Fire Emblem is enjoying something of a renaissance. After surviving the possibility of cancellation, the long-running franchise rebounded with Fire Emblem Awakening and thrived. 2017 saw no less than three new titles with a new mainline Fire Emblem targeting 2018. Not bad for a series that was exclusive to Japan for over a decade.
In other words, Fire Emblem attracted a new audience who might be unfamiliar with previous games. And that’s where this article comes in. Sure, Wikipedia is a viable option for a quick glance at the franchise, but I got forced jokes.
Updated on January 21, 2017.
FIRE EMBLEM (AND RELATED) GAMES
The first Fire Emblem meshed Famicom Wars — the predecessor to Advance Wars — with RPG elements, thereby establishing the basic foundation for every Fire Emblem to follow. Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light stars Prince Marth years after the Dolhr Empire invaded his kingdom of Altea and forced him out. Years later, with most of the Archanea continent under the control of Dolhr and its allies, Marth returns with a fledgling army to free the occupied nations and defeat Dolhr’s leader, the earth dragon Medeus.
On the nearby continent of Valentia, childhood friends Alm and Celica separately fight against King Rudolf of Rigel, whose army invaded the southern Zofia. Players control two independent armies, each with their own characters, locations to visit, and battles to fight. Furthermore, weapons don’t break and towns can be explored like a traditional RPG. However, essentially every new feature was removed by the next game. Over twenty years later, Gaiden was remade for Nintendo 3DS under the name Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia.
Book One of Mystery of the Emblem is a remake of the first Fire Emblem, albeit with a handful of characters and levels removed. Book Two, the second half, is a direct sequel. Hardin, Marth’s ally from the previous war and newly crowned emperor of Archanea, is causing trouble, so Marth once again takes up the Falchion and Shield of Seals to reclaim his country and end the conflict. Because most features from Fire Emblem Gaiden were removed, Mystery of the Emblem plays more like the original game.
One of the more important Fire Emblem games, Genealogy of the Holy War introduced features that became staples of the franchise. These include the Weapon Triangle, Skills, and characters marrying with their stats impacting their children. However, the larger maps with multiple castles needing conquering wasn’t used again. The story spans two generations of soldiers in the far-off continent of Jugdral, starting with Sigurd and eventually moving onto his son, Seliph, almost two decades later.
Created for the Japan-only Satellaview peripheral for the Super Famicom, BS Fire Emblem consists of four timed battles, set chronologically before the original Fire Emblem and stars existing characters such as Minerva. Like other Satellaview games, BS Fire Emblem contains voice acting, a first for the franchise. However, there’s no legal way to play BS Fire Emblem as the Satellaview service was discontinued, but the maps were recreated as a bonus feature in New Mystery of the Emblem on Nintendo DS.
The final game by series creator Shouzou Kaga before his departure from Intelligent Systems, Thracia 776 is a midquel to Genealogy of the Holy War that stars Leif, one of the second generation units. Thracia 776 originally debuted on the Japan-only Nintendo Power service (not the U.S. magazine of the same name), but later got a regular Super Famicom cartridge in the waning days of the platform. Maybe that’s why Thracia is the worst-selling game in the franchise.
Little is known about Fire Emblem: Maiden of Darkness — commonly known as Fire Emblem 64 — in the years since its cancellation, but 2015’s “The Making of Fire Emblem” book revealed a few details. The rumors that FE64 eventually transitioned onto Game Boy Advance to become The Binding Blade are true, but little of the original Maiden of Darkness, including story and practically every character, made the journey across platforms. Even Roy, one of the elements of FE64 to survive the move, was renamed (his original name was Ike) and redesigned.
Fire Emblem in all but name, TearRing Saga was developed by FE creator Shouzou Kaga after leaving Intelligent Systems. As evident from pre-release comments by Kaga, TearRing originally took place in the same world as Fire Emblem 1-5, and was even called Emblem Saga at one point, but these changed to avoid legal trouble from Nintendo. Even the story is pure Fire Emblem: heroes Runan and Enteh fight against the invading Zoa Empire. Trouble came regardless when Nintendo tossed a lawsuit at Enterbrain, TearRing’s publisher.
