The Final Fantasy series is often associated with its blend of fantasy and sci-fi elements, exemplified by its arguably best-known entry Final Fantasy 7. However, the upcoming Final Fantasy 16 is going for a traditional medieval fantasy setting, harkening back to the series' roots as well as other popular JRPGs such as Dragon Quest. As Square Enix makes that shift, there's plenty of room left behind for a developer like Intelligent Systems to try something new with Fire Emblem.
The Fire Emblem franchise is one known for its hard fantasy settings going back to 1990's Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light on NES, but it has toyed with other genres as well. For example, half of Fire Emblem Fates' world in a feudal Japanese-inspired kingdom full of ninjas and samurai, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses has academy-themed slice-of-life elements. A few recent entries add more technology into the mix with a fantasy spin, but the next game could mine a lot of potential out of committing to a science-fantasy setting.
Fire Emblem's Increasing Sci-Fi Fantasy Elements
One idea more commonly associated with science-fiction seen in modern Fire Emblem is time travel. Fire Emblem Awakening features Lucina and a band of other survivors from a devastated future travel back in time to meet their parents, current members of Ylisse's Shepherds, in order to change the fate of the world. However, this is less science and technology-based, instead explained as magic facilitated by the divine dragon Naga.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses also introduces automated Golems with largely mechanical designs that have been developed by the Church of Seiros, though they also seem powered by magic. Similarly, the Azure Moon path following Dimitri and the Blue Lions class also brings players into contact with Titanus: hulking stone beasts built using technology from an ancient race. Cases like these are still few and far between, but Intelligent Systems has delved deeper into the concept via the mobile game Fire Emblem Heroes.
Fire Emblem Heroes: Mechs and Magic
All of the major storylines in Fire Emblem Heroes center around the nine realms of Norse mythology, including recurring characters like Thor and Loki. First came a conflict between the fire-themed regime of Muspell and the more peaceful winter land of Nifl – riffing off Muspelheim and Niflheim, respectively. After that the Order of Heroes' homeland was invaded by the undead forces of Hel, based on Helheim, and then players explored a dream world full of fae people based on Alfheim.
The most recent chapter of the game's story, Book 5, is a mech-themed journey into Nidavellir; traditionally known as the realm of Dwarves. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe should recognize it as the place Thor visited in Avengers: Infinity War to construct Stormbreaker with giant Peter Dinklage, and this focus on technology carries into Fire Emblem Heroes. Nidavellir in the mobile game is depicted as a land of inventors with steampunk informing its aesthetics. Major characters like princess Reginn fight in mechs based on animals like horses or birds.
Fire Emblem Heroes' more simplistic nature means there is not a lot of space to explore this steampunk-fantasy setting outside of pre-rendered trailers created for Book 5. However, its blend of technology with magic is interesting and pervasive, suggesting Intelligent Systems could create an entire Fire Emblem world out of a similar concept. The question is whether it would stick with a more fantasy-friendly steampunk theme or lean into the kind of technology featured in games like Final Fantasy 7.
As Final Fantasy 16 leans away from science-fantasy, Fire Emblem has plenty of room to stake its own claim following the success of Three Houses. Though rumors suggest a Fire Emblem remake is next on the docket for Intelligent Systems, there's a lot of potential for Fire Emblem to try something new outside of just its mobile game.