Fire Emblem has this passionate following because there’s nothing quite like it. In an era where RPGs are about endless fetch quests and cutscenes and strategy games are all real-time, Fire Emblem’s an RPG that’s all about turn-based strategy. Also, unlike many games, it pushes the player toward flawless execution, because if a soldier dies in battle, he’s gone forever. If it’s a really hard battle, you have to choose whether it’s worth replaying just to keep that one guy. The fun of Fire Emblem comes from studying the board and selecting the perfect fighting force and executing flawless turns. And it turns out every person has a different idea of what the “perfect fighting force” is, which makes it really interesting. It’s very similar to X-COM: UFO Defense in many respects. Most people think that kind of gameplay is boring, and always will.
I don’t think it’s so much that FE fans think the game is high-class art (in fact, the “art” aspect of it is pretty bad)—it’s that it’s a game that sticks strictly to being a game and rewards skill. You cannot win at FE just by investing enough time. There are no killing fields to level up endlessly in. Poor players will find themselves with the most valuable soldiers all dead by the midpoint of the game. That’s what breeds the sense of elitism (and nerds enjoy liking something that everyone else finds boring).
Does Malstrom complain? Malstrom not complain. Malstrom full of joy. Happy is Malstrom.
I want more Fire Emblem craziness. My $5 copy of Fire Emblem for Gamecube has turned into this. And don’t forget to enjoy the sauce!