mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
[personal profile] mark_asphodel
Shouzou Kaga's final Fire Emblem game was the ambitious and underperforming Thracia 776.  With former driving force Kaga gone to pursue other things, FE went in a new direction-- handheld games instead of console games, with a new system of support mechanics.
 
As Easy as A-B-C: The Sword of Seals (GBA)

New FE was a synthesis of the games that came before it-- the plot structure was strongly reminiscent of the Archanea games, particularly Dark Dragon, but the different "routes" echoed the branching solar and lunar paths of FE5's storyline.  Gameplay was more simple, without the skills and holy blood factors of the Jugdral games, though elements of the Jugdral weapon triangle were kept.  This game really set in stone use of what are called Fire Emblem "archetypes"-- the pattern of your idealistic young Lord with a rapier, backed up by the red cavalier and the green cavalier and the stouthearted paladin crutch character, and so on.  Those elements all existed before, but their use varied widely from game to game-- FE2 didn't have the cavaliers, FE4 and FE5 did oddball things with the crutch characters, and so on.  In many ways it was a distillation of "stuff that worked" from the prior five games, repackaged in new bright colors.

[I personally believe FE6 to have been working the nostalgia factor to win back the fanbase; the echoes of characters from the "glory days" of FE3 and FE4 are undeniable, though echoes of FE5's characters are present as well.  But elements like the green-haired archer buddy, dragon loli, and pegasus knight sister trio all return here after a hiatus... and there's more where that came from.] 

The support system likewise drew on elements of previous games-- the support bonuses of FE3 and FE5, the love point system of FE4, and the event conversations used to enhance characterization in FE4 and FE5.  Prior to this, the support bonuses and event conversations were both predetermined, but now the player had the opportunity to grow and cultivate support networks for their characters, and the conversations marked a rising level of support-- C, B, then A.  Being adjacent on a map helped two characters grow their support points.  Now the player effectively had a say in which facets of their characters were revealed, which relationships were allowed to blossom.  Supports were limited, so many relationships were mutually exclusive.  In the case of protagonist Roy, these support networks could even determine his choice of bride-- he might get A-support with childhood friend Lilina, but he didn't have to.  He might even end the game single, an option previously open only to FE4's Celice (unless the designated sweetheart died in-game).  However, for all the rest of the cast, A-support bonds didn't result in a "paired ending" of marriage; lovely mage general Cecilia might achieve A-support with "mysterious bard" Elphin or handsome fellow general Percival, but it didn't affect her destiny either way-- she could only marry Roy.  Sacaen archer Sue went home to the plains whether she bonded with fellow Sacaen Shin or with the Lycian archer Wolt... though she could marry Roy.  And so on.  While fans imagined happy endings for their favorite couples (something Kaga had encouraged fans to do back in the Jugdral days), canon gave equal weight to friendship, comradeship, lord/knight bonds, sibling bonds, and relationships with romantic vibes.  Aside from Roy, same-sex and het relationships therefore got the same treatment, the same level of "endorsement" in canon.  

This new system apparently worked with fans, because FE6 was a smash hit, and the support structure came back for the next installment.

 Time Did Not Start Here: Blazing Sword aka Fire Emblem (GBA)

The second Elibe game functions as a prequel to FE6, and it keeps much of its predecessor intact.  Idealistic rapier-toting Lord?  Check.  Red knight, green knight?  Check.  Crusty old paladin?  Check-- and it's even the same guy from FE6.  FE7 introduced two major changes-- the use of the "player character tactician," not relevant here, and new optional endings for characters based on the outcome of their A-B-C support networks.  For the first time since FE4, the player could cultivate marriages for many characters; adorable mage Nino could marry silent assassin Jaffar or moody mage Erk.  Spunky archer Rebecca had three different options to father her son (Wolt from the previous game).  Game hero Eliwood could marry the mysterious dancer, the dutiful pegasus knight, or his hotheaded peer Lyndis.  Not all paired endings were happy-- some (Priscilla/Heath, Priscilla/Guy) had the couple bidding one another farewell.  Renault and Isadora had a strikingly non-romantic ending.  Merchant Merlinus and paladin Marcus got to develop a friendship and business partnership.  Siblings Ninian and Nils might go home together.  And a striking number of het pairings were NOT blessed with any kind of paired ending on attaining A-support.  There are also some "canon marriages" already set in stone thanks to FE6-- Pent/Louise and Bartre/Karla, for example.

And one glaringly non-het pairing was so blessed.  Raven and Lucius, the original poster children for Fire Emblem "yaoi fangirls," had only one paired ending available-- with one another.  I have my personal opinions about the Cornwell subplot-- the entire milieu with dispossessed noble Raven, his clingy troubadour sister Priscilla, and his devoted vassal Lucius-- and its half-inching from previous canon, but the existence of Raven/Lucius as a canon-blessed undeniable thing is outside the realm of opinion.  It's there.  And, unlike the "canon gay" in FE5, it's not being played for laughs.

