So which Fire Emblem game should you play first? It’s a tough question, especially when you consider the sheer amount of games in the series. Like many other RPG games that have made the journey over from the land of the J-variety, Fire Emblem has a bit of a strange history. Were you so inclined to delve into the back catalogue, you’re likely to trip up over remakes, re-imaginings and titles that didn’t even approach the English language.
So today we’re here to provide a little guidance to people new to the series and looking to get involved, by answering the question of exactly which Fire Emblem you should start with, and who they best cater for.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The latest Fire Emblem offering is the first on our list, and for good reason: It represents the pinnacle of what Fire Emblem has become. For the gamer new to the series, this can be both a blessing and a boon; they will come into the game with no prior experience and expectation, which can be a good thing, but they’re also likely to be drowned by the sheer amount of systems on offer, perhaps putting them off.
Still, this is what Fire Emblem has become, and thankfully the developers have continued somewhat of a recent tradition: Everyone is eligible. What we mean by this, is that pretty much every character can find a strong place in your team, in a variety of different roles. Sure, in many cases they will still ‘stick to their lane’, a high strength unit won’t exactly excel in a magical role for example, but none of them are completely unusable. In fact, to the new player this might seem the norm, given that this remains true when considering the relatively recent 3DS titles – this was not always the way, something you may note in our next entry.
Overall, Three Houses does a great job of introducing new players to the series. It does so with a truly interesting story, genuine depth to it’s characters and enough of a challenge to retain the series’ reputation. It is the most recent turnkey moment in the franchise, and marks it’s return to a flagship console, revealing it to more eyes than ever before.
Ideal for: Players new to the Fire Emblem series.
Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade
There will always be arguments between fans about the trio of Fire Emblem games released for the Gameboy Advance. Despite the struggles of language barrier and translation patches, some will be drawn to Roy and The Scouring of FE6. Some may even be drawn to FE8, the one where Seth fights some Undead near a tower.
Today however we’re going to highlight FE7, or Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade – you know, the title they didn’t put on the box in our region.
Of the three titles, FE7 is predominantly the most popular, and for good reason: Not only did it set a template for some of the titles to come – interwoven story covering three lords sounds familiar – but it also performs consistently above the others in achieving the main tenets of the series: It has interesting characters with novel, albeit simple ambitions. It has well designed units with satisfying looks and individual animations, and most importantly of all, it’s quick and punchy to play whilst being tactically well designed and difficult – something later entries in the series could do with remembering.
Fans of the series will always remember FE7. Whether it’s the ongoing debate around which lord is best, or the modding scene that continues to bend and break the engine, someone somewhere is still playing it. Including us – along with Shadow Dragon, it’s one of the only reasons we ever fire up our Wii U any more.
Ideal for: Players looking for a cult classic.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Sometimes, the red headed step child of the family grows up into a beautiful and well designed tactical RPG! … Wait that doesn’t.. Never mind.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a remake of the second game in the series, Fire Emblem: Gaiden, and plays like an excursion in a different direction for the series in a multitude of ways. Gone are the pros and cons of the weapon triangle, grinding is positively encouraged, and by comparison the maps look like huge open fields. So why play this game?
Well, we think it stands as an example of just how different one game can be, especially in a rigid series such as Fire Emblem. Along with said triangle removal dungeon crawling is now a thing, archers can attack units next to them and magic now costs HP. Yet throughout it all, it still retains that Fire Emblem feeling of snappy, satisfying tactical combat with a topping of difficulty. That is to say nothing of the design which, up until Three Houses, stands as by far the most well presented game so far.
It’s an odd one for sure, but it’s no less compelling. You might come out of the other end longing for your swords to best axes, and your promotions to have more choices, but you’ll certainly not be left feeling disappointed.
Ideal for: Players looking for something a little different.