|Console||Game Boy Advance|
|Developer||Intelligent Systems, Nintendo|
|Purchase (GBA)||Click here to buy from eBay.|
|Purchase (Wii U)||Must be purchased from Nintendo eShop app.|
- Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken
- Fire Emblem: The Sword of Flame
- Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword
- Fire Emblem: Burning Blade
- Fire Emblem 7
Or just plain Fire Emblem, because it’s the first game to get an international release. It is actually the seventh game. Yeah, we had been missing out about half of the series all this time.
There are so many different fan-given names for this one game. Regardless, it’s a very well loved entry by fans everywhere.
And why shouldn’t it? It’s still one of the best entries in the series, with strong characters, a strong story, and gameplay unlike any other at the time—well, maybe except Advance Wars to an extent. I mean, it is the same developer and all.
It’s also one of the most important entries, because it introduced the series to the western world.
While being the first game released outside of Japan, it is the second game released for the Game Boy Advance series. Aside from the appearances of Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee, this is the first foot forward for the series in the international market.
But where are we right now? Well, the fourteenth game of the series, Fire Emblem Fates, is set to come out in about a week! And I’m more than ready to pick up my special edition copy.
So, let’s take a look and see what the hubbub was about.
The March of Lycia, Sacae and Ostia
If you have never played a Fire Emblem game in your life, don’t worry. This game’s first chapters explain the basic mechanics very well. But for the sake of the review, I will give a brief overview.
You control an army of soldiers (blue units) on a large grid-based map to fight against the enemy army (red units). You may move each individual soldier as well as perform an action, such as attacking or using an item. But whenever you attack an enemy soldier, it opens up a screen that simulates a battle sequence.
When your unit and the enemy unit are adjacent to each other, one unit will attack while the other counterattacks. But if your unit dies, that unit is gone forever. This is perhaps the biggest thing that could turn new players away. To have an identifiable character killed off is a very irritating ordeal.
Each chapter has a specific objective, such as seizing a throne, defeating an enemy boss, annihilating the entire enemy army, or surviving for a certain number of turns.
By fulfilling certain requirements for specific chapters, you may unlock side quests. Side quests give you the opportunity to go deeper into the story, gain more experience, and recruit more characters. However, they tend to be more difficult than your main story missions. Still, it’s worth completing them just to have a good footing in future chapters.
That is the gist of the gameplay, but there’s a lot more I haven’t covered that is explained by the game’s tutorial chapters. Even though I am already familiar with the basic mechanics of Fire Emblem games, there wasn’t really a point where I find the tutorial chapters to be intrusive. The story and characters are actually quite compelling and the chapters never go overboard with the handholding. It’s the perfect place for newbies to the series to start at.
So for those interested in a RPG that requires strict resource management, mission-based chapters with little room for grinding levels and keeping everyone in your army alive, this might be the type of game for you. Trust me, it’s actually more addicting than it sounds.
The visuals overall are pretty standard for the Game Boy Advance, albeit simplistic in nature and not too inspired. In fact, some of the visuals and sprite work have been recycled from the previous game in the series, The Binding Blade. A large number of maps will be giant green fields, just as it had been for most of the series. However, the actual character portraits and the battle simulation sprites definitely add to the presentation, allowing each character to show a bit of personality through how they look and how they fight.
The soundtrack definitely has a nostalgic feel to it, as well as some enjoyably cheesiness that you would hear in ’80s anime.
But with all that said, is that all there is to it? Well, not quite. A good RPG certainly needs a good story to back it up.
Assassinations, the Black Fangs and the Dark Druid
The game’s intro explained that mankind and dragons once coexisted, until mankind fumbled and caused a war known as the Scouring. While mankind prevailed in the end, the dragons had vanished and lived separately.
You know, your standard “blah blah” fantasy world stuff.
The game actually serves as a prequel to the previous entry, Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade. The best way to tell is that one of the main characters is a young man named Eliwood, who is the father of Roy.
