When it comes to video game franchises, one of my all time favourites is Fire Emblem. For many English-speaking territories, the first time they would have experienced an actual game from the franchise would have been with Fire Emblem on the GBA – the seventh game in the series.
The audience for Fire Emblem increased even further with the release of Fire Emblem Awakening for the 3DS, but did you know that the franchise actually got its start back in 1990?
As the title suggests, I’ll be using this post to take a look back at Fire Emblem, and I may even take the opportunity to look forward as well.
I’ll also be using the spellings of character and place names seen in the European versions of the games, simply because that’s what I’m used to.
Let’s kick this off with an introduction to the Fire Emblem series. Fire Emblem is a series of tactical role-playing video games, where the general premise is that you take control of an army of characters and have to decide where to move them, who to attack, and other such things like that. This is all done in a grid-based environment.
The thing about the characters you can recruit in any given Fire Emblem game is that they all have their own unique names, looks and characteristics – particularly with the introduction of Support Conversations in later titles.
A staple part of the series is the presence of the permanent death of the characters. Once a character’s HP hits zero, they are gone forever. I’m sure many Fire Emblem fans have watched on in horror as an enemy got a lucky critical hit or something and their favourite character was cruelly forced to meet their fate.
I’m also sure some Fire Emblem fans will restart the entire chapter should they lose even a single character – even ones they don’t intend to use.
With that introduction to the franchise done, let’s tack a trip back in time to 1990 – the year before I was born.
Fire Emblem: Dark Dragon and Sword of Light
Release date: 20th April 1990 (JP)
Development of the first Fire Emblem game began as a doujin project by Shouzou Kaga and three other developers. It was with Dark Dragon and the Sword of Light where many of Fire Emblem‘s features were introduced.
First of all, a recruitable roster of around 50 characters – though this early on in the series, none of them really had much to say. No, it would be later games that gives the characters more dialogue, and as a result, more personality.
Intelligent Systems wasted no time in including permanent deaths, either. It has been part of the Fire Emblem ever since the very beginning, though you do gain the opportunity to resurrect a single character later on in the game.
Another way in which the characters were differentiated from one another were their classes. A character’s class determined what types of weapon they could equip. It was also possible to promote characters to a stronger class. Oddly enough, Marth was unable to promote despite being the main character.
The variety of weapons available in Dark Dragon and the Sword of Light has been pretty constant throughout the series since back then: swords, axes, lances, bows, staves and magic tomes. Characters possessed a stat called Weapon Skill that determined the type of weapons they could wield, from Iron weapons up to Silver. Some weapons also dealt bonus damage to certain unit types, such as flying units being weak against bows.
To make things more varied, the maps featured different types of terrain. Some terrain types, such as forests, mountains and water, impeded character movement. This resulted in different classes having reduced movement depending on the terrain.
It is also possible to receive defensive benefits from certain terrain types, making it a good idea to have a character sit on a forest or fort tile for that little bit of added protection.
If you’ve played a later game in the series, you’ll be used to healers gaining experience whenever they use a staff. That is not the case in Dark Dragon and Sword of Light; the only way for Priests to gain experience is to be attacked by enemies. This is a very risky tactic, but the amount of experience they gain from it is fairly considerable.
Dark Dragon and Sword of Light would go on to have two remakes.
Fire Emblem Gaiden
Release date: 14th March 1992 (JP)
Fire Emblem Gaiden is a sidestory to Dark Dragon and Sword of Light, set on a different continent and introducing a new cast of characters. Alongside the new characters, a few from Dark Dragon and Sword of Light also make appearances.
There’s a greater emphasis on role-playing, as there is a world map to traverse, and it is possibly to freely move around in villages. Unlike in the previous game, there are two main characters – Alm & Celica.
Gaiden is divided into five chapters, with the first one focusing on Alm’s group, and the second on Celica’s group. Chapter three onwards gives the player control of both groups.
The world map features a host of different areas to visit, as well as enemies to fight. Entering a village or a fortress switches the view to an area map, where there may be NPCs to talk to.
In Gaiden, it became possible for every basic class to promote. Some characters start off in the relatively weak Villager class, but give them enough experience and they can promote into one of the many basic classes. Some basic classes also can also be promoted twice.
