Fire Emblem as a series is more popular than ever. Recent releases on Nintendo Switch and mobile platforms have made the franchise more accessible, and newcomers are having an easier time learning its turn-based strategy mechanics. Yet, I’d speculate that the characters are an even bigger part of the appeal for the series. Players have flocked to Fire Emblem Heroes to collect their favorite waifus and husbandos, Masahiro Sakurai can’t seem to stop adding Fire Emblem characters to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses gave players scores of vibrant personalities to get attached to. Nintendo clearly understands the appeal of Fire Emblem’s characters, so placing them into a genre that lets them shine even more could be explosive for series popularity. Here’s how Fire Emblem could work as an adventure game.
(For Part 1 in this “what if” series, check out Metroid as a survival-horror game.)
The best of both worlds
An adventure game is, naturally, focused on player decisions that impact both character relationships and the overarching story. In recent years, Telltale Games (prior to its collapse and rebirth) made a name for itself with episodic adventure games such as The Wolf Among Us, and it’s a format that I think could work for Fire Emblem too. Strong personalities, selectable dialogue options, character deaths, and even multiple endings are defining aspects of Fire Emblem, making it a perfect fit for the adventure genre.
Whether episodic or not, a Fire Emblem adventure game could place the player in the boots of a protagonist with a prominent leadership position. In this role, the main character is physically impaired after a recent and ferocious battle before the game begins. With such a setup, the player couldn’t take part in combat themselves but would still hold some influence over other characters and thus be able to play an indirect part in events. Character relationships would be at the core of this system. Throughout the game, players could build friendships, mentorship positions, and even romances with a variety of interesting personalities.
Crucially, this emphasis on social skills would affect character relationships, the outcome of battles, and the main plot itself. Important dialogue decisions, such as advising a commander, would motivate how that character acts in a battle. Seemingly smaller decisions, such as showing favoritism or romantic inclinations to a character, could also affect the mental state of that character, or those around them, and influence their performance in combat. By letting player decisions indirectly affect the outcome of major battles, a Fire Emblem adventure game can retain its focus on large-scale wars that define the franchise. This would also give series veterans a new perspective on the typical Fire Emblem journey, as well as a fresh challenge in the form of mastering character dynamics.
Outside of dialogue, players could explore locations and examine items with plot relevance. Letters may give new insights into the lore of various factions, and personal trinkets would provide vital hints on how to approach future conversations with characters. Finding key items such as weapons or presents to gift to characters could boost morale and aid players in their social endeavors.
The influence of both exploration and dialogue decisions on the results of battles creates deeper consequences than Fire Emblem fans are used to. Permadeath becomes a more threatening mechanic when you might not see the effects of your actions play out until much later in the story. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, it was easy enough to circumvent your favorite characters dying, but the unpredictable nature of an adventure shaped by your decisions makes this infinitely harder in an adventure game.
Fire Emblem has a lot to gain from experimenting with the adventure genre. Series-defining elements such as lovable characters, permadeath, multiple endings, and larger-than-life battles can return, and all of these would be heightened by the fresh perspective and greater consequences that a dialogue-focused protagonist brings. The lovingly crafted lore of a typical Fire Emblem could be explored in far greater detail, and the variety of potential routes for the story to take would lend some welcome replayability to the game.
Would you like to see Fire Emblem go the Telltale route?