The world is at war, ruin is coming and there is probably some big evil dragon behind it all. You lead a band of heroes with your tactical ability to victory, making bonds of friendship along the way. That is what Fire Emblem is all about: using the characters you bond with to save the world—well, sometimes it’s about dating people, but that’s a whole other story. Your trust into a fantasy world with stunning outfits reflecting the cultures of the characters and reflecting their personas.
Characters can really die, and even if it’s just from the sheer hard work of getting some characters, by the end of the game you are bound to care about at least a handful of them. Each character has different stats, a class, and sometimes even special skills. What makes the series even more amazing are the powerful women who inspired me as I grew up as icons to live up to. That all started with Fire Emblem Blazing Sword (also known as FE7 or FE GBA), the first game in the series to be released to the west. Seeing women in costumes that stood out from each other, having them look beyond a lot of what I had seen in my favorite JRPGs had me feel a special connection that I didn’t even understand until later. Sachiko Wada, the Main and Face designer for Blazing Sword, showed the amazing power of her character design ability for many games in the series. The costume design is key to telling you who these characters are, and these women in armor really show their stuff.
The game starts with Lyn, your first “Lord” unit for Fire Emblem. If she dies, it’s game over, and for the first 10 chapters she has to be in your party. She is the granddaughter of the Marquess of Caelin, making her royal despite her wanting to be in the plains where she was raised. Having a woman as your lead right from the start was a super shocking notion to me. She’s on the front of the game box art, she’s the first character you interact with, and has a lovely design to boot. Lyn has striking green hair that makes her stand out from a lot of other characters, her dress seems suited for combat, and the way the game animates her in combat is badass. You can see her moving so fast that there are multiples of her, and she rains down hell on her foes when she lands critical hits.
Very soon after entering the game you meet Florina, the Pegasus Knight. Her outfit is clearly in part uniform for the Pegasus Knights, but it has these soft touches that reflect the demure personality of the character. She is for sure Lyn’s girlfriend. That’s canon to me, and you’re reading an article by me, so there you go. She is the only girl who can reach S rank—the highest level of relationship in Fire Emblem, generally leading to marriage in the game’s epilogue—in support with Lyn. They get a small mention of each other in their ending credits. Florina serves a function few other units do, especially in the beginning: she is a flying unit able to go over walls, travel very long distances, and she is useful in sand levels, too. If you support with Florina you get to learn a lot about this girl and watch her grow more confident and powerful while remaining sweet and kind.
Fiora and Farina are Florina’s sisters, and you can see how their designs hold similarities, yet more than enough difference. It shows that Florina’s outfit is uniform and apparently effective for flying on a pegasus. The breast plate armor adds to the overall design, since they need to be lightweight to fly on the winged horse. The small distinctions are great and give their outfits a great unified feeling. The differing personas make it so the player can feel more connected to whatever flying unit they want, or they can bring all three sisters to the party.
Ninian is a key character to the story of Fire Emblem, serving as the game’s only dancer. She can make units move a second time, and oh, it turns out she is a dragon. We all know women are secretly dragons, but that’s not generally represented in video games, so it was really refreshing to see a woman who was also a dragon in this game. She does fall under the common trope of silks being associated with dancers, but I adore her dress—the soft blues really make her contrast with the rest of the cast. Ninian is not human, and this is reflected in her dress: the fabrics seem to be silkier, the dress is more form fitting and flows elegantly. It is really nice character design, because it helps start guiding the player’s mind to, later, accepting that this character is a dragon.
Serra is the sassy cleric. Breaking the mold of your typical healer character, she is a bit vain and self absorbed. Her concept art shows that off a bit, and the twin tails she is rocking on her hair are anime trope shorthand for it as well, like Saya Takagi from Highschool of The Dead, and something about the look makes me think of Nanami from Utena. Even if your not aware of the tropes she is being tied to (Ojou and Tsundere) there is a clear confidence to her design even with a wink in her concept art. You can tell she is rich, confident, but wants to present herself as a bit innocent to an onlooker hence the pig tails. The purple’s on the outfit denote royalty and wealth and the bits of gold attached further show that. I love how the classic cleric garb contrasts with the bold, brash scarf Serra wears, which really gives a pop to the woman’s garments.
Priscilla is the other woman with a healing class for this game. She contrasts Serra nicely by being more traditional and fitting a healer’s stereotype of being good-hearted. It feels very natural with the strong green colors on the white. The soft veil on her shoulders gives the outfit a touch of femininity, and her boots clearly show she wears them not just for fashion but for riding horses since, unlike Sera, she heals on horseback. It really shows that, in a cast full of women, you can express things that are well coded and not need to subvert everything. The outfit communicates so much about her without having to break the mold.
