or characters outside of what stats are tied to their class (i.e., assassins are fast and have high crit rates; knights are slow but have a lot of HP and strength). It puts a lot more emphasis on tactically outthinking the computer and finding the most effective way to use your team’s limited numbers against larger armies. The biggest gameplay draw for the game is its Weapon Triangle system. Originally introduced in Genealogy of the Holy War, the Weapon Triangle is a pseudo-rock-paper-scissors match that can help turn somewhat bad fights slightly in the player’s favor by giving them a higher hit/dodge rate against weapons weak to theirs. What Fire Emblem did introduce to the series, however, was weather conditions. Certain units move better than others, depending on the circumstances, which can greatly alter how one approaches specific chapters, such as using weaker flying units or thieves to scout ahead while staying out of the open.


But did I mention there’s a lot of characters?

Fire Emblem is a solidly built game with a good narrative and very strong character and world building. Despite being well over a decade old, the game has aged very well and still stands up as a strategy RPG. Its large cast is fully explored through the game’s support system, building memorable and enjoyable characters. As a sequel to Binding Blade, Fire Emblem did not introduce a lot of new elements, but as a standalone title in the West, Fire Emblem was an epic journey. It’s lengthy story, colorful and diverse cast of characters, and “easy to pick up and hard to master” gameplay, makes it one of my personal favorite titles.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on March 4, 2016 but we decided to rerun it with the release of Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Taylor is a writer from Atlanta, GA. His passion for games extends across genres and generations. When not playing or writing about games, he's probably reading science fiction.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Game Reviews

‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.



It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

Continue Reading


The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child



Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

Continue Reading


‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.



Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

Continue Reading