As the curtains fall on 2020, here’s a look back at the key Fire Emblem happenings this year.
Disclaimer: This isn’t meant to be an objective review of the year, but the author’s personal take on things.
Before we dive into things, overall, 2020 has been an unprecedented year. For many, I imagine it was a challenging year. The impact of coronavirus across the world cannot be understated–and it’s possible it’ll have a lasting influence for years to come.
There’s a small part of me that wanted to skip this year’s retrospective, but despite everything, there have been some good things–and I don’t want to pretend nothing happened.
For better or worse, Fire Emblem first made the headlines in 2020 with the announcement of Byleth as the 5th DLC fighter for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The reveal was made during a presentation on 16th January; Byleth him/herself would be available from 29th January. Since I don’t play Smash, I didn’t really pay attention to the comments at the time, but I could still imagine them…
Given the success of Three Houses and Sakurai’s admiration of the Fire Emblem series, it was almost a given that Smash would eventually get a Three Houses rep. Personally, I would’ve been more excited if it was somebody like Edelgard, to avoid yet another sword-wielder. But presumably Nintendo didn’t want to favour one particular house over another–and hence we got the neutral Byleth with all their relics.
Following that, concrete details for Three Houses’s final wave of DLC were unveiled. This was the moment we officially became acquainted with the members of the Ashen Wolves, whose story would be told in “Cindered Shadows” (previously, we knew some details via data-mining). The final DLC arrived on 13th February and thus concluded the tale of Three Houses.
On 17th January, the Switch port of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE was released. The original game was developed for the Wii U back in 2015, as part of the Fire Emblem x Shin Megami Tensei project. Back then, a lot of people were put off from trying the game and the Wii U’s lack of popularity didn’t help matters either. So this was a good chance for a new generation to discover and appreciate it.
Also, to celebrate Tokyo Mirage Session’s re-release, Itsuki, Tsubasa, Kiria, Eleanora and Mamori debuted as playable characters in Fire Emblem Heroes.
Speaking of Fire Emblem Heroes, on 1st February, we received the results of the annual Choose Your Legends voting. The top four scoring characters, who would receive new in-game versions, were Edelgard, Dimitri, Claude and Lysithea. Unsurprisingly, it was a Three Houses sweep! The CYL versions of these characters landed later in August, like previous years.
Things were progressing normally up until 1st April. Sadly, it was announced that the Fire Emblem Cipher card game, which had been going on for 5 years, would be ending in 2020. Specifically, October would see the release of the final (22nd) expansion, “the Heroes’ Paean”. After that, events would still be held until early 2021, while customer support would continue until early 2022.
The Cipher card game originally launched alongside the Japanese version of Fire Emblem Fates back in June 2015. After the first year, 4 expansions were released each year. In addition, there were numerous events for Cipher (and FE) fans to attend, such as the Cipher Caravan and the annual Cipher Festivals (Sai). Plus merchandise booths at Comiket.
On the subject of events, Fire Emblem Expo II, the follow-up to the successful Fire Emblem Expo in 2019, was officially cancelled on 3rd April. It was supposed to be held on 5th and 6th May in Japan. But due to the increasing risk of coronavirus, like many other large scale events around the globe, the organisers deemed that it wasn’t safe for the event to proceed.
There was a small ray of hope though. Last year’s concert and drama performances would be available for everyone to watch during early May, for a limited time. Meanwhile, the merchandise sold at the event could be purchased from Intelligent System’s online store. Furthermore, the scripts for this year’s stage dramas would be added to the website (you can also read the translated versions here).
20th April marked the 30th anniversary of Fire Emblem as a series. There weren’t any big celebrations on this day or later on during the year (although there was a nice surprise near the very end). However, there were plenty of things going on in Fire Emblem Heroes, including a banner full of young Heroes from Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light (including pant-less Marth, sort of!).
Announced during Dragalia Lost’s 1.5 anniversary video, Dragalia’s second collaboration event with Fire Emblem Heroes, “Kindred Ties”, started on 30th April. This time, the spotlight was on Sharena, Chrom, Peony and Tiki, as they tried to protect Grastaea from the forces of Thórr. The first crossover event, starring Alfonse, Fjorm, Veronica and Marth, was also re-run during 19th April.
Things were relatively quiet afterwards. That said, this seemed to be the year where Fire Emblem Heroes chucked new game modes at us left and right. First, they introduced Resonant Battles during the June FEH Channel, based on chasing thieves in many FE games. As if anybody likes running after those annoying buggers! (OK, some people might find it fun, but I just get anxious, ahaha.)
Next, we had Frontline Phalanx, shown during the August Feh Channel. This mode is loosely based on horse betting (yay, more gambling). If you weren’t around during the first run, it was notorious for being completed within a few days and there was nothing to do for several days. Meanwhile, during the second run, they made it harder, but perhaps over-tuned it, because it resulted in defeat by a fair margin…
Lastly, there was Pawns of Loki, detailed in the November Feh Channel. Who would’ve expected to see Fire Emblem auto chess? Despite initial reservations, the mode turned out pretty fun! During the very first round at least. After that, they introduced Heroes belonging to other players as opponents–and it deteriorated into another stressful PvP mode (unless you pick Intermediate or lower).
On 25th September, over a year since Three Houses came out, the game’s official soundtrack was announced. Naturally, they were waiting for after the DLC was over before finalising the soundtrack. The soundtrack, which spans 6 CDs, launches in Japan on 17th February 2021. So that’s something to look forward to early next year.
16th October, there was a surprise for Fire Emblem fans at this year’s Wonderful Hobby Autumn exhibition: the reveal of a 1/7 scale Lyn (from Blazing Blade) figure. Lyn has been extremely popular
evident from her many alts in FE Heroes, but there hadn’t been any figures (of this detail) of pre-Awakening characters. Hopefully Lyn is just the beginning!
If you’re interested, the Lyn figure is scheduled for release during November 2021, priced at 18,000 Yen. So that’s quite a long time to wait (but also a long time to save up money).
A short while later, on 22nd October, there was a truly historic moment. The very first Fire Emblem game, Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light on the NES/Famicom, would be released in English for the first time, on the Nintendo Switch from 4th December. There was also a special “anniversary edition” packed with goodies for North American fans (but not us poor saps in Europe etc.).
Annoyingly, like Super Mario 3D All-Stars, the English version of Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light can only be purchased until 31st March 2021.
Nintendo, what are you smoking?! Anyway, if you haven’t bought it yet and intend to do so, don’t forget about this!
7th December, we witnessed the arrival of Book V of Fire Emblem Heroes. This new arc will tell the story of Niðavellir, a realm where sorcery and technology have been united. Like Book I and Book III, Yusuke Kozaki has returned as the character designer, so far providing the designs for the three royal siblings: Reginn, Ótr and Fáfnir. I guess he’ll be doing all the odd-numbered books?
In closing, despite 2020 being the landmark 30th anniversary of Fire Emblem, celebrations were fairly modest. Also, contrary to expectations, no new FE game was announced, even though the timing would’ve been perfect. Perhaps things may have turned out differently if the coronavirus hadn’t become such a big problem. At this point in time, I’m just thankful to have survived the year and I can only hope things will improve in 2021.