the resolution could be higher, could it not
Year 2003 – I was somewhere around 14. A lot of important stuff happened that year, but for me personally, stumbling upon *this* GBA game was one of the highlights of that time period. The seventh game in its series, called just “Fire Emblem” in the West, is what came out. Originally, its title was “Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken”, but I’ll refer to it as “FE7” from now on. Back then, I would play GBA games under an emulator, like the poor wannabe nerd from the Third World that I was. I was living from one hotly anticipated game release to another, and every next awesome game would feel like a milestone in my middle school life. I could have been marking these milestones in a calendar if I had my shit together enough to actually keep a calendar. Alas, those fun times shall not return… Anyway, this “Fire Emblem” game had just come out, the title rang a bell and I’ve seen positive comments about FE at a certain rom site. How the hell did Polish people know about old Fire Emblems in 2003, though? I wish I knew any of you nerds in real life. I tried it out and fell in love. It was the series’ first venture beyond Japan, and boy, was that an impressive introduction. Impressive enough to start my long and exciting adventure with Fire Emblem games, which lasts to this day. I played this so much I can’t help but wonder if FE7 influenced me as a person. For a few years, I lurked at a now-defunct forum about the games called FESS, too. Or wait, I hear there were FE characters in Smash even before the proper games’ debut. Oh well, if it got people to play Fire Emblem, I guess even Smash proved to be useful for something.
I absolutely had to write a post on FE7 at some point and looks like the time has come. To make sure this writeup is as good as it can be, I got through the game recently, for the eighth time, after over a decade since my most FE-obsessed days. Note that I’ve never played it in Japanese, mostly because I’ve heard the English version is superior – it supposedly has some goodies that weren’t present in the Japanese release. Also, I do not mind reading through this game for the eighth time in English, because that’s how good that localization was. Anyway, I effin’ love this game and here’s several thousand words explaining why.
“You… (opens dictionary) callow oaf!”
Some might not even know this but FE7 is a prequel. Its predecessor was FE6: Fuuin no Tsurugi, wherein you follow the redhaired noble Roy as he journeys through the world of Elibe trying to stop Zephiel, the monarch of Bern, the military power of the continent. A rather classic fantasy story with a memorable villain whose motivations were strangely convincing. In FE7 we return to Elibe and the first person we meet is a sword-wielding girl living on the great steppe of Sacae. Her name is Lyn and we spend the first ten chapters, the Lyn route, following her journey to Lycia where her blueblooded grandpa’s life is being threatened – she’ll be whacking axe-wielding cavemen and forcing you to undergo a tutorial. After Lyn’s story ends, the proper game begins. Eliwood, a good boy with red hair (and Roy’s father) will team up with Lyn and his muscular friend Hector to go investigate the disappearance of his father. As always, Eliwood will gather a small army of medieval-looking units, mostly of high birth, and the story will gradually spin out into one about saving the world from a certain bad magic-using dude, and a secret society of knights errant turned evil. Of course, there will be dragons. And the villain will turn out to be sympathetic and understandable. It’s a Nintendo game, so even the bad guys aren’t *that* bad.
As a teen, I liked subversive stories – if it went against cliches in any way, it counted as good to me. To an extent, I still am like that. FE7 is one of those stories. As expected of a fantasy tale, you’re presented with a map of the fictional world… and then you only visit a narrow selection of places on that map. Some might say it’s a waste, but to me it was “going against expectations”. You can tour the entire Elibe in FE6 if you’re that insterested, that’s why FE7 “wasted” the world it’s set in. Standing out storywise doesn’t end here. It’s a tale told at a smaller, personal scale. You do save the world at the end, but the plot of FE7 feels a bit like a spinoff, a side story of smaller significance to the game’s world. It’s not about an epic conflict where everybody rolls out their heaviest cannons, like FE6. It feels refreshening that way. I never checked but I’m pretty sure FE6 wasn’t written by the same people.
The trio of main characters is nice, too. Lyn is a good girl. Eliwood is a good boy. And Hector is there to balance out their big-eyed, naive ways with his no-nonsense attitude. They’re all super likeable. During that recent playthrough, I noticed I appreciate the heroes’ goodness in a way that never really occured to me as a teen. Back then, all I thought was “yeah, the protagonists are good people, duh”. But, in FE7, the heroes are truly empathetic people and the story goes out of its way to throw them an ethical trial or two. They successfully pass those trials, proving their goodness is real. They don’t give in, even in situations where your typical self-styled hero would lose all good will.
Although all the dialogue in the game is presented in the form of talking heads that blink and comicky balloons with text in them, FE7 is quite wordy. It never reaches visual novel levels, but one could say that in terms of the volume of text, it touches the boundary of what would usually be acceptable in a video game. I said “acceptable” as if that’s a bad thing, but I’ve always liked plot-heavy games. I do not mind readan gaems at all.
Storytelling-wise, the plot in FE7, originally written by Maeda Kouhei and Yokoyama Ken, is already pretty solid. But, it’s the localization job done on it that elevates this story to “amazing” status. It’s very good. The rich resource of vocab, including plenty of archaisms and obscure words, that the writers in charge put on display here makes reading the dialogues in this game an Experience. Whoever wrote this has multiple dictionaries in their head, and knows how to use them. The text in FE7 oozes personality and skill. Many works of literature would like to be as literary as this video game. It’s pure joy to read. The endroll credits this masterpiece to four people: Rich Amtower, Tim O’Leary, Scot Ritchey and Alex O. Smith. Good job.
static images are a poor substitute of this game in motion
Ever seen a Brigand crit? Freaky.
It’s time to write a word or two about the game’s audiovisual execution. First – the music, composed by Tsujiyoko Yuka. It’s great, within the series it’s second only to FE4. Impossible to mistake for anything else, maybe unless it’s FE8. Playing FE7 just for the music would be 100% valid. This post would not be complete without a mention of the visual side of the game, specificly the attack animations. If asked about the first time I got interested in the technical aspects of animation, I name FE7. Not anime, most anime don’t look this awesome. The way the fantasy peeps move on the battle screen looks unique. They’re movements look smeary, sudden, and definitely inhuman. There’s something animal-like about them, you’d need to see it. I’ve never seen anything like it and if anybody made an animated movie that looks like the GBA Fire Emblems, especially this one, it would instantly become one of my favorite things ever. This aesthetic was, ironicly, determined by the technical limitations the GBA put upon the game’s creators. It happened because there was a need to reduce the number of unique frames of animation to the absolute minimum. And the critical hits look even better. On FESS, absolutely everyone had critical hit animations in the form of .gifs in their sigs. I’ve seen them on forums elsewhere, too – a testament to their awesomeness. I don’t know any other game series where the critical hit is *three* times more potent than a regular strike. Makes you wonder if they made them this hardhitting to match their appearance or the other way round.
TO BE CONTINUED…