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Which FEs have the best and worst character design, in your opinion?


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I'm mostly refering to each game's character design as a whole, but you can highlights individual things that make you like or dislike them such as ingame portraits, how the characters look on official art, the artstyle used on the game, just the clothes, the colors, how variable are the body types/faces and whatever, fanservice, or whatever else.

 You can mention which you like the most/less based simply on personal preference or in what you think it that matches the series the best.

 

 Also additional question for whoever wants to answer: If you could choose how the character design of the next FE game is gonna look like (as in, what sorts of clothes they use, colors, to which FE you'd like it to look like (or maybe, to none at all), level of fanservice, type of artstyle, or which artist does the art and designs, etc), what would it be like?

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The GBA trilogy and the Tellius duology are probably my favorites in terms of character designs. Archanea, Valentia, Jugdral, and Fodlan are all in the middle somewhere, while Awakening is after them, and finally Fates and Engage bring up the rear. It's a difficult decision between Fates and Engage for the worst, for me, because Fates has a lot of...questionable designs that I don't like, but several Engage characters just look straight up STOOPID to me.

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9 minutes ago, Fire Emblem Fan said:

The GBA trilogy and the Tellius duology are probably my favorites in terms of character designs. Archanea, Valentia, Jugdral, and Fodlan are all in the middle somewhere, while Awakening is after them, and finally Fates and Engage bring up the rear. It's a difficult decision between Fates and Engage for the worst, for me, because Fates has a lot of...questionable designs that I don't like, but several Engage characters just look straight up STOOPID to me.

One thing that makes me dislike Engage's character design a lot is the artstyle itself, it looks way too anime (I mean... It's always sorta anime, I meant that when compared to every other FE, they have exagerated proportions, and I hate those retangley eyes) and some of them look like they were taken straight out of Genshin, which for me is a negative point. Apart from the style, I guess some of the desings are a bit cute by themselves (even if they're sorta stupid, it's like some Pokemon or Ace Attorney characters that look purpousefully alegoric and stupid in a fun way), idk, but never, EVER for Fire Emblem.

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Yeah, I'm in the camp that dislikes Engage's character designs too

 

Honestly I think they look a bit to "generic", none of them pop out to me as iconic FE characters 

(And honestly if you threw them in Xenoblade I don't think they'd look too out of place)

Best IMO is Genealogy, I'm a sucker for water color art, even tho I'm not a fan of Genealogy either 

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Best: I'm tempted to be the Three Houses fan that I am and just vote for that, and certainly I do think it's very good! I love how most characters get a pre- and post-timeskip design, it's obvious a lot of thought went into having outfits (both) tell you something about the characters. Really the only thing I might mark the game down for is the S support art which is... remarkably bad?

I'll also mention Radiant Dawn, which I could certainly vote for instead depending on my mood. Senri Kita is probably my favourite FE artist, the characters tend toward looking a bit more mature and practical-minded for outfits while still maintaining the colourful FE style.

Broadly speaking I think most of the games in the series are at least pretty good at this.

Worst: No question to me it's the DS games. Like... you could argue the NES titles but they were working under very stringent conditions, I get it. The DS games? No excuse. The portraits all look like low-quality 3D renders, the battle sprites look ugly and washed-out. It's a big step down from the GBA and Tellius games whatever you're looking for.
 

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17 minutes ago, Dark Holy Elf said:

Worst: No question to me it's the DS games. Like... you could argue the NES titles but they were working under very stringent conditions, I get it. The DS games? No excuse. The portraits all look like low-quality 3D renders, the battle sprites look ugly and washed-out. It's a big step down from the GBA and Tellius games whatever you're looking for.
 

Aren't those all graphic/animation problems and not really character design ones? Looking at the actual character designs and the actual artwork is a bit different than the graphics or animations. The Tellius designs, for example, don't look as good during a battle in gameplay, the characters all look a little off from their actual designs in the official artwork and such.

Edited by Fire Emblem Fan
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I honestly don't think any of the character designs are that good. Part of this is because the character designs are restricted to a single portrait. Most of the time you see a full body, it's using a recolor of a generic model or sprite. This might make it more difficult for characters to stand out, since they always have to approximate the template. It's hard to say Sub Zero has a better design than Scorpion when they're palette swaps, but even their base sprite was more unique than the anime fantasy look in most Fire Emblem games.

The 3DS games have the advantage of more complex outfits, even if many of them are egregiously horny or goofy. Characters like Chrom end up looking like they were run through a garbage disposal while Xander ends up looking cool in the gold-trimmed black armor. However, the GBA games have a lot more variety in facial structure and resting expression, which adds a lot of characterization. Cormag, Kyle, and Rennac all have distinct and emotive postures. They way they hold their heads and look at other people says something about them.

