Breakdown of the new Fire Emblem Trailer

Nintendo has officially announced the next Fire Emblem game today (January 14), and released a teaser trailer to go with it. The graphics and battle engine of the new game look pretty much identical to Fire Emblem: Awakening, but with a slightly new aesthetic and an all-new cast of characters. Details are scarce — the game doesn’t even have a name yet, just a working title of Fire Emblem If — but we can still figure out a few new details from the trailer! Let’s take a look.

After the Nintendo 3DS logo, the trailer starts with images of what look like stock footsoldiers in a dark forest.

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These guys look fairly similar to previous games’ footsoldier designs — colored armor with lighter-colored piping — but their armor and weapons has a more feudal Japanese influence than previous Fire Emblem games, which have drawn more heavily from European medievalism. (Fire Emblem 6 and 7 were very British and Arthurian; Fire Emblem 8 drew on Norse mythology; 9 and 10 had Greek influences, so it would follow that this new one is drawing from feudal Japanese aesthetics.) The weapons these guys are holding are long two-handed blades with slightly curved edges that look like katana on first glance–but some of them, like the soldier second from the left, are holding what look more like naginata (medieval Japanese spears).

At 0:13 we see these soldiers clashing with a mounted corp wearing helmets with masks and crests.

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The helmets appear to be influenced by the Roman galea, crested helmets worn by Roman soldiers. You can just barely see the distinctive cheek flaps on the sides of their faces there. Some more modern representations of Roman soldiers also show the with similar mask-like face coverings, but I’m not positive those were worn in actual Rome, at least in any kind of widespread way. (Roman history is not my specialty.) In any case, these masks look more like animals than humans. In any case, the skulls on their shields strongly suggest these guys are the bad guys. Which means the people with the medieval Japanese-influenced armor are our good guys?

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Then at 0:19 we see a pegasus knight appear over the combatants. No clear shot of her, but her helmet is more evocative of a samurai helmet, and she also seems to be holding a curve-bladed naginata so I think it’s safe to assume she’s on the good guys’ side. We can’t see what color the rider’s hair is, which means she might be the redheaded pegasus knight that appears later in the trailer. But more on that later.

With the camera focused on this pegasus knight the trailer transitions to a castle siege. Two more pegasus knights are visible in the background as the three of them attack a battlement lined with archers. (Pegasus knights do often come in threes in Fire Emblem games.) I can’t get a clear look at the armor the archers have.

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But look at the archer on the far right. he’s wearing a brimmed helmet with some kind of face mask. This also seems to echo some Roman helmets, such as those often worn by types of gladiators. Look at the gladiator third from the right in this panel of the Zliten Mosaic:

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Public domain image.

We get a few more angles of this battlement fight, such as this one from behind the archers that shows the helmets in a bit more detail:

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Not sure what’s happening with those bangin’ pauldrons (shoulder armor) — the vertical ridges are not Roman at all — but the helmets have lateral crests instead of the front-to-back ones worn by the cavalry earlier. This is still a Roman convention, however, so I think it’s safe to say the aesthetic trend is continuing. We also get a little bit of a blurry view of the pegasus knight carrying the naginata in the background.

And then at 0:32 a stony hand grips the battlements and up rises a gigantic golem-like creature with a flat coinlike face.

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To identify the influences going on with this golem I researched ancient coins, and found a few possible threads. Most Western coinage has people’s faces in profile (just like current American coins), but there are a few examples of bust-style images such as this German indigenous coin c. 715-20 CE, in the De Wit Collection of the Fitz Museum:

Silver early penny, Series Z, <i>c. </i>715-20; CM.1614-2007, De Wit Collection
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I’m not convinced this is the source, though; the golum’s face is much more articulated. It looks kind of like Renaissance depictions of Poseidon or Neptune, too. Anyone else have any thoughts on the golum’s face design?

The scene fades out zooming back on the golem, then transitions to a low-angle shot of a man on foot facing down a man on horseback.

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The mounted man is not someone we’ve seen before. He’s probably not part of that earlier group of cavalry: his helmet is more European in design, kind of like a barbute (though still crested) and he doesn’t wear a mask or have any other skull imagery on him. His horse is heavily armored, and one of the armor pieces displays a diamond and a heart symbol. Could he have a card deck theme? The mounted soldier also carries a short, straight, one-handed sword like the skull-themed cavalry, but his pommel has a pointed tip, while the skull cavalry’s were more rounded.

