I have once again dived into a replay of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I know there’s a new Fire Emblem game coming out in January. I know there’s a new Pokémon game coming out in just over a month. I know there’s a rerelease of a Kirby game coming out in just a couple weeks. But my heart yearns for entertainment now and what’s more entertaining than strategy games, my favorite podcast, and nothing but the cool darkness of a crisp, fall evening? Plus, they’re all comforting. Being under blankets, listening to familiar voices tell comforting stories, playing a game that engages my brain just the right amount (and maybe trying a new, more intense difficulty if I decide I want more than additional support conversation unlocks out of this play-through). I have a tendency to focus on familiar comforts when I’m stressed and BOY HOWDY am I stressed this week, so I’ve decided to go all-in on comforts in what remains of my evening awake hours now that I find myself dozing off well before my usual bedtime.
I’ve been playing Fire Emblem games since Path of Radiance released for the Game Cube in 2005. I’ve owned three copies of that game, since it wasn’t release widely and I’m pretty sure that my brother stole and sold the first two I owned (the official story is that they “got lost” but that’s the same story for what happened to most of my video games that went missing and it never really held water), but it was my introduction to the franchise and still holds a special place in my heart. I try to replay it every so often, but it’s getting more and more difficult to do so as my consoles age out of functionality. I wish it was popular enough for a port or remake, but I feel like Fire Emblem didn’t get big in the US until the DS years.
I feel like Fire Emblem Awakening primed the pump, Fates got everyone hooked, and then Three Houses cemented the games in the eyes of western audiences. I don’t know another person who has played Path of Radiance and Radient Dawn, though most people are familiar with the games thanks to the popularity of Ike and his appearance in the Super Smash Brothers games. Someday, I hope to discuss favorite missions and the limitations of the early support systems (I think characters could only have six support conversations throughout the entire game, which meant I did a LOT of replaying that game, trying to unlock them) with another person, but for now I’m just glad a whole bunch of people like the same franchise that I do.
The new one looks interesting, like it’s leaning more heavily into the interpersonal management and character-centric activities that were so popular in Three Houses, but it also seems to be doubling down on the classic formula of how battles are run. Which hasn’t really been at risk of being changed, I just love that part more than anything else, so I’m always happy to see the strategy side of the game stay consistent or improve. The Warriors style of games are fun, and being able to zoom in during a battle to see your character ostensibly leading a battalion of soldiers in Three Houses was a cool feature, but I really just want my grid and turn based strategy game of weapon types, power stats, and weight versus attack speed calculations.
I remember having to do the math myself to figure out when a character would attack twice, using high-stat characters as my controls to figure out how the formula worked. I think the simpilifed version that just tells you outright is better, but that was only visible if you went to attack an enemy so I would up doing lot of calculations myself. I definitely feel nostalgic for those extra difficult battles when I’d need to get out my scratch notebook so I could figure out if Boyd was gonna survive the enemies that were going to attack him during their turn or if I’d need to find a way to prevent him from killing each target after they strike him first. Good times. My first time through Path of Radiance, I lost him early and spent the rest of the game mourning his loss, trying to make it up to his brothers and fill the high-damage and high-hp slot he filled.
I don’t know if I’ve just gotten so much better at the games or if they’re really just this much easier (easy mode in Three Houses lets you grind battles for XP and support points, so that one’s definitely just easier), but I feel like I lost more characters in Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn than I’ve lost in all of the games since. I’m defintely better at strategy and placement than I was before, at using the game’s systems to manipulate the map to my advantage and knowing what I need to have in the game to keep my risky actions from getting anyone killed, but I definitely feel like character death is unexpected and not really a part of my day-to-day experience with the game anymore.
Anyway, I’m extremely exhausted in mind, body, and soul, so I’m gonna go make myself a pizza, grab my dumb spicy chips, pour myself a tall glass of grapefruit juice to prevent indigestion, and go enjoy my evening instead of trying to find a way to segue from thoughts about character death and Fire Emblem over the ages to the fact that I’ve played more of Three Houses than all my other Fire Emblem games put together and my thoughts on why that is. That gets to be it’s own blog post, probably for tomorrow.