Part 1: Chapter 1 and The War Room Part 1 (Lyn's Story and Grand Strategy)
From now on Ill be doing some serious strategy talk in sections Ill label The War Room. If youre not interested in playing the game yourself and in long discussions of its mechanics and my ingenious stratagems, you can skip right over those sections without missing anything. But if you do intend to do a run of max ranking HHM someday or you want to be blown away by my brilliance, theyll be good reading.
The War Room, Part 1
To beat HHM with max ranking youll need 2 things: Good tactics and good strategy. Tactics are the hard part and theres no substitute for experience and experimentation when it comes to learning the best way to outsmart the AI and pass the level requirements chapter by chapter. Arguably, strategy is more important as well as easier, so let me talk about mine a little bit here.
I mentioned before that Lyns story is important prep for Hectors story. This is because in Lyns story you can train up a lot of units who will then be useful later. Before you even start Lyns story its good to know who you plan to train. For me it will be Sain, Florina, and Lyn (Ill get into why as the characters are introduced).
Funds are extremely limited on a max ranking run, which means you can promote only a handful of characters. Only promoted people will be able to take the heat of the final chapters, so youd better choose well.
One interesting and underused loophole however is that you can promote Sain or Kent in Lyns story. This is essentially a free promotion, and thus a free extra awesome team member. In order to make that work, I am going to dump TONS of experience into Sain.
Now if that sounds too good to be true, its because it is. At the end of Lyns story you lose access to Lyns acquired treasures and Lyns party members. Early in Hectors story, Lyn and her retainers will rejoin the party, but they don't bring their old stuff with them. However, Lyn will be carrying a valuable treasure depending on how rich she got in her story. If your total assets (cash on hand + value of all stuff) acquired in her story was < 20,000 gold, then shell have nothing. If 20,000 < assets < 30,000, then shell have a Red Gem worth 5000 gold. If 30,000 < assets < 33,000, then a Blue Gem worth 10,000 gold. And if you had 33,000 < Assets then shell have a White Gem worth 20,000 gold!
That is serious money, so you really want her to start with that White Gem. So you really, really want to make sure you have more than 33,000 in assets at the end of Lyns story. But saving up that much money involves some tough choices. Specifically, you will need to be really careful not to use expensive items like vulneraries or bows or magic and to minimize even your use of staves. Additionally youll need to come up with clever stratagems to steal everything that can be stolen from your enemies. And finally, you will need to make a choice of which 2 of the 3 big ticket items to use: the Angelic Robe, Energy Ring, or the Knight Crest.
A Knight Crest is an item worth 10,000 which you can use up (losing its entire value from your assets) to promote a Cavalier (Sain or Kent) or Knight (Wallace).
An Angelic Robe is an item worth 8,000 which you can use up (losing its entire value) to grant +7 HP to any unit.
An Energy Ring is an item worth 8,000 which you can use up (losing its entire value) to grant +2 Strength to any unit.
For many years it was believed that you could only use one of those and still get the White Gem in Hectors story; the others had to be unused and therefore wasted.
Then someone discovered that if you were really careful with expenses, you could actually use both the Energy Ring and the Angelic Robe and still get the White Gem.
As far as I know, I am the first one who has managed to shave another 2000 off the net expenses, allowing me to use the Angelic Robe (or Energy Ring) and the Knight Crest. So any combination of 2 big items used is possible, but youll have to be REALLY careful to use the Knight Crest. I think its worth it since saving 10,000 in Hector's story + having access to a promoted Sain early is way more valuable than +2 Str on any character. Meanwhile Ill use the Angelic Robe on Florina since I want to use her a lot and she needs all the hitpoints she can get to stay on the front lines. You should tailor your big items used for your own chosen characters and their needs, but I believe that what I am doing here is the best possible strategy. Youll see how I begin implementing it starting this chapter.
Chapter Story Summary:
Lyn and Market travel to the city of Bulgar to purchase some supplies before running into Sain and Kent, a pair of knights from the southern city-state of Caelin . They get off on the wrong foot, but patch things up quickly after Sain and Kent help Lyn against some assassins who attack her. It is revealed that Lyn is the heir to the throne of Caelin and that her main rival for the throne, her granduncle Lundgren, is trying to have her killed in order to secure the succession. Eager to meet her newly discovered family in Caelin (and needing all the bodyguards she can get), she decides to travel there with the knights and Market.
