By Ethrin, Aganar & Personman

Fire Emblem is essentially the "original" console strategy RPG, in a domain that was previously bound only to computers. Designed by a division of Nintendo that would later call itself "Intelligent Systems", Fire Emblem was the brainchild of a main named Shozo Kaga. This mix of strategy, RPG-style character development, and medieval themed storylines, became one of Nintendo's most popular franchises in Japan, and has directly influenced practically every major SRPG since then, including Shining Force, Langrisser, and Tactics Ogre.

Nintendo released creator Shozo Kaga's brain child, Fire Emblem: The Dragon of Darkness and Sword of Light on the Famicom on April 20th, 1990. This mix of RPG-style character development, growth and storyline focus coupled with the tactical placement of units on maps of War Simulations (dubbed the Simulation RPG) was one of the first of it's kind and gamers rejoiced. Fire Emblem immediately bloomed into a franchise with popularity on par with Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, and spawned many imitators.

Throughout its many installments, Fire Emblem has retained many core characteristics that have been carried over from game to game. Most characters can wield at least two weapons (usually a spear, an axe, or a sword), which have various strengths and weaknesses. These weapons wear out from use, requiring that you constantly obtain new ones. In most games, the shops are located on the battlefield, so you might need to take one of your characters out temporarily to have them stop by at a local store to restock. Characters can also visit houses on the battlefield to chat with the locals, or talk amongst themselves in reveal extra story tidbits or strengthen their power. In some cases, you can even recruit enemy soldiers on your team. Most games feature a huge roster, often featuring a handful of primary characters and dozens of secondary characters.

The funny thing about a lot of strategy games is that few honestly felt like they were focused on strategy. Real time strategy games fell more about micro managing growing throngs of units or dealing with more and more types of resources. Other strategy RPGs focus too much on the customization elements, where gaining levels and optimizing combinations of skills are far more important that placement on the map. As such, Fire Emblem is a rare gem. It demands that you create and execute a sound strategy, as opposed to masking its difficulty in exponentially increasing layers of numerical bureaucracy. It's striking as an optimum balance between strategy, with enough complexity to feel deep, but not cumbersome. Sure, leveling up is still very important, but you can't just grind your characters to victory. Instead, you're encouraged to balance out your characters and pick your battles wisely. In most of the games, you can't replay battles, so there's only a limited number of experience points to be had. If you focus only a few characters, the rest of your roster will be incredibly weak by the end of the game. Many of the titles have an extremely overpowered character (sometimes called "trap" characters), which can cause lots of damage but don't gain much experience. They're helpful, but you need to spread out your attacks so your experience is better distributed amongst your team.

The enemy AI is surprisingly smart, striking viciously at weakened opponents and doing everything it can to ensure their victory. Perhaps Fire Emblem's most controversial elements is lies with permanent player character death. Yes, once a character is killed, that's it - they're gone for the entire game, and (usually) there's no way to resurrect them. This requires that you carefully consider every move, especially when maneuvering weak units like magicians or healers. While this aspect often frustrates obsessive compulsive gamers that refuse to lose any of their characters, the later games in the series tend to toss enough playable characters into your roster that you can spare to lose a several and not have to worry about being outnumbered. If you play semi-compentently, you'll probably have more characters than you know what to do with anyway.

There are tons and tons of different character classes. In general, you have your standard swordsman, axe wielders, cavalrymen, heavy knights, archers, magicians and healers. Most units can only attack if they're adjacent to one another. Spearmen, magicians and certain axe wielders can attack diagonally, or attack two spaces forward. Archers can attack two spaces away, but can't attack anything directly adjacent. Heavy knights are slow but extremely powerful. Calverymen (in the later games) can move again after attacking. Pegasus knights have huge range but often have poor defense. Fire Emblem also utilizes a class promotion system. Once they reach a certain level (and in some games, when they use a certain item), they transform into a more powerful unit, and their level is brought back down to one, leaving you to power up even more. The Fire Emblem games are a bit weird in that the stats are upgraded randomly when gaining level, as opposed to the fixed stat growth in some games. This means that, upon multiple plays, some characters may end up being more powerful than others.

Despite its many iterations, there has been very little change in Fire Emblem's core mechanics, which remain largely identical through most of the series. Even the music, supplied by veteran Yuka Tsujiyoko, maintains the same general style throughout the series. The only major shakeup occurred with the fourth installment, Genealogy of the Holy War, which introduced a rock-paper-scissors style strength/weakness system, as well as adding larger levels and dividing the storyline into two generations. Most of these changes were absent from later games, although the weapons triangle remains.