The Binding Blade has no connection to its predecessors and most features were simplified or removed, so it’s not crazy to think of this as a reboot. This is also the introduction of the modern Support system. Roy, son of Blazing Blade protagonist Eliwood, leads the Lycian League in his father’s absence against the mighty nation of Bern, led by King Zephiel. To complete his schemes, Zephiel awakens the long-sealed Demon Dragon Idenn.
Although the first Fire Emblem released outside Japan, The Blazing Blade doesn’t make any significant changes from The Binding Blade outside of representing the player as a voiceless tactician who cannot fight and has limited impact on the story. Japanese players can link the previous game to this one to skip Lyn’s Tale, which serves as an extended tutorial. Set twenty years before The Binding Blade, Eliwood (Roy’s father), along with his friends Hector and Lyn, confronts a dangerous cult that kidnapped his father.
(Note: Fire Emblem Heroes confirmed that “The Blazing Blade” is the official English subtitle for the seventh Fire Emblem. I will change the banner eventually.)
The spiritual successor to Fire Emblem Gaiden, The Sacred Stones revived the navigable map and non-story skirmishes, but otherwise doesn’t make any great leaps forward. Princess Eirika of Renais is forced to flee her country as the Grado Empire invades, but soon pushes into Grado territory find Ephraim, her missing brother. The siblings separate almost immediately after reuniting, leaving the player to decide which character to follow for six chapters. The Sacred Stones is the only game with no connection to any other Fire Emblem title.
When Daein invades Crimea, its western neighbor, Princess Elincia becomes the last surviving member of the Crimean royal family. On the run, she encounters Ike and the Greil Mercenaries, so they travel through laguz territory to plead for assistance from the powerful Begnion theocracy. After not being on a home console in six years, Path of Radiance took advantage of the GameCube to create the first 3D Fire Emblem. Pity that it’s a fairly ugly game. It also introduced the “Base screen” and, more importantly, the shapeshifting laguz.
Perhaps hoping to keep Nintendo from releasing the lawyers again, the second TearRing Saga less resembles Fire Emblem than its predecessor, starting with how the square grids on maps were changed to hexagons. Weapons and magic also differ more, although the story of Prince Reese of Chinon struggling to repel an invasion by the Raze Empire is still pretty Fire Emblem. Berwick Saga has no connection to the first TearRing Saga, despite being from the same series.
Although Radiant Dawn, the sequel to Path of Radiance, doesn’t significantly alter gameplay or use the unique features of the Wii, it does play around with storytelling by jumping between a handful of groups. This allows the rare opportunity to force players to fight against characters they’ve previously controlled, until everyone unites for the final act. Ike, leader of the Greil Mercenaries, and Queen Elincia return, but much of the focus is spent on newcomer Micaiah, the Silver-Haired Maiden, as she fights for Daein’s independence.
An experimental internal project designed to widen Fire Emblem’s audience, “Illusive Wii Title” was divulged in 2015’s “The Making of Fire Emblem” book. The project seemingly looked to regular RPGs inspiration; the limited information reveals a 3-person party visiting a small town, and they could explore a field of wandering enemies (no random encounters), although art associated with the project reveals grander locations. Illusive Wii Title eventually sputtered to a halt, so Intelligent Systems instead created a remake of the original Fire Emblem. Again.
The second remake of the first Fire Emblem is more faithful to that game by bringing back chapters removed from Mystery of the Emblem while including characters and features from later games, such as the Weapon Triangle. New “Gaiden Chapters” service as a tutorial while showing Marth’s escape from Altea prior to the main story, but Shadow Dragon is often criticized for ugly graphics, no support conversations, and bonus chapters only accessible by allowing characters to die.
