I’m a huge Fire Emblem fan. I’ve made that no secret since I started work part time for this site. To see how the series has evolved over the last five years has been absolutely fascinating. Like it or not, Fire Emblem: Awakening changed things to save the franchise.
I started playing the series with Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. I’m in the camp of old-school fans of the franchise and loved Awakening for bringing in new fans and making subtle changes to put a bigger emphasis on pairing up units. I know a lot of fans though were disheartened by the stronger focus on character relations, marriages, and simpler gameplay modes (such as casual mode with no perma-death) to bring in new fans, which brings us to a very interesting discussion point about the next installment in the franchise.
Many older fans love how the older games focused more on combat than relationships, while many modern fans love the series’ focus on building relationships between characters and seeing how they play out. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadow of Valentia is following Fire Emblem Fates, and there’s a lot to digest about that. Fates appealed more to newer fans of the franchise by having a stronger emphasis on building relationships and marriages rather than story and gameplay, while Echoes is a remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden and seems to have a stronger focus on combat. Echoes also seems to have no marriage mechanic, which could be a major breaking point for modern fans of the franchise. An interesting question emerges: What happens if Echoes sells as well as Awakening and Fates did? Could we see changes being made to the franchise going forward?
The biggest thing I think we will see if Echoes succeeds is more of the older games in the franchise remade for English speaking audiences. Fans could finally play Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War or Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 if strong sales of Echoes show Nintendo that the demand is high enough. It could also cause the developers to rethink placing less emphasis on the difficulty and combat of future installments like some fans complained they did with Fates.
Controversially though, if Echoes tanks sales-wise, we could see future Fire Emblem games focus on the character building and marriage aspects that older fans seem to resent, since Nintendo will believe that those mechanics are the main factors pushing Fire Emblem’s success. Frankly, I couldn’t blame Nintendo if they took that route. The series being saved from the brink was shocking enough, and if their sales data suggests that the defining elements of the modern games in the franchise are the reason for that newfound success, it would be smart of them to keep pushing those elements. Even if old-school fans keep being adamantly vocal about detesting them, Nintendo will take the route that has shown to be commercially successful.
Echoes’ success or failure could launch the Fire Emblem franchise into two different paths. If Echoes succeeds, we could see English remakes of more of the older games and see the gameplay of future installments of the series made more challenging. If Echoes fails, then the focus on relationships and marriages that old fans seem to despise will only be given more attention on future games. Old-school fans, I think the message is clear. You want old Fire Emblem back? You better do everything you can to make sure Echoes sells when it hits shelves May 19th.