Oddly enough, Fire Emblem's introduction to the gaming world outside of Japan was through a party/action game, Super Smash Brothers: Melee for the Nintendo Gamecube. Marth was the hero of the first and third Fire Emblem games, while Roy was starring in the (not yet released at that time) Gameboy Advance game. Their theme music is a medley of the Fire Emblem main theme and the "Encounter" theme, which was originally from the first game, but reused in later titles. Rumors circulated that Nintendo of America planned to cut the Fire Emblem characters out since no one knew about Fire Emblem and outcry ensued. Thankfully, they were left in, as they're both remarkably good characters to play as. It's also possible that their popularity convinced Nintendo to localize the later two GBA titles, although Roy's game never made it to America. (And it still didn't convince them to translate any of the Mother/Earthbound rereleases or sequels, despite the presence of Ness.)

There are ten Fire Emblem games altogether, as well as a remake of the first game for the DS. Although none of them are numbered, many fans often address the titles with numbers to make things less confusing. Here are all of the games in the series, along with their Japanese and translated names. The first game released in English is FE7 for the GBA.

List of Fire Emblem Games

FE1 - Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Tsurugi (Dark Dragon) / FE2 - Fire Emblem Gaiden
FE3 - Monshou no Nazo / FE4 - Seisen no Keifu / FE5 - Thracia 776
FE6 - Fuuin no Tsurugi / FE7 - Rekka no Ken (AKA Fire Emblem for the GBA in English) / FE8 - Seima no Kouseki (The Sacred Stones)
FE9 - Souen no Kiseki / (Path of Radiance) / FE10 - Akatsuki no Megami (Radiant Dawn)

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem Gaiden

Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War

Fire Emblem: Thracia 776

Fire Emblem: The Sword of Seals

Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword

Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword

Super Smash Bros. Melee

Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Tsurugi / The Dragon of Darkness and Sword of Light - Famicom / Super Famicom (1990)


Cover

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem

Thousands of years ago, dragons and humans lived in harmony on the continent of Akanaea. But this peace was brought to an end by the evil Medius, the leader of a race called Mamkutes (human/dragon hybrids that can change forms.) The humans fought valiantly, until the hero Henry came forth, wielding the legendary Falchion sword, and slayed Medius. And all was well for another hundred years.

This was, until, Medius came back to life. With the help of the evil wizard Garnef, the Mamkutes slowly began spreading their influence, taking over the country of Doluna, and once again waged war on the land of Akanaea. But Medius' primary objective was to hunt down and slaughter the descendants of Henry.

This includes Prince Marth, the heir to small nation of Aritia and descendent of Henry. Having fled from attack, Marth flees to a remote island, leaving his family and his heirloom - the legendary Falchion - behind. But the Doluna army has found and cornered him, and the only thing he can do is fight back and save his country.

Marth
Prince of the small kingdom of Aritia and main character of the game. He is the only Lord class unit in your control. His name has been translated several ways (including "Mars" and "Matus") with "Marth" being Nintendo of America's official translation. All of the allied units are colored blue on the map, hence the blue hair.

Sheeda
The princess of the island nation of Talis and Marth's major love interest. Sheeda is a skilled Pegasus Knight and wields a silver tongue, as she convinces more enemy units to join your cause than any other character.

Ellis
Marth's older sister. She's the sole unit capable of using the Ohm staff, which can raise a fallen unit from the dead.

Neina
The Queen of Akanea. Spared by a Grunian general, the infamous Black Knight Camus, Neina found sanctuary in the Kingdom of Orleans.

Hardain
The King of Orleans and a capable Cavalier. He joins Marth's cause when Grunia invades his nation. He may seem like a minor character out of the many you'll recruit, but he's crucial to Fire Emblem 3.

Chiki
The last descendant of Naga, the God Dragon. She is a Mamkute, capable of using ancient stones to morph into a dragon. She hasn't fully matured and cannot harness the true power of the God Dragon Stone yet.

Gato
An ancient priest who crafted the holy spell, Star Light that can defeat Medius.

Garnef
The evil priest that revived Medius. He wields powerful dark magic that can only be defeated by an ancient, holy spell known as Starlight.

Medius
An ancient member of the Mamkute race and king of the Earth Dragons. He originally started an empire in the land of Dorua and was defeated by the hero Henry. Rather than fall to his rule, the neighboring countries of Grunia and Macedonia opted to ally themselves with Medius.

