Back in February, I wrote a set of articles around Pokémon, this time I’ll write a 4 parts series focusing on a game series I like and find interesting: Fire Emblem.
Here is the breakdown:
- Part I: What is Fire Emblem?
- Part II: Differences between PR campaigns
- Part III: Fire Emblem Fates/Echoes/Warriors/Heroes PR Numbers
- Part IV: Conclusion
Important, please read:
- I don’t pretend to know-it-all
- For the whole analysis, I focused on the media relations part only, not influencers/bloggers/brand content/media buying/social networks etc. (Side note, if you are interested in PR, I’d suggest reading this: Read more about PESO Model here).
- I don’t have access to Nintendo/Intelligent Systems “insider” information, meaning that most of my analysis is based on
- What can be found on the Internet
- Some PR Tools that I use
- My thoughts
- I used Nintendo of America PR efforts as a basis
- I use this kind of analysis for my own products (but with much more details and focus, data about coverage etc), to understand what we did right/wrong, quality of our messaging etc.. Post-mortems are key if you want to grow and get better.
- If you wish to share the excel file and the docs I created, please do so but do not alter them
- Articles Data provided by Thomas Bidaux from ICO Partners
I hope you’ll enjoy.
My story with Fire Emblem:
Back when I was in Morocco (until 2005); it was really hard to get hold of any cartridges or new games, except if someone imported them or traveled to EU/NA. However, one day in 2004, I stumbled upon a small store selling some GBA games (I realized much later that they were counterfeited…) and among them, there was this game: Fire Emblem. I liked the box art, and the name sounded cool: alright, sold! After trying the game, I instantly fell in love with it, so much that I changed my miRC nickname from “The_GodfatheR” (notice the use of capitalization? 1337 Skillz) to “Eliwood”. It took me time to realize that it was the same studio who was behind another one of my favourite games: Advance Wars! At that point, everything made sense to me.
Fast forward to today: I have played and finished half of the games. I have to admit that I didn’t grind Path of Radiance, nor Radiant Dawn as much as I wanted – so I bought them again and I’m currently playing RD. Aside from RD, I am currently playing again the game that made me fall in love with this IP: Fire Emblem (7/Blazing Sword).
Regarding my preferred iterations: Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia immediately made it to my all time favourite. I know some “old school fans” think this opinion is bad and that I should feel bad – but I don’t really mind. FE Echoes was hard enough to make me think, rewind, sweat. FE Echoes has one of the best voice actings I’ve ever seen. FE Echoes does have a stellar soundtrack. FE Echoes have some cool new mechanics like dungeon explorations. FE Echoes have cool and diverse characters (Delthea, Leon, Saber, Rudolf, Berkut, Zeke/Camus etc.). Yes, maps look a bit out-dated and Nuibaba’s Abode is one of the most grueling/annoying maps ever, but I still loved it. Awakening and Blazing Blade are close behind it. Although, I guess that playing Path of Radiance might shuffle this ranking…
Before diving into Fire Emblem. Let’s take a quick look at the studio behind it: Intelligent Systems (IS). The studio was originally created in 1986 by members of the R&D1 unit to support Nintendo’s other larger units such as R&D1 and EAD, just like HAL Laboratory. This newly created studio was led by Gunpei Yokoi (1941-1997). How did they go from an auxiliary program/tool unit to a fully fledged studio? It’s simple: by succeeding in most of their endeavours. On top of creating a strong property like Fire Emblem, they also created the “Wars” series (Famicom, Super Famicom, Game Boy, Battalion, Advance). Why does this matter to me? The reason is simple: Advance Wars series (1, Black Hole Rising, Dual Strike and Days of Ruin) is among my favourite of all time. (By the way, IS-san & Nintendo-san, if you read this, Advance Wars Switch… please…). As if creating landmark brands for Tactical/Strategy RPGs wasn’t enough, Intelligent Systems is also known for its development work on the Paper Mario and Wario Ware series, and support on other famous games such as Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Kid Icarus, Metroid and Super Metroid etc.
Super Famicom Wars Intro scene (SNES – 1998)
Created in 1990 under the impulsion of Shouzou Kaga, the Fire Emblem saga have seen no less than 15 games (Official numbering by IS).
Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Tsurugi / Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light (NES – 1990)
As a long running series with some games released exclusively in Japan, things can get confusing quickly for newcomers. You’ll find below two clickable images I created with logos, release dates, sales numbers (JP only) and overseas names for the Japanese games.
- Shouzou Kaga: Creator of the license. Game designer 1990-1999. Left after FE5 was released.
- Tohru Narihiro: Worked on every FE game. Producer of FE 7-13.
- Masahiro Higuchi: Producer FE 14-15 and FEHeroes.
- Yusuke Kozaki: Character design & Illustration for FE13 & FE14
- Toshiyuki Kusakihara: Art director
- Yuka Tsujiyoko: Soundtracks & sound design
- Gunpei Yokoi: Original Head of IS, producer of the 3 first FE – and all around legend and almighty creator, if you ask me.
Key themes in the series:
- Story centered around the main Lords
- Opposition between good & evil
- Evil taking over a kingdom to wage war against others
- Medieval & Fantasy-like setting
- The Fire Emblem: an object with magical powers (Can be a Crest, a Stone, a Shield etc.)