You can find equipment as you go through the game, though each character only possesses a single equipment slot. It is possible to equip stronger weapons, rings or shields – if a character has no equipment, they’ll fight with basic weaponry. Magic users cast their spells by sacrificing their HP.
Gaiden is also the first game to feature an easy mode, though it is hidden. Should it be accessed, however, it becomes easier to earn experience points and you can freely swap items between the two heroes’ groups.
Fire Emblem Gaiden would later on get a remake.
Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem
Platform: Super Famicom
Release date: 21st January 1994 (JP)
Mystery of the Emblem is a direct sequel to Dark Dragon and Sword of Light, with gameplay closer to that title as opposed to Gaiden. Being released on the Super Famicom meant that the game had numerous improvements.
It is actually one of the longer games in the series, as it contains two games in one – a remake of the first game’s story, whilst the second was the all-new Mystery of the Emblem story.
When starting Mystery of the Emblem, players can choose between Book 1 and Book 2. Book 1 was the remake of the first game, though updated with the newly introduced mechanics. It also cut five chapters and five characters. Book 1 was included for new players, as the Book 2’s story was a direct continuation of Book 1.
Mystery of the Emblem introduced support bonuses – if friends, family or lovers fought close to each other, their accuracy, avoid and critical rate would all increase.
Something relatively simple that Mystery of the Emblem introduced was visible movement ranges – before there was no visual indicator of how far a character could move.
It also became possible to dismount mounted units. Having them go on foot allowed for better navigation of terrain, as well as preventing any bonus damage they might suffer from specific weapons. The game also has indoor maps, during which mounted units are automatically dismounted.
Mystery of the Emblem also changed how the Manaketes’ transformations worked. In the original, they would only transform during combat, whereas in this game using a dragonstone would transform them for a number of turns.
Mystery of the Emblem Book 2 would later get a remake.
Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War
Platform: Super Famicom
Release date: 14th May 1996 (JP)
Genealogy of the Holy War was an entirely new continuity for the Fire Emblem series. It is set on the continent of Jugdral, which is made up of many territories with their own backgrounds and alliances.
The story of the game has a larger focus on politics and features things such as expeditions to aid allies, broken alliances and genocide amongst other things. I feel that Game of Thrones might be an apt comparison.
Whilst the first few games laid the foundations for the Fire Emblem franchise as it is today, Genealogy of the Holy War received several upgrades that became mainstays of the franchise.
Genealogy of the Holy War‘s story is split over two generations. By having specific characters battle alongside each other, it becomes possible for them to fall in love. The characters can have children, who become playable in the second generation. Who partners up with who affects the children’s stats, skills and starting equipment.
The love mechanic introduced in this game allows for lovers to perform special critical attacks at random when they fight next to each other. It is also possible for partners to receive rare items and stat boosts from each other.
It’s a good idea to partner up the first generation characters, as if you don’t, you get weaker ‘substitute’ characters instead.
Genealogy of the Holy War has the biggest maps of any Fire Emblem game. Whilst previous game would generally have one point to seize to claim victory, Genealogy of the Holy War has maps with several castles scattered across the land. A single map might be the equivalent of four or five chapters from a more traditional Fire Emblem game.
Whilst Mystery of the Emblem added the ability to see a character’s movement range, it wasn’t until Genealogy of the Holy War that it became possible to see a character’s attack range.
Whilst Player and Enemy phases have been the norm throughout the series, Genealogy of the Holy War provides separate phases for different enemy factions, allies and neutral characters.
Each chapter starts with the player in control of a castle which serves as the main base of operations. Inside a castle, it is possible to buy items, check fortunes and fight in the arena. A character can be assigned to defend a castle, and should the player’s main castle be seized by the enemy that results in game over.
There is a limit to how much each character can participate in the arena once per chapter. Once a character defeats seven enemies in the arena, they have completed the arena and can’t go back in until the next chapter.
Characters have no easy way to trade items between themselves in Genealogy of the Holy War. Instead, if you want to one character to hand an item to another, you need to get them to sell it to the pawn shop. Afterwards, any other character can buy the item. Also, each character has their own stash of gold, rather than a sum total being shared across the whole army.
Genealogy of the Holy War was the game that introduced skills to the Fire Emblem franchise. Special techniques that had a random of chance being activated during battle, providing benefits such as negating an enemy’s defence. Whilst double attacks and critical hits became a norm for the series, in Genealogy of the Holy War, only characters equipped with specific skills could perform those techniques.
