Winging it with Peter and the pre-promotes

Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War (1996)

I’m here today to call BS on a piece of conventional wisdom that I keep seeing repeated everywhere, and that’s this idea that everyone around you is winging it to some extent, that nobody really knows what’s going on and we’re all just trying to get by. I’m sorry, but that is one enormous coping mechanism, probably designed to make you feel better, or smarter, about yourself. A couple of jobs ago, this was brought home to me; I’d thought of myself as fairly intelligent, which isn’t too arrogant or self-deluded right? Don’t we all like to think that of ourselves?

But in this job, in an office of about 50 people I was fone of about four imbeciles, and I most certainly wasn’t just “getting by”, nor was everyone else just winging it and pretending to know the score. What I’m getting at here is that if you’re’ not sharp, then in most cases you shall be found out very quickly, and just see what happens if you call the person sacking you a blagger.

I suppose it goes back to this idea as well of imposter syndrome, feeling like you don’t belong in what you’re doing, and any minute now you’re gonna be found out and frogmarched out of the building. I’ve been found out multiple times, found to be faking it, several times before I got close to making it, if I ever did get close. See, I’m too lacking in self-awareness to even feel like an imposter, although I do spend a frightful amount of time spoofing and waffling whenever I’m asked to display my knowledge.

And that’s another problem: these days it’s expected that you never stop learning, and while I do always say that knowledge is the bomb, sometimes (oftentimes) you’re just not arsed, are you? The brain is a muscle (of sorts), an important one at that, and it’s not a clever idea to overtrain it.

Get away with your boobery for long enough to get past your probation period or, shock horror, actually attain some employee rights, and you’re golden. Unless you get the boot (which you shouldn’t, because you’ll never put yourself forward for anything big or display any kind of initiative, lest you get found out again), you’ve got nothing to fear. Even if your immediate superiors tire of you, and try to get you shifted elsewhere, worry not because you might even get an old pay bump along the way.

And it brings me to another workplace phenomenon favorite of mine, the Peter Principle – workers get promoted (or in our case, “reassigned”) until we find our level of incompetence where we can progress no further. Boy, I sure feel sorry for any Peters out there. But what a beautiful gravy train to get yourself onto – instead of getting taken out back and shot by your employer for making repeated mistakes, you can just get brought to a different desk, a different role, a different set of lunch buddies, and go on from there. The catch of course is that you’ll be an incompetent, but with sufficient mental strength you can block this feeling, and those pangs of shame, right out.

Still, I must admit that this feeling of inadequacy was stinging at me when trying to play though the fourth Fire Emblem game, Genealogy of the Holy War, a Super Famicom exclusive and yet to be remade. I’d say this is when Fire Emblem games were starting to take things a bit more seriously. The first Fire Emblem game is what it is (a great non-answer there, for when you need to dodge a tough question. The second game was that crazy person who only shows up to work every so often. And the third game was a prime candidate for redundancy, too old, too slow, must go sort of thing.

And I really thought I had all the tools I’d need for FE4, you know, because I have bundles of what I felt was relevant experience in the field. I know all about Jagens and ironman runs and top tier waifus and everything. But that’s the bizarre contradiction about Genealogy, you know – yes, this is where the series got more in line with what you’d expect from a more modern Fire Emblem, but it also blindsides you with all sorts of quirks and features that are pretty unique to this game.

Firstly, this game’s maps are enormous, in conjunction with the lower chapter count. Really, they are bloody daunting, about as daunting as your first day or year on the job when you’ve lied like hell on your resume. In a most unexpected show of kindness from an early Fire Emblem game, you can at least save at the beginning of every turn, and reload if you make a balls up.

Be pretty handy if you had that in the workplace, although let’s face it, you’re gonna be playing a translated version of the ROM via emulation anyway, so that wouldn’t even matter. I certainly wouldn’t want to be playing this game without emulator save states anyway, because, like real-life employment, it’s not unheard of for Genealogy to hit you with some sudden BS that you could not possibly have planned for.

You best have a fast forward on your emulator as well, with the time it takes for you to get your unit across the map. As a result , the majority of units or at least the ones worth using are mounted, and can move further; if it’s a grounded unit, then just forget it, seriously, you’d be exhausted doing the menial task of moving them across a map the size of the Black Forest every turn. And would you believe there’s no way to automate this process?! It means you’ll be kept busy, at least. They won’t be able to replace you with a robot just yet.

The second big new feature is that, thanks in part to the missions that take hours to finish, they’ve crammed quite a lot of plot in, across two distinct generations of armies. This brings into play a whole detailed inheritance and genetics system, which is a million times more complex than real genetics, you’d need a PhD to grasp it all.

This means you’ll be looking at FE4 a long time, perhaps 40 hours, and it’s just as well that the game’s graphics are much improved from FE3’s NES recoats of paint. This game is quite a bit darker, moodier, more foreboding. I’m not an artist but those words sound good, don’t they? You’ll like the battle animations too, maybe not as boss as the GBA games, but it’s cool when both units go ham on each other in the Arena. Just don’t try to understand the rest of the mechanics of the castles you’ll visit though – what you don’t know, you can’t be sacked for, right?

I like Genealogy of the Holy War, it’s a good one to go back and emulate. But for God’s sake, make sure you have a guide with you. I did and I was still fouling up left, right and centre, resets all the time, not easy and definitely not a series starting point. I guess you could say I have found my level of Fire Emblem incompetence. But at least I rather like it here.

4 March 2022

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