- Magic, dragons, shape-shifters, undead, mystical gods
- Legendary weapons: Falchion, for instance.
- Turn Based Strategy game
- Grid based maps: characters can move only a certain amount of cases (Horses and Pegasi can go the further etc.)
- World Map: Allows the character to go from one chapter to the other and freely roam (This feature isn’t available in ALL the games)
- Lords: Usually the main character.
- Classes: Cleric, Pegasus Knight, Paladin, Sniper, Myrmidon, Dark Mage etc. Characters can evolve into a superior class thanks to specific items and XP.
- Tactician/Avatar: players assume the role of a tactician/avatar who meets the main hero/character. This is rather recent and will most likely continue.
- Support, Relationships (& marriage): the closer two characters get during missions, the stronger the bond is and it will have an impact on stats. The first iteration of the “marriage” system happened on FE4, while in Awakening and Fates; if two characters get married they can have a child who will be playable. More info about this feature here.
- Recruitment: throughout the adventure, the player can reinforce his army by recruiting characters. Visiting villages, talking to certain characters (with the right individual!) always proves to be useful.
- Permanent death: If one character dies during a mission, it’s over for him, no matter how much you love him and leveled him up! This punishing aspect of gameplay forces the player to make wise choices and be careful when moving. Note: the latest FE games introduced a “casual” mode which (of course) irked to death (ba dum tss) the long time fans.
- Weapon Triangle & Trinity of Magic: Sword > Axe > Lance > Sword. Red Magic > Green Magic > Blue Magic > Red Magic etc. Think Janken/Rock, Paper, Scissor. This also works with other elements: Magic > Armor. Snipers > Pegasi etc.
- Stats box: before engaging, the player can see the stats of his unit and the opponent (HP, Damage, Crit, Def etc)
- Fire Emblem 1:
- First iteration of the game
- Class change
- Fire Emblem 2:
- Clerics & Mages lose HP when using skills
- World Map
- Explorable dungeons (limited due to the NES low power)
- Fire Emblem 3: Support System
- Fire Emblem 4:
- Weapon Triangle & Trinity of Magic
- Support relationships
- Generation system
- Fire Emblem 5:
- Fog of War maps
- Rescuing units
- Character fatigue (removed from following iterations))
- Capturing enemies (removed from following iterations)
- Fire Emblem 6:
- First handheld game
- Massive simplification of mechanics
- Fire Emblem 7:
- First game to have a customizable Avatar present in the plot
- Fire Emblem 8:
- World Map returns (First time since FE2)
- Random encounters on world map allowing XP grinding
- Only game not related to any other by story/setting
- Fire Emblem 9:
- First 3D game
- Full motion video
- First non-royalty Lord: Ike
- Fire Emblem 10: no major update
- Fire Emblem 11: no major update
- Fire Emblem 12 (Note: Was released in JP Only- which is why the below features aren’t considered as “first time ever” by many media outlets):
- First game to have the avatar engage in the battlefield
- Debut of casual mode
- Fire Emblem 13:
- Avatar unit engaging in battlefield
- Casual mode
- Voice acting outside of cutscenes
- Fire Emblem 14:
- First time a game has multiple versions (we already had different scenarios in previous games)
- First time the player has to choose a different storyline
- Attack & Guard stance
- My Castle: base of operations
- Base & secondary class
- Phoenix mode
- Personal skills
- No more weapon durability (except for staves)
- Fire Emblem 15:
- Clerics & Mages lose HP when using skills
- Removal of marriage, childbirth & avatar
- Return of the fully explorable 3D dungeons (From FE2)
- Settlements to visit
- Mila’s Turnwheel
- First game to feature full dialogue voice-acting (Personal note: the voice acting is insanely good, among my favourite, all games/licenses considered!)
This should fall under one of the categories above, but to hell with logic!
If you have read my previous pieces on this blog, you might remember that I’m really into games’ OSTs… Fire Emblem is the perfect example of masterfully crafted soundtracks. For me, a good soundtrack needs to perfectly capture the moment and the scenes, but also be so memorable that I can listen to it all over again and remember the exact scenes, actions etc. Some pieces from FE soundtracks manage to create this effect on me, here are some of my favourites from the last 3 games, plus the 25th Anniversary concert. Those have been mostly created by Rei Kondoh and Yuka Tsujiyoko:
For some reason, Azura’s Song (Birthright) reminds me of Michael Jackson’s – Who is it.
To conclude this first part, please find below some amazing resources you should definitely read:
- Fire Emblem Awakening was supposed to be the final episode
- Iwata Asks – Awakening:
- Iwata Asks – Fates
- Nintendo Dream Interview – Awakening
- Dengeki Interview – Echoes
Note: for obvious reasons, reading those Iwata Asks is a bit of a “bittersweet” moment… I’ll probably do a series of “Industry Profiles” and speak about Iwata-san, and others.
Last but not least; here’s a picture of my little collection. Note that I have some games digitally… But it should be bigger in the next 6 months, as I’m planning to invest:
I hope you liked this introductory part. The first leg of the analysis should be available next week!