One of the key parts of the entire Fire Emblem franchise is its Weapon Triangle; swords beat axes, axes beat lances, lances beat swords – this was the very game that introduced that mechanic, and it has featured prominently ever since. Magic also has its own triangle: fire beats wind, wind beats thunder and thunder beats fire. Light and dark magic aren’t part of any triangle, though they both beat fire, thunder and wind.
In terms of statistics, Genealogy of the Holy War increased the level of cap of all the characters from 20 to 30, and made it possible to promote characters once they had hit level 20.
In prior games, a character’s damage output was determined by their Strength stat regardless of whether they were a magic user or not. This game has separate Strength and Magic stats. As of this game, stats now cap dependent upon a character’s class. Before, capped stats were more or less fixed to 20 or 40. By giving the different classes unique caps, this leads to more individual units.
Rather than a Weapon Skill stat as featured in earlier games, characters in Genealogy of the Holy War have their own weapon ranks determined by class and holy blood. Weapon ranks also meant that weapons were divided into different categories, thus giving rise to the Weapon Triangle.
Certain characters in Genealogy of the Holy War are descended from a prestigious line of heroes, and as such possess holy blood. Characters with holy blood possess increased growth rates in particular stats as well as raising weapon rank. It is possible to pass down holy blood to the second generation.
Holy weapons can be found during the course of the game, but they can only be wielded by characters who have the correct type of holy blood. Naturally the holy weapons provide some considerable boosts, but they are expensive to maintain.
Mounted units are able to complete an action during their turn, and then use up the rest of their movement. As such, a valid tactic with cavaliers and pegasus knights is to have them attack the enemy and then back off – hit-and-run, if you will.
The army leaders that you fight over the course of the game may have Leadership stars. A leader can affect the enemy’s morale and fighting ability, and naturally those with better leadership skills possess more stars. Prioritising taking out an enemy leader can lead to the weakening of enemy troops.
BS Fire Emblem: Akaneia Chronicles
Platform: Satellaview for Super Famicom
Broadcast date: September to October 1997 (JP)
Here’s something a little different. First, a quick introduction to the Satellaview: The Satellaview was a satellite modem peripheral for the Super Famicom. With the Satellaview, it was possible to download short games via satellite at given times of day.
One such game BS Fire Emblem: Akaneia Chronicles. There were four maps, and it acted as a prequel of sorts to Mystery of the Emblem.
The aim of each map is to simply gain as many points as possible in an allotted time, which can be done by defeating enemies, opening chests, visiting villages, etc. There’s a different main character for each map, and if they fall then the map is reset.
There was voice acted dialogue, but any attempt to emulate this game loses out on that – as well as cutscene graphics and background music.
Fire Emblem: Thracia 776
Platform: Super Famicom
Release date: 1st September 1999 (JP)
Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 was actually one of the last games released for the Super Famicom. Initially way the only way to acquire the game was to download it onto an official flash cartridge via the Nintendo Power service. Later on, a boxed cartridge version was released.
Thracia 776 is a side story to Genealogy of the Holy War, set around the halfway mark of said game. It focuses on Prince Leaf of Lenster, who lived on the run from the Empire. He eventually reached a village called Fiana where he settled down for a while. In the year 776, when Leaf turned 15, he decided to stop running and start fighting.
Though Thracia 776 is linked to Genealogy of the Holy War, it is a very much self-contained story. Unlike the previous game, maps are on a smaller scale and the focus in general is on a smaller territory.
Thracia 776 introduced gaiden chapters to the series; optional missions that require specific criteria to be unlocked. Tackling a gaiden chapter could result in rare items, new allies or extra dialogue.
For one part of the game, there is a branching path. It only lasts for two chapters, but it does slightly shake up the linear progression through chapters one might expect of a Fire Emblem game.
New ways to claim victory in a chapter were also introduced in this game. Perhaps you need to get characters to escape a map, or just survive a set number of turns. Of course, defeating all the enemies and/or a boss is still present, but it is nice to have different ways to approach a chapter.
A feature that remains unique to Thracia 776 to this day is fatigue. As a character performs actions, their fatigue rises. Once their fatigue goes over their HP stat, a character has to sit out of battle for the entirety of the next chapter. Stamina drinks could lower a character’s fatigue.
