Hey guys, RevSpennicus here. Sorry for my absence over the last week or so, I’ve been experiencing some technical difficulties and I’ve been working very hard getting everything fixed. In any case, I feel that now is a great time to talk about the origins and influence of a franchise that doesn’t get much notice in the Western gaming world: Fire Emblem. I mainly have this topic in mind as I recently scored a boxed copy of Fire Emblem: Monsho no Nazo (Mystery of the Emblem) for Super Famicom, which I have not yet played as I am worried about tarnishing the cartridge, which is in surprisingly excellent condition (not to mention it’s in Japanese so I wouldn’t even know what’s going on). In any case, I feel that now is as good a time as any to talk about a series I love dearly, because it deserves a lot more appreciation than it deserves.
Based off of the concept of Famicom Wars, a tactical war-based game developed by Nintendo and Intelligent Systems in 1988, Shouzo Kaga, who had no prior credits in the gaming industry at the time, aimed to bridge a gap between strategy and role-playing gameplay. The development team was small, but included the late and beloved Gunpei Yokoi as producer. Many of the team members had to take on multiple tasks, leading to a somewhat stressful development process. While the project was in it’s early stages, certain limitations led to setbacks, including Nintendo needing to develop new chips to process Japanese text. Despite all of this, Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Ken (Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light) went on to be a pretty big success in Japan. Sadly, due to regional differences and Japan’s perceived notions of Western audiences, the game never saw a release in the US and the series stayed overseas for many years.
Fire Emblem‘s success in Japan continued throughout all of the ’90s, with the franchise seeing one more installment on the Famicom, Fire Emblem Gaiden, which essentially was just an expansion of the first game, with minor improvements such as map navigation. The Super Famicom saw three releases, Monsho no Nazo, Seisen no Keifu (Genealogy of the Holy War), and Thracia 776, which added features such as colored tiles to show distance, unique death dialogues for characters, and the ability to capture enemy units or rescue ally units, among many others. There was also a game for the short lived Satellaview called BS Fire Emblem: Akaneia Senki, which was based on Monsho. Fūin no Tsurugi (The Binding Blade) for Game Boy Advance was the final Japanese exclusive in the franchise.
Finally, in 2001, Western audiences got their first glimpse of Fire Emblem with the inclusion of Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Marth of course is one of the top characters in the game, and in fact he is my main. But I digress, due to the success of the characters’ inclusion, which led to curiosity about the franchise, Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken (The Blazing Sword) was released in 2003 on Game Boy Advance, known in the US as simply Fire Emblem. Since then, the series has seen international releases for all of it’s titles. My personal favorite is The Sacred Stones for GBA, which I got as part of the ambassador program for Nintendo 3DS.
Fire Emblem paved the way for tactical role-playing, and as a result came many others trying to do the same, most notably Square Enix with the Final Fantasy Tactics series starting on PlayStation. Advance Wars, which evolved from the original Famicom Wars, also used a lot of these elements that were initially developed in Fire Emblem. Sadly, it’s a style of gameplay that is not too often seen these days, and I think that indie developers now could do a lot to improve and expand upon these concepts. I for one would love to see some new, unique tactical-RPGs, and I know that I’m probably not alone. In fact, Melubnio recently posted an article about a similar type of game currently in development, Oldage: Tactics Online, which you can read here.
Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed reading this, and if you have anything you’d like to add about Fire Emblem or role-playing/strategy games in general, by all means please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading.