Nintendo of Japan certainly know how to pick a strange day for a new Nintendo Direct: on a Sunday, a day before June and just weeks away from E3 (and with me conveniently away at the Pokemon VGC UK Nationals, in case you’re wondering why this news post is so late).
Today’s Japan-only Direct focused on upcoming Summer 3DS and Wii U games and, Fire Emblem if, being a Summer title (it comes out on 25th June in case you didn’t know or forgot) was naturally featured.
To begin with, the Fire Emblem if portion of the Direct introduced a brand new key feature known as My Castle. This is the player’s base of operations; a castle town that serves as a hub for interacting with characters and accessing facilities, similar to the world map in Awakening.
The first thing you may notice is that you–the Avatar–can freely walk around on the map, like in a traditional RPG (or inside the villages of Fire Emblem Gaiden).
From initial impressions, My Castle seems like a glorified version of the Barracks in Awakening. Like there, players can initiate simple conversations with playable characters (or pairs of characters) or obtain rare and wonderful items from characters.
However we soon discover that things are more complex, as players can customise the content of My Castle, which can include deciding what facilities (such as armouries) to build and where to place them on the grid.
To add facilities, “Dragon Vein Points” are required (eg. a Level 1 Hoshidan Armoury costs 1 point to build). Later, we discover these are earned after winning StreetPass battles, although it’s not yet known whether they can be earned through other battles.
After building a facility, player-recruited characters may run them, such as Kazahana managing a Hoshidan Armoury. Which is a neat touch.
Apparently the time of day and/or season can change, as the castle town scenery changes from day-time and fresh green grass to what appears to be sunset and earth-orange soil. The Barracks kept track of the time of day (and the date), so it wouldn’t be a surprise if My Castle did as well.
While the player strolls through the sunset, there are two things of note, which can be easily missed if you’re not paying attention.
Firstly, there’s a dragon statue here that greatly resembles the dragon statue overlooking the Hoshidan capital in the April trailer. We now know both Hoshido and Nohr worship the Divine Ancestral Dragon(s)–perhaps this is a statue of one?
Secondly, below the dragon is a rather curious insignia. The same insignia appears for a split-second later on, in the background of the StreetPass team menu and it also happens to be the graphic used for the game in the 3DS Home (and eShop) menu.
Considering Awakening had the Mark of Naga (which was crucial to the plot) for its 3DS menu graphic, this could suggest that the insignia has a similarly important role.
The insignia itself has a very interesting design. In the top-left corner, there’s the symbol of a tree and, on the opposite side, the symbol of wind. In the other corners, we have the symbols of the Sun and Moon. As for the big spiral in the middle, perhaps that symbolises a dragon?
Anyway, that’s a lot to take in… Let’s stand back for a bit and admire our surroundings.
Besides the typical top-down view, there is the option to survey your surroundings from a behind-the-shoulder perspective. In this perspective, players can rotate the camera 360 degrees around a fixed point. Movement does not seem to be possible, however.
Before moving on, notice the dark, winged statue in the far distance–is that a dragon statue from Nohr? (In the 4th June issue of Famitsu, we learn that you can build a “Dark Dragon Statue” in Nohr, so this is likely.)
My Castle is also host to a variety of visitors–namely other Fire Emblem if players met via StreetPass. From the looks of things, StreetPass visitors spawn at a designated StreetPass plaza.
The options when meeting visitors are almost the same as the ones in Awakening. So you can check out a visitor’s profile card, stats of their units, battle them in your castle, battle them in their castle, visit them or dismiss them.
Choosing to “visit” is perhaps the most interesting of the lot, as you can visit the other player’s My Castle. Once there, you speak to the other players’ units (to receive resources etc.) or even use their facilities (such as purchasing from their armouries).
Of course, battling is fun too. Like in Awakening, players can pick up to 10 playable characters for their StreetPass team–or “Defence (Team)” as the game calls it.
Although those who partook in Awakening StreetPass battles probably know how one-sided the battles usually became, with your character’s steam-rolling the opponent simply by merit of using Pair Up.
This time, StreetPass battles take place inside My Castle and the focus is on defending your castle from the invading visitors. To spice things up, there are many new options to adjust your team.
You can now choose the position of your characters on the map, whether they’re paired up or not, choose from simple AI options (eg. stay still, guard or charge) and even assign them into groups (A, B or C).
When the player is swapping the positions of Felicia and Sakura, you can see that Felicia is Level 40, which is most unusual. In past games, Level 30 was the highest possible–in Awakening, it was reserved for special classes that could not promote.
However, signs point to Felicia being in the promoted Maid class. Could it be that characters who join already promoted get 20 bonus Levels so they can gain a similar number of Levels as non-promoted characters?
Interestingly, enemies can be seen attacking (and destroying) your buildings, although we’re told any damage done is reverted after the battle.
That said, perhaps there is a bonus for keeping your buildings intact at the end? Either way, a well-crafted Defence will be important for your pride at least!
Lastly, besides visitors via StreetPass, if you’re lucky enough to own any of the four Fire Emblem Amiibos (Marth, Ike, Robin and Lucina), you can make the heroic characters visit your castle by scanning in their Amiibo (either using a new 3DS or the 3DS Amiibo adapter).
After locating a heroic visitor, you can battle them and, if you win, they will join your side. The footage shows the Avatar and Takumi facing off against Marth and horribly losing, so hopefully there are some challenging battles to be had.
Once the footage ends, the host informs Japanese fans that the pre-load for Fire Emblem if will be available soon after the Direct is over.
For those not familiar with pre-loads, they are basically complete copies of the game that cannot be played until the game officially comes out. If fans download the pre-load, they can play the game immediately when it comes out, instead of downloading it then.
Besides what was covered in the Direct, Nintendo also decided to update the game’s official site (finally!).
Furthermore, they released a fancy 9 minute video documenting My Castle–expanding on the information in the Direct and going far beyond.
Once I’ve rested a bit, I’ll cover all of that, but until then… feel free to join us in the Fire Emblem if forums (if you dare…).