Fog of war was also introduced in this game, which limits a character’s field of vision. Using a Torch or Torch staff would increase it.
Whilst main characters tend to have access to their own personal weapons – which are often legendary – Thracia 776 features weapons that can only be used by specific characters regardless of their status in the overall plot.
Leadership stars from Genealogy of the Holy War return, with some important playable characters possessing them. Weak, important playable characters, but ones who can effectively make other characters stronger.
Certain characters may have the chance to act again after completing an action thanks to the number of movement stars they have on their status screen. Another new stat is build. Characters with higher build suffer less penalty to their speed when wielding heavier weapons. Rescuing is another mechanic introduced that takes advantage of the build stat. Characters with enough build can rescue characters with less build to get them out of harm’s way.
Weapon ranks return, though this time it becomes impossible to increase without having to promote a character. The weapon rank system pretty much became another mainstay for the franchise, though Thracia 776 doesn’t show the progress towards a new rank.
Whilst allied units can rescue each other, it is also entirely possible to capture enemy units. Capturing an enemy means defeating them in battle with halved stats. It becomes possible to loot items from captured enemies. It is also entirely possible for the enemy to try this with your characters.
Just like in Mystery of the Emblem, mounted units can be dismounted. This will negate weapons with bonuses for hitting cavalry, and allows the character to venture indoors.
Thieves are a common class type in Fire Emblem, but in Thracia 776 their stealing ability received an upgrade. They were limited to stealing gold from enemies in prior games, but in this one it is entirely possible for them to steal weapons and items. The build stat determines what can and can’t be stolen, although Thieves have never been known for being bulky.
Super Smash Bros. Melee
Release date: November 21st 2001 (JP), December 3rd, 2001 (NA), May 24th 2002 (EU), May 31st 2002 (AU)
Now, this crossover fighting game might have just been arguably the most important release for western Fire Emblem fans before Awakening. Rather than focus on the entire game, it is two characters I want to specifically focus on here.
Marth and Roy were originally intended to be playable exclusively in the Japanese version of Super Smash Bros. Melee. However, due to the favourable attention they received during the game’s North American localisation, the developers decided to keep them in.
Marth was the main character for Dark Dragon and Sword of Light and Mystery of the Emblem, and as such it makes sense for him to be present. Roy, however, hadn’t yet appeared in any Fire Emblem games by the time Super Smash Bros. Melee was released. No, he would be the star of the next entry in the franchise.
Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Release date: 29th March 2002 (JP)
The Binding Blade begins with the kingdom of Biran invading its neighbouring territories under the rule of King Zephiel. The ruler of Pherae falls ill, leaving his son, Roy, to gather an army and oppose Biran.
Binding Blade was a return to basics for Fire Emblem, with many mechanics that were introduced in Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776 absent. In terms of both gameplay and story, Binding Blade is closest to Mystery of the Emblem.
Fire Emblem also took on a far brighter style for its GBA entries, complete with some of the arguably best battle animations in the entire franchise (even taking into account the later 3D entries). Character portraits took on a more anime-style, as well.
Though some features from the Super Famicom titles were dropped, the weapon triangle, gaiden chapters, Fog of War and rescuing remained. Fire, Thunder and Wind magic were all categorised together as anima magic, to go alongside light and dark.
The support system was enhanced in The Binding Blade. Characters get a wider array of support options, and there are three levels of support.
Each character has their own elemental Affinity, and different combinations of different Affinities affects the type of support bonus. By having two compatible units wait next to each other for a certain number of turns, it is possible to grow the bond between them. Once a support is achieved, character pairs can talk on the battlefield to finalise the support with a unique conversation for each level of support.
The Game Boy Advance Fire Emblem games have an auto-save feature, which automatically suspends the game if it is just switched off.
Once you’ve completed the main game, it is possible to tackle trial maps with your endgame party. The maps have no connection to the main plot, and are really just there as extra challenges to overcome after finishing the game. Playing on Hard mode and earning the best ending would also unlock more maps.
Binding Blade was the first Fire Emblem to properly introduce a harder difficulty level for long time fans of the series. Naturally, this increases the number and strength of enemies.
