Well, the inevitable has occurred at last. Nintendo has finally decided to ease themselves into selling DLC packages for their more popular games, such as Super Smash Brothers, and more relevantly, Fire Emblem 14. Honestly, it’s just surprising that it’s taken the company this long to take the plunge in a major way. I mean, you know that I respect Nintendo as a company and as a creator of art, but let’s face it, a hard stance on the moral quagmire that is add-on game content is not something one would expect of the company behind Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles 1’s requiring one’s friends to have purchased Game Boy Advances to take advantage of the game’s multiplayer features, or the current Amiibo marketing push.
Anyway, Fire Emblem 14, known as Fire Emblem: Fates to most, is the newest Fire Emblem game, coming to us after the strong success that was FE13. I never did play FE13, myself, because I take issue with a game in which a major component and selling point is the opportunity to play matchmaker with the cast, yet in which there is a complete lack of homosexual romantic options. It’s the mid 2010s, Nintendo, and society is starting to slowly catch up to morality on this point: it’s not okay to thoroughly shun the gays. So, when the news came to me that FE14 actually includes homosexual romantic options, I leapt at the chance to support Nintendo finally taking a virtuous step forward, and bought the game and all its DLC.
I may have jumped the gun a bit on that point. More about Nintendo’s disappointing showing on homosexuality in FE14 in a later rant.
At any rate, this means that I’ve got every DLC package available to me. And that means it’s time for a DLC rant!
Note: These are all $2.50 to purchase and download, individually. Except for Before Awakening - I think that one was free.
UPDATE 09/28/16: Heirs of Fate DLC added.
Ghostly Gold: This one unfortunately sets the standard for a lot of these DLCs. The long and short of it is, you play a mission where you have to stop ghosts from making off with treasure, after a night in which some of your teammates didn’t get enough sleep. I guess if you’re enthralled at the prospect of hearing a quick 2 - 3 lines of monologue by the cast about how they did or did not sleep the night before, then, uh, it seems that Nintendo has finally acknowledged your niche market, friend. For everyone else, skip Ghostly Gold. It’s just empty time-wasting.
Boo Camp: Ghostly Gold was about farming money, and Boo Camp’s about farming Experience, and like GG, BC does not bother to make itself in any way more compelling than that. The premise is that the cast is trying to get stronger by taking part in one of those tests of courage that, going by anime, is some little cultural ritual of Japan’s most bored teenagers. Well, I suppose it beats what teenagers in the USA get up to when left to their own devices. Anyway, if you’re really hankering to trade the time and effort you spent earning your livelihood to Nintendo in exchange for the opportunity to see how the FE14 characters react to a spooky graveyard, then, well, you obviously don’t have enough of an appreciation for your money to deserve to keep it anyway, so you may as well just electronically transfer it straight into Nintendo’s wastebin. Anyone with a functional understanding of the concept of currency, however, should stay away.
Museum Melee: Difficult to believe, but this DLC about farming weapons is actually even less worthwhile than the last 2. At least with Ghostly Gold and Boo Camp, the in-combat monologues of the cast as they react to their situation are mildly interesting. Not interesting enough to justify spending $2.50, of course, or any amount of money at all, but the situations in those add-ons were different enough to make for some slightly interesting commentary. This, however, is just brawling with people with the intent of taking their weapons. How do you get interesting reactions for a situation like that? I can’t say I know. Neither does Nintendo.
Beach Brawl: Hey there, impressionable young target audience member! Do you want to see some of the pretty men and women of Fire Emblem 14 in swimwear, at the beach, doing beach things? Are you a traveler from the past, and don’t know what an ‘image search,’ ‘youtube,’ or ‘rule 34’ is? Are you just morally opposed to the idea of possessing money? Then BOY does Nintendo have the DLC package for you!
Royal Royale: This one is basically just the same damn thing as Beach Brawl (a preset battle between the royal siblings of the game), except it replaces insulting fanservice with the reward of stat-boosting items for the main game. I guess that’s better. If you want some schlock written within 30 seconds about Corrin’s royal siblings competing to send her an interdimensional care package, then, uh, I guess Nintendo’s just hitting all the right niche markets today. Well, if you’re just super hard up for the joy of another long battle virtually indistinguishable from the dozens and dozens of other ones in the game, then you could find a worse way to spend your money. Probably. I mean, I can’t think of one, but anything’s possible in theory, right?