Engage might be better about the generic models thing, I don't know. I think Panette has a more unique model in her base class, and hey, I like that design. I like the colors and the ruffles and the Day-of-the-Dead flavor. It's cool, though it doesn't really make the cast as a whole look cool.

What I'm trying to say is something like this. My favorite FE character design really means my favorite FE character color scheme.

Edited by AnonymousSpeed
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I think he DS portraits actually look good. As portraits. They're just horrible as portraits for a Fire Emblem game where the portraits are meant to do so much for conveying the character. As in they're not animated and half the cast looks the same. But as artwork and basic designs they work well. They also filled the game with cg stills that...they just never actually used, which is weird, but they still look good. Also some nice battle backgrounds, shame the 3D models kind of look like low rendered dirt in comparison.

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I've gotta give it to Echoes, actually. Every character looks fully-fleshed-out and distinct, without seeming "overdesigned". Even the facial expressions are super expressive. And Hidari's artstyle is *chef's kiss*.

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I think that Fire emblem has had consistently strong character design throughout the series. Even the more maligned ones like Shadow Dragon and Engage have a style that fit the games that they are in. Shadow Dragon is more serious in tone with a "war is hell" vibe, a large cast of characters with little to distinguish them, and the expectation that you're going to be losing people regularly. As such, it gets a fairly staid and grounded art style. On the other hand, Engage is a considerably sillier game with big epic moments and larger than life characters, so it gets its very stylised, exaggerated and colourful art style. I can certainly understand why people dislike both of them, but they're a whole lot better as they are than they would be if you switched the art styles between the two games.

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when I think about FE's artistic design, the GBA and Tellius games always come to my mind first, they're the games I associate FE with, from an aesthetic point of view
and while I love Senri Kita's style, my personal favorite aesthetic for FE is Genealogy's, i adore the mixture of fantasy noble clothings + pieces of armors (mainly shoulders) many characters have, the way the hub castles look, i love everything of that game's visual elements (also, i love the 90's character artstyle in general)

the worst, for me, is a tie between 3H and Fates: the former because to me it looks incredibly boring, soulless and artificially "fresh", and the latter because i see it as a buch of weird stuff that they put together (also i'm damn tired of Kozaki)

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Best - Tellius. It's varied, practical, and above all, regal. There's an elegance to many of the designs that still holds up great.

 

Worst - Engage. While environmental art and animations look great, character designs often look like Xenoblade 2 rejects. We've got the garish protagonist and the most annoying clown in the universe. And I have to assume Timerra was dropped on her head many times as a child, because her mother successfully convinced her that McDonald's playpen balls are rare gems and she should wear them.

 

As for artists that I'd like to see have a shot at a future FE, I think that Octopath/Triangle Strategy's Team Asano would make excellent character portraits. And Vanillaware would be amazing at everything.

Edited by Fabulously Olivier
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49 minutes ago, Fabulously Olivier said:

Best - Tellius. It's varied, practical, and above all, regal. There's an elegance to many of the designs that still holds up great.

 

Worst - Engage. While environmental art and animations look great, character designs often look like Xenoblade 2 rejects. We've got the garish protagonist and the most annoying clown in the universe. And I have to assume Timerra was dropped on her head many times as a child, because her mother successfully convinced her that McDonald's playpen balls are rare gems and she should wear them.

Engage didn't have the opportunity to grow on me, so maybe it's not fair of me to name them as worst, but yeah, I agree with these two picks. Sacred Stones would be another game where I like most of the designs.

I'll also mention that I really don't like how the eyes of 3H characters are drawn. The big "double-irises" and tiny pupils make all their faces look very odd to me, even though I generally don't mind the other parts of 3H's character designs.

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Fates definitely has the best and worst character design.

What, you meant that to be two seperate entries...fine I will do the extra work for that.

I think for worst I have to go with Shadow Dragon. It feels like they went out of their way to make the characters in that game feel even more generic than they already are. New Mystery avoids sharing the same distinction thanks to some of the oddballs they added in with their everything and the kitchen sink approach, especially the amazing coated trio of Camus subordinates.

Best I think I will give to Binding Blade, for having the guts to have a playable old woman, something almost unheard of in videogames. That isn't to detract from the other great designs in that game, but that is what really pushes it over the edge for me.

I am a bit surprised by how much I am seeing Engage for the worst design option, as I think it has some of the best female character design in the series, although I guess a lot of the men came off as a bit generic, and new game syndrome may be hurting it a fair bit as well.

 

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I've always found the character designs of the older games to be an little bit too much on the repetitive side. But they never really gave me cause to actively hate them.