There is also a very basic multiplayer mode in the form of the Link Arena. All you really do with this is make a team of five from characters raised in the main story, and use them to fight another group of five. No movement, just combat.
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Release dates: 25th April 2003 (JP), 3rd November 2003 (NA), 16th July 2004 (EU)
The first internationally released Fire Emblem game, and it was a prequel to Binding Blade. It would later adopt the subtitle The Blazing Blade.
The game begins with Lyn’s story, which takes place a year prior to the main story of the game. Lyn’s story serves as a tutorial for the game, spread over a prologue and 10 chapters. After finishing Lyn’s story, Eliwood’s story begins. In his story, Eliwood sets out to find his missing father and ends up having to fight against an organisation known as the Black Fang.
Completing Eliwood’s story unlocks Hector’s story, which is effectively just a slightly longer variation on Eliwood’s story.
Gameplay is more or less the same as in Binding Blade, though with improvements.
When you first start the game, you have to create a profile for yourself as you play the role of tactician throughout the story. You can choose your name, gender and birth month – the last of those determines your Affinity. Characters with the same Affinity as the Tactician get a small bonus. During the story, characters will directly address you.
In some maps, the weather can change. Rain and snow can hinder movement, though you do tend to get some kind of warning when the weather is on the turn.
Fire Emblem features CG artwork throughout the story. Whilst CG had appeared in previous games, that was generally only during the end. In this game, CGs would appear at key points during the story, and it’s possible to view them in the game’s Sound Room.
Another perk you get from completing the game is the Support Viewer – this allows you to re-read support conversations, as well as keep track of which ones you have and haven’t got.
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Release dates: 7th October 2004 (JP), 23rd May 2005 (NA), 4th November 2005 (EU)
The second internationally released Fire Emblem game features a completely new story set on a continent called Magvel. The Grado Empire suddenly invades the kingdom of Renais. The Princess of Renais, Eirika, flees her homeland in order to warn their ally, the kingdom of Frelia. She also seeks her twin brother, Ephraim, who she has lost contact with.
Fairly early on in the game, the player is presented with a choice: follow Eirika, or follow Ephraim. As such, The Sacred Stones has a branch in its story, though it is only possible to follow one path per playthrough. Besides, the two paths join back up after a while, reuniting their twins as they focus on their upcoming trials.
An in-game guide is present for those who are either new to Fire Emblem or need a quick refresher on how things work. Of course, there’s a tutorial at the beginning of the game as well, though only for a couple of chapters at best.
Lots of features in The Sacred Stones are lifted from Gaiden. The first and foremost of these features would be the world map. Naturally the plot can be advanced on the world map, but it is also possible to participate in optional battles or visit shops to restock characters’ inventories.
Once a character has grown strong enough, it becomes possible to promote them. Not a new feature for the series, but The Sacred Stones introduced branching promotions. It becomes possible to pick from two classes when promoting a character. For example, you can choose to promote a Cavalier into either a Paladin or a Great Knight. Different classes have access to different weapons and skills.
Oh yeah, skills return after having been absent since Thracia 776. They make a fairly basic comeback; only some specific promoted classes get access to a single skill.
During the course of the game, you’ll recruit three characters called Ross, Amelia and Ewan. These characters are unique as they belong to trainee classes – Journeyman, Recruit and Pupil respectively. They are weaker than other characters, but possess incredible potential – a Trainee will automatically promote upon reaching level 10, and the branched promotions still apply. The classes they can promote into are basic classes, with the possibility of being promoted again once they are a high enough level.
Human foes aren’t the only ones you’ll be fighting in The Sacred Stones. Much like Gaiden, monsters will appear – sometimes as part of the main story, sometimes in optional battles.
Completing the game will allow access to the Creature Campaign, which allows you to participate in extra battles, build supports and unlock new characters by clearing either the tower or ruins on the map several times.
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
Release dates: 20th April 2005 (JP), 17th October 2005 (NA), 4th November 2005 (EU)
The first home console entry in the franchise since Thracia 776, Path of Radiance is set on the continent of Tellius. On the continent, there are two races; the Beorc, who are humans, and the Laguz – humanoids able to shift into animal forms.
When Crimea is invaded by the kingdom of Daein, Ike and the Greil Mercenaries go to survey the situation. They discover the secret princess of Crimea, Elincia, and decide to help her travel to the Begnion Empire to seek aid.
