Earlier in the year, Nintendo hosted a Fire Emblem specific Nintendo Direct. The presentation featured gameplay details and footage for two additions to the Fire Emblem franchise, the mobile game Fire Emblem Heroes, and the Tecmo-Koei/Team Ninja spinoff Fire Emblem Warriors. Flying under the radar, however, was the brief announcement of a new entry in the mainline strategy RPG series for the Nintendo Switch. After seeing footage for a simplified mobile game and hack-and-slash spinoffs, the simple confirmation that a true red-blooded Fire Emblem game was in development set my heart aflutter. Now that the two filler entries have come and gone, we can look forward to the next core game in the series planned for release in 2018. Here are five reasons why you should already be excited about Fire Emblem Switch even though we know barely anything about it.
First Console Fire Emblem in 11 Years
Ever since 2002 with the saga’s first GameBoy Advance entry, the Fire Emblem series has existed primarily on Nintendo’s portable platforms. Only two games have appeared on home consoles: Path of Radiance for the GameCube, released in 2005, and Radiant Dawn released for the Wii in North America in 2007. Given that some of the best-looking and playing entries in the franchise featured simple 2D hand-drawn sprites, developer Intelligent Systems has never needed the raw power of a home console to make their games stylistically appealing. Still, what if they did make use of that power?
Radiant Dawn was released on hardware that was stuck with standard definition picture quality and the 3DS games all have an irritating fuzziness in the graphics. A new Fire Emblem for Switch isn’t just the first console entry in over a decade, it will be the first time the franchise enters HD. Even the series’ small conflicts frequently involve flying pegasus knights, armored cavalry units, shadowy assassins, and dragons. The epic, stylized battles that Intelligent Systems can produce on-screen with the power of the Switch and a new art direction could be stunning.
Over the past decade-and-a-half, Intelligent Systems has experimented with different multiplayer features. From the GameBoy Advance titles’ link play battles that featured all but the barest minimum of strategy to Fire Emblem Fates’ 5V5 tactical matches, there’s a range of modes and gameplay types that could be implemented. However, balancing for Fire Emblem’s multiplayer is quite difficult given the game’s inherent encouragement for micromanaging units into unkillable, super-powered characters. Fire Emblem Fates’ multiplayer community became the site of terrible imbalance, with some players having an advantage due to purchasing downloadable content.
I think it’s safe to assume that some asymmetrical multiplayer component, like Fire Emblem Heroes’ Arena Duels or Fire Emblem Fates’ Castle Defense, will be featured. The big question, however, is whether real PvP will be included and whether it can be properly implemented. If so, Fire Emblem Switch could have a lifespan that goes beyond merely replaying the campaign to use different characters. The good news is that this won’t be the developers’ first attempt, and I’m of the opinion that some honest-to-goodness strategic PvP might just turn this game into a true phenomenon. Just don’t make us buy randomized content to play the game.
Upon release, Fire Emblem Heroes was a strong distillation of Fire Emblem’s core gameplay appeal that was marred by some annoying design decisions like the amount of playtime required to promote units or the randomness of the character acquisition system. Over the past nine months, however, the game has been updated numerous times, consistently adding new heroes, allowing characters to “inherit” new abilities from other units, and giving players free summoning orbs at a regular rate. The developers have been listening to the community, addressing concerns and adding things that we didn’t even realize we wanted. If Fire Emblem Switch receives this kind of attention post-release, the game’s longevity could be indefinite.
Back in 2004, the seventh Fire Emblem title was the first entry to be released in North America following the success of series characters Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee. The game sold well, but the franchise remained in a niche market until Fire Emblem Awakening for the 3DS knocked down the barriers, crossing over into the gaming mainstream to become an instant hit. Ever since, the series has only grown in popularity, resulting in two spinoffs and one remake releasing in this calendar year alone.
On the cusp of 2018, Nintendo has not confirmed almost any of its core franchises to return in the next year. There has been no word on franchises like Donkey Kong or Star Fox, while confirmed games like Metroid Prime 4 and Pokemon Switch are yet to receive a set release window. The only game set to carry the Switch’s astounding momentum is the next Fire Emblem. The series has gone from niche-underdog to flagship franchise status. Nintendo’s clear confidence in the series alone is exciting, but this faith and prestige will also likely come with many bags of gold coins and rupees to ensure Intelligent Systems can make the best game possible.
More Fire Emblem
All the context surrounding Fire Emblem Switch’s development is supremely heartening. It will likely contain beautiful, HD visuals, support for content post-launch, and is being heavily backed by gaming’s premier developer. The most exciting thing about Fire Emblem Switch, however, is that it’s simply another Fire Emblem game.
That means another sweeping and epic fantasy adventure. That means another colorful cast of characters with interesting backstories to delve into. It means punishing, tactical gameplay from precise movement through tight corridors to sprawling, open battlefields. Very few Fire Emblem games simply take the rules of previous entries and repeat them.
There are underlying principles present in every game like magic, dragons, and the weapon triangle, but each game features new iterations on those ideas. These iterations occur especially when the series jumps consoles. This is often the time for an art style update, a reinvention of storytelling methods, new unit-type additions, and brand new ideas about how to balance the game’s fundamental systems. Fire Emblem Switch seems like the game Intelligent Systems has been building towards for the past decade, and, if their excellent pedigree is anything to go by, it could be the Switch’s next crowning jewel.