Reviews: Fire Emblem Elibe

Sword of Seals: The first GBA FE... and it shows.

FE 6 is my least favourite in the series, so fair warning: those who like the game might want to look away now.

When the series was first released in the west, the first game we got was oddly, a prequel. That ended on a Sequel Hook. So naturally, many would be interested in checking out the game that came before. Unfortunately, Blazing Sword was very much a Surprisingly Improved Sequel in comparison to this game.

It arose from an effort to greatly simplify the series after the SNES installments, and to return the series to its roots: Mystery of the Emblem. But there's a difference between returning to your roots and, well, this. All Fire Emblem games follow the same basic plot structure, but this game's feels like a Cliché Storm even by their standards. Its plot is nearly a direct copy-paste of Mystery of the Emblem's, and the characters are some of the most obvious Expies immaginable.

This was the first game with support conversations... and it shows. Radiant Dawn's dumbed down supports and Shadow Dragon's lack of them were bad enough, but this game has characters who manage to be bland and flat even WITH supports, which in my opinion is even worse. Alan and Lance are huge offenders in particular, hard to believe they preceeded Kent and Sain. There are a few hidden gems though, like Astol and Ingrene. Ironically, the most interesting characters in the game are the main villains Zephiel and Idoun.

Gameplay-wise, the game also has issues. It features some of the biggest Tier Induced Scrappies in the series, both of the pre-promoted (Juno, Garret) and Magikarp Power (Wendy, Sophia) variety. The main character, Roy is by far one of the series worst due to his insanely late promotion, leaving him stuck as a dead-weight Lv 20 unpromoted unit with bad stats (think Eliwood, but with bad defences) for most of the game. And the maps are filled with irritating Bolting mages to take advantage of him and unpromotable Thieves. The difficulty level of the game is pretty brutal overall, throwing things like Killer Axe users at you as early-game bosses, and just getting worse from there. There's a desert fog of war chapter with Wyvern Lord reinforcements, to give you an idea of how bad it gets.

Fans of FE 7 won't even like what happens to the characters, as fan-favourites are reduced to bit-parts or killed off early.

Rekka No Ken

Rekka No Ken, or simply "Fire Emblem" as released in the states, is a tactical RPG where three young heroes lead an army to battle against treacherous nobles, a league of assassins, and a mad wizard bent on ruling the world. The game is easy to learn, the gameplay is polished, the auto-save makes it ideal for gaming on the go, and the sprite art and animations have a lot of character beneath their simple designs. With three difficulty levels and two versions of the 30+ chapter campaign, the game is a challenge for any skill level, though it would benefit from the restrictive tutorial being skippable outside of Hard Mode.

Beyond that, the Support System is one of the best features of the game, turning player units from pawns into unique, identifiable characters with their own hopes, dreams, and struggles beyond the main plot. Supporting allows player unit pairs to advance relationships, subplots, and stat bonuses when near each other in battle, and adds a lot of replay value to the game. This is good, because restarting is basically the only thing to do after beating the final boss, forcing the player to abandon a literal army of characters they've nurtured to power. Rekka No Ken would have greatly benefited from a post-game like Fire Emblem The Sacred Stones' Creature Campaign, with level gauntlets and random battles.

The game's other main weakness is Eliwood, who is out-shined by Lyn and Hector as both a unit and character despite being billed as the main protagonist. Eliwood is The Mario to Lyn's Fragile Speedster and Hector's Mighty Glacier, but often ends up merely mediocre by comparison due to stat growth. Worse, his Wide Eyed Idealism is much less interesting than Lyn's Action Girl compassion, Noble Savage pride, and tragic backstory, or Hector's Blood Knight tendencies clashing with responsibility in the face of his older brother's impending mortality. Lyn's case is especially frustrating, as she becomes largely irrelevant after the tutorial and never gets to make good on her oath against the bandits to who killed her tribe.

These are relatively minor complaints, though. Rekka No Ken is a great game with challenging but accessible gameplay, memorable characters, and plenty of depth beneath its simple surface. It may not be perfect, but fans of tactical games and more traditional RPGs should both find plenty to love here.