Rebecca is an archer searching for her brother who left her and her best friend alone years ago. Her design feels very farmer-ish, with more earthy colors across her outfit. She isn’t poorly designed, but she almost seems to blend into the background in comparison to the other starker colors. Still, there is a nice contrast with the blue sash and the dark green hair. Her design seems to match her character, too, in that she is new to this and figuring out this whole fighting in a war thing.
Isadora is pretty awesome, as she’s a paladin that is important to a kingdom’s history and one of the top soldiers in her whole country. Her design does give her a sense of rank and power and the armor’s amount of cover matches that of male units, except for knight/general class. The warriors even wear heeled shoes, although, if it was up to me, Isadora’s heels would be shortened a bit. I love that the chest armor clearly isn’t boob armor for her, and it’s made to be effective chest plating to avoid a spear going into her heart. The cape is a really awesome flourish that adds a sense of importance to her design. Capes generally indicate status, and her having one, where other comparable units in the game do not, show that she ranks highly within her kingdom for her acumen on the battlefield.
Louise is an advanced unit in the game filling the role of sniper. She has the most overtly feminine design, but making her an advance unit means she starts out stronger than most characters. Louise has a cute design with pinks that make her being a powerful unit with a bow stand out. It doesn’t shame her femininity as a weakness or something that could cause pain in the battlefield. Instead, she is someone you want in the back lines getting rid of dragons and vile soldiers.
Nino is the token kid character for the game, although depending on what country you’re playing it in, she could be the same age as Lyn. The character has some story relevance and I know a lot of people are huge fans of her. Her design is flowy and energetic, much like the character herself. Nino really pops on the battle field as a sprightly little mage who seems a lot less tough then she actually is. Her outfit has a double utility too, allowing her to greatly contrast her male counterpart Jaffar’s more classic assassin look and showing what an odd couple these two are.
Vaida serves as an imposing threat throughout the game. The butch haircut, the one piece of shoulder armor and, in particular, her scar, all give her the aura of a woman who has been through a lot of combat. Now, as a villain in a JRPG, she has some cleavage to her armor design that doesn’t really make sense other than saying, “I’m really cocky, I dare you to attack me.” Within the game’s mechanics, that’s reflected since she appears as a threat you can fight early on—but will most likely kill your friends and leave a pile of bodies if you try. However, if you don’t kill her in advance and she will appear again, and this time you can convince her to be in the party. I have conflicting feelings about the character’s design with the high heels and more sexualized look in contrast to the grittier face stuff. In game, you really only see the bust, so you don’t get these other details but, regardless, she is an imposing character.
Karla is more or less a bonus character in Fire Emblem 7, but I love her design. I love the blue sash across the flowy white dress. It all really captures this master of swords vibe she has, and makes for a really cool character to earn when and if you can manage to recruit her.
Sonia falls under a lot of tropey design issues as a fem baddie, with the extra cleavage and seductress stuff going on. This is an issue you see repeated—to a lesser extent—in the other main female baddie, Ursula, who is also a magic-wielding lady. However, it is really refreshing to have several female villains as high tier opponents, ones that, while falling into similar tropes, have very different designs to set them apart from one another. The idea that each character should stand out from the other was clear here, even if body diversity doesn’t seem to be a thing they really considered for women.
This game also features one of gaming’s only canon non-binary characters who aren’t a robot—albeit she’s a baddie. Limstella uses she/her pronouns but is canonically genderless (According to the Fire Emblem Characters book). It’s a shame we don’t have many more non-binary characters in gaming, including in this series, especially because she was likely not created with the idea of representation in mind. Limstella has a really awesome design that is the perfect enby look, very in this season. I love the flowing cloak mixing with the more firm tights in the design. There is this wonderful enby feel to the outfit that mixes a lot of clothing gender norms while sticking to the time period’s fashion sense. Limstella is also the least violent of the baddies you face, with more of a “well, I gotta do this” than a “let’s spill the blood of our foes” attitude. I am very into this character.
When taking in all the designs as a whole, I really love how different everyone’s design is. We have a varying array of women with different designs that stand out from one another. It’s easy to find someone you can relate to and identify with inside this cast, at least on a personality level. Sadly, the game lacks body diversity, skin tone diversity, and diversity in canon sexuality. Although select characters get endings with women, it’s not implied to be romantic in the same way as male/female relationships are. That said, these women in armor are vastly different from one another, and are always allowed to be people—which should be some baseline standard by now for how women should be portrayed. These women helped inspire me as a young kid who didn’t know their gender or sexuality, and I still love going back to them today.