I am a huge fan of both RPGS and strategy games of all kinds, so the fact that this is the first Fire Emblem game I have ever played makes me regret not seeking out the English released titles of this great series sooner. A game that combines great tactical battlefield management with fleshed out role-playing elements is somewhat of a gaming dream of mine. With the satisfaction of my characters’ builds flowing perfectly with the strategies I laid out with the others, this is the most satisfying handheld game I’ve played in a long time.
The game takes place in the continent of Ylisse (Originally named Akaneia), which houses the Halidom of Ylisse, the Khan-ruled Regna Ferox, and the Theocracy of Plegia. Throughout the story you will encounter and endure the politics and dealings of all three countries. You start out as an enigma, passed out in the middle of the road without any memory of who you are or where you came from. The Prince of Ylisse himself finds you and quickly discovers your adept ability in combat situations and military maneuvering. From this he decides to take you in as the primary Tactician of his band of Protectorate Knights, the Shepherds.
As their Tactician you have complete control over each member of the army. Everything to their class, skill progression, equipment, and specific movement on the battlefield. As for the classes there are plenty to choose from, and most of your units can switch between any of them at level 10 with the choice of advancing to a more powerful and defined version instead. For example, Cavaliers can become Great Knights for more movement and flexibility, or a General to gain massive armor and defense bonuses. Or maybe decide to switch to a new profession entirely and become an Archer or a Mage. No matter the choice, that character will retain the attributes from the other classes and levels they already gained, which means if a Knight decided to make the switch to an Archer, then they will have more defense and resistance from previously being a Knight. This allows for massive customization of specialties, allowing each class to advance and switch multiple times for maximum optimization. Alongside these classes are the strengths and weaknesses on the battlefield they also gain. For example, lances get bonuses over swords for their reach, flying units can move throughout cliff sides and hills, and archer classes can take a flyer down with ease.
With all of this to think about, lack of complete knowledge of the battlefield can be very unforgiving, especially for those who decide to play in Classic mode. A mode in which if units fall in battle, they are gone and dead for the rest of the game. This adds a whole new level of importance to every single move you make. A difficulty that may turn some casual players away. As for me, it is an absolute thrill. This feature also adds depth to another unique feature of the game; relationships. As characters fight alongside each other in war their relationship grows, allowing them to not only gain bonuses on the field when they fight together but talk to each other in personalized conversations at the barracks. If the right characters gain enough of a relationship, they will in fact get married. This is a great way to create even more powerful tag teams and to turn the tide of some of the elements of the story as well. I found myself grinding away on enemies with just two characters to progress these to their fullest.
Sadly in a few cases I feel as though these relationships are forced and flat. I hooked up a lot of characters together that may not usually be considered and some of them were a surprise to watch unfold, while others felt way too unnatural. A lot of the characters hold on to a strong stereotype that they rarely veer away from. The stern vigilant Knight will always be a stern and vigilant Knight, the awkward creepy girl will always be the awkward creepy girl. There are a lot of moments in these conversations that really make you raise an eyebrow, but never makes you reconsider their standpoint.
With so much going on with the details of your army and politics of the Kingdoms, there is very little focus on the player character, unlike usual JRPG’s. I felt as though I was a part of the story, not the center of it. So when all of the looming questions this game hung over my head throughout the entire game were answered, I felt satisfied in knowing that all the pieces were put together in the end.