Although the backgrounds in these ordinary dialogue scenes are not quite as interesting as the special paintings found here and there, theyre still quite well done.
And the dialogue is generally top notch. This scene with Sain, Lyn, and (later) Kent and their little misunderstanding remains one of my favorites. Sain is generally a fairly comical character, but not to the extent that it detracts from the general seriousness of the game. Even he stops his antics and sobers up when danger looms.
So imagine youre just walking out of your door when suddenly a gang of thugs armed to the teeth walks up to you. Youve never seen them before but they know you by name and theyve been sent to kill you and you dont even know why. Yeah, Lyn is appropriately startled in this scene.
I can remember this felt like a pretty serious plot twist the first time I was playing the game. It had really looked like the game was going to revolve around Lyn training to get stronger and then avenge her parents up till this point.
Also look at that lovely background. And the detail on even this random thugs portrait: 5 oclock shadow, hints of chest hair, ragged edges to his shirt. Youll never see this guy after this level and hes more a plot device than a character, but they didnt skimp on doing good art for him.
A fairly straightforward chapter, but the first one for which you have multiple units available. Again, nothing but weak brigands for enemies, plus the boss in the top right corner. Ordinarily youd just move everyone toward him, massacring his minions on the way, but Im going to take my time and try to keep Lyn and Kent out of the fight for reasons hinted at in the War Room and now explained below:
Ah, Kent! My boon companion! Why so severe an expression? Sain, Chapter 1
Dashing, handsome, recklessly brave, cheerful, and a shameless skirt-chaser, Sain often looks rather stupid but its clear that he's actually reasonably clever. For example, hes the first to realize Lundgren is the person most likely to be behind the assassination attempts. That hes capable of being serious when it counts and isnt just a joke character makes him one of my favorites. Sadly, he doesnt get nearly as much screen time as Kent as things go on. The interplay of him + Kent + Lyn in the early chapters is quite enjoyable and develops them all very well.
Mechanically, its a bit hard to explain why Sain is so awesome. Hes decently tough and decently good at dodging, but definitely not a unit you want tanking. His speed starts bad but grows very well, which makes him better as the game goes on. The guys main statistical asset is monstrous strength in the early and mid levels, but that hits his low maximum quickly so he doesnt do so great at the end.
More important is his great class. Hes a Cavalier, which means he moves very fast, can wield a wide variety of weapons, and can rescue and carry around all but the largest allies. Those are all very handy on this kind of run. His stats don't look great compared to those of the really hardcore combat masters like Heath or Hector or Raven, but they're better than those of his fellow cavaliers. That plus his early availability and ease of training makes him a top choice for a ranking run, and he will be my main unit in this one. Ill have him kill almost EVERYTHING for the next 10 chapters.
Sain, you lout! Kent, Chapter 1
It has been a tradition since the first Fire Emblem game to introduce 2 cavaliers with contrasting personalities and stat sets early in the story as partners. Sain and Kent carry on this tradition, but they do it better by actually being interesting people.
In contrast to Sain, Kent is serious and dutiful and gentlemanly. He lives the knightly ideal of strictly honorable behavior and loyalty to lord and land. And hes extremely competent off the battlefield, usually serving as Lyns second in command and diplomat and a co-advisor of sorts with Market. One suspects that he also handles details like managing food supplies, helping Sain get his cuirass on straight in the morning, navigation, negotiating with border guards, accounting, keeping peoples weapons in good order, arbitrating petty disputes among the less patient members of the group, and talking down angry, shotgun-wielding fathers coming after Sain. I definitely like the guy.
But I cant justify using him. Like Sain, Kent is a Cavalier and thats a good class, but Kent has several problems. One of them is named Lowen and will be introduced later. The other is Sain. Essentially Sain is a cavalier whos better on offense than Kent while Lowen is a cavalier whos better on defense than Kent. Kent excels at nothing. His biggest asset is Skill, but Skill is nearly worthless. Kent IS slightly faster than Sain, but Sain is fast enough. And fast enough is all you need. Meanwhile Sain enjoys a huge lead in the damage he can dish out at all stages of the game.
Also, every penny counts for the strategy Im implementing on this run of Lyns story. Each hit against an enemy consumes irreplaceable funds on used up weapon durability. Sain can kill anything in 2 hits. Kent can kill anything in 3. This means Kent is going to be 50% more expensive for a while, and thats a cost I cant afford. So Kent will never be used in Lyns story, which means he goes into Hectors story really weak. So Lowen will be better. So hell never really be used in Hectors story. Well except for boosting my XP rank toward the end. Poor guy.
