Given that every other modern FE game ranges anywhere from bad to mediocre to this-game-didn’t-need-to-exist to why-the-hell-does-this-game-exist, and given that its source material was a rather frustrating game, FE15 is a game from which I wasn’t expecting too much.

I’m happy to say that FE15 exceeded my expectations. This is the only good FE game from the past 12 years.

Although I don’t usually place too much stock in surface-level appeal, I’ll mention that FE15 does all the surface-level stuff right:

  • Unlike in FE13/14/16, the art style here is good and distinct. We even have full-blown cutscenes and voice acting for anyone who cares about that sort of stuff.
  • The music in FE15 is some of the best in the series. Twilight of the Gods. NEED I SAY MORE?
  • We have support conversations and an expanded story compared to what we saw in FE2: for instance, Mycen, Rudolf, Alm, and Celica are all characterized in greater depth.
  • The QoL stuff is great. It’s damn great, in fact. Like in FE13/14, we can skip entire enemy phases, which drastically cuts down on FE2’s original tedium. We have an actual combat prediction panel, a “danger zone” toggle, and all the other bells and whistles that come with modern FE.
  • Casual mode and a difficulty selector (normal/hard) are once again present. Contrary to what some misinformed people might believe, I’m not a purist who believes permadeath is the only proper way to play FE. I’m glad modern FE gives us the option to turn it off. Hardcore players can still play with permadeath as usual, while newcomers can ease into the series with a more forgiving difficulty. This freedom to choose is a good thing no matter how you cut it.
Pictured here is Faye, a new character who didn’t exist in the original. She’s a dumb yandere who flicks her bean to Alm every waking moment of her life. No, she’s not a good waifu and if you think she is, then go to horny jail.

All of this is the good part of the modern FE influence: an emphasis on presentation and ease-of-access. None of this stuff compromises the integrity of Fire Emblem; rather, it enhances what was already a good series by tacking on some ancillary improvements.

Here’s the bad part of the modern FE influence, though: the gameplay. The sad truth about FE15 is that it makes no fundamental improvements over FE2’s map design and game balance.

Sure, you could argue that the existence of new “combat arts” makes the game slightly more interesting, but FE15 still suffers from the same major problem that plagued FE2, namely the garbage-tier map design. There were all of three maps in the entire game that I felt were strategically interesting which, to FE15’s credit, is still more than I could say of FE2. But when you compare this with the depth of games such as FE10, FE11, or FE12… FE15 is a huge letdown.

yuck

As another blight on the gameplay, FE15’s unit balance isn’t really any better than what we saw in FE2. Dread Fighters are ridiculously overpowered to the point that Gray is probably the best unit in the game. Armor knights still suck. Mages still suck. Cavaliers are still “meh” tier. At least Silk is much less overpowered here due to her warp being nerfed. It’s a given that in any FE game, units will not be perfectly balanced. But it seems like there was almost no effort spent on even attempting to improve balance from the original. Really, why are Dread Fighters so damn good at everything?

Yes, that is the final boss and yes, Gray has a 57% crit rate here. This game could’ve been titled “50 Shades of Gray.”

I understand trying to stay faithful to the original source material. That’s a very noble effort, and I think it’s the right approach when you’re remaking a classic and trying to do it justice. But I would point out that Intelligent Systems already made many deviations and changes from the original FE2 by adding in new characters, adding in casual mode, adding in support conversations, and changing characters’ artworks and names.

Given these changes, why not also improve the most important part of the game: the SRPG gameplay? That’s really the bread and butter of any FE game. The surface-level fluff is undeniably great, and I will credit FE15 for those improvements. But at the end of the day, I don’t care as much if FE15 made all these improvements in other areas; if the core gameplay is not exceptional, then FE15 is not exceptional – plain and simple.

Fortunately, FE15’s gameplay is actually improved in some other ways. Instead of exploring disappointingly bland villages and castles from a top-down perspective like in FE2, we now have point-and-click adventure segments.

I know what you’re thinking: “wtf, point-and-click in a FE game?” It actually works out though.

The key thing to note is that the game doesn’t shove these segments down your throat. You’re not spending that much time with these parts, unlike with the dumb Monastery in FE16. I would also argue that the point-and-click parts aren’t coming out of left field or anything. The original FE2 was an effort to blend elements from other genres into the framework of Fire Emblem; FE15 adheres to that selfsame philosophy, so the point-and-click parts hardly feel surprising or unnatural here.