Then there’s the foot soldier. My guess is he’s either the game’s lord, or a Swordmaster unit. He’s dressed a lot like Fire Emblem lords typically are: white baggy pants, brown boots, a long blue jacket with ridonkulous pauldrons. He also seems to have blue hair, which is typical of Fire Emblem lords, but it might also be gray hair, as a gray-haired, grim-faced young man appears later in the trailer as well. It’s hard to tell from this image here. The foot soldier is also carrying a longer two-handed, slightly curved blade that resembles a katana.

The scene then zooms back so we can see the mounted knight and katana-wielder are in the middle of a larger battle between foot-soldiers:

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One group looks like the medieval-Japanese-influenced infantry from the trailer’s first scene, and the other look more European: they sport tunics belted at the waist and helmets that resemble the morion, a brimmed helmet worn by Europeans in the 16th and 17th centuries. They also carry small, round shields like the European buckler, or bouclier, also widely used in the late medieval and Renaissance period in Europe. I’m guessing these are the troops of the mounted knight, and the medieval-Japanese-influenced infantry are under the command of the blue-haired katana wielder. But from this brief scene it looks like the Renaissance-influenced soldiers are beating the Japanese-influenced soldiers, which probably isn’t a good thing.

This scene eventually pans as the action freezes (0:51), to reveal that it’s a painting on a wall, in an elaborate golden frame. Does this transition indicate that Fire Emblem: If will involve going backward and forward in time? The camera continues to zoom out, revealing the picture is behind an old man in regal-looking robes who sits on a throne in a red cloth-draped balcony.

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The throne is daintier than most European thrones I’m familiar with, but its coloring links it with English royal thrones. Compare it to this painting of the throne that stood in the Palace of Westminster in the early 19th century:

Public Domain image; artist unknown.

The king himself is wearing dark blue and wears a heavy cloak with white fur edging. This looks like ermine, a style often worn by British monarchs. But that collar on him is something else entirely. I’m not really sure where to place it.  Interesting that the gold symbol on the banner in front of the king does not match either of the symbols on the banners in the painting behind him.

Whoever he is, this king is watching a young woman with blue hair and blue garb dance below him:

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“Dancer” is an established unit type in Fire Emblem, so it’s probably safe to say that’s what this woman will be in the game. Her blue coloring is in stark contrast to the red around her. Is she a captive? A foreigner? Note the red boats behind her. As to the historical influences, this woman is much harder to place than previous characters, as it’s much more in the realm of fantasy/sci-fi. Her fingerless gloves continue all the way to the shoulder, where they fan upward in a wing-like pattern. And I’m sure I’ve seen something like that pale blue flower on her hip, but I just can’t place it right now. It looks a bit like a stylized representation of a peony, or maybe a lotus. What do you all think?

At 0:56, she continues to spin, and we see a front view of her. She’s wearing a black veil over the lower half of her face, and those ribbons around her body are as improbable and Final Fantasy-like as ever.

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The ribbon is purple, a mix of blue and red, and the bottom of her blue skirt blends into purple as well, possibly signifying a merging of the blue and red forces. At 0:58 is a third shot of the dancer, showing that she’s performing in front of a moat-like body of water that cuts through the hall. We also get a closer image of the red boats that were behind her in the first shot.

Finally, in a fourth shot of the dancer we zoom in on her face. The flower symbol is on her shoulders, as well, and there’s a shell-shaped pendant around her neck. If nothing else, we can tell the woman is important, just by how long the trailer spends on her.

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Now, at 1:02 we cut to some actual gameplay:

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The woman on the left (front right in the background) is one of the player’s units. She’s wielding a sword against the red, hooded enemy’s bow. Above her head is her name, written in katakana: “Kazahana.”  In the background a red-haired pegasus knight and a woman with long pale-blue hair are also visible.

The gameplay footage continues into the fight between these two characters. She attacks just like a myrmidon from Fire Emblem Awakening.

