The Fire Emblem franchise first began in 1990 on the Famicom in Japan. Twelve more games have followed and the series has gained fans all over the world. The main Fire Emblem series has since been expanded with remakes, spin-offs, a short animation, a trading card game, and a mobile game.
The Fire Emblem series has been described as RPG simulation games. Each entry for the series incorporates a story and characters similar to traditional RPGs. However, instead of using a customary turn-based or action combat system, the gameplay involves a tactical movement of units within a grid-based map. Additionally, the series differentiated themselves even further by featuring permanent death for characters defeated on the battlefield. It was not until the release of Fire Emblem: Awakening that players could decide if defeated characters would be lost forever or live on to see another day.
The Fire Emblem games were exclusive to Japan for quite some time. When characters Marth and Roy suddenly appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee in 2001, the popularity of the characters had finally convinced Nintendo to release the next game overseas. As a result, the seventh entry in the series, titled Blazing Blade (aka The Sword of the Flame) in Japan, was released under the title Fire Emblem in North America, Australia, and Europe over the course of 2003 and 2004. The success of the series with Western audiences led to the franchise’s continued release outside of Japan.
Nintendo may have just released a new Fire Emblem mobile game, but there was a time when diminishing sales almost ended Fire Emblem completely. In 2013, it was revealed by the game’s producer that if Fire Emblem: Awakening had sold less than 250,000 units, Nintendo would have to cease production. As a result, the game’s team of designers put every feature they had always wanted in the series as a final goodbye. This decision led to over 40,000 copies sold in just North America alone and it saved the franchise.
While Awakening may have single-handedly saved Fire Emblem, long-time fans have been very torn as to whether or not Awakening and its successor Fates are disappointing. Those who dislike the newer games have stated that there is too much focus on relationship building, there are some completely useless characters, and the storylines are very weak. However, many fans of the series have found the stories to be engaging and containing characters with personalities which stir strong emotions. They also love the new match-making features and being able to turn permanent death off helps the game to appeal to a wider audience.
If you enjoy strategic games and Japanese RPGs, Fire Emblem is a fantastic series. Fans of “old-school” RPGs like the older Final Fantasy games will enjoy the earlier entries of the series the most, while those who enjoy life simulation-like games like Persona 3 or 4 will want to start with the newer Awakening game. Another great starting is the new mobile game Fire Emblem Heroes as characters from all of the Fire Emblem games appear as summonable allies and it provides a small sampling of the tactical combat system.