 

As for the ones that I've actually played. I'm kind of ambivalent about Engage. Most of them are good in the sense that they're an reflection of the characters' personalities, but it's an little bit overdone. Both versions of 3H just felt kind of bland, but it's not to the point where it's cringe. Fates is fairly good, especially with the generic Dark Knights having an skull painted on their helmets. 

 

Awakening was kind of lazy with reusing the outfits for some of the secondary characters, though. But then again, so was Fates.

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I think Sachiko Wada's work is doing wonders with the GBA's lacking visual hardware and extremely consistent between in-game and concept art drawings. There's a lot of character baked into their default expressions, and the smaller, chapter-specific villains look like the sort of person you're more than ready to beat up on. The biggest criticism I'd levy at it is that old people can't be drawn without looking evil-er than they are or with comical features. Look at FE6 Marcus. His facial features are excellent, but he's sporting a more youthful hairline than I think I've ever had. It's funny to us, jumping from FE7 to 6, to see that he hasn't changed much at all. But his FE6 portrait was not drawn with any FE7 foreknowledge for the gag to be intentional.

I don't have much of an opinion on worst. Since Fire Emblem artstyles have always been so contemporary there isn't much to comment on. Other than "it could be worse". Fire Emblem Heroes, with its lack of artistic cohesion is a good example of that. 

Edited by Zapp Branniglenn
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10 hours ago, Eltosian Kadath said:

I am a bit surprised by how much I am seeing Engage for the worst design option, as I think it has some of the best female character design in the series, although I guess a lot of the men came off as a bit generic, and new game syndrome may be hurting it a fair bit as well.

It isn't the men who make me list Engage, it's by and large more the women. Hortensia, as an example, has what is quite possibly my least favorite design of any character in the entire series, I absolutely HATE her design so much.

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On 2/6/2024 at 7:49 PM, Fire Emblem Fan said:

Aren't those all graphic/animation problems and not really character design ones? Looking at the actual character designs and the actual artwork is a bit different than the graphics or animations. The Tellius designs, for example, don't look as good during a battle in gameplay, the characters all look a little off from their actual designs in the official artwork and such.

I'm generally more interested in talking about character designs as they are presented in-game rather than an artbook, so to me these aren't fully distinguishable problems. Particularly character potraits, due to them being used for dialog scenes as well as the battle screen: those are definitely a major part of the character design to me, and if they're off, that's a problem. (Tellius designs don't look great in battle, I agree, but the game uses gorgeous half-body shots for its story scenes which let me appreciate the character design.)

Since Engage is getting thrown around, I'm a bit mixed on some of the designs (Hortensia's as mentioned feels particularly over-the-top and actually does a disservice to the character's rather serious role in the story, IMO), but I do like how the game uses poses and facial expressions to make the characters more individually memorable, on top of things like outfits. The greater variety in skin-tone is also something I very much appreciate. So while it's not one of my favourites, I definitely disagree with it being the worst.

Edited by Dark Holy Elf
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Radiant Dawn's character design and battle animations, especially the air battles, are just eyecandy.

Jill and Haar on their wyvern have the best design in the whole series for me.

Edited by JulieFalcom
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For specific characters, I generally think it's better to have character designs that push the envelope and will be polarising. Like, I don't personally like Hortensia's design at all, but I'm sure that there are some people who absolutely latch onto it and think "yes! her! I want to use her!" the second they see it. And they get to use a character with a design that they love whereas I just get to bench her and use someone else instead. I'd much rather see more designs like that than very generic designs like, for instance, Beck that nobody is going to hate but nobody is going to love either.

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2 hours ago, lenticular said:

For specific characters, I generally think it's better to have character designs that push the envelope and will be polarising. Like, I don't personally like Hortensia's design at all, but I'm sure that there are some people who absolutely latch onto it and think "yes! her! I want to use her!" the second they see it. And they get to use a character with a design that they love whereas I just get to bench her and use someone else instead. I'd much rather see more designs like that than very generic designs like, for instance, Beck that nobody is going to hate but nobody is going to love either.

Screw her design. I'm using her for World Tree!

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For me, the Tellius games and Three Houses had the best character designs.

Worst would be Fates.

For Engage, some of the character designs grew on me, while others did not. I remember liking Ivy and Lumera's designs, and Alear's appearance gradually grew on me. I also really liked the designs for the dragons in this game: Lumera's dragon form looks amazing; real shame that it only appeared in one cutscene, and the Fell Dragon design is very imaginative and cool: I like the cobra neck, the claw at the end of the tail, and the two-legs-two-wings design. Engage really had some very good dragon designs; if only the game actually used them more.

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