In the past, I had seen various screenshots of FE13’s map and character designs. From these, I suspected that the game was a drastic decline compared to FE12. Now, after having finished the hard difficulty in under 5 hours (and then Lunatic difficulty in another 5 hours), I can safely say that my initial suspicions were unfortunately correct: FE13 is the worst Fire Emblem game I’ve played and I hesitate to even call it a FE game because of how little it resembles its predecessors. I unironically believe that FE Warriors is a better recommendation – that game isn’t really a FE game either, but it at least doesn’t pretend to be one.
I guess we should talk about the good points first, for the sake of impartiality. FE13 has good music. Really good music. Controls, UI, and everything else in the QoL department is pretty much perfect – some of the best in any FE game, in fact. But uh… aside from this, I really don’t have anything good to say about FE13.
For starters, the graphics suck. The character portraits are some of the most lifeless, dull, and uninspired I’ve seen in any FE. Surely, they’re probably not the absolute worst in the series simply by virtue of FE1 and 2 existing (hello there Dolph, HELLO THERE PANTSLESS MARTH) but those games at least had the excuse of coming out in the early 90s. They’re also just funny. FE13’s graphics are bad, but they’re not laughably bad. They’re just bad. Then you’ve got the character models which all lack feet. Is everyone in this game a Prinny, dood? Perhaps most damning of this game’s graphics though is the armor design. It’s hideous. Characters like Tharja and Aversa are shameless fanservice to the highest degree. Certainly, characters in previous FE games, such as Sonia, were fanservicey, but Sonia’s design makes sense considering her story and personality. By comparison, Olivia wears a laughably scanty outfit, despite being ashamed of doing so. Makes perfect sense, right? Panne also exists and is even more skimpy than Sonia… because apparently the furries weren’t satisfied with the Laguz is FE9/10. But worst of all has to be Nowi, who boasts probably the single worst design I’ve seen of any FE character.
No, I don’t care if she’s “ReAlLy 1000 YeArS oLd, GuYs!!!11” This is just shameful. Sexualizing girls who look like they’re younger than 10 years old is the absolute nadir of filthy fanservice.
So we’ve established that the graphics and fanservice in FE13 are awful. Let’s move on to the story.
Put simply: it’s forgettable. FE13’s story is basically a ripoff of Terminator 1, featuring a mysterious stranger from the dystopian future who wants to prevent said future from happening. Mysterious stranger turns out to be directly related to the main character. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves! How original. It’s not even narrated well, either. Terminator 1 worked because it had a closed time loop. In other words, a time traveler from the future affects events in the present; events in the present directly cause the future events to happen, thereby allowing said time traveler to come back and influence present-day events. In FE13 though, if Lucina is traveling from the future to prevent it from happening, then how is she born? She should not have existed, therefore invalidating the events of the story because she wasn’t there to begin with. But if she never existed, then how do the events happen in the first place? It’s an irreconcilable paradox. The only way this makes any sense is if we have multiple timelines, meaning the original timeline still exists somewhere else, and we haven’t saved it. I guess it works in theory, but I just find it to be a huge copout and hugely unsatisfying. It’s one reason why I thought Avengers: Infinity War made more sense than Avengers: Endgame. It’s very hard to handle time travel correctly, so my stance is that it should be used cautiously and sparingly.
Characters in FE13 aren’t written any better than FE13’s overarching story. They’re one-dimensional anime tropes who end up being very off-putting in how exaggerated they are.
But what about the gameplay? Surely, a game can have any number of problems, and they can all be compensated for by having supreme gameplay. Unfortunately, FE13 lacks just as much, if not more, in the gameplay department as it does with its story.
