Personal Hall of Shame: Fire Emblem
Forgive me Tharja, for I have sinned.
I have a confession for all of you. A shameful, dark, secret that is a blight on my Nintendo fandom. I’ve never finished a Fire Emblem game. There have been close calls in the past, but I’ve always fallen off before the end. What’s an acceptable penance? Saying 10 “Hail Mario’s”? Pray to the Rosalina beads? I don’t want my Nintendo card revoked!
Perhaps you don’t think this is a big deal. Fire Emblem has only recently gained mainstream popularity with the 3DS games and the success of Three Houses on Switch. Unfortunately, I can’t use that excuse. This transgression on my part goes back decades.
I was a GameCube early adopter, and I loved that little purple lunchbox. Super Smash Bros. Melee was a wonderful Christmas present for me in December 2001 and it was my first exposure to Fire Emblem, as Marth and Roy were unlockable fighters. In fact, Roy was one of my favorite characters to use in the game despite not being as knowledgeable about his place in Nintendo history as other characters like Link or Samus Aran.
Fast forward a few years to 2005. Another Christmas, another GameCube game. This time it was Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. By then, I was familiar with the series from Nintendo Power and other video game media. I don’t think I had played a strategy RPG before, but I made some headway with the help of a strategy guide (remember those?). I very distinctly remember that I made it to chapter 18, because the prior chapter is a 4-part beast. At some point after that, I stopped. No idea why, but I never went back to it. I let my cousin borrow the game and he fell in love with it, probably getting farther than I ever did.
My next opportunity to right the wrong came with the Nintendo DS and Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon in 2009. This remake of the first game in the series featured Marth, a character I already knew from Melee. I can’t recall exactly when I bought the game, but I did at some point. Multiple times apparently, as I have 2 copies of it, making it twice as damning that I’ve only played it for a few hours.
Ah, but surely that’s the worst of it, right? I wish that were true, but sadly, this is just the beginning of this woeful tale. Alas, the 3DS was the pinnacle of my guilt. Again, I was an early adopter, and as such was rewarded with the wonderful title of “3DS Ambassador” after the early price cut. What was the gift? Free games! Beloved NES and GBA games including…hold on, what’s that? Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones, you beautiful reminder of my tainted past. Could Erika and Ephraim carry me through to the end and quell my degenerate behavior? They battled valiantly for 28 hours according to my 3DS playtime log but succumbed to defeat. Another Fire Emblem title added to the pile of skeletons in my closet.
Hark, what is that ray of light? No, it’s not Radiant Dawn. That shining beacon in 2013 was Fire Emblem: A-Waifu…er, Awakening. This, my friends, was it. My chance to dispel the curse that had haunted me for years. My own personal version of The Tell-Tale Heart would be coming to an end. Permadeath was now optional. There was a relationship system with time shenanigans to recruit the offspring. Accessibility options in the Fire Emblem series were better than ever. I was all in.
I bought Awakening at launch and was hooked. The gameplay was polished and fun. The characters were interesting and genuinely fun to interact with. I didn’t care that Tharja had no feet…neither did anyone else. I looked past her awkward behaviors and dark ways as we are all wont to do at times. Things were going great. I was pairing off characters left and right, hoping to see what useful children they would provide. 35 hours strong…I was finally doing it! And then I didn’t. I stopped. Again.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me every time? Permadeath for my Fire Emblem love. I was a broken man. No weapon triangle could overcome the Fire Emblem-shaped hole in my heart. More 3DS games came out and I passed. Why would I buy a new installment when I still had Awakening to finish? Three Houses came to Nintendo Switch. It looked great and by then the characters had real, actual feet, and yet I knew in my heart that the ending would be the same. If I bought Three Houses, I would never know the true joy and satisfaction of playing through to the end. So, I passed on it.
Honestly, I don’t know what it is that causes me to stop playing Fire Emblem games. I’ve obviously paid enough attention to the series to make the terrible jokes that litter this article. Maybe I’m just a deviant…it’s not you, Fire Emblem, it’s me.
I can’t say that it’s the strategy genre as a whole either. I’ve played and completed Mario + Rabbids, and while I know it’s not a 1:1 match, it’s still similar enough to compare. Wargroove is like Advance Wars with a Fire Emblem aesthetic, and I finished that one too. I even beat Code Name S.T.E.A.M.! Ok, that’s a lie. Very few people actually played that one.
Not even the threat of permadeath can be used as an excuse for me since Awakening made that optional nearly a decade ago. The Fire Emblem games have only grown more accessible and popular since Awakening when I really gave it the last chance.
And now, another opportunity has peeked over the horizon. Fire Emblem Engage was revealed at the latest Nintendo Direct and releases in mere months. Perhaps, I should make the jump with this entry and really open my heart to it? They’re practically begging me to get back into the series with the name of this entry. “Engage with us, you silly scallywag!”