Before Awakening: By the messy hood-hair of Anankos himself, could it be? A DLC for Fire Emblem 14 which actually is story-driven? It is...it IS!
It also IS barely a step up from the garbage above. Now, yeah, I’m not the best audience for this one, because I didn’t play the previous game, so the only characters from Fire Emblem 13 that I have even a slight working knowledge of are those in Super Smash Brothers, and also Tharja, for Rhajat-related reasons.
But I suspect that even if I had any particularly strong attachment to Chrom, Lissa, and the third guy whose name I can’t even remember, this DLC still wouldn’t impress me. It’s empty fanservice that goes nowhere: you show up for a few minutes in the world of the previous Fire Emblem game, assist some of its characters with beating monsters from FE14’s world, you tell each other “Sick moves bra,” and you’re done. Riveting. Nintendo...just leave this stuff for Nippon Ichi next time, okay?
Hidden Truths: Oh, hey! This one’s actually good. That’s a nice change of pace. Yeah, this is another story-driven DLC package, split into 2 parts, which gives some background for 3 of the party members of FE14, as well as building some lore for the game’s history and a couple of its other important characters. All of this feels like an actual, honest bit of bonus character and setting development, too, so even though we’re talking about major characters’ background, it doesn’t come off like it’s content that should have necessarily been attached to the game. And honestly, this is a pretty decent little side story--it got me invested in it, it speaks to me in the right ways. Everything up to this point has been garbage, but I’ll recommend Hidden Truths: it’s a good aside to the game.
Anna on the Run: This DLC is a short-ish battle in which you get a new character, Anna, who is basically to Fire Emblem what Cid is to Final Fantasy--there’s 1 in each game. Unlike Cid, though, the Annas have the Nurse Joy/Officer Jenny thing going on, where there’s like a thousand of them who’re all identical members of the same family sharing the same first name and occupation. More dedicated Fire Emblem fans than I (I still feel like an outsider to the series, even after 5 titles) tend to be somewhat obsessed with Anna. So I’m sure a lot of them are pretty enthusiastic about this DLC.
I’m...not. The plot component here is pretty thin (you find Anna, you help her, she joins you, the end). That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, mind you--the actual process for getting, say, Javik in Mass Effect 3 isn’t much stronger an example of storytelling, for instance, and the same might be said for other DLC-unlocked characters in other RPGs. The problem is that those other characters, regardless of whether or not their recruitment was interesting, contributed to the game adequately in the interrelationship and character development department. Javik’s a well-developed character with a distinct personality, his presence affects many scenes in Mass Effect 3 (sometimes dramatically, such as on the Asari homeworld), and he has relationships with multiple other members of the crew (notably Shepard and Liara) which develop both parties as characters.
By contrast, Anna has no input on or reaction to the game’s plot developments that I’ve noticed, and she’s one of those annoying few characters in the game who only has a Support relationship with the protagonist, no one else. This situation is made worse by the fact that this sole chance for character development is pretty uninteresting. Anna’s conversations with Corrin concentrate on the fact that there are many, many Annas out there, and her trying to figure out a way to seem more individualized--and trust me, my description here makes it sound way, way more interesting than it actually is. It’s not a terrible Support in and of itself, but when it’s the only piece of character development Anna gets in the whole game, then all she amounts to is a mildly quirky gimmick character. And that just isn’t worth paying for. Pass.
Vanguard Dawn: Oh, joy, we’ve given up on story- or character-driven DLCs, and have returned once more to unimaginative one-off battles for gameplay reasons. This one’s the least interesting yet--just defending a spot from a wave of enemies for a while until the battle ends. If you’ve just got to have an item that gives 1 of your units the same job class as Ike from Fire Emblem 9 + 10, then you’ll probably buy this anyway, but if you’re looking for anything even remotely interesting whatsoever, look elsewhere.