Here’s another thing the average FE fan probably wouldn’t expect: action-adventure dungeons. FE15 was basically FE Warriors before FE Warriors existed.

There’s a certain catharsis to breaking open barrels and crates.

These dungeons don’t take too long and they help break up the tedium of FE15’s boring and bland battles. Just like with the point-and-click segments, the action-adventure parts don’t really feel out of place, nor do they consume too much time. Certainly, you can repeat dungeons several times and grind out your characters if you so desire, but the game doesn’t force you to spend so much time here…

…Unlike with FE16 and the dumb monastery. Okay, I’m sorry, I’ll stop making jabs at FE16 and I’ll make an attempt to conceal my hatred for that game.

Given this fusion of action-adventure, point-and-click, and SRPG gameplay, FE15 becomes sort of Sakura Wars-esque in that it does quite a few things and never feels tedious. FE15 doesn’t really excel at anything though, aside from its presentation. It’s more of a generalist – a jack of many trades, master of none. By contrast, Sakura Wars managed to seamlessly blend several ideas together and executed them all extremely well.

Oh, also, I must mention that I’m disappointed with the localization effort. They had a golden opportunity to bring back the legend of Qulyf.

But instead, they went the limp-dick route and named him “Kliff.” COME ON, GUYS! Qulyf is obviously the best way to translate クリフ. On that note, why was クレーベ localized as “Clive” instead of “Krebbe?” Why was デューテ localized as “Delthea” instead of “Dyute?” I’ll have you know that “Dyute” is a perfectly fine name for young girls. If I had a daughter, I’d definitely name her “Dyute.” And if I had a son, I’d name him…

bad translation is best translation

If it wasn’t obvious already, my “disappointment” with the localization is entirely facetious. Par for the course with modern FE, the localization here is fantastic… with the exception of one typo I found here:

It just comes to show that even the best of us make typos sometimes. I’m sure you can probably find a couple on SRPG Academy as well – and I’d be happy to correct them if you bring them to my attention.

FE15 also has some paid DLC. Fuck paid DLC.

As of now, I’ve beaten Gaiden three times and Shadows of Valentia once. I therefore harbor no desire to replay either of these games… I can only handle so much bland, uninspired map design and bad game balance. If I were forced to replay one of them though, I’d definitely go with FE15. Given that this game now exists, I don’t see any reason to ever touch FE2 again.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean FE15 is a great game. Perhaps compared to its contemporaries, it was great; however, when compared to the rich legacy that the first 12 FE games (sans FE2) left behind, it’s merely a good game.

I’m still glad it exists. FE15 feels like the experience that FE2 was supposed to be. Also importantly, I’m glad that there’s at least one decent modern FE game out there. Maybe if I had played this back in 2017, it would’ve filled me with hope for the series’ future. Currently though, given the existence of FE16 and how it dashed my hopes, I’m not optimistic.

This might be the last new FE I’ll ever play. If FE17 ends up being FE16 Part 2: Electric Boogaloo, then it’s a hard pass for me. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. In the meantime, I have plenty of other SRPGs to cover, including most of the older FE games that I’ve completed several times but haven’t covered here yet.

General Information
Year: 2017
Console: 3DS
Developers: Intelligent Systems

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
5 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Chris Kern
23 days ago

Why did you beat Gaiden three times??

Also when you mention “modern” FEs, where is the dividing line for you between the better era of FE and the worse, modern era? I’ve only played 1-4, plus small amounts of 5-7 and Path of Radiance, so I haven’t experienced the very newest stuff.

Last edited 23 days ago by Chris Kern
Eric Kang
1 day ago

I’ve read several of your reviews, and I thought I should point out several aspects of your writing and review style that give off a very negative impression.

It’s very clear you’re passionate about SRPGs, and you put a lot of work into your reviews. I respect that. What I don’t really enjoy is the number of digs you take at things you don’t like, regardless of how relevant it is to the review. Your Legend of Korra 3DS review started off with a long rant on the show, and your FE reviews constantly take digs at how much you hate “modern FE.” Even this positive review of a modern FE title is filled with digs at the other games with backhanded compliments to FE15.