New Mystery of the Emblem, as the name implies, is a remake of the second half (the sequel portion) of Mystery of the Emblem. Unlike Shadow Dragon, New Mystery added much more, including Casual Mode and a customizable avatar, the “Hero of Shadow,” who’s more relevant to the story than Blazing Sword’s tactician. Following the prologue chapters, the character joins Marth’s personal guard and becomes close friends during the conflict with Hardin. As a bonus, the four maps from BS Fire Emblem were recreated in New Mystery.
With Fire Emblem on the verge of cancellation, Intelligent Systems created Awakening as a final hurrah with many of the features from past games, including children, Skills, an overworld, and an avatar. References to the series are everywhere, especially in the downloadable content. The story follows Chrom, Marth’s ancestor, as he leads an army alongside his trusted tactician against the Fell Dragon Grima. At the same time, a youth named Marth foretells a catastrophic future in which Chrom dies and Grima wins.
Fire Emblem Fates is actually three games based around what country — Hoshido (Birthright) or Nohr (Conquest) — the player sides with. Each version plays differently, containing unique levels and characters. Birthright is easier and allows grinding, like Awakening, while Conquest is more difficult and has varied mission objectives, as with older Fire Emblem games. Or players can refuse to choose a side, leading to Revelation, which plays like a combination of Birthright and Conquest. Of course, unless you’re lucky enough to have grabbed the limited edition, what path you take is dependent on the version purchased.
Announced as a crossover between Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, ♯FE is more of a strange metamorphosis of the two. Set in modern-day Japan, the story follows Itsuki Aoi and his companions from the Fortuna Entertainment group as they fighting using Mirages — reimagined takes of Fire Emblem characters from the first game and Awakening. Although ♯FE plays similar to a regular Shin Megami Tensei game, the battle system is about exploiting enemy weaknesses to chain attacks, a clever combination of SMT and Fire Emblem systems.
When the Solvian Empire attacks the nation of Meleda and the Anti-Imperial Alliance crumbles, a nobleman named Zeidreese is tasked with ensuring the safety of Princess Atolfis. Not an unusual story setup for Shouzou Kaga, but this isn’t a usual game. Instead of getting all professional and putting together a development team, Kaga (and others) developed Vestaria Saga using a program called SRPG Studio and released the game for free. Unfortunately (but unsurprising), the game is entirely in Japanese, so be prepared to jump online for help if you can’t speak the language.
Orbs, used to randomly spawn Fire Emblem characters, are gained by battling or through purchase with real-world money. That’s the nefarious gimmick that Nintendo hopes to take your cash with, so if you’re against that practice, don’t bother downloading. (There’s no shortage of Fire Emblem these days, anyway.) Otherwise, Fire Emblem Heroes plays similar to your regular Fire Emblem, except on a smaller scale. The Weapon Triangle is simplified, and maps are only eight-by-six grids. Stars denote a character’s strength, but they’re able to become stronger through battling.
With a release just around the corner, we’ll wait to see how Intelligent Systems juggles the free-to-play aspects won’t be long.
Fire Emblem’s last hurrah on 3DS (not counting the Warriors spin-off), Shadows of Valentia is a remake (or “inspired by”) of Fire Emblem Gaiden. That means the expected audio/visual upgrade, including full voice acting, alongside traversable maps, dungeon exploration, and two groups of heroes. The bigger mystery is what features from later Fire Emblem games — the Weapon Triangle, avatar, supports — will or won’t be returning, although we’ll know soon; the Japanese version hits in April, while the rest of the world only has to wait until May.
Fire Emblem goes Musou! Nintendo only revealed a little footage of Fire Emblem Warriors, showing Chrom cutting through crowds of indistinguishable soldiers, but with a release date of Fall 2017, we’re bound to get more information, including other playable characters, by next E3.
We don’t have any real information for the upcoming Fire Emblem beyond that it’s coming and they’re aiming for 2018.
