The Great Fire Emblem Debate: Classic or Casual?


For decades, the Fire Emblem franchise’s most unique feature was its inclusion of perma-death. Should a character fall in battle, they’re gone for the rest of the campaign. In a game where characters can develop into fighting machines while also going through their own mini story arc alongside of the main campaign, any loss of life is devastating. Though I’ve gotten pretty good at protecting my heroes throughout, I will unashamedly save scum or redo levels entirely if it means I can save lives and keep my options open.

Starting with Fire Emblem: Awakening, players got an alternative. Prior to the start of a campaign, one can choose to play in Classic mode with perma-death on. Or, you could choose a new Casual mode, where fallen heroes simply retreat for the remainder of a level. In this case, these fallen heroes can return  at the start of the next mission.

This split has created quite the discussion amongst fans of the series. With Fire Emblem: Three Houses out now, it’s bound to heat up again. Which do you prefer? Is there a “right” way to play? Take it for what you will, but this is my approach to Classic vs. Casual in modern Fire Emblem games.

I always do my first play on Classic

Old habits die hard. Even though it’s a single-player game and there’s no one in my immediate vicinity to judge me, I’ll always do Classic first. It’s just the way I’ve always started out, and I like achieving a “clean” first run with no casualties. Even if that means I save scum or restart levels to reach that lofty goal.

I then do every run after that on Casual

While I love the tactics side of Fire Emblem, the franchise’s biggest draw for me has always been its character development. Taking on heroes at their weakest point, it’s such a pleasure to develop them through battle. All the while, their individual stories and relationships with other characters grows as well. I don’t do perfect runs because I want to prove myself to be a master tactician. I do perfect runs because I want to develop every character as best I can.

For the way I enjoy Fire Emblem, even losing a character in Casual is a tough punishment. By having someone fall in mid-battle, I lose the opportunity to gain XP for them for the remainder of that level. I still might save scum or restart even with Casual on, but at least I can carry on knowing that I’m only losing XP and not the entire character. In Classic mode, I feel like I have no choice but to restart or save scum in order to play the game the way I want.

The choice is yours

However you decide to approach Fire Emblem: Three Houses or any other game in the series, you’re free to play it however you want. Don’t listen to the naysayers who will try to press you to play it one way or another. It’s a single-player game where you’re free to approach it however you want. You’re no more or less of a gamer by choosing one path over another.

And for those who have a strong stance, it’s okay to have that point of view. And it’s just as okay for someone to have the opposing stance. There’s ways of discussing these differences in a healthy manner without getting antagonistic towards one another. With the new Fire Emblem game out now, let’s all have some fun and not bicker about the “right” way to play!


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