Fire Emblem: The Element of Style

If you’ve read my analysis of Fire Emblem Awakening, you’ll know I’m not really too thrilled about some of the newer entries in the Fire Emblem series. I feel like the series has kinda lost most of the elements that I really appreciated after I had played the GBA games. So, I want to talk about something in games that I think is very important, but most people probably consider cosmetic. That is, attack animations, and how adding some stylistic flair to a game can turn something that might be boring into something exciting and satisfying.

To start things off, lets take a look a basic attack animation from Fire Emblem 7.

Specifically, I want to draw attention to an effect known as “smearing”. Let’s take a look at some of the sprites where we can see this happening.

You can see that it literally looks like the character is being smeared. It might look goofy just looking at it like that, but the end result is that it makes movement look swift and fluid. You might also notice that the attack itself consists of just one frame. This makes the attack feel very fast and gives it more impact. There’s kind of a slow build up to the attack and then it very quickly comes out. It’s like a rubber band, you slowly pull it back, then it quickly snaps. All of this makes these animations look incredibly stylish and dynamic. You can tell from most attacks in this game that they’re not trying to be realistic. They’re trying to make something that looks cool and visually interesting, and I think that’s important.

The final element is the sound design. Every attack has a nice, crunchy sound effect. Then there’s the critical hits, which turn everything I just mentioned up to 11. The build up to the attack is longer, the attack impact is more exaggerated, the sound when the attack hits is more dramatic. Here is one of my favorites:

Because of the really smart animation, that dramatic spin he does is achieved by using a mere three frames of animation looped a few times.

These animations look fantastic, but are very short. They only take a couple seconds at most. You don’t need overly elaborate things that take up so much time to make something impressive. I think most people neglect how big a role these little touches can play when it comes to enjoyment of a game. Some folks seem to think of style as something shallow, that the only thing that matters are the mechanics, or the story. I disagree with this. If Persona 5 didn’t have the slick UI, or if Bayonetta didn’t have her personality and that amazing soundtrack, there would definitely be something missing.

After the Fire Emblem series moved away from the GBA, the attack animations lost a bit of their style. The series went to the Gamecube, which the series definitely deserved to have a full console title, however making slick looking attacks in 3D is something that developers struggle with even now. The most recent entry, Echoes, made a pretty big step in the right direction for interesting looking animations.

These animations go a long way to giving the three Fire Emblems for the GBA a lot of personality. Considering these games are RPGs, you’re gonna be looking at these attacks quite a lot. So making them fun to watch is important. You have the option to turn them off, but with them looking so good, you don’t really want to. Obviously, something like this doesn’t really make or break a game, but I definitely think it can make it stand out among the rest.

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