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Is ‘Fire Emblem Engage’ a Mainline Game? Answered

Official game art for Nintendo's Fire Emblem Engage featuring characters from the video game
(Nintendo)

Happy Toothpaste Day! I’m stunned by just how much I’ve turned around on Fire Emblem Engage. I’m not much of an anime person myself, so when the protagonists’ leaked designs were made official, I prepared myself to be disappointed.

Yet the game actually looks like it’s going to be pretty good! Many critics are comparing it to Awakening, which I adore to little bits and pieces. Of course, this also raises a genuine question: is Engage a mainline game, or is it more of a spin-off? The nature of the game does make this a valid question, since it relies on a pretty fanservicey gimmick. In Engage, you call on old franchise heroes (such as Conan O’Brien’s favorite femboy Marth, series favorite Lucina, and my problematic fave Byleth) to help you fight against the Fell Dragon’s evil forces. It sounds pretty similar to the mobile gacha game, Fire Emblem Heroes—which is a spin-off.

Is Fire Emblem Engage a Mainline Game?

However, Engage is, in fact, a mainline title! Its development history is a little all over the place, but essentially, the game was intended to come out much sooner than 2023. In fact, it was supposed to herald in the franchise’s anniversary and the transition from 3DS to Switch. That’s where the “Emblem” idea initially came from. It has since been repurposed in such a way as to commemorate the beloved trappings of older games—notably its combat design and its more simplified plot—and to get new players interested in the series as a whole.

Recently, the developers for Engage gave a full interview with Nintendo in which they elaborated more on the game’s development. I’ll paste relevant discussions below for your reading ease:

[Tsutomu] Tei: …this is a brand-new title with no story connection to any of the previous games from the Fire Emblem series. The game takes place in a new world: the continent of Elyos. This story begins with the protagonist, Alear, awakening from a thousand-year sleep after having fought in a war between the Divine Dragon and the Fell Dragon to save the world. When Alear wakes up, the world is about to see the reawakening of the Fell Dragon that was sealed away in the war a thousand years ago. Alear goes on an adventure in search of the 12 Emblem Rings with the power to prevent the revival of the Fell Dragon. That is the story of this game.

Tei: The previous game was set in the Officer’s Academy and had an epic historical-drama-like story with a structure in which players could enjoy different story paths for each house. But in this title, we wanted to simplify the story structure by having one major goal, so that players can put their full focus into enjoying the tactical gameplay. So, we decided to develop a game that can be played with an RPG-like feel, where players walk around the world map to progress through the story and raise the skills of different characters who join as allies. This time, we wanted to create a game that appeals to a broader audience so that even players who are not yet aware of the fun of turn-based tactical RPG games would find it interesting just by looking at its visuals.

[Kenta] Nakanishi: Recent titles in the series had key characters besides the protagonist, and the stories focused somewhat on those characters too. But we wanted our players to think of this title as a traditional heroic fantasy game. Alear, the protagonist that players control, grows as an individual guided by the Emblems and leads the way, working with allies to achieve a great goal. So, we were very keen to portray Alear in the center of the main visual.

Nakanishi: The idea of the Emblems came up when we were discussing the core gameplay of this title. During those discussions, the marriage systems in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy WarFire Emblem Awakening, and Fire Emblem Fates were brought up. In Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, the marriage system allows the characters to get married and have children who inherit the abilities of the parent characters. Players can come up with their own pairs and develop those child characters. However, you had to play through the game to a certain point first before you could get married and have children, so it took a very long time until players could see the outcome of the pair they chose.

Nakanishi: So, to let players enjoy this “pairing” gameplay more casually, we came up with this idea of “Emblems.” We mentioned earlier that the player would travel in search of 12 Emblem Rings. Characters equipped with the Emblem Rings can make the Emblems—the heroes from other worlds—appear and synchronize with them to fight together. On top of that, characters synchronized with Emblems can also “Engage”—or merge—with them to use special weapons and abilities, as well as powerful attacks. Rings are interchangeable, so players can enjoy more casually trying out different character pairings.

Nakanishi: I believe the appeal of the Fire Emblem series is the bond formed by trusting each other and fighting together. One thing that’s consistent throughout the series is that even if the characters are from different countries, they build a trusting relationship with each other as allies to whom they can entrust their lives. This is a feature I’d like to keep in future games. One of our goals during development was to create a game that would be enjoyable for both newcomers to the series and those who have played the series’ previous titles. I would be happy if this game gives players the opportunity to interact with each other—those with experience playing past titles teaching newcomers tactics. It’s just like Emblems—the past heroes—guiding Alear, who is a novice. It has been over 30 years since the release of the series’ first title, so it would be wonderful if parents and their kids play the game together.

Ask the Developer, Nintendo

Now, if you excuse me, I’m gonna make a quesadilla and play some gosh dang Emblem. See y’all later.

(Featured Image: Nintendo)

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Madeline (she/her) is a writer and dog mom. She aims to use her writing to positively represent mixed-race people like herself, and is currently working on a novel. However, when she isn't writing, she's either battling insomnia or taking too many naps. You can read her stuff at https://madelinecwrites.com/