Fire Emblem: Japan’s Biggest Strategy RPG Series

If you’re interested in Japanese games, you’ve probably already heard a lot of talk about the recently released Fire Emblem Engage, the latest entry in the critically acclaimed Fire Emblem franchise. Much like other titan gaming franchises such as Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda or Donkey Kong, Fire Emblem is also a Nintendo series that got its start on the Nintendo Entertainment System. In 1990, Japan got its first taste of the anime-inspired tactical roleplaying action that the Fire Emblem series would become known for with the release of the game Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and The Blade of Light.

Decades later, the Fire Emblem series has become something of an international hit. Although the early titles in the series haven’t been released in regions outside of Japan, the series gained some traction overseas after characters from the series appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Nintendo’s crossover fighting game. After this, western localisations for the series started with the seventh instalment, Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, which was released as ‘Fire Emblem’ in Europe and America for the Gameboy Advance system. Although the series was already a smash hit in Japan, it slowly gained a cult following in the west thanks to this release.

The Fire Emblem series saw a rebirth with the release of 2012’s Fire Emblem: Awakening for the Nintendo 3DS. This game brought the series into a new era, modernising classic gameplay systems alongside a brand new setting and cast. Awakening was a huge success, revitalising interest in the series across the globe.

Since Awakening, the series quickly reached a new peak of popularity. Awakening was quickly followed by Fire Emblem: Fates, another game in a similar style for the Nintendo 3DS, and Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, a remake of the second game in the series. Capitalising on the continued love for the franchise, Fire Emblem: Three Houses released in 2019 for the Nintendo Switch, marking the most successful release in the series with over 3.8 million copies sold worldwide. 

But what exactly is Fire Emblem, and why does it hold so much appeal? What sets it apart from other strategy games, and why are its characters and settings so beloved? If you’re looking to find a new game series to fixate on, we’re here to explain it all to you.

What is Fire Emblem?

If you don’t have any context at all for Fire Emblem, the easiest way to explain it is like a chess game where you grow attached to the characters. As an SRPG, Fire Emblem incorporates elements of both classic strategy games and character development mechanics that you might expect from something like Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy.

The Fire Emblem games offer plenty of opportunities for you to show of your strategic brilliance, with a grid based movement system, a ‘rock-paper-scissors’ style ‘weapon triangle’ (Sword beats axe, axe beats lance, and lance beats sword!) and a limited number of moves per turn. In many of the entries, characters that die in combat will stay dead for the whole game, meaning you’ll need to plan your moves carefully.

Fire Emblem games usually focus on large scale conflicts in fantasy universes, where you control a faction of heroes and lead the fight in a series of tactical battles. On an aesthetic level, it’s pure fantasy: magic, dragons, swords, shields, fortresses and ancient artefacts are common elements across all of the games. The series title, ‘Fire Emblem’ comes from an artefact that appears in all of the games. 

Recent entries of the Fire Emblem series have also incorporated plenty of life simulation and character interaction mechanics to help you better understand the lives you’re putting on the line. Fire Emblem games have large and diverse casts full of plenty of different kinds of warriors, so it’s pretty easy to get attached to the various characters.

Each Fire Emblem story tells a unique story in an original fantasy universe. Although some of the games are connected, they’re mostly standalone experiences, meaning you can start the series in any era and have a great experience.

How To Start Playing Fire Emblem

Thanks to the series growing in popularity recently, there are now a number of excellent places to start your experience of the fire emblem franchise. It’s entirely valid to jump in on the latest entry, Fire Emblem Engage, although due to that games’ numerous eferences to past titles, you might get more out of it if you try out some of the other titles in the series first.

Fire Emblem Awakening on the 3DS, for example, is a pretty great place to start. This story requires no knowledge of any prior Fire Emblem games to enjoy and also presents a shorter, more streamlined Fire Emblem experience. The game details an epic story of the country of Ylisse and their war with the neighbouring region of Plegia, gradually unfolding to reveal an ancient conflict between the Fell Dragon Grima and the Divine Dragon Naga. The game can be started and finished in just under 15 hours, which is pretty lean by modern game standards.

If you’re looking for a meatier game with more mechanics and character engagement than Awakening, then Fire Emblem: Three Houses is also a great place to start. This game for Nintendo Switch added a lot to the standard formula of a Fire Emblem game, placing the player in the role of a teacher leading a group of students through their time at a military academy in the new continent of Fodlan, a region made up of three warring factions. Three Houses featured more opportunities to engage with the cast of heroes than ever before, allowing the player to not only get to know them but also mould their skills to transform them into the perfect warriors.

If you’d like to jump in with the new Fire Emblem, however, Engage looks to be a ‘return to form’ to a more traditional style of Fire Emblem gameplay, omitting some of the newer details added in Three Houses. However, Engage has received an excellent reception and seems like it’s fairly welcoming for newcomers!

Where To Get Fire Emblem Merchandise

If you’re already a Fire Emblem fan, you’ve come to the right place. On Neokyo, you can find all sorts of Fire Emblem merchandise from Japanese marketplaces such as, Surugaya, Rakuten and more. In addition, you can also find the original games – including those that haven’t yet been translated to other languages!

Using our multi-marketplace search bar, it’s really easy to search the term ‘Fire Emblem’ and receive a lot of results. You can get even more specific and search for select games and characters in the series, and find all kinds of interesting items that can only be found in Japan.

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