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Then a second gameplay sequence starts (1:10), where we see a pegasus knight move and engage a cavalier.  And, as the player moves the cursor to direct the pegasus knight, it passes very briefly (I had to slow the video to one-quarter speed to see it) over another character, who appears to be a blond wearing a gold crown. The katakana of the unit’s name spells “Rinka,” which could transliterate to “Linka” or “Link.”

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In the background you can also see the long blue-haired woman, and  in the lower-left a man with dark gray hair.Is this the guy with the katana we saw in the painting battle? In any case, the battle prep menu then pops up, giving us a closer look at the pegasus knight:

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The pegasus knight’s name, in katakana, is Hinoka.  Pegasus knights are typically always women, and usually very outwardly feminine ones, but this redhead looks very androgynous, even by anime art styles. In the following fight sequence, however, the pegasus knight lets out a feminine-sounding grunt. Personally, I’m really excited for a more androgynous pegasus knight character!

The fight scene between Hinoka and the cavalier  also shows two huge armies in the background which aren’t physically represented on the tactical map seen above:

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The two armies are carrying blue and white flags with the same symbols as those seen in the portrait fight earlier. You can see the white one with the circular symbol in the above image.

After that we get several short snapshots of various other in-game scenes, a  mix of combat and dialogue. The first shows a pink-haired girl in what looks kind of like a maid’s uniform:

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Thanks to Gamefaqs user Pentao for translating her name, Felicia, and her dialogue: “It’s morning, Kamui(-sama)! Please wake up!”

Kamui also showed up in some extra footage that Satoru Iwata showed off during the Nintendo presentation:  this footage shows a fight between a sword-wielding woman with pale blond or gray  hair (this occurs just after the same clip of Kazahana fighting as seen in the main trailer):

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Then we see this image of a grayed-out character on the tactical menu, indicating that character has already made its move for the turn. The katakana in the upper right spell “Kamui.” The fact that the cursor is on this character suggests that Kamui is the platinum-blond sword-wielder we just saw.

In Japanese Ainu mythology, a kamui is a spiritual being, often directly associated with some physical thing. For example there was a kamui of bears, a kamui of the hearth, etc.  According to a translation by website Serenes Forest, the weapon Kamui is carrying is called “Yatogami.” Serenes Forest also links this name to the mythical yato-no-kami, snake deities whose name means “god of the night-sword.”

Okay, back to the trailer: after Felicia we cut to a gray-haired young person talking to a clearly evil older man. In the tactical map in the background it looks like the gray-haired person is a Hero-class unit:

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The name in the speech box here is Ganzu, and it probably belongs to the guy on the right, since the gray-haired character’s colors are more faded.  Again, thanks to Pentao for the dialogue translation: “Fufufu…it seems the rumor of a naive princess were true…”

From a later scene of this gray-haired person attacking it sounds like he’s male. In its own trailer analysis, Serenes Forest actually theorizes that this gray-haired man and Kamui are male and female versions of the game’s avatar.

Then we get our first look at a blond, very regal-looking character on horseback whose armor is red, black and gold. He’s carrying a shield with a stylized ram on it. The katakana for his name spells Makusu, or Max.

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Again, Pentao on Gamefaqs has a translation: “How can this be! There’s no way this can be my father’s fault!” OR “There’s no way my father can be evil!”  Could his father be the king on the throne we saw earlier? The color scheme does match…

Then a fight sequence between the gray-haired character and an enemy Brigand. The gray-haired character makes a masculine-sounding grunt, so he’s probably male, and not the princess Ganzu was referring to. This character also attacks kind of like a Hero, but he’s also carrying the same golden sword that Kamui is seen holding in the Iwata bonus footage, lending support to Serenes Forest’s theory that Kamui and this character are the same character. The background looks like a Chinese-stype palace, from the sloping rooftop and the design of the lamp behind them.

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Then another fight, this one with two paired ally units: a female Knight in pink armor and a male Cavalier in blue armor, who might be the game’s Abel unit. Their design is pretty traditional with regard to Fire Emblem unit designs. The person they’re fighting appears to be wearing medieval-Japanese-inspired armor and wielding a naginata. So there goes my theory that the “good guys” are the ones with the medieval Japanese aesthetic and the “bad guys” are the ones with the late-medieval European one!

