Welcome to History of the Emblem, the umbrella title for posts related to, as the name suggests, historical information related to the Fire Emblem franchise. I originally created this title for a YouTube series I planned, but decided against dividing my time further with another project.
With that addressed, let’s look at Fire Emblem Cipher.
Fire Emblem: Shadows of Valentia continues the trend of stuffing Fire Emblem games on Nintendo 3DS with downloadable content, and among the expected content featuring strong weapons and new character classes is Cipher Legends, released on the 22nd of last month as the final two packs. The reward — new characters — isn’t unique. Fire Emblem Awakening DLC offers 17 units from past Fire Emblem games to recruit. SpotPass elevates that number by more than 100, although they’re simply the avatar model customized to vaguely resemble that character with limited dialogue and zero support conversations.
In addition, six more characters can be recruited via SpotPass. They’re unique because five of these units are major players in Awakening’s story — mostly villains — with dialogue and support conversations with the player’s avatar, including the opportunity to marry them.
Those six more closely resemble what you’re getting with these four. Cipher Legends I offers Emma, a young Falcon Knight, and Randal, a Paladin, while Cipher Legends II rewards with Shade, a Saint, and Yuzu, a Priestess. These four additions are fully-voiced and includes support conversations with the other character from their pack, which is a step above the DLC and SpotPass characters from Awakening (and the amiibo characters from Fire Emblem Fates). And, honestly, we should probably count ourselves lucky that we got these characters at all.
We being everyone outside Japan, that is. Not because Emma, Randal, Shade, and Yuzu were, until now, from Fire Emblem content that never left Japan — after all, many of those SpotPass characters in Awakening are from games that hadn’t, and still haven’t, seen English releases, yet we still got them — but because these newcomers aren’t from any video game. Shadows of Valentia marks their first appearance on a game console.
Rather, they only appeared on the Fire Emblem Cipher trading card game, along with appearing on the FE Cipher website, which is, sadly and unsurprisingly, completely in Japanese. We non-Japanese speakers can only imagine the conversations these four companions are having! The first series of cards launched on June 25, 2015 — notably the same day that Fire Emblem Fates released in Japan — and focused on characters from Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, the original Fire Emblem, and Awakening. There are nine individual card series with an additional two on the horizon as of this writing.
Of course, rarity is a thing. Cards from Booster Sets, which contain only ten cards, are distinguished by one of four rarities, starting from “N” for Normal to “SR” for Super Rare. To further complicate, some cards include a plus (“+”), signifying increased rarity. Meanwhile, Starter Packs come with 50 cards, including some that can’t be found in Booster Sets. Such cards are labeled with “ST” instead of a rarity. Finally, other cards are only available through special means, including tournaments and magazines, further frustrating anyone crazy enough to aim for a complete collection.
Cipher pulled characters from nearly every major Fire Emblem release — only Thracia 776 and The Sacred Stones are currently without representation, but will appear alongside spin-offs Fire Emblem Heroes and Warriors in the upcoming tenth and eleventh series. Cipher also focused on Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE, the crossover with Shin Megami Tensei, along with, surprisingly, Fire Emblem: Hasha no Tsurugi, an eleven-volume manga that acts as a side-story to The Binding Blade.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any indication that Fire Emblem Cipher will leave Japan. In fact, we’ve actually lost content because of Cipher’s absence. Nintendo released a promotional Cipher card in Japan for the characters Minerva, Marth, and masked Lucina, allowing fans to obtain the characters in the Japanese version of Fire Emblem Fates via included codes. Since Cipher isn’t officially available anywhere else, and because Nintendo was evidently unwilling to unlock the character another way, the trio remain beyond our grasp.
So we should consider ourselves lucky that Cipher Legends is available for everyone. While obtaining Emma, Randal, Shade, and Yuzu don’t require a physical card, these characters are linked to something that I don’t expect will leave Japan anytime soon. (Meanwhile, stores can’t rid themselves of those damn Animal Crossing amiibo cards fast enough. Talk about getting the short stick.) It would’ve been easy for Nintendo to hold back on this DLC, like they did with Minerva. After all, only a small portion of the audience has any idea who these characters were.
Want more information on Fire Emblem Cipher, including how to play? Serenes Forest has a wealth of knowledge about the TCG, which you can visit here.