ETA: I managed to omit the paired ending for Lyn and Florina, one of Florina's two paired endings (the other being with Hector).  I should also mention that Florina tells Lyn, "I love you!"-- were this a het relationship, no one would debate the meaning of the phrase, would they? 

[Tragic and dysfunctional het relationships are addressed via supports or plot in both Elibe games-- Asthol/Igrene and Harken/Isadora come to mind, with the latter being a WTF version of Astram and Midia from the Archanea saga.]

More of the Same: The Sacred Stones (GBA)

FE8 was kind of a rush job, a filler game while FE9 was in production.  I say that not to knock it, but to point out that while it borrowed some plot from Mystery of the Emblem and some concepts and mechanics from Gaiden, the support system was virtually unchanged from the previous game.  Still A-B-C, still with a variety of paired endings-- some het marriages (with or without babies), some deep same-sex friendships, some mentor-student relationships, lord/vassal relationships, and some close family bonds (cough).  The resident red knight and green knight, Kyle and Forde, even got a "paired bros forever" ending as well as het marriage options.  (Noish and Alec, the red/green pair of FE4, had originally been given a Chapter Five "bros" conversation that was cut from the final game.  It can be seen online.)  Again, some seemingly romantic options had no paired ending, and while female Lord Eirika had both marriage, same-sex-friend, and sibling pairings to choose from, her twin Ephraim had a measly two marriage options and a striking number of scenarios that left him unwed, including a deep but non-sexual bond with the resident dragon loli.

There is no "canon-blessed gay" on the level of Raven and Lucius, though Eirika's supports with fellow princesses Tana and L'Arachel are somewhat suggestive.  

Since FE8 and FE7, with their similar support systems, were the first to be released worldwide, many fans have the idea that these A-B-C supports with paired endings are simply how Fire Emblem works.  Clearly that is not the case.  You may like it the best, but that doesn't make it the norm.  

The next continental saga challenged that assumption, hard.

Date: 2012-09-20 10:05 am (UTC)
samuraiter: (Default)
From: [personal profile] samuraiter
The next continental saga challenged that assumption, hard.

In the way that a Chipotle burrito challenges my digestive tract, yes. But that's for next time. :-)

I suspect the relative simplicity of the Support system is a large part of its appeal. You sit Character A next to Character B for C number of turns, you get result D. Compare this to the horrors of FE4 statmongering and its resident pairing oddities.

Date: 2012-09-20 03:07 pm (UTC)
raphiael: (Magic Hikaru Threesome)
From: [personal profile] raphiael
At the very least, Tellius' supports are less hassle in gameplay and far more accessible. No more annoying grinding or crazy deliberate strategies necessary, in most cases. Even the fastest supports in the GBA games, I had to seriously go out of my way for. My first time through FE7, I had no idea they even existed-- which is kind of horrid for something that's touted by the fandom as so integral to the story and characters, but is probably the experience of most people who play. (Liked the game and characters just fine without, though.)

I might like the text of FE8's supports best in the series, but if I hadn't known they were there and how to get them thanks to GameFAQS (rather than the game itself), I'd never have even seen them, as opposed to Tellius just naturally popping them up as you go and not making them an in-battle pain.

Date: 2012-09-20 03:18 pm (UTC)
raphiael: (Ephraim)
From: [personal profile] raphiael
Glancing back at one of Ammie's older posts, Ephraim really is given a remarkable level of "shrug" in that department.

I also think it's interesting that it's basically impossible to make a coherent case for "most canon" love interest for FE8's lords, outside "bam, twincest". It's nowhere near the "openness" FE4's got going on for a lot of its cast, but it does seem like a departure from the previous idea of either having just one option, or having a few choices (but having one backed up as "most supported".) Saleh might not be as favored in fandom for Eirika's "match" as Seth, but I don't think that's true in game.

There's probably a post to be made about this. I've poked at it a little bit before. Hm. Will consider.

Also worth noting, FE7 hits some pretty F/F points, too. More debatable than Raven/Lucius, but doesn't Florina outright use "love" for Lyn? (Personally I think Legault/Heath is a pretty undeniable option as well, but that's another Canon Bi rather than anything else.)

I had sworn there was more in FE8, but then I thought about it and realized the only explicit same-sex attraction is from Lyon-- and it just seems to serve that he's majorly wacked. Not exactly positive representation.

Date: 2012-09-22 07:40 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] knmc
Umm, Interesting what you declare that FE8 was a rush job, that game have his bug, were keeping the code to keep the production cost low and the new skill made some thing with the code but was pretty well made, this darker palete means was made for the game boy Advance SP(and the upcoming Micro) Mindset, thus giving it to a more direct audience(Older one) and sell well(300,000 units a little more that FE7 And less of FE6 who have of free publicity thanks to Meele) and in game was pretty well made, was a good self sustained history and like you mention, like a reimaginated FE2, who at least keep classic options(rumors say that Shining force partly influece FE2)

As you say, true support here were good idea even if horrible implemented(waiting turn make wonders for your tactics rank, isn't it?) but give FE his soul about how the characther feel like persons with their own life and goals, and that is who is the plus of the franchise.

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