The first and most obvious problem with FE13 is its bland map design. Not a single map has well-placed side objectives, interesting use of the terrain, or avenues which encourage you to utilize a full force of varied units. Take chapter 2 for example:
This is pretty much what you’ll expect to see for every chapter: a straightforward trudge to the objective. Furthermore, even if this game’s maps did have varied side objectives, none of this would matter because the game gives you an abundance of shops that will sell you everything you need. Hell, there’s even a shop which sells MASTER SEALS, allowing EVERY UNIT on your team to promote, if you desire to grind them out! The end result is a game which encourages you to steamroll it as uncreatively as possible. Typically, this involves exploiting the pair-up system (which confers insane stat bonuses to your units) by pairing up Chrom with Robin and then using Robin to just juggernaut through the entire game.
And here’s the second glaring issue with FE13: Robin is way too powerful. Robin is probably the most busted unit I’ve seen in any SRPG. Robin has perfect availability, gives you the option to customize her/his boon/bane, has spectacular growths, has access to infinite level ups thanks to Second Seals (which were a terrible idea), can reclass into anything, and is the only unit in the game with the Veteran skill, granting her/him +50% experience when paired up. If you go with a Female Robin, she’ll be able to S support Chrom and have access to Galeforce from the Dark Flier class. Believe me, though: even Male Robin can solo the entire game on Lunatic (past chapter 5 anyway, since Frederick will be doing all the heavy lifting for the first few chapters).
Surely, previous FE games technically allowed you to solo them with certain units. FE4’s first half can be soloed by Sigurd; FE7 can be soloed by Marcus; FE8 can be soloed by Seth. But this isn’t optimal; all three of these games are easier if you train up other units alongside their respective gamebreakers. Furthermore, FE4 and 7 had rankings systems which would discourage these sort of shenanigans. Not so in FE13. Soloing FE13 with Robin is the easiest, most intuitive way of playing the game, and since there’s no ranking system to discourage it… why on earth would you play FE13 any other way?
Because of these two major flaws – terrible map design and a massively overpowered main character – FE13 is a SRPG which lacks strategy on a fundamental level. I would also add that virtually everything FE13 did, FE12 did better:
- Stupid pointless self-insert which trivialized the game. Sure, Kris existed in FE12, but wasn’t as OP as Robin in FE13.
- Reclassing. FE13 allows for infinite level ups through its reclassing system. In FE12, you couldn’t do this. Additionally, reclassing was limited (e.g. you can only have 3 dracoknights on your team).
- Difficulty modes. FE11/12 allowed you to play on the infamous “Hard 5” difficulty, which was brutal, but surprisingly decently balanced for the most part. FE13’s Lunatic and Lunatic+ are dumpster fires of game design, featuring some of the most poorly-conceived and uncreative difficulty curves in any SRPG.
- Casual mode. Many people think that FE13 was the first FE to have a casual mode. That’s incorrect. FE12 was the first. We should give credit where it’s due.
- DLC. While FE13 has tons of paid DLC that amounts to more than the base game itself, FE12’s DLC was entirely free.
- Map design, obviously.
The list goes on, but you get the idea. Overall, FE13 is a disappointing followup to FE12 – the game that should’ve been Fire Emblem’s swan song. FE12 was damn solid, offering something for newcomers/casual players and hardcore veterans alike. It was an enhanced remake of one of the most beloved FE titles (FE3), which improved upon its source material, added in all sorts of goodies, and refined the overall feel and controls. While the introduction of an overpowered self insert was dumb and likely the fault of Kouhei Maeda, the game was otherwise fantastic.
FE13 on the other hand is a disgrace. There’s very little here to be salvaged. Featuring bad graphics, alarming fanservice which hints at pedophilic proclivities, poorly balanced game difficulties, horrid map design, horrid unit balance, an unoriginal and nonsensical story, forgettable and uninspired characters, and scummy paid DLC, FE13 is undoubtedly the worst Fire Emblem game I’ve played. Shockingly and tragically, it was the first legitimately bad FE title.
It may not be the worst SRPG I’ve played, but it does a disservice to Fire Emblem’s legacy. The series would have been better if it had died with dignity, following FE12’s release.