Accursed knights, always tampering in others affairs. Zugu, Chapter 1
Cleverly disguised as a bandit, Zugu is an assassin working for Lord Lundgren to assassinate Lyn before her status as heir to the throne of Caelin can be revealed. The man did not know what he was getting into. Lyn alone could wipe out his merry band of miscreants. Sain barely notices they exist as he tramples over the top of them.
Although using a lance vs an axe user like a brigand is dangerous, its also inexpensive, so Sain is going to have to grin and bear it for a while.
His first level up is hazard pay anyone would be happy with. Speed is critically important for Sain at this juncture so I dont much care if his defensive stats end up bad as long as hes fast now.
Zugu, like most bosses in this game, is petrified with fear at the sight of your glorious army, so he wont move no matter what happens. Having had Sain take down all of his minions, I now move in all my troops to finish him off. I only intend to fight with Sain, but if Sain gets hit badly then I want to have Lyn on hand to finish Zugu off.
Sain handles Zugu masterfully even armed with his lance. Its a bad level up but Im still happy because of that speed bonus last time.
And thats a wrap!
Heres a quick cap of a painting of Kent, Sain, Lyn, and Market talking after the battle (Market is lurking on the right side of the frame). Let me just say that I appreciate how characters wear things that resemble armor and clothes in this game.
As the series goes on, costumes have gotten weirder and weirder. By Fire Emblem: Awakening (FE13) Kellam the knight is wearing a space suit with a rocket thruster on his back, Frederick the paladin is in a suit of powered armor, Sully the cavalier has some kind of horrible sink basin/Saw trap around her neck, and Tharja the dark mage seems to be wearing a bikini over some kind of weird full-body pantyhose thing that I cant even describe.
As another note, this battle was one of the times when having the tactician Market in the story made a difference. Lyn is too proud to let a stranger take point in her battle and Sain is too determined to impress Lyn with his bravery to let her go in first, so the two of them are bickering about whos going to take the lead when Kent resolves the dispute by saying the tactician can just direct them. The tactician helps explain why some of these people with starkly contrasting personalities can work well together in battle.
So after the fight Sain and Kent reveal that they were sent by the Marquess (ruler) of Caelin to find his long-lost granddaughter Lyndis.
You see, Marquess Hausen had a daughter named Madelyn who eloped with Hassar, the visiting chief of the Sacaen Lorca tribe. Since shed defied her father Hausen and since prejudice against the uncivilized people of Sacae is fairly common among noblemen of Lycia (the federation of city-states Caelin is part of), Marquess Hausen had disowned her.
18 years later, Madelyn sent a letter back home to her father saying that she and her husband Hassar were still living happily on the plains and that they had an 18 year old daughter who they had named Lyndis, after Marquess Hausens (long-dead) wife. Hausen was overjoyed and immediately dispatched Sain and Kent, two of his knights, to find his daughter and her family and invite them to visit. However, Hausens younger brother Lundgren was not happy about this because Hausen had had no other descendants. That meant Lundgren had been next in line for the throne, but now it looked like he would be passed over. So Lundgren sent assassins to kill Lyn.
Around that time, the bandits attacked Lyns tribe in force. Conceivably they were paid to do so by Lundgren, but no one really talks about this possibility. Madelyn and Hassar were killed but Lyn survived. Sain and Kent found this out when they arrived in Bulgar, so they decided they needed to look around for a young woman living on her own on the plains who looks like Madelyn did and is named Lyndis. And guess who completely matches that description?
It's a pretty cool and detailed backstory and the game does a good job of revealing it piece by piece as things become relevant.
Unlike most other games Ive played that use this portrait on background with speech bubbles style of dialogue (e.g. most Advance wars games, final fantasy tactics, Sonic Battle, or even most later Fire Emblems), the portraits here really have a wide variety of poses and expressions which let you know what the characters are doing and feeling. Also they do things like blink and move their mouths semi-realistically. Why is every game of this type after this more primitive?
And Lyn decides shes got to run the risks of going to Caelin for a chance to meet her elderly grandfather, so she asks the tactician Market for help.
Theres chapter 1 for you. The next battle is a bit more complicated.