Very soon, 2018 will be coming to an end. Just before we welcome the new year, let’s take a look back at how 2018 treated Fire Emblem, shall we?
Compared to the year before, 2018 was somewhat of a gap year for Fire Emblem. There were no notable releases, not even any spin-offs. However, things were far from quiet thanks to regular updates to Fire Emblem Heroes, which launched in 2017, as well as the Cipher card game.
In addition, we finally learned the true identity of the upcoming Fire Emblem title for the Nintendo Switch. Even if the game was delayed from its tentative 2018 release date to sometime in Spring 2019. So that gave us something nice to look forward to.
Disclaimer: This isn’t meant to be an objective review of the year, but the author’s personal take on things.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fans had to wait for a very long time, but at long last, during E3 2018, the first trailer for the Nintendo Switch Fire Emblem title was shown to the public.
Known as the Fire Emblem: Three Houses in the West, this title will take place in a new world called Fodlan, where the Church of Seiros holds great power. We were introduced to three key characters–Edelgard, Dimitri and Claude–who seem to represent the titular Three Houses.
From the trailer, it appears there’s a stronger emphasis on world-building, as we’re shown a detailed map with many named locations. There’s also a new gameplay mechanic where units are supported by squads that can change their formation to adapt to the situation.
The trailer then closed with a mysterious young dragon girl sleeping atop a throne, evoking imagery of Tiki–the Divine Dragon Princess from Archanea. While it’s probably not Tiki herself, it’s a nice throwback and does raise a lot of questions about the game’s story.
Unfortunately, six months later, we haven’t had a shred of new information about the game. But it shouldn’t be too long now before the information flood gates start to open. Hopefully this new title will usher Fire Emblem into another great era!
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Once again, the Fire Emblem series was well-represented in Nintendo’s latest brawler. During E3, we learned that every single fighter from every iteration of Smash would be in the latest sequel. So that meant the return of Marth, Roy, Ike, Lucina, Robin and Corrin.
Then a few months later, we got another nice surprise: Chrom–who met an untimely fate in the 3DS and Wii U iterations–would be joining Ultimate as a fighter! More accurately, he’s an Echo Fighter of Roy, but the important thing is that he’s playable.
At the time of writing, no more fighters from Fire Emblem have been added. But Tiki and the Black Knight were promoted from regular trophies to assist trophies. Plus there’s still the prospect of DLC fighters, keeping the dream healthy and alive.
Fire Emblem Warriors
This hack and slash title developed by Koei Tecmo released in late 2017, but it wouldn’t be the last we’d hear from it. Because only 1 of the 3 planned DLC packs had been released.
During mid-February, the Shadow Dragon DLC Pack arrived, featuring Linde, Navarre and Minerva. This greatly helped to expand the rather small Shadow Dragon roster in the base game.
Then the Awakening DLC Pack came out in late March, completing the set. This time, Olivia, Owain and Tharja joined the fray. With the DLC all wrapped up, the developers spoke to Famitsu about their experience creating the DLC and whatnot.
Around this time, we got news that Fire Emblem Warriors shipped 1 million copies world-wide, which is quite a huge feat for a relatively niche franchise like Warriors. Despite some backlash about the narrow roster, it seems the game was a success.
With that, the curtains closed on Fire Emblem Warriors. Maybe in the future, we’ll see the promised sequel?
Fire Emblem Heroes
At the time of writing, Heroes is almost approaching its 2nd anniversary. This year was a solid year for Heroes by most accounts, but it definitely had its share of roughs and tumbles.
Things were off to a pretty good start as the developers entertained the game’s 1st anniversary at the start of February. In “A Hero Rises”, players around the globe voted for their favourite Hero to be given to everyone as a free 5-star unit. The winning Hero was–to the surprise of few–Legendary Ike.
At the same time, we also got the results of “Choose Your Legends: Round 2”, held near the end of 2017. On the men’s side, Hector and Ephraim emerged as the winners. While on the women’s side, Celica and Veronica topped the charts. All four would be released on August, with Veronica being a choice pick.
Then things got a bit rocky; although looking back, all the signs were already there. The very first summoning event of the year, “World of Dawn” gave us the popular Micaiah and Sothe. But at the same time, it provided us a worrying clue of the game’s direction from here on. For we received our first non-seasonal alt in Zelgius.
After that, we’d be flooded with alts on a regular basis with Anamnesis Lady Eirika the next fortnight, then two Fallen alts not long after that. The Legendary Heroes after Gunnthra were all alts as well, although that perhaps shouldn’t have been surprising.
On top of that, there were perhaps far too many Awakening and Fates Heroes. New Heroes for these games were added on March, April, July, September and November. That’s not including the seasonal and Legendary banners, where they dominated around half.
To be fair, Awakening and Fates are the most recent and most popular games. But putting so much focus on them has caused the developers to neglect other frequently requested titles. It got so bad that they had to tell fans they’re working on new Radiant Dawn and Binding Blade Heroes.
The combination of these two factors, along with unprecedented powercreep, saw a lot of fan backlash. This could be strongly felt in many close-knit communities. But it even started sneaking into Nintendo’s own YouTube channels, with many videos reaching record-breaking dislike/like ratios.
In more positive news, during early December, Book III of the main story was released. Earlier, Book II concluded with the demise of Surtr, ruler of Muspell. Although Book II started with a lot of promise and it had a lot of good moments, it did have a lot of wasted potential.
Book III takes a darker turn, as Alfonse and his friends must fight to repel the army of Hel, the realm of the dead. Right now, the story seems so-so, but it’s still early days. More than anything, it’s nice to finally see Alfonse and Sharena’s parents in the flesh, and the way they interact.
