Editorials FEATURED Retro

Fire Emblem Before the West

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu is the fourth game in the series and is otherwise known as Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War. It was released for the Super Famicom in 1996 in Japan, and took place in an entirely new world on the continent of Jugdral, which was divided up into eight kingdoms. The story began with Sigurd’s tale as Graanvale and Isaach went to war; Sigurd, being a prince of Graanvale, got dragged into the bloodshed to defend his country. Sigurd’s story comprised the first six chapters of the game. The final six chapters of the game took place several years after the conclusion of the initial story and had the player fighting with the offspring of the characters from Sigurd’s story.

Holy War made a lot of changes to the Fire Emblem formula, and there is a lot to say about it. To start with, it had only twelve chapters, but they were longer than the other games; each one required the player to capture multiple castles. It was possible to have items repaired at your home castle for a fee and, unlike other Fire Emblem games, each character had their own money in their wallet instead of a pooled amount between the entire army.

Holy War introduced a generation system. The most powerful characters in Holy War were the ones with the holy blood of the twelve crusaders of old running in their veins. Pairing off certain characters would greatly affect the second half of the game; the sons and daughters of each of the first generation’s women would have different stats based on the identity of their respective fathers and their bloodlines.

Holy War introduced the weapon triangle, a rock-paper-scissors system in which swords beat axes, axes beat lances and lances beat swords. This system has since become synonymous with the Fire Emblem series. It also contained a more complex version of the support system, another series staple. Characters who fought in the same chapter and stood beside each other at the end of a turn would gain Love Points.

However, some characters were more compatible than others, and if a male character had a female character standing on either side of him, or if the more compatible female is standing beside the less compatible female who is in turn standing next to the male, she will steal the Love Points that would otherwise have gone to the other woman. This is the Jealousy system, and does not appear in any of the later games.

Confused? I don’t blame you. It’s a system that takes some getting used to, but ensures you think twice and then a third time before moving your units. I could take the time to discuss the details of Holy War’s complexity, but that would take far too long for the purposes of this article. Just know that Genealogy of the Holy War is a very, very well thought-out game, even by Fire Emblem standards.

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 is the fifth game in the series, released in 1999 for the Super Famicom. It took place between chapters 5 and 8 of Holy War, as the exiled prince of Lenster, Leaf, decided to return home and take back his birthright. 776 introduced a few of the finer details that are seen in later games and was infamous for its unforgiving RNG goddess.

776 was the first game in the series to feature Fog of War maps, where each character has only a limited field of view. Meeting certain requirements in certain chapters could, for the first time, unlock a sidequest; this had never before occurred in a Fire Emblem game, and has been featured in almost every game since. 776 also added a new map objective: Escape. As one might deduce, the aim was to make a beeline for an exit point and then have the entire army leave the battle behind them. The rescue command was a new feature in 776 that has been an asset in many Fire Emblem games since.  

Two interesting game mechanics that never made it out of 776 are capturing and fatigue. Every action a character used would fill up the fatigue gauge a little. When the number in the fatigue gauge surpassed that character’s HP, they were prevented from being used in the next chapter. This was presumably introduced to encourage players to use many different units. The capture option gave both allies and opponents alike an opportunity to capture their opponent and take all of their items. Attempting to capture a non-combat unit such a priest was met with no resistance. It’s a shame that this mechanic was removed from the series after 776.

Fire Emblem

Finally, we have the sixth game in the series, the one in which young Roy was the star. Fire Emblem: Fuin no Tsurugi was also known as either Sword of Seals or The Binding Blade and was the first Fire Emblem game to be released on a handheld console; the GameBoy Advance. It introduced a new continent known as Elibe, which should be familiar to some of you. It was on Elibe that the first Western Fire Emblem game took place.

The country of Bern, known for its military might, had suddenly invaded the mercenary nation of Ilia and the nomadic tribes of Sacae, quickly seizing control of both countries. Bern then turned its hungry sights on Roy’s homeland of Lycia. After losing his country to Bern, Roy led the Lycian army in the stead of his ill father, Eliwood, to strike down Bern and find out why it had suddenly turned so hostile.

By the time Sword of Seals had been released, Intelligent Systems had seemingly settled on a basic formula for their Fire Emblem series. Sword of Seals looks and plays very much like its prequel, Blazing Sword. There were no real innovations here, and anyone who has played any of the Fire Emblem games that have been released in the West will find themselves quite comfortable playing this game.

After Sword of Seals came Blazing Sword, known simply in the West as Fire Emblem. This was the first game to get a Western release, and, well, the rest is history. Every game since, with the exception of Mystery of the Emblem’s remake, has made it out of Japan and into America and Europe.

I’m going to leave you all with one of my favourite videos for no real reason other than I love it. I hope you all enjoyed my brief trip through Fire Emblem’s history, and I hope you all greatly enjoy your copies of Fire Emblem: Awakening! I’ll be joining the celebrations in two months time when Awakening makes it over here, I’m sure.

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