Fire Emblem made its debut in late 2003 in America, arriving in Europe eight months later in 2004. It starred Eliwood, the father of Roy, the latter of whom was made popular in Super Smash Brothers Melee. It followed Eliwood as he and his allies attempted to locate his missing father. In the process, they became embroiled in a conflict that threatened to bring the dragons of old back to life and wipe out the human race.
Known in Japan as Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken, or Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword, this game was actually the seventh entry in Intelligent Systems’ tactical series. The only reason Fire Emblem got released here in the West was because of Marth’s and Roy’s popularity in Melee (for the record, and to this writer’s great amusement, Roy has yet to make an appearance in a Westernised Fire Emblem game, though that may change if we do indeed receive all of Awakening’s DLC).
In this article I’m going to be taking a look at the first six games in the Fire Emblem franchise and how it has evolved over time. From the features that were tested and rejected in its early years to mechanics like the weapon triangle that we take for granted today, read on to find out where it all came began!
Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Tsurugi, or Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragons and the Blade of Light was released in 1990 for the NES, marking the series’ debut. It starred Marth, who was on a quest to prevent the Dark Pontifex Gharnef from reviving the ancient shadow dragon Medeus and ravaging the land of Akaneia. It culminated with Marth sealing away Gharnef and Medeus using the holy power of Falchion.
Sound familiar? It should, if you’re a veteran of the series. This game was later remade for the DS and released in the West in late 2008 for Europe and early 2009 for America, under the name Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. In its original state, this game would have been near unrecognisable to modern players. Units could give weapons to allies with a spare slot in their inventory, but could not trade. There were multiple classes that could not promote at all, staves did not increase experience points (making it near impossible for healers to level up) and even the iconic weapon triangle was absent.
An unmistakeable Fire Emblem trait that was present, though, was the limited use of weapons and items; once they break, they’re gone. The same could be said for its characters. One thing which fans of the Fire Emblem series love is the added challenge of keeping your characters alive. For if they fall in battle, they will not rise again, leaving it entirely up to you to decide if it is worth starting over again for them or not.
Fire Emblem: Gaiden was the second game in the Fire Emblem series. It was released for the Famicom in 1992. “Gaiden” in Japanese means “side story”, and Fire Emblem: Gaiden is just that. Although it takes place in the same world as Blade of Light, it takes place on the continent Barensia, far away from Akaneia. A few characters from Blade of Light make an appearance, but that is the extent of the games’ relation.
Gaiden had us follow Alm and Celica as Rigel, the country on the northern part of the Barensia, invaded Sofia in the south. This was the first game which allowed the main characters to promote. It also featured a map akin to Sacred Stones, which allowed players to move back and forth across sections of the continent they had already explored. Something which has not been seen in any Fire Emblem game since was mages learning new spells as they level up. In addition, using a spell would drain the HP of the user. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that second mechanic, at least, was removed from later games.
Fire Emblem: Monsho no Nazo was released for the Super Famicom in 1994. Also known as Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, it was comprised of two “books”; the first book retold the story of Blade of Light, while the second was an entirely new story taking place two years after Marth sealed away Medeus. The Emperor of Akaneia had gone mad and declared Marth a traitor, and so Marth set out to clear his name and reclaim his kingdom.
Mounted units in Mystery of the Emblem were able to dismount and fight on foot. In fact, any chapter which took place indoors forced them to do so. This was the first game to introduce each new chapter with a short narrative, and the first to have a health restoration mechanic for characters standing on a fortress.
Fire Emblem: Akaneia Saga, also known as BS Fire Emblem, were four short chapters that could be downloaded for Mystery of the Emblem using the Satellaview add-on for the Super Famicom. These chapters stopped being broadcast in 1999. They were included in the remake of Mystery of the Emblem, which was released for Japanese DS’ in 2010. For reasons unknown, this game never made the jump to the West. At least, being made for a region-free console, it is possible to import it from its home country.
Head over to page 2 for the other three Fire Emblem games!
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