NON-FIRE EMBLEM GAMES
The second Smash Bros. is vitally important to the Fire Emblem franchise for introducing the world to Marth, and even Japan got in on the introductions since Melee is the first appearance of Roy, whose game, Binding Blade, wouldn’t be released for another four months. It probably helps that Marth isn’t a weakling, but is currently ranked as the third best combatant. Roy, a clone of Marth with somewhat different attributes, is left behind in 20th place. Still, not too shabby for characters originally meant to be removed from international versions of Melee.
“AKANEIA” is the title for the Fire Emblem theme that occasionally plays in the Temple stage, but it’s also the name for a Fire Emblem stage cut during development. Unfortunately, there’s no way to access the lost stage in any form. Akaneia is the Japanese and European name for a continent and country from a handful of Fire Emblem games.
Marth returns, but Roy got replaced by Ike from Path of Radiance, while Lyn from the seventh Fire Emblem appears as an Assist Trophy. Marth drops two places to become the fifth best fighter, while Ike sits in the 23rd position. Fire Emblem representation includes Castle Siege — a stage that alternates between fighting atop a besieged castle, within the castle, and inside a lava-filled cavern (presumably under the castle) — alongside new songs, trophies, and stickers.
This Japan-only title released on multiple consoles, but only the Wii U version contains costumes to allow players to appear like weird, realistic versions of Chrom and Lucina. It also adds a handful of Fire Emblem-themed weapons.
Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai went a little Fire Emblem crazy in the fourth Smash, with Robin (male and female) and Lucina joining vets Marth and Ike. Roy and Corrin (male and female) were later added as downloadable content, while Lyn reappears as an Assist Trophy and Chrom during Robin’s Final Smash. Marth got a major nerf that dropped him to the 19th position in the Tiers, only one space behind Corrin. Meanwhile, Robin, Ike, and Lucina are in the E Tier, and poor Roy is left in the G Tier.
Beyond the expected new and returning songs and trophies, Fire Emblem gained two new stages. Arena Ferox, inspired by the Awakening level of the same name, is exclusive to the 3DS version, while the Wii U version gets Coliseum — inspired by a reoccurring location used to level-up units — and Brawl’s Castle Siege.
This odd turn-based/real-time strategy game was created by Intelligent Systems, so obviously scanning Fire Emblem amiibo unlocks content. Marth, Ike, (male) Robin, and Lucina join the likes of John Henry, Lion (from The Wizard of Oz), and Tom Sawyer under the command of Abraham Lincoln to fight off invading aliens. So, yeah, Fire Emblem characters appearing isn’t the strangest part of this game. Furthermore, should one of the four guest characters die, they’re no longer playable until their amiibo is scanned again, which is an obvious reference to Fire Emblem’s Perma-Death.
Marth is given an English voice for the first time in a game, played by Yuri Lowenthal. The only other instance of Marth speaking a language other than Japanese is from the two-episode Fire Emblem anime, where “Mars” is performed by Spike Spencer.
I gotta be honest, I’m disappointed that Nintendo didn’t use Marth’s sprite from the first Fire Emblem, but whatever. The Hero-King appears alongside his (non-DLC) Smash 4 companions Ike, Lucina, and (male) Robin. Should they perish, you’ll hear the jingle that plays when an allied unit dies in the original Fire Emblem, while completing a level causes the theme for completing a stage in, again, the original Fire Emblem. Both tunes play regardless of the character.
Players can unlock them through 100 Mario Challenge or by scanning their respective amiibo.
The strategy-RPG crossover between Sega, Namco Bandai, and Capcom adds a handful of Nintendo characters to its plump collection of characters, mainly Fiora from Xenoblade Chronicles alongside Chrom and Lucina from Awakening. Since Project X Zone 2 only includes Japanese voices, the English voice actors for Chrom and Lucina aren’t present.
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January 21, 2017: Complete overhaul with new images and rewritten text. Added info from the Fire Emblem Direct.
October 10, 2017: I separated Xenoblade Chronicles and X.
November 18, 2017: Updated descriptions up until Radiant Dawn.