Ballistician Blitz: There absolutely is nothing of substance to this. You go in, you hear a couple quips from Anna, you beat some enemies, you get a class-change item. That’s it. That’s everything. You pay money, you get fucking nothing. It’s the Fire Emblem 14 DLC business plan. If you told me that FE14 was a product of Capcom, not Nintendo, I’d be none the wiser.
Witches’ Trial: Man, Nintendo just stopped giving even a tenth of a fuck after Anna on the Run, huh? This is as completely empty and meaningless as Ballistician Blitz, but it actually manages to be lazier than ever before by having the map itself just be taken from another Fire Emblem game, FE Gaiden. Nintendo doesn’t even cover it up; it just outright tells us that it’s recycling battle maps at this point. I mean, how damn hard can it possibly be to make a Fire Emblem map, really? I wouldn’t be half surprised if the entire production cost for this DLC, from class animations to battle map to scant, trite Anna monologue, was covered with the DLC’s first sale.
Heirs of Fate: This is sold in 6 maps, but each map is a successive part of an overall story, so I’m just going to count it all together here. Heirs of Fate is...well, it’s alright, I suppose. The premise and plot are fine, and it does accomplish something rather important for FE14, that being that it actually gives some plot significance to the children characters of the game, which are, what, a full third of the game’s cast which are otherwise 100% superfluous? It also gives some much-needed development to a few of these characters. Unfortunately, the ones who get significant focus are mostly just the children of Corrin, Azura, and the Hoshido and Nohr princes, and with the exception of Forrest, they’re pretty much the least interesting and/or nuanced individuals of the game’s second generation. Oh, well, it’s still a focus on characters that the main game neglected, so it’s still a good thing. Is it worth the price of $10.50 (half a buck for the first map and $2 for each of the rest), though? Eh, I can’t really say that it is. It’s not a bad little what-if side story and heaven knows the kids in this game could use a little narrative attention, but...I really kind of expect more if I’m gonna pay 10 bucks for a game. I mean, think about it, that’s a sixth of the entire game’s cost! It’s a lot closer to being a worthwhile purchase than most of these other DLCs, I’ll give you that, but the price just doesn’t match the quality and quantity of what you’re getting. Maybe if the Heirs of Fates maps go on sale, like $5 or so for the lot of’em, then it’d be worthwhile, but that’s definitely as far as I’d recommend it. Not bad, just not good enough.
And that’s all of’em. The verdict on FE14’s DLC: abysmal. You even had to ask? Of 12 DLCs, only 4 even attempted to have something resembling story and/or character development, and of those 4, only 1 is alright, 1 is actually good, and the others being empty fanservice. I feel a little foolish that I leapt to buy FE14 on the premise I mentioned above (to support Nintendo’s first Fire Emblem foray into representing same-sex relationships) before verifying that the game merited that support, because FE14 has some major problems in that regard. But I feel ashamed that in my eagerness I also bought all of these DLCs. The Fire Emblem 14 downloadable content collection represents money I just threw away. No, that’s not an appropriate analogy. If I actually, literally threw my money away--went to my garbage can, took out $20, and threw it in--I’d only be doing myself harm. But by giving that money to Nintendo in exchange for the DLC I’ve described above, I’ve done more than myself harm: I’ve told Nintendo that it’s okay to charge money for fucking nothing. That putting no effort into its add-ons is acceptable. That selling utterly meaningless gameplay quirks instead of art is permissible. In my misguided, optimistic desire to support a level of morality that Nintendo doesn’t even properly achieve in the game (again, more later on that), I used my money to make myself a liar.
This is the second time I’ve experienced DLC for a JRPG. The first was Shin Megami Tensei 4, and if you remember, I was not happy with it. I had hoped that the next time would be better, but that was a hope in vain. This isn’t a step up, it’s a step sideways. Ugh. Look, bottom line: Get Hidden Truths, maybe try Heirs of Fate, only consider Anna on the Run and Before Awakening if you’re a hardcore Fire Emblem fan, and then do what I wasn’t smart enough to do: leave the rest of this crap behind.