For the record, I’m not saying your opinions are wrong or invalid. You clearly value a specific style of strategic gameplay over things like story, characters, and presentation, and that’s totally fine. It’s comments like “The series would have been better if it had died with dignity, following FE12’s release” that come off as very entitled. Implying that the newer games destroyed FE’s legacy depends on what you value in the first place. Longtime FE fans are still glad the series is alive and well, and that’s a better situation than that of F-Zero fans who may never get a new game. Your statement has the same attitude as people who shit on Breath of the Wild saying it’s “not a real Zelda game” because they prefer the linear Zelda dungeon formula.

You also mentioned in a video that you quit Three Houses after 5 hours. I understand you didn’t like the game, but shitting on a game you barely played is disingenuous as it doesn’t factor in the new gameplay elements (like battalions and monsters) or story developments later on. I could legitimately talk about gameplay mechanics that have more nuance and better design than FE6’s gameplay, but I doubt you’d want to hear that. Of all the aspects of 3H that people can argue about (story, gameplay, etc.), one aspect of the game that has received near-universal praise is its character writing.

I know supports, character writing, and voice acting aren’t something you value in games, but the characters are very much three-dimensional with depth behind the surface, so 5 hours is not enough to judge a game’s worth of character development. Even people who hated the tropey characters in Awakening and Fates enjoyed the characters in Three Houses as they often subverted surface-level expectations. For example, Lorenz has lots of development and changes a lot from beginning to end. First impressions aren’t everything as the game isn’t some light-hearted Hogwarts tale like the beginning implies.

For reference, I once quit FE4 in Chapter 1 because I just couldn’t get into it. I even hated it for a whole year, but after lots of reconsideration, I eventually retried the game with the mindset of appreciating the game for what it is rather than what I wanted it to be. As a result, I eventually finished FE4, and I ended up really liking it. I loved Gen 2 the most, and I would not have known that had I simply quit in Chapter 1. That’s also why I don’t talk about Xenoblade Chronicles X very much. I got a terrible first impression and have yet to finish the game, but I don’t take cheap shots at X whenever I praise XC1 or XC2. You don’t have to tear one game down to build another game up.

The last thing I’ll say before I finish is that you should refrain from talking about things that are “objectively” better. Art is subjective, and saying one game is objectively better implies there is some factual measuring tool to evaluate games. If that were the case, then FE Fates is an “objectively” better game than Final Fantasy VII based on resolution, frame rate, and game speed. A game’s quality is fully determined by what the individual values in a game. Just like how you in particular would rather play the slow Korra 3DS game over FE13, everything is subjective, so please reconsider how you frame things as “objective.”

Last edited 1 day ago by Eric Kang
Eric Kang
Eric Kang
Reply to  Harvester of Eyes
1 hour ago

My issue is not that you despise FE16. I follow several people who don’t like the game either (one of whom is even an FE content creator), so the fact that you dislike it is nothing new. My issue is how you take many shots at a game you never even completed. I went through a phase once where I constantly complained about Xenoblade Chronicles X, but I eventually stopped doing so as I realized it wasn’t a fair complaint as I only played the beginning portion (not nearly enough to evaluate the game as a whole).

Like how you say FE16 is a decently made game that you personally despise, I personally feel the same way about The Wind Waker in the Zelda series. I can see why people enjoy it, but it was a miserable experience on my end due to certain gameplay decisions and other factors. Regardless, I played it until the end so that I could give it a fair shot. I didn’t enjoy it, but I at least felt confident in my analysis as I saw what the game had to offer in a full playthrough.

Putting FE16 aside, I’ve seen plenty of people make content about games I like or dislike, so your opinion/taste is not the issue. It’s more of the attitude, similar to Twitter users on the FEH account who say the series should’ve died after FE10. For the record, Fates is by far my least favorite game in the series, and I went through a “Fates bad” hater phase myself, but even I got tired of the constant complaints as it just becomes cheap digs with no substance. The same goes on the opposite end for people who constantly claim FE4 is one of the greatest RPGs of the ‘90s (even though I love FE4).

Even with this particular article, it all felt like a backhanded compliment to SoV as a major recurring point seemed to be “at least it’s not as bad as all of modern FE,” even down to your concluding statements. Your opinions on SoV aren’t invalid by any means. I actually agree with a number of points you made. It’s the tone and vibe of the writing that’s off-putting. It’s the same as people who review Shin Megami Tensei V and constantly compare it to the Persona games (see IGN). Even if they reference a point I agree with, at some point, you just say, “We got it the first time.”

Last edited 1 hour ago by Eric Kang

You may also like

SRPG Academy