So You Want To Play Fire Emblem?

With the release of Fire Emblem Heroes on IOS and Android yesterday, many people will be playing Fire Emblem for the first time. While traditionally Fire Emblem has had more of a niche following, recent entries in the series have made the tactical RPG series surge in popularity over the last few years. While venturing into the free-to-play mobile market, that popularity is sure to reach new heights.

If you haven’t played an entry in the Fire Emblem series before, you may wonder where you should start. Should you dip your toes into the new mobile entry? Should you start with the older entries to enjoy the series as a whole? Maybe you want to jump into the modern Nintendo 3DS titles to see the ones that have spiked the interest of fans and newcomers alike?

There are quite a few ways to go about starting your Fire Emblem journey. Here are a few paths I think you should take if you are interested in jumping into the world of Nintendo’s nerdiest franchise.

1. Fire Emblem Awakening

Released in 2012 in Japan and 2013 worldwide, Fire Emblem Awakening was set to be the last entry in the franchise. After lackluster sales of previous games in the series, series developer Intelligent Systems was told that if Awakening did not sell well, it would be the end of the series entirely. Boy did it sell well. Quickly not only becoming the best-selling entry in the series, but one of the best-selling 3DS games to date.

Fire Emblem Awakening is an amazing entry point to the series, due to the accessibility of the game itself. Being the first worldwide released Fire Emblem game to feature Casual Mode, this opened up the series to those afraid of the brutal perma-death. With a larger focus on characters and the relationships between them, being able to keep your characters alive makes for a much more dynamic narrative experience, alongside the already amazing combat.

Fire Emblem Awakening is an amazing place to start, especially if you are looking for a good original story with little ties to the overall universe. It’s a fresh place to begin your journey, with little-to-know downsides.

2. Fire Emblem Heroes

The newest entry in the franchise, Fire Emblem Heroes has the smallest barrier to entry that any game in the series has had. It’s free-to-play, it’s simple, and overall it’s fun. While it is not nearly as deep or as long as its console/handheld counterparts, it’s a worthy entry in the franchise on its own. Short simple maps encourage small bits of combat to be completed in simple steps. While microtransactions are at the forefront of the monetary structure of the game, it does not take away from the overall experience. Grinding is just as necessary here as it is in previous game, and makes the game feel very Fire Emblem.

I would say the only downside of starting with this game is the lack of familiarity with the characters you’re playing as if you haven’t played previous games. While there is a small amount of dialogue and emotion expressed in the existing characters, it is very shallow and never digs too deep into any characters in particular. Boy, is this game cute though.

3. Virtual Console and ROMS

The thing about the Fire Emblem series that is very inconvenient to western players, is that about half of the series has never been released outside of Japan. While there are a few examples of remakes, (Shadow Dragon for Nintendo DS and the upcoming Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia) there is no official way to play the majority of these games in English. If you are willing to jump straight in to the entirety that the series has to offer, all of the games have been fan translated over the years and saved through ROM files. While I’m not one to normally encourage downloading ROMs to play older games, games that have never been translated, or are otherwise no longer available for purchase tend to be my exception.

Another problem the series currently faces is the lack of availability of the English translated games before the release of Fire Emblem Awakening. GBA, GameCube, Wii, and DS entries in the series are notoriously hard to find. Heck, we sell the GameCube one at the store I work at used for $84.99 when we have it in.

Nintendo has made a few of the games available on the Wii U Virtual Console, so a few of them are available to obtain legally. Both GBA titles are available to purchase, as well as the one Nintendo DS entry. Other than those, you’ll need to emulate them on a PC.

So there you have it. Those are just a few suggestions of starting points for those looking to get into the Fire Emblem games. If you have any questions about Fire Emblem, feel free to ask me them on Twitter!