It’s tough to remember the time when the Fire Emblem franchise was on the brink of death, thanks to some installments that sold below Nintendo’s expectations. Both Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn on Gamecube and Wii weren’t the best sellers worldwide, and when developer Intelligent Systems tried to return to the franchise’s roots with Shadow Dragon and Heroes of Light and Shadow, they didn’t sell well enough to restore confidence in the brand for Nintendo.
That’s where Fire Emblem Awakeningcame in, as the developers concocted several ideas to lure older fans back in and attract new fans thanks to several new features. It included the trademark strategy gameplay from previous installments, though with the option to pair units up to slightly change their dynamic. But the new audience was attracted to it because of the Support conversations, where characters could get married and have children. It was a returning feature from Japan-only Super NES/Super Famicom title Genealogy of the Holy War, but introduced to a new generation. It put the franchise back on the mark worldwide, and after the recent Fire Emblem Fates sold around two million copies, Nintendo made it one of their main franchises.
So, there was hope this would happen with another strategy franchise from Intelligent Systems: Advance Wars. Unfortunately, that’s yet to be the case. Today is the tenth anniversary of Advance Wars: Days of Ruin’s release in America, which means the series has now been dead for a decade, so it’s a good time to ask that question.
The franchise’s origins are still a mystery to most English-speaking fans, but the Wars series had success before Advance Wars debuted in Japan. It started with Famicom Wars for the original Famicom/NES in August 1988, and continued with Game Boy Wars in May 1991. Those were followed by Game Boy Wars Turbo for the same system, and Game Boy Wars 2 and 3 for Game Boy Color, all three of which were developed by Hudson Soft instead of Nintendo’s internal studio. Game Boy Wars 3 was a massive departure for the series, likely because Nintendo was working on Advance Wars for Game Boy Advance almost simultaneously with it, as both released within a month — though not in the same territory.
Advance Wars only released in the west initially in 2001/2002, and both it and the second game didn’t arrive in Japan until 2004. The series became popular in the west after the first game attracted an audience that was looking for new games in the GBA’s first year on the market. Following the first two games, it continued with Advance Wars: Dual Strike on Nintendo DS. But not content with reusing the same concepts again, they opted for a game with darker themes with Days of Ruin, which split the fanbase in half despite it still including the same great strategy gameplay. (I liked it, by the way.) The franchise has been dead since.
(There were also the Battalion Wars games for Gamecube and Wii, but those were action-based spinoffs developed by Kuju Entertainment. They’re not bad, but they usually aren’t mentioned as often.)
It sounds like the biggest sticking point is how difficult it could be to add Support conversations and potential marriage, which is… well, I’m having trouble finding the words for it. The games don’t need relationships, but thanks to Fire Emblem’s recent success, adding them might be necessary for Nintendo to green light the development of a new title. At the same time, they don’t want the addition to feel forced and arbitrary, so they’re stuck until they figure this out.
Still, I’m hesitant to say it won’t return, as several gaming franchises once thought dead have received a new leash on life recently. Metroid was as dead as Advance Wars with Nintendo until it resurfaced at E3 last year through two projects: Metroid: Samus Returns (which released in September) and Metroid Prime 4. Meanwhile, Mega Man was shown to be still alive when Capcom announced Mega Man 11 for current-generation platforms. Don’t count the franchise out, but given the ideas the development team would like to include above, also don’t be surprised if it returns in a slightly unrecognizable form. Anyone who isn’t a fan of the recent direction Fire Emblem has taken should be careful of what they wish for.
Since there’s still a new Fire Emblem game for Switch planned for release this year, expect that to be Intelligent Systems’ next reveal. Given the months they’ll need to promote it, the game likely won’t arrive until late this summer at the earliest, and a little later in western territories if it isn’t a simultaneous worldwide release. If a new Advance Wars title is being worked on, don’t expect it to be revealed until E3 time at the earliest. You’ll want to heavily emphasize “if” in that last sentence.