Sadly, Book III was also when they silently killed a new game mode–Aether Raids–not long after introducing it. For some reason, they thought it was a good idea to award more points for merged Heroes. Together with Surtr’s oppressive presence, it became a struggle to take seriously.
The controversies don’t appear to be leaving the building any time soon, as two of the recently announced New Year Heroes are being included in special limited edition 140 Orb packages as a “bonus”. We’ve had Heroes included in Orb packs before, but not in such expensive ones…
Anyway, there’s been a lot of good stuff too. For one, we’ve been getting some pretty cool free 5-star Heroes from Tempest Trials, including seasonal ones. They also added a way to merge these Heroes, although it requires playing Aether Raids *grumble*.
For all the powercreep, the developers have generously buffed many early Heroes by giving them new weapon refinery options. Recently, the Whitewing sisters got a refine that lets them use the Triangle Attack. We also learned that some Jugdrali Heroes will be getting refines early next year.
In closing, if you survived 2018, give yourself a pat on the back. We hope next year is a better year for Heroes. With luck, the developers will reflect on the feedback they’ve received during this year.
Otherwise, you could always jump ship to Dragalia Lost.
Fire Emblem Cipher
While Heroes is reaching its 2nd year, Cipher is now 3 and a half years old at this point. Originally released alongside Fates, the card game is still going strong and continues to receive a lot of support from Intelligent Systems.
March saw the first new expansion of the year: Series 12: “Raging Deluge”. This set focused on characters from Radiant Dawn, Awakening and Genealogy of the Holy War. A 7th Cipher mascot was introduced too: Niamh, a woman from a realm enveloped by the Boundless Chaos.
Next, Series 13: “Flame, Steel, Thought and Grief” launched in late June. This set included characters from Blazing Blade, Shadow Dragon and–for the very first time–Heroes. Additionally, this set introduced the idea of “seasons”, with sets from past seasons being slowly rotated out of tournament play.
In late September, Series 14: “Eyegazing Future” made its debut. This set covered Awakening, Fates Birthright and Path of Radiance, with a tiny dash of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Newly added was the “Boundless Area”, from which cards cannot be recovered from.
Finally, Series 15: “The Glimmering World” arrived on December to conclude the year for Cipher. This set contained characters from New Mystery of the Emblem, Fates Conquest and Thracia 776, plus a few from Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE.
Events and Merchandise
This year has been quite fruitful for Fire Emblem merchandise, in Japan at least.
In January, a new music CD entitled “Session ~Flower of Enchantment~” was announced. To celebrate the release, a pair of concerts were held at the the Science Museum Science Hall in Tokyo, during March.
Then in February, we got details about this year’s Fire Emblem Cipher Festival. Similar to the year before, Cipher visited two locations in Japan, bringing along the usual stage show and merchandise goodness.
The following month, in March, an artbook for Shadows of Valentia, the Valentia Accordion was announced. After the book was released, Kirokan and I, plus many guest translators, worked together to translate most of the book. You can read all about it on Kirokan’s website!
During the same month, Intelligent Systems started to slowly roll out various miscellaneous pieces of merchandise–mostly badges and clear files. This theme would repeat semi-regularly throughout the year, with small batches of merchandise scheduled for May and December 2018, and January, February and March 2019.
Things then got a bit quiet until June, when a drama CD for Shadows of Valentia was announced. “Foreign Skies; Daybreak Forest” followed Alm’s first steps into the foreboding Rigel Forest.
July saw the Cipher team announce the Fire Emblem Cipher Summer Party. The events under this umbrella were similar in style to the Cipher Festival events held earlier in the year, but obviously they took place during Summer instead.
To our surprise, a pair of fan books dedicated to the younger royal brothers from Fates, Leo and Takumi, were revealed around this time as well. These books also teased the oft-mentioned Fates art book. Will we finally get it in 2019?!
Moving onto October. After a gap of 15 years years, Intelligent Systems finally announced a comprehensive Binding Blade and Blazing Blade soundtrack. This move came after the release of the Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn soundtracks the year before.
Later on, in November, Intelligent Systems announced Fire Emblem Expo, an event taking place in Japan during May 2019. Afterwards, we’d learn that it’s nothing super serious, but instead an event for fans to enjoy and celebrate the series. Because why not?
Among the main attractions of the expo was an art exhibition dedicated to Thracia 776, ahead of its 20th anniversary. By some awful coincidence (or perhaps the event planners saw it coming and wished to honour her beforehand), Mayumi Hirota–the game’s artist–passed away towards the end of 2018.
Last but not least, Cipher made another appearance at the Winter Comiket during the tail end of the year. Cue more eager fans queuing up to bag all the exclusive merchandise, such as the Cavalier Duo’s second album. Speaking of which, I’ll try and get that out to you soon…
On the community side, we started a talent showcase in June, dubbed “June-munnity Fan-artist Month”. Featured artists included Peachisaa, Flamingopunch, Geminids, CWilock and Goldtectonic. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we sadly couldn’t continue the series, but we’re hoping to do something similar another time.
Later in November, we teamed up with r/fireemblem and r/FireEmblemHeroes for another series of charity live-streams in support of Extra Life. This year, there were four 12 hour streams during each Saturday, for a total of 48 hours of content. The event was a big success, raising $13,000. Many thanks to everyone who played a part, no matter how big or small!
In spite of no new releases, 2018 was a fairly eventful year for Fire Emblem. Although mostly thanks to Heroes, for better or worse.
Next year is definitely going to be the one to watch though, as Fire Emblem finally returns to the big screen–and handheld fans can still have their fun too, thanks to the duality of the Switch.
Regardless, we hope you had a good year–and that 2019 will be an even better one!