Yet, I’m afraid of being hurt again. How many times must I be sprayed with water before I stop jumping up on the counter? Time and time again I fail myself and fall deeper into this hole of humiliation. I’ve borne my soul as a naughty Nintendo boy and it seems that I will have to endure whatever Fates, Fire Emblem has in store for me.
Shoot I’ve never gotten more than probably 60 minutes into any Fire Emblem game. Three Houses probably had me for about 2 hours now that I think about it, but that’s where I threw in the towel. I love that Nintendo owns this great strategy franchise, but try as I might, it just doesn’t connect with me.
Fire Emblem is one of those series that I really want to get into, and have made multiple attempts, but at the end of the day I tell Fire Emblem "it's me, not you". I bought the Collector's Editions of Fates and Shadows of Valencia. I put a few hours into them but always got stuck. I bought Three Houses when it was on sale but have yet to even try it out. Today I pre-ordered Engage because I am an idiot. Perhaps 4th time will be the charm?
However, one thing I will do different is; I have attempted to play the series as they were intended, normal difficulty with permadeath. However, when I make a mistake, I turn the game off and start the level over, losing a lot of time. I don't have that kind of time any more as an adult, so going forward, any attempt at Fire Emblem will be on a normal difficulty with Phoenix mode on or whatever its called.
On unrelated note, I have beat Fire Emblem Warriors though! Working on the second now.
I have Radiant Dawn, Echoes, and, if it counts, Tokyo Mirage Session. Haven't played a single one. I do love me some Advance Wars, though!
Maybe I'll start Echoes after I'm done with my current playthrough of Devil Survivor 2.
I'm in a similar position, although I have finished some of them.
My friend lent me his copy of Path of Radience, never got more than 2 hours in. I started awakening the first time and never got more than half way. It took me 4 more years before I would go back, start over and play all the way through. Ambassador Program? Never more than an hour through. Same for Shadow Dragon.I bought the special edition of Fates, and only finished a single path. Bought the collectors edition of Echoes, never finished it. Three Houses? Only finished one route and got 1/3rd of a way through a second.
I'm excited for Engage as well, but I'm worried I might not finish it all the way through.
There's certainly something about Fire Emblem that I can't out my finger on, but I reach the point where I just stop playing and won't go back to it. Not that I'm uninterested, but I just don't have whatever it is to get back into the game at the point where I drop off. Its probably a me issue, but it certainly has made my Fire Emblem backlog all kinds of weird.
Did take 2-3 try to beat 7 on the gba as the first FE game that released here in europe.
Something I learned way later is that stat growths are randomized, so in order to get as strong as possible, it could technicly be worth if like the first enemy on a map gives you enough exp to level up, to see if you get a good level or not and reset if not.
Could help out in the long run which seems to be the point where you quit out, probably because it seemed to hard to deal with(normal mode you kind of can beat much easier if you go for using the stat boosting items, to become way to powerful for the game to even do dmg against some of your units).
EDIT: Almost didnt beat Three houses, but thats because it got way toslow with too much filler between missions, that seemed uninspired with a big lack of gimmicks (something the true route in Fates excells in).
One thing one also should consider is that when Marth and Roy debuted in Smash Bros, the JRPG was the IT genre for the industry. From 1997 to 2001 (you can thank FF VII) a console appeal was related with how many rpgs it had, and if they had spiked or multicolored haired brooding dudes, swords and magic, the better. A couple years into the gen, they were replaced with the sandbox GTA 3 style game, but before that, you got fairly average games like Evolution touting proudly on the box: "the first RPG on Dreamcast" and things like that. Because of that, the notion that a couple of cool looking mysterious swordwelding characters came from a then unknown Nintendo exclusive franchise caused commotion among the hardcore N fan base starved for RPGs after the N64, and people got intensely hyped with the franchise, and with that, greatly encouraging many Nintendo gamers to try and try...and try this games repeatedly, even if they were simply not that into them.
Anyway, as form my personal history with the franchise, I can relate somewhat:
FE7: Played it for around 10 hours, stopped after missing a bonus side mission, had the intention to go back, but alas I never did.
Sacred Stones: Have the game on 3DS, only played a single mission.
Path of Radiance: Played for around 15 hours, stopped after realizing my mistake of overleveling Ike and not being able to promote him because of plot reasons. Never bothered with RD.
Shadow Dragon: Didn't even realized it existed when it launched.
Awakening: Got it because of a promotion with SMT IV. This one I beat it, and did liked it a lot.
Fates: Got the three games deal, finished the three routes, after at least three hiatus of around a year each. Got the game in 2016, finished the third route in 2020.
Echoes: Never bothered, after Fates left me a mixed taste.
Three Houses: I fully intended yo skip this one, but after seeing it with a nice discount in a physical store, I got it. And what a good decision it was. Played three routes back to back, also the DLC side story, still missing a single route which I left pending because I had a slight strategy fatigue. I do intend to clear the fourth route soon tough.
As for FE Engage...well, I am not completely on board truly. As I said, the franchises has been very hit and miss with me.