Fire Emblem: The Dragon of Darkness and Sword of Light is the bedrock on which the franchise was born. Marth and his army proceed through twenty five maps, defeating enemies, finding new comrades, buying weapons and capturing castles, all to reobtain the Falchion sword and kill Medius. The plot is mostly limited to small conversations at the beginning and end of each stage, but it's still more in detailed than many 8-bit RPGs.

This is an old NES game, from 1990, to be precise, so it isn't exactly polished. Using the same basic engine as the Famicom Wars games (predecessor to Advance Wars), the interface looks and feels a bit spartan. There's no visible indication on how far a unit can move, and you need to pull up some menus to look at stats instead of popping up when they're highlighted. The cursor movement is sluggish, the characters shuffle slowly around the map, and the ground will often remain green even when stepping on other terrain (like water.) The battle backgrounds are stark black, and while the combatants are relatively well animated for a NES game, they're a bit slow and boring. You can shorten them, thankfully.

In spite of these setbacks, Fire Emblem is a surprisingly engrossing game. The graphics are fairly bland but the music quality is pretty good by NES standards, and it's especially cool when the music changes once the tide of the battle turns in your favor. While the weapon triangle found the later games hadn't yet been implemented, and there's only one class of magic, there are 25 potential player characters and a total of 21 classes. Certain terrain effects are more important than any other game in the series - you can scale walls and you'll find one way hills that you can go down but not up. Because of this, it really feels like units' classes are more important than their stats, because troops like Pegasus Knights can ignore these terrain effects. There's even a mid-game save option, which was quite a luxury for back in the day.

The story of Fire Emblem was retold as part of the first "chapter" in Fire Emblem: Monshou no Nazo for the Super Famicom, featuring updated graphics and better interface. It's especially nice to be able to see how fair you can move, and how far your enemy can move. It's fairly true to the original, but a few characters and maps have been cut from the roster, with a total of twenty maps versus twenty five from the original, and some levels have been altered a bit. There's only a bit more dialogue, but the chapter openings are a nice touch.However, it's more playable than the Famicom original, and thus kinda makes it obsolete, but it's still worth checking out the original Famicom game for curiosity's sake.

MP3s Download here

Opening Title - Demo
Battle Map 1
Battle Map 3 - Near Victory
Encounter

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem: Shin Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Tsurugi / The Dragon of Darkness and Sword of Light / Shadow Dragon - Nintendo DS (2008)


Japanese Cover

Fire Emblem: Shin Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Tsurugi

Fire Emblem: Shin Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Tsurugi

In 2008, after three Gameboy Advance outings and two for the consoles (Gamecube and Wii), Nintendo went back to its roots to remake the original Fire Emblem for the DS. Much like Intelligent System's work on Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, the new look to Fire Emblem is a lot darker than the GBA games, using an entirely different visual style. While the supplementary artwork is provided by legendary manga artist Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell, Dominion Tank Police, Appleseed, numerous others), all of the ingame artwork is provided by someone entirely different. The sprites are all new too, and they look to have a computer rendered look to them. They're definitely more detailed than the GBA games, and just as well animated, but they're still a bit ugly. The soundtrack is mostly redone, although there are a number of tunes that have been carried over and rearranged.

The actual missions are far more faithful to the original Famicom game than the missions found in Monshou no Nazo. There are a total of twenty five primary missions, with all of the characters from the original game. Additionally, if you start the game on Normal mode, there's a new Prologue chapter featuring four brand new missions that not only act as a tutorial, but gives some backstory to Marth's escape from his castle. Strangely, the game requires that you sacrifice one of your units in order to win one of the missions. (There's one brand new character in the prologue, so you can get rid of him if you want to stick to Fire Emblem canon.) There are also a number of new characters and side chapters throughout the game, but in order to obtain them, you also need to have a certain number of troops perish. This is pretty strange considering Fire Emblem fans are usually hardwired to make sure none of their units die.

The interface is just as polished as the GBA installments, so it's a huge step up from the Famicom and Super Famicom versions. There's the usual touch screen control, as well as the upper screen used for tutorial info, stats, and battle scenes. Additionally, instead of individually checking each enemy's range of movement, there's an option to highlight all danger squares, making it easier to position your units so they won't be attacked. It's missing some of the options of the later games, like the rescue and shove commands, but instates the weapon triangle found in all of the games from FE4 onward. There's a lot more story and dialogue too. You can still save games mid-chapter, which are deleted when you load them as usual, but there are now save points in most missions that let you permanently save whenever you want. This allows you to reload the chapter if you make a mistake, without allowing you to constantly save and reload, abusing the system.

