Yes it’s not 2020 at all, and there could be a new Fire Emblem game or spinoff announced for 2020. BUT with Three Houses’ release and DLC coming down the line for it, I feel it’s safe to say this decade of Fire Emblem has wrapped up. Guess that means it’s time to take a look back at one of the most harrowing but most successful decade for the tactical RPG franchise.
The Numbers (13)
Remakes: New Mystery of the Emblem, Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Mainline Games: Awakening, Fates, Three Houses
Spinoffs: Tokyo Mirage Sessions, Fire Emblem Heroes, Fire Emblem Warriors
Misc: Super Smash Bros (Wii U, Ultimate), Fire Emblem: Cipher, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M, Project X Zone 2
2010: Mystery of the Emblem and the dwindling franchise
Couldn’t have kicked off this decade of Fire Emblem without its past creeping up. With poor sales from Path of Radiance, Radiant Dawn, and Shadow Dragon, and with the 3DS on the horizon, Nintendo made the decision to pass on localizing New Mystery of the Emblem. This remains, after Fire Emblem: Blazing Blade made its Western debut, the only Fire Emblem game to remain Japan only. A shame since it vastly improved upon Shadow Dragon, but no matter. It didn’t come over here, and that left the franchise in limbo. Enough google searches regarding Fire Emblem, sales and cancellation will inform you that the series was on its last legs.
But of course, the one thing (well one of the big things) Mystery of the Emblem introduced was the avatar. It sorta existed in Blazing Blade, but in New Mystery you could choose your gender and be more of a part of the story than any other Fire Emblem at the time. Don’t kid yourself, it was totally shoehorned in, but this laid the seeds for what would happen next:
2012: The “Awakening” has come
Now, the avatar was a key factor due to making it feel you’re more involved in the story. But changes from Classic to having Classic and Casual, where permadeath wasn’t a thing, return of more detailed supports, a gameplay change that mixed past Fire Emblem gameplay elements with pair up, and more marketing brought forth Awakening, which does get praised for being the one to save the series…but it’s true. It did.
2015: New paths emerge
It’s because of Awakening that new possibilities emerged. Could we have seen outside of Smash Bros (which got some characters) any Fire Emblem character appearing in other series? Or a card game emerging? Or a massive spinoff mashing two completely different franchises together? Definitely not, but with Project x Zone, Fire Emblem Cipher, and to an extent some Fire Emblem characters appearing as skins in Monster Hunter, it signaled a turn for Fire Emblem. Tokyo Mirage Sessions probably did itself no favors by having a short trailer teasing a Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem mashup and reverting to idol stuff later on, but it still borrows elements from the Fire Emblem series, and that was not something any FE fan could’ve seen coming.
Of course, those are spinoffs — the next Fire Emblem, Fates, would greatly fix what was wrong in Awakening’s gameplay and also force the players to pick a side even more deeply than before — as the Avatar, Corrin, you would get to decide the fates of Hoshido and Nohr…or save them both somehow. Feels like the choosing your paths theme will come back to play later on this decade.
2017: The “Black Sheep” returns in HD
Soon enough, the franchise was popular enough that it was chosen to become one of Nintendo’s initial forays into mobile gaming. Fire Emblem Heroes was the game, and it has changed a LOT since 2017. If you can find some of the old YouTube videos of how it used it to be, you could even convince yourself it’s a brand new game. Or at least try to. Then Fire Emblem finally got a Warriors entry for both the Switch and the New Nintendo 3DS. It’s fairly apparent that what was a very solid franchise finally stopped being slept on.
Then the return of that one title remarkably different from every other entry of Fire Emblem returned. Very good decision to pick Gaiden to be remade, not only as a surprise factor, but it also laid some hints regarding how the latest entry into the series would be. But after only understanding the series through Mila’s Divine Protection and Wikipedia, playing Shadows of Valentia was better, to say the least.
2019: Choose your students and guide them through their path
And now we get to Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Never would’ve thought I’d know people at work who talk about a Fire Emblem game, and yet, there have been people at work talking about it. It’s still just getting into the hands of people who have to decide which noble they’ll choose to let them rule Fodlan (or something), and with more content on the way, it’s clear this version of FE is a bit different in some ways from prior ones. Outside of the usual staples we’ve seen this decade: The Avatar, lots of conversions, tea time, and sticking them close to each other for stats, and you breaking your brain in figuring out how to avoid getting wrecked by [Spoiler] while trying to lead [Spoiler] to victory.
To Sum It All Up
There’s no getting around that this decade has also been a source of adjustment not just for the fans, but to those who have created each entry, as it’s made such massive departures from all the other franchises. Permadeath is a Fire Emblem staple, there’s no way they can add a casual mode! Well, they did. Good thing they won’t add Phoenix Mode for future entries hopefully. But you have to have your weapons break! That’s been the case for most of the games in the series!…Well not anymore necessarily!
The tried and true strategy aspect has not changed though. Some have worked more than others (A break the ice map? Really Intelligent Systems???), but the essence of FE still exists, and doesn’t actually have to change. It’s clear that with each entry the staff at IS and Nintendo has figured out what works, looks at what doesn’t work, and they try to improve upon it with any new mainline entry. And that has brought in new fans, maintained its hardcore fans, while working hard to bring back the fans who just didn’t see it as Fire Emblem anymore. Doesn’t mean they got them all back. But they’re at least gonna try, as a new period of FE will emerge but in a state of, “How can we push the series to new heights now?