The Three Best Things from the Fire Emblem Direct
The Fire Emblem Nintendo Direct on Wednesday surprised fans everywhere with their big plans for the esteemed franchise. After the Nintendo Switch presentation last week, one would assume the majority of the direct would be about the recently announced Fire Emblem Warriors.
Instead, Nintendo decided to blow away fan expectations by announcing three additional Fire Emblem titles -- Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia for the 3DS, Fire Emblem Heroes for mobile platforms, and an untitled game for the Switch.
Other than rewarding fans with a ton of new content, here’s the three best things from the Direct.
Art and Sound
Hearing the familiar Fire Emblem melody gave me chills, and as soon as the first illustration appeared, I was already impressed. The hand-drawn art in the Fire Emblem series always stood out to me. Intelligent Systems even outsourced some of the animation for Fire Emblem: Echoes to Khara Studio, known for the Rebuild of Evangelion films. The vibrant cutscenes give the game an artistic feel found only in Japanese anime.
For a series with such an immense cast, it does an excellent job of making each character unique and shining with personality. In addition to the writing, this is done with excellent character design.
Seeing the character portraits for warriors re-drawn for Fire Emblem: Heroes was enough to sell me on the game. The attention to detail in each character makes them instantly recognizable. The chibi-style character models in the mobile game are cheesy enough to make me slightly uneasy, but the portraits absolutely make up for it.
Although Fire Emblem: Warriors was only briefly shown, it features familiar character models, and the classic battle animations the series is known for.
Fire Emblem: Echoes will also be fully voice acted, which for fans of Japanese games who enjoy hearing characters speak in English, this is big news.
Serious Fan Recognition
For a long time, Fire Emblem had a very small but loyal fanbase in the West. The series was exclusive to Japan until the 7th game, released for the Game Boy Advanced as Fire Emblem. Unfortunately, the games were never hot system sellers.
However, Fire Emblem: Awakening gave Nintendo a whole new perspective on its IP. The game sold more units than any game before it and was supposed to be the last game in the series. The success of Awakening prompted Nintendo to keep supporting its franchise.
With the Switch on the horizon, Nintendo is still releasing two Fire Emblem titles for the system that brought the series to popularity. Echoes - Shadows of Valentia is exclusive to the 3DS and Fire Emblem: Warriors will also be ported to the handheld. This is especially important because although the Switch will be Nintendo’s main focus very soon, it shows that they still care about the 3DS fans who might not switch to the new system so soon.
Echoes is especially heartfelt due to it being a remake. The game is based off Fire Emblem: Gaiden, released for the Famicom system in 1992. Nearly every Japanese Fire Emblem game has multiple fan translations, and Gaiden is generally considered the most offbeat game in the series, adding multiple features not included in later entries. Western fans have been waiting years for official releases of past Fire Emblem games.
Although Fire Emblem: Heroes is catered to a larger mass audience, Intelligent Systems made sure that its core fanbase is in control. They are giving fans the opportunity to pick which heroes from past games they want to be featured in it. This feature even includes official translations of all characters in the Japanese only games, and an official subtitle for the series’ western debut -- Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade. Hopefully, after everyone picks Hector, we can move on to adding more beloved characters into the game.
The Bright Future of Fire Emblem
Fire Emblem has been around longer than most people think, and after seeing the recent Direct, we know it’s not going anywhere for a long time.
Releasing a mobile title isn’t meant to cater to Fire Emblem’s hardcore fans. Those fans will continue to buy new games as long as they keep coming out. However, Nintendo knows that simplifying games for mobile devices can draw new fans into their IP.
Pokemon GO was a cultural phenomenon, Super Mario Run was downloaded millions of times, and as long as people find out what Fire Emblem IS then the potential for a whole new audience is there. Out of all of Nintendo’s popular IPs, Fire Emblem is not one many people are familiar with. If fans enjoy the mobile title, then they might become interested in the more advanced games in the series.
Nintendo further expands this by branching into completely different types of games with its IP. Hyrule Warriors plays nothing like a traditional Zelda game, but it was a game that fans of either series could enjoy, and helped expand the interest in both franchises. Fire Emblem Warriors is geared to do the same and shows that the series is not exclusive to strategy RPG games.
Although not official, the titling of Echoes is suspiciously similar to Fire Emblem Fates, which had three different versions. Unlike the way Pokemon games are released, each version of Fates features its own story and unique gameplay. If Echoes is successful, it could branch off into a separate series of games based on entries previously unavailable outside of fan emulators.
Needless to say, the Fire Emblem Nintendo Direct brought a multitude of unexpected announcements, new ways to play, and one minor disappointment. I’m still waiting for the day Nintendo honors the best Fire Emblem character, Hector, with DLC for Super Smash Bros. Sadly, I’ll have to patiently wait for his debut in the inevitable Smash Bros. for Switch.
What were your favorite parts of the Nintendo Direct? Which title are you most excited about? Was there anything missing you would have liked to see? Can we please keep talking about Hector? Sound off in the comments below!