The real game begins with a super basic character creation screen. However, your tactician avatar has no major involvement in the story—similar to how you play as a mute, unnamed magistrate in StarCraft. Not there is a true need for this, but it is cute when the in-game characters address you by name.
Right away, you meet a young Sacaen woman named Lyn. And I kid you not, but she is one of my favorite protagonists in the series. Why, you ask?
- Kind and humble.
- Honest to a fault.
- She isn’t just some shrinking violet. She’s a tough lady who WILL cut you down if you dare threaten her friends.
- There is something about a young woman in a nomadic warrior’s outfit and knows a thing or two about swordplay that ups the sex appeal (it’s those shapely legs…)
- She plays like a Swordmaster who can also use a bow. Holy shit.
Seriously, this lady is on fire!
And her character arc in this game is endearing, even though it is only ten chapters.
Part of it is because you’re putting yourself in the tactician’s shoes, therefore you’re directly interfacing with Lyn herself in a way. The moment when she entrusts her life to you is also a moment of establishing trust. The kind of trust where you’ll aid each other and consider one another an invaluable friend.
This is honestly an effective way to make you care about the story’s characters. It’s eerily similar to how it’s done in Half-Life 2, where you fill the shoes of Gordon Freeman and directly interact with other characters in your environment.
This friendship with Lyn also opens opportunities to befriend other soldiers. Eliwood, Hector, Sain, Kent, Florina, Erk, Matthew, Nils, Ninian… the list goes on.
And that is part of what I like about this game. Fire Emblem doesn’t put much of its emphasis on a generic plot where characters end up suffering from stock personalities or underdevelopment. You spend time seeing characters make friendly jabs at each other, having painful experiences, making difficult choices, and aiding people in need.
The story is actually divided into three character arcs. Lyndis’s character arc concerns an inheritance feud with her remaining family. And on your first playthrough, you continue the game as Eliwood.
Eliwood is very much the archetypal hero in this game. A bit flatly characterized compared to Lyndis and Hector, but still a likable character nonetheless. Being the son of a marquess (a government official in this setting), his sincerity and desire to help those in need make him an admirable figure. And of course, this trait will also be apparent in his future son, Roy.
Eliwood’s storyline ties into the continent of Elibe entering into a state of war; corrupt government officials betraying their allies, a royal family torn apart by paranoia and greed, the kidnapping of Eliwood’s father, the rise of a band of assassins known as the Black Fangs, and an evil sorcerer called Nergal possessing the ability to create artificial humans.
There is so much going on here, but it’s all wonderfully portrayed as a story that is especially deep and complex for the Game Boy Advance.
Hector, on the other hand, is a total badass. Not only does he defy his own brother, the marquess of his country, but he is also willing to go through a hellish number of trials just to help his good friend Eliwood. Now that is what you call a best friend! You can only play his story arc after you finish the game as Eliwood. Hector’s story is essentially the same as Eliwood’s, but takes a different perspective on the same events and further explores certain plot points and characters.
Overall, this is a great place to start for the Fire Emblem series and just a great game in general. It still holds up, even if it’s over ten years old. I have a tough time finding any fault with it. It’s just that good, and I don’t think this review does it enough justice.
So if you’re a fan of the series or just want a taste of what it’s like, I suggest you pick up a copy of this game as soon as possible. You won’t regret it.
Fire EmblemPrice Varies
- Obviously, being the game that introduced the series to a western audience.
- The story is one of the best in the series, with quite a bit of depth in the nations' politics and memorable characters with understandable motivations that you actually care for.
- The gameplay is very addicting once you understand how it functions, and completing chapters is a very satisfying task when overcoming the tough trials ahead.
- The character portraits are expressive and the character sprites during battle sequences look pretty cool.
- The soundtrack is catchy and lends itself to nostalgia.
- The maps have a somewhat bland design to them.