Fire Emblem Switch and Beyond
Nothing has been stated about the upcoming Fire Emblem for the Nintendo Switch except that it is slated for release sometime later this year. Even so, there are several features I feel are almost inevitable and a few I especially want to see. With the popularity of the actors involved in Fire Emblem and how well fans took to the voice work in Echoes, the next game will very likely have full voice acting during every scene. The amount of support conversations will determine if those get fully acted, or if they go back to the voice clips. I honestly wouldn’t mind if the next game contains fewer supports than Awakening or Fates, especially if they are all well-written and give each character a chance to shine. Regardless of how many supports there are, it’s doubtful that they will ever go back to the limited number of support points per character that games before Awakening have. Casual mode is a prerequisite at this point, and perhaps a turn-back-the-clock mechanic similar to Mila’s Turnwheel will appear as well. DLC is guaranteed.
8-4 is also likely to be Nintendo of America’s go-to for the localization, especially after how many people praised the writing in Awakening and Echoes and the severe backlash Nintendo Treehouse got for Fates‘ English script. I imagine only scheduling conflicts would get in the way of this. I’m hoping for a story and characters to be at least on par with Echoes and the Tellius games. There will be at least some ties to the series as a whole, though whether or not it will take place in the same world as a previous game is up in the air. Intelligent Systems has been fixated on placing its flagship series within a connected multiverse in these past few entries. One aspect of the story/world I will make a prediction about is that dragons will play some sort of important role.
Gameplay is still up in the air, except for certain basics like the Weapon Triangle. I personally want to see a return to the more intricate and strategic maps of Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, or at least the more puzzle-like maps of Revelation. Differing win conditions, like defending a point or escaping from a map would be appreciated as well. There is also the question of whether or not the next game will use an Avatar. I personally don’t like the Avatar much as I’m not a fan of self-inserts, but I’m not sure of the unit’s popularity as a whole.
With Gaiden out of the way, the next remake would logically be Genealogy of the Holy War. Indeed, I thought for sure we would have gotten this remake after Fates. After all, it would give Intelligent Systems a chance to use Awakening‘s version of the marriage and second generation system without shoehorning it into the game as they did with Fates. Perhaps the backlash to Fates‘s use of the mechanics was enough to make the developer believe fans want a break from marriage and children. Despite Genealogy being the next Fire Emblem chronologically, the director of Echoes, Kenta Nakanishi, expressed an interest in remaking The Binding Blade. It may be too soon to speculate on a remake, but it’s still fun to think about.
Josh’s Hopes, Fears, and Predictions:
So, after looking back at the recent games, where will the Fire Emblem series go when it returns on the Switch? There are some things that seem almost certain to be a part of the next iteration. After introducing near-universal voice acting in Echoes, it’s difficult to imagine that not being the case in the next game. There is no way that Casual Mode is going anywhere considering its role in helping expand the player base of the series. Also, expanded support conversations and the marriages that go with them seems like a sure bet to return after taking a game off, though if kids also make a return, let’s hope they do so in a slightly more believable manner.
I think there will be a mechanic similar to Mila’s Turnwheel in the next game. That mechanic works well at easing newcomers into the series while also allowing veterans to fix the occasional mistake without having to restart. I wouldn’t mind more limitations on the use of the Turnwheel depending on the difficulty level. Maybe I’m being a bit nitpicky, but with Fire Emblem, the difficulty isn’t in winning the battle, but keeping everyone alive while doing so. What makes the combat in the series interesting is the tension of knowing that death for a character is permanent and that the game is punishing the player for not paying careful attention to movement. At the same time, it’s frustrating to lose an hour of progress because it’s late at night and a player forgets to check if the healer is in range of the enemy. Something that made it a limited-use resource would be welcome, so long as it doesn’t become paid DLC.
I’m also personally a fan of the Bonus Experience system. The is no explicit need for the system as its been supplanted by the inclusion of the Pair Up mechanic in Awakening and Fates — which also serves as a useful way of ranking up characters in support conversations — as well as DLC maps for experience grinding. However, I’ve never completely liked the Pair Up mechanic though I don’t have any logical explanation as to why. There is just a weird OCD part of my brain that likes having nice, long skirmish lines and I tend to forget to use the Pair Up mechanic. Anyway, weird personal issues aside, I really like Bonus Experience as a way of leveling up weaker characters that can’t survive on the front lines of battle or providing an extra boost to top units. It just provides an easier way of customizing your party without the necessity of engaging in combat or buying DLC… which is why it will probably never happen.
Fire Emblem Switch should be a good-looking game and I expect it to set the standard for strategy RPGs, but it would be foolish to expect Final Fantasy XV-style opulence. There will be more and longer cutscenes than players have become accustomed to on the 3DS, but they are unlikely to drop the portrait-plus-text-box method of telling the story. It’s an added cost and risk that’s unnecessary to take.
Now that Fire Emblem will be on a more powerful console, I hope that the map design is ramped up in the Switch release. For all my complaints about Fates, it did have some great maps and hope some of that creativity makes it into the Switch release with more experimentation with new mechanics. I expect the maps will be expanded in size — maybe even with an expansion in party size — and there should be a good balance in types of missions that stretches beyond kill everyone or kill the boss.
Is Gacha the future of Fire Emblem?
There is also one other game that has released since the last console iteration, Fire Emblem Heroes. Heroes has been a huge success for Nintendo. While I quickly faded on it, it’s not necessary to dig through Nintendo’s financials to know Heroes has hordes of fans. So how will the Gacha success affect the console iterations of Fire Emblem? Hopefully not too much; I would like to think Nintendo is too conservative to risk a Battlefront II-style backlash to a major property. Tie-ins between the two games are a given, perhaps going as far as giving rewards in the Switch game for playing a Fire Emblem Switch questline in Heroes. I really hope there aren’t Gacha mechanics in the Switch game itself. Could there be a worse situation than “You want that new knight? Better hope a gem with two percent chance of dropping one hits.”? With a story-focused game, it’s hard to imagine that happening, but Nintendo has never been shy about loading up Fire Emblem games with DLC and even Xenoblade 2 had a non-monetized Gacha mechanic for collecting rare Blades. Including something like that with an option to buy chances would be the next logical step.
Backing away from that dystopian vision of the future and looking beyond the release of Fire Emblem Switch, there will likely be a return to remakes. Following Awakening‘s release, Genealogy of the Holy War with its marriage and a second-generation mechanic has always seemed like a perfect fit for revisiting, but I won’t be surprised if Intelligent Systems go in a completely different direction. Echoes came out of left field, with no marriage, no weapon triangle, and third-person dungeon crawling. So maybe the obvious won’t be the choice, but if I had to put money down, Genealogy of the Holy War would be my bet. Personally, I would love to see the Tellius games get a wider audience, either via remake or a Virtual Console release, assuming that ever comes to fruition on Switch.
Looking back at all these games, the one thing that runs through them is Intelligent Systems’ ambition and willingness to take risks. The risks don’t always pan out, but in an industry filled with me-too copycats and yearly iterations on rote formulas, I respect Intelligent Systems for daring to keep experimenting with new ideas for this long-running series. The thing I’m most confident in is that Intelligent Systems will do something with the story or mechanics that will be completely unexpected. I can’t wait to see what it has in store.