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The next one is interesting: it’s two more paired-up player characters fighting in a desert, and the one on the left seems to be fighting with a fan, as is the one enemy. The second player character says “atashi mo!” meaning “me too!” as he or she attacks as well, with what looks like an axe of some kind. New weapons aside, the way they’re fighting together is how paired fights worked in Fire Emblem Awakening, too.

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Next we get what looks like Max in combat, which tells us that even though Max’s father may be evil, he’s on the player’s side:

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Next we’re back at cutscene-quality graphics, as the camera plunges through a rocky crevasse that then transforms into a bizarre pastoral:

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The field in the background not only looks like it’s floating in the sky; it also looks perpendicular to the field in the foreground. The camera also pans right, giving us a better view of that dark object in the upper center, which is another floating chunk of field, this time upside-down. In fact, there are several chunks of land floating seemingly peacefully in the sky. Is this some kind of magical dimension where physics don’t matter? Has some spell destroyed the kingdom, or blasted part of it into the sky?

Dark clouds soon blot out the aerial pastoral, and then this juts out of the darkness:

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It’s hard to tell what this is, but from the scene that immediately follows we can see it’s the blue-haired girl, upside down, entwined with a six-limbed dragon-like being. The trailer then cuts to a close-up:

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Her color-scheme has changed slightly, replacing the dark blue with white and losing the veil entirely, but the flower symbols and ribbons are all still there: this is the dancer from the earlier scenes. We can also see her pendant is glowing, suggesting it’s important. We also see just a bit of the scaly thing that’s above her.

Then we cut to a third angle of this moment:

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Now the scaly thing has transformed into a human-like shape, and now we know this is definitely an attack of some kind because the figure’s hand is around the dancer’s throat. The figure appears female, from the shape of the torso and the long hair. The dancer’s pendant continues to glow.

And a fourth shot from a new angle: the dancer’s outstretched hand, as if reaching for help as she slowly falls.

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Okay here’s my theory: The Fire Emblem series has previously had another character who was a dancer with long blue hair and an association with scaly things: Ninian, from Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken, known in the US simply as Fire Emblem. Ninian was a half-dragon who transformed into a dragon during various points in the game’s narrative (though she couldn’t fight as a dragon, like the Fire Emblem units known as manaketes or the laguz of Fire Emblem 9 and 10 can). So I think this blue-haired dancer is a dragon. This last scene, of her grappling with a scaly beast that transforms into a girl, represents a struggle between her human aspect and her dragon aspect.

Okay theory time over,and back to the trailer! The blue-haired dancer’s hand dissolves into one more montage: first Max faces off against a person with long, spiky red hair, carrying a katakana:

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It’s interesting to note that they both have red affects, but once again we see someone with European-inspired arms and armor face off against a someone with Japanese-inspired arms and armor. We then cut to a shot of Max attacking, giving us a great look at his armor and symbols:

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Then we cut to the dancer again, spinning rapidly. The background is a cloudy black and her coloring is still white, which links this scene more closely to the falling scene that just preceded it than to the earlier scene of her dancing in the red palace:

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Next we cut back to the red-armored guy that Max was just seen fighting:

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The way these three shots of Max, the dancer and the spiky-haired warrior are cut together seems to place the dancer in between the two men, as if they’re fighting over her. In any case, the three of them seem to be linked together. As for the spiky-haired guy himself, we don’t seem to have seen him yet in the trailer. His helmet, armor and crazy hair look a little bit dragon-ish to me.

And he’s the last thing we see, because then the trailer smash-cuts to the title, white text on black. The last thing we hear, at 1:56, is the sound of a water drop falling.

Some other notes:

  • The game’s working title, Fire Emblem If, probably doesn’t refer to the English word “if.” Why would it? It might instead refer to Chateau d’If, a prison located on the small French island of If in the bay of Marseille. The Chateau d’If is also a major location in the book The Count of Monte Cristo; it’s the prison from which protagonist Edmond Dantes escapes his injust imprisonment. Legend had it that the Man in the Iron Mask was also imprisoned in the chateau, though this doesn’t seem to be historically true. Could the castle we see in the first 30 seconds of the trailer be based on this castle?

 

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