When I was in the fifth grade, my family and a family close to us took a week off of work and school to drive (yes, drive) down to Disney World. It was a 28 hour drive that we did straight through, and my dad decided it wasn’t fair for my sister and I to share one Gameboy with two games for that long. So, somewhere online, my dad found a Gameboy SP and a huge pack of games and gave them to us for the ride. We were under the understanding that we would have to give them back at the end of the trip; he told us that he got them from a friend, though looking back, I’m certain that he got a bundle off eBay and figured he’d sell it back later.
It was on this trip that I was introduced to turn-based board strategy, rather than Pokemon turn-based strategy. It actually started with a game that I could have sworn was called Castle Quire, but every place on the internet tells me no such game exists. Either way, I found it horribly hard, but despite that, it was wicked fun. It was like nothing I’d ever played before. I got stuck at one level where there was a character I could not control, she was my favorite character and my only healer, and no matter that I did, she died. So after hours on end of trying to get past this level (including restarting the game to redo any casualties I’d suffered) I gave up and looked to see what my sister was playing.
She’d just shut her game off to rest her eyes, so I asked what she’d been playing. She pulled the game out of her system and handed it to me. Fire Emblem. What a weird name for a game. I put it in my Gameboy and loaded it up, asked which file was hers, and started a new one on a different file.
It followed a blue (or was it green? Or black?) haired girl named Lyn, who addressed me directly. Which was weird. I’d put my own name in on a whim (which I never, ever did; I always made up a name much more interesting than mine,) so it was really weird to not only have a character talk to me directly, but to have her also use my real name. It made me feel… important. It was also a turn-based RPG, which at first, made me mad. How dare there be a different game like Castle Quire that wasn’t Castle Quire. Plus, it was 2D, and Castle Quire was 3D. Clearly, then, Castle Quire was superior.
It wasn’t until the ride home that I gave this weird game a chance. And I fell in love with it. I fell in love with Lyn, who quickly turned into a big-sister character for me. She was always asking me what I wanted to do, and even though I didn’t really have a say in what my response was, it still made me feel important. Of course, I only just barely got past Lyn’s storyline (there being three within the game) and had to quit before I got to the next characters, and it actually took me several trips to Delaware to get through Lyn’s story at all. But I loved it.
It would be years later until I would learn that there was more than one Fire Emblem game. However, the other Fire Emblem games that had been released for America (as many of them never got translated from Japanese into English) didn’t do the franchise service. They simply weren’t the Fire Emblem I’d fallen in love with all those years ago. So I played my game from time to time and tried to pretend the other games didn’t exist.
It was last year that my friend Owen got himself a 3DS with the new Fire Emblem on it.
To begin with, I was horribly against the 3DS. I figured it was just a marketing ploy on Nintendo’s part; I’d just bought a DSi not long before, because they’d said it’d be their last handheld in a while, so it was safe to upgrade. The 3D seemed gimmicky, and there didn’t seem to be any good titles for it.
But the DS Owen got… He got the Fire Emblem limited edition one. Which was beautiful. And upon hearing I’d played Rekka no Ken (the only Fire Emblem I’d liked to date,) he insisted I start a file on his new game, Fire Emblem: Awakening. I himmed and hawed and sighed and, finally, I decided to play.
I got to customize my character. This was new. As a tactition character in Rekka no Ken, you didn’t get a real sprite. So getting a full-size sprite, but also customizing it, was new, and welcome. Then, on top of that, I was a story member, rather than just a tactition that told units where to go. Don’t get me wrong, I was still a tactition. But all of the characters talked to me, and more than that, I really felt a part of the story. Plus, I could fight. I had a sword, and I had magic, so I wasn’t a useless character being toted around by the main character. And there were new mechanics that I loved; the new-and-improved support system, the paring up system, the way you got new units… I didn’t like the new thief, Gaius, as much as I’d liked the old thief, Matthew, which was a bit off-putting. But there was a whole myriad of characters and personalities, and very strong female characters. (I still hated the Pegasus knight as much as I’d hated the last one.) Plus, unlike the few other games on the 3DS I’d played in 3D on other people’s DS-es, the DS in this game enhanced the game, rather than feeling gimmicky or detracting from the gameplay.
I quickly fell in love with the game. So much, that whenever I went over to Owen’s house, I’d just barely sit down and start watching him and Brandon play whatever game that they were going to play before Owen would ask me why I wasn’t playing on his DS. The game went above and beyond my high expectations of what I thought Fire Emblem game should be.
For my high school graduation, my gift to myself was buying the same 3DS he had. Because I had to have it. I had to. And it’s the best thing I’ve ever gotten for myself.