Most importantly is the class change system. In fourth mission, you can change the class of nearly all of the characters, with the exception of Marth and a few others. It's not exactly freeform - you're limited to a certain number of class types per battle, and of course, you need to purchase all of the necessary weapons. Additionally, each character is more suited to certain classes, as they have experience stats for each weapon type that increase as you continue to use them. It's nowhere near as in depth as Final Fantasy Tactics or other similar strategy games, but it's a nice bit of flexibility. For the first time, you can also challenge another player through the DS Wi-Fi functionality.

Overall, it's a fine remake. Compared to the later games, it's good to see the game stripped down of some of the elements that tended to get in the way (like the Iaguz transformations), while adding enough elements to make it seem fresh. It's also due for early 2009 release in North America with the subtitle "Shadow Dragon", making it the first time that English speakers can play through the story of Marth.

MP3s Download here

Battle Map
Battle

Fire Emblem: Shin Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Tsurugi

Fire Emblem: Shin Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Tsurugi

Fire Emblem: Shin Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Tsurugi

Fire Emblem: Shin Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Tsurugi

Comparison Screenshots

Famicom

Super Famicom

Nintendo DS

Fire Emblem DS Artwork

Marth

Sheeda

Chiki

Niena

Minvera

Garnev

Fire Emblem Gaiden - Famicom (1992)


Cover

Fire Emblem Gaiden

Fire Emblem Gaiden

Fire Emblem Gaiden was released two years after the original. While most of the graphics have been recycled and the clunky interface is practically identical, Fire Emblem Gaiden takes many other drastic departures from its predecessor. Additions include an open-ended class change system, a new equipment system and some standard RPG-style exploration scenes as seen later in the Shining Force games.

In Fire Emblem Gaiden, characters always have a default weapon unless players specifically equip them with one. Weapons never wear down either, so you never need to worry about them breaking. Magic spells now drain the spellcaster's HP, making them even more vulnerable if you keep them too close to the fray. You can also revist certain areas and continue to fight enemies in order to level up. For the most part, level grinding is practically a necessity, given some of the immensely strong foes you'll face. Characters can also be equipped with special shields or rings, but since everyone only has one equipment slot, this gives magic users a very unfair advantage. Giving a powerful caster a shield or ring that boosts their power or defense, and regenerates their HP makes for a good, map-clearing combatant! Thankfully, class changes are done at Statues of Mira rather than using items.

Fire Emblem Gaiden has only minor ties to the plot of the original, and takes place on the faraway continent of Valencia, where Mira the Goddess of the Earth and Douma a Demonic God fought thousands of years ago. After the battle, Valencia was split into two parts. Sophia, the Kingdom of Scripts, was established in the south, and the Rigal, Kingdom of Knights,was established in the north. Emperor Rudolf of Rigel amasses an army in an attempt to unite Valencia under his rule. With the help of Dauze, a holy knight that betrayed Sophia, the Kingdom of Script is now collapsing.

Alm
A young warrior from the Kingdom of Rigel from the village of Lum. Trained by the knight Maisen, he gathers and leads an army to free Valencia from the tyranny of Rudolf. He promotes to Hero later on and gains the ability to use bows as well as swords.

Selica
The lost princess of Sophia. Under the watch of Mira's Great Sage Nouma, she masters magic and the sword. She doesn't know her country of origin, as she spent most of her childhood in Lum with Alm. Her quest starts out on an island far south of Valencia.

Maisen
This former holy knight of Sophia took a young Selica and fled to Rigel. He has been hiding in the village of Lum, training up an army to fight against Rudolf. Of all the villagers, Alm shows the most promise.

The game starts with Alm and three young villagers from the town of Lum in his army. You have the option of changing these villagers into one of five classes - mages, cavaliers, mercenaries, archers or soldiers. From then on, they'll proceed down a linear class change path. It may seem simplistic, but it's a lot more customizable than most Fire Emblem titles.

The game takes you through two quests, one lead by Alm and the other by Selica. Unlike the previous Fire Emblem, which limited the number of troops you could take into a given battle, all units under your control will be deployed. This is true even when Alm and Selica meet up and players have a strong army of over thirty units marching into the final battle, provided they've recruited everyone possible.

Due to all of the changes to the system, Fire Emblem Gaiden is largely seen as the bastard of the series, the Fire Emblem equivalent of Zelda 2. Regardless, it's still an excellent game, though it unfortunately never got a port like the original game.

MP3s

Battle Map 1 - Alm 1

Fire Emblem Gaiden

Fire Emblem Gaiden

Fire Emblem Gaiden

Fire Emblem Gaiden

Fire Emblem Gaiden

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