I’m terrible at strategy games. Absolutely terrible. So it’s a true testament to how good a game is, when in a genre I’m notoriously bad at, I can find more than enough enjoyment in a game to the point of finishing it. And the Fire Emblem series is one of those very few games that actually succeeds in capturing my attention. So specifically I’m going to start off by talking about the first game in the series I ever played, Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword for the GameBoy Advance.
I don’t remember who or what made me try this series out, I’d never heard of it before. I assume someone told me about it, cause I wasn’t the magazine reader at that point, so I really didn’t have much in terms of information of what was the really good stuff circulating. But regardless of the reason, I got a copy, popped that little sucker into my GBA and booted it up for the first time.
I immediately got attached to Lyndis. It’s crazy to me now that I think about it how beautiful I thought she looked back then and keep in mind this is GBA graphics we’re talking here. They weren’t all that good. But the game’s design clearly uses what they have to make some beautiful art within the game and it shows with Lyndis. She comes off like a common girl, technically raised as such but it’s so uncommon for a character who is of royal blood (spoilers, hahaha!) not follow the usual tropes of being either a super snotty bitch, a damsel in distress or an overly charismatic leader. Lyndis is just…normal. She just happens to be really good with a sword due to her raising as a child. But she’s normal and I love that about her.
Then came my first round of the game’s mechanics. It seemed simple in my mind. It’s like a rock, paper, scissors style of system. Cool, I can get into that. Forward a few chapters later and I’m getting my ass handed to me. My problem then was very simple: my lack of patience. I didn’t want to take my time, analyze each move I make, guess the opponent’s next move, set up traps, all the common shit you think of every turn in a Fire Emblem game. But back then, I didn’t get it, I was used to JRPGs where I could just grind myself to the point I could poke enemies to death. This time though, I had to rely on my dumbass teenage brain and for a while it didn’t work all that well.
It took some time, in fact it took until I re-played the game years later (albeit on an emulator, since my GBA and stuff “disappeared” over the years, aka someone threw it out) when I started to get the hang of the system. Granted I had also gotten into games like Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat where I was learning to be more strategic with my play rather than just rushing head first into things. So when I started going through the chapters again, I immediately noticed an improvement. I wasn’t winning battles with people barely alive, I didn’t need to reset the chapter for the umpteenth time, I was winning chapters with some decent proficiency.
To an untrained strategist, a game like Fire Emblem will knock you on your ass repeatedly as you make mistake after mistake in your moves. Which is why it was such a triumphant moment for me to finally get over the hump and figure out my own successful style in the game’s parameters. I felt smart playing a video game, something at the time I wasn’t accustomed to feeling, I mostly just powered my way through things. And when the mechanics are as solid as they are, even the most stressful times during this process was still a ton of fun for me.
The battle system is just so good, it’s pretty obvious. The game’s mechanics really haven’t changed much from then to the newest games on the 3DS, really they’ve just added a few things on top of it, but the main layer remains mostly the same. The overhead map really should never change, it’s still perfect to this day. Same goes for the battle mechanics, I love how they really just add new classes into the mix, but keep the basics the same. You don’t need to go into a new Fire Emblem game blind, you might just have to add two new things into your brain over the course of the game.
Lastly, just to gush about a few things, I love so many of the female characters in this game. The Fire Emblem series just has a knack for designing some just absolutely beautiful women. Rebecca and Lyndis of course are my favourites, but other girls like Florina, Serra, Ninian and others are all done so well and just add onto the list of things I love about this game. I also love how the game ends and there’s a whole other story to go through afterwards with Eliwood. I love it when games finish a story and then go “Oh you thought that was it? Surprise!” with another campaign. Awesome.
This won’t be the last Fire Emblem game in the weekly spotlight, but as I said before Blazing Sword was my first entry into the series and my most memorable. It’s not my favourite, as Awakening holds that title, but Blazing Sword ain’t far behind.