Crest of Flames


Review by · March 15, 2024

Fire Emblem’s legacy is long but relatively new to audiences in North America. That exposure is largely due to Super Smash Bros. Melee showcasing some of the series’ heroes and some of the stellar soundtracks. Moving ahead to more recent entries, 2019’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses featured new pieces from series composer Takeru Kanazaki. While Three Houses is a solid Fire Emblem title, the game has a habit of commonly featuring a few of the same pieces while reserving a handful of others for meaningful story beats. What’s more, many of the tracks lack gravitas, in my opinion. That’s where Crest of Flames from ROZEN shines, giving more life to select tracks with the help of the talented Sofia Session Orchestra & Choir and Andrew Steffen’s ETHEReal String Orchestra.

Individually, each track is a better listen with the treatment by ROZEN. “Life at Garreg Mach Monastery” is one of the finest examples, bringing the monastery grounds to life as never before. The original is a very easy listen, and you need to get used to it because it’s all you hear when wandering the grounds between missions. ROZEN’s version adds vigor with playful instrumentation and excellent dynamics, giving the piece more momentum. It starts soft after the telltale bells, signifying a new day dawning. The flute and other woodwinds then become the star of the show, joining in as the monastery is abuzz with activity while you explore each nook and cranny. He also weaves in the main theme’s motif rather elegantly around the two-minute mark in a rousing crescendo as the song shifts into wrapping up the day. It feels like a delicate shift into sundown, and around two and a half minutes in, he also tosses in the other significant Three Houses motif heard in other tracks, like “Unfulfilled” or “The Edge of Dawn,” connecting this piece with the rest of the story the soundtrack tells. Altogether, this vision of a day in Garreg Mach Monastery is a richer, fuller experience to absorb.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses has some stirring battle themes, but once you’ve heard “Fódlan Winds” ten times, well, you’ll hear it ten times more. More poignant battles are backed by “Tearing Through Heaven,” “Chasing Daybreak,” and “Between Heaven and Earth,” which ROZEN has brought, well, more to with his treatment. Whether adding stirring vocals to accentuate the tension or bringing an edge with more electronic sounds, drums, and bass, they offer a rousing listening experience where the original renditions would falter without the accompanying gameplay.

Speaking of lovely vocals, “The Edge of Dawn” is a beautiful way to close out the album. REVEN’s vocals are powerful on this track, arranged with all the suitable drama of a pop ballad. The piano interludes lend an introspective tone to the piece, and the rise and fall of the Sofia Session Orchestra’s string section strikes the cockles of the heart. The whole piece embodies the album’s title, Crest of Flames, stirring a fire in the listener before closing with another moment of quiet reflection that is simultaneously comforting and haunting in its instrumentation.

ROZEN and REVEN know how to take an existing work and elevate it. As enjoyable as the soundtrack for Fire Emblem: Three Houses is, it can’t help but sound hollow after listening to this album. For a game of its magnitude, the soundtrack had a lot of potential and fell a bit short of making an impact. Luckily, you can hear what could have been with this loving tribute to a great game. Crest of Flames stays true enough to its source material to be recognizable, but paints a richer tapestry of the drama the unfolds at the Officer’s Academy with arrangements and performances that add some necessary and welcome dynamic shifts for listeners to truly enjoy.

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Greg Delmage

Greg Delmage

As a fan of the RPG oeuvre, it seemed only natural that Greg Delmage should join RPGFan on the Random Encounter podcast (and sometimes reviewer)! When not auditioning or doing what he can at RPGFan, Greg enjoys adventuring with his swell partner Annette, helping raise their daughter, and playing many a board and video game! Want to chat all things Nintendo, Final Fantasy or Harvest Moon? Greg is always down.