I seem to be strangely over-critical of flying units in the Fire Emblem series.
One of the mainstay character classes of Fire Emblem is the flying unit. These are the ones where some fighter rides atop a pegasus, a wyvern, or, recently, a big honkin’ cockatoo in battle, and can travel over various map obstacles that other fighters can’t traverse, because, y’know, flying. Naturally, this makes these units extremely handy, particularly for accomplishing timed objectives during a battle which would otherwise be nearly impossible to get to in time. To balance these units out so that players can’t abuse their mobility too much, they always take critical damage from projectile weapons like bows.
This seems sensible enough at a glance. They’re flying units, so naturally the weapon you’d rely on to take them down would be a projectile, right? I mean, that’s how it works in real life. You need to take down a bird flying overhead, you’re gonna need something with a little more reach than a sword. But, scrutinize this system with anything lengthier than that glance, and you’ll realize that this actually doesn’t make any damn sense.
See, the problem comes back to the reasoning for why this would appear to make sense: flying enemies are outside our normal reach, so we would rely on a bow to take down, say, a pegasus knight. But the game doesn’t actually follow this logic, because a pegasus knight can be attacked using melee weapons just as any other unit can be! Get a ground-based unit with an axe up to a pegasus knight unit, and that axe grunt can attack the pegasus knight exactly as effectively as he can anyone else! The pegasus knight is no more or less evasive, takes no more or less damage from the axe, as any other unit would. The bow’s extra damage to flying units is founded on the core idea that a flying enemy can only be hit by long-range weapons, but the game doesn’t actually support this--the flying units are no less vulnerable to regular weaponry!
So why, then, should the bow be so deadly to flying units? It’s not like they’re significantly less armored than many other types of fighters in the Fire Emblem series. The regular horses that knights ride are just as vulnerable to an arrow’s damage. More, really, because any significant damage to the majority of a horse’s body is going to make the act of movement along the ground difficult or impossible for the horse, while in the case of a pegasus, a lot less of its body would need to be in perfect condition to keep moving through the air.
And what about wyvern units? Considering that these guys are dragons’ lesser cousins, their scales should make them far less susceptible to arrows than most regular units in the series, and the knights that sit atop them tend to be pretty heavily armored, too.
Heck, what about the issue of mobility? If anything, shouldn’t a flying unit be even harder to hit with a bow, since they have more space and distance when in the air to react and evade? Ground units are significantly more limited in their options for avoiding projectiles than those that can move through the air at will.
It just doesn’t make sense. If, in practice, everyone can attack the flying units with any weapon and not suffer any kind of damage or accuracy penalty, thus eliminating the theoretical benefit of a bow’s range in combat against a flying foe, then there’s just no logical reason why a bow’s arrows would be any more effective on a kinshi, pegasus, or especially wyvern rider than it would be on any other given fighter. I know it’s all in the name of gameplay balance (although I’m not actually sure whether this system even really balances flying units out very well to begin with), but that doesn’t mean it’s sensible on more important levels.