Ike’s journey is filled with a little bit of everything; racism, corruption, genocide, love, forgiveness and hope.
Path of Radiance was the first entry in the franchise to feature fully-3D battle maps and animations, and brings back the Skill system of Thracia 776 proper. It was also released in the year of Fire Emblem‘s 15th anniversary.
Reaching a certain point in the game allows access to the base before a battle. It serves a similar purpose to the castle in Genealogy of the Holy War in that it allows you to manage your characters, items, Skills and Supports. It is also possible to view special conversations through the base, which may lead to acquiring rare items or new recruits.
Bonus experience can be earned by fulfilling certain criteria during battles. You can distribute the bonus experience in the base, which makes it useful if you have a character you want to use falling behind.
Path of Radiance introduced Biorhythm, which shows how a character is feeling. A character with higher Biorhythm has increased accuracy and avoid, whilst it goes the other way for lower Biorhythm.
The return of Skills comes with a caveat; each character has a limited Capacity, so there is only a finite number of skills that they can equip. Also, in order for promoted characters to learn their best skills, they need to use an Occult scroll. Naturally, those are rare.
Whilst Beorc fight with weapons, Laguz operate differently when it comes to combat. They are unable to fight in humanoid form, but they do have a Transformation gauge that builds up over the course of a battle. Once it is full, the Laguz transforms, gains increased stats and can actually actively fight. Their transformation gauge decreases whilst they transformed, with them reverting back to human form when it hits zero.
There are different types of Laguz, such as cats, birds and dragons. Each species have their own unique characteristics.
A tutorial is present in the game, accessed from the map menu whenever the player feels like it. It is a totally optional thing that is there, never forced onto the player. Anna, the mascot for the franchise, hosts it.
Whereas a character’s build or constitution was used to determine the speed loss from using heavier weapons, Strength is the stat that does that in Path of Radiance. Of course, strength is also important for dealing damage. Mages also have a use for a strength stat with that, as well.
A new weapon type was added in Path of Radiance; knives. Thieves and Assassins wield knives, which play no part in the Weapon Triangle. After being lumped together as Anima magic before, Fire, Thunder and Wind magic are now separate categories once again. There’s no dark magic, and light magic is similar to knives in that it is not part of the trinity of magic. Magical swords have been pretty commonplace up to this point, but Path of Radiance also added magic-based Lances and Axes as well.
In the base, it is possible to forge weapons. This can increase their stats, change their colour and the player can even name them if they so desire. New weapons can only be forged once per chapter.
Path of Radiance has films that play during certain parts of the story. They have a cel-shaded style, and the cutscenes are all fully voiced.
The Japanese version of Path of Radiance introduced a Maniac Mode difficulty sitting. This was harder than hard that reduces the bonus experience that can be obtained as well as increasing the strength and number of enemies.
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Release dates: 22nd February 2007 (JP), 11th November 2007 (NA), 14th March 2008 (EU)
A direct sequel to Path of Radiance, set three years later. After the Mad King’s War, both Crimea and Daein are still rebuilding. The citizens of Daien are oppressed by the Begnion occupational army, but a silver-haired saviour appears. Micaiah is a member of the Dawn Brigade, who go around lending their aid to the downtrodden Daien citizens. She ends up having to try and liberate Daien, though that ultimately leads to a bigger conflict.
The gameplay is fairly similar to Path of Radiance, so anything new here is more or less just an improvement to that game. With a total of 43 chapters, Radiant Dawn is one the longest Fire Emblem games available.
The game is split into four parts, with each one focusing on a different group of characters – Part 1 focuses on Micaiah and the Dawn Brigade, part 2 is the people of Crimea, part 3 brings in some familiar faces from Path of Radiance and part 4 is where everyone comes together.
Before everyone is united in part 4, there are occasions when two different player-controlled armies have to fight. It’s all predetermined, but the game is played from different perspectives as the story plays out.
Should you have Path of Radiance save data stored on a GameCube memory, it is possible to transfer data to Radiant Dawn. This results in returning characters gaining a fixed stat boost as well as increasing their weapon levels. It also makes it possible to view Path of Radiance support conversations, as there was no support viewer in the previous game.
Second stage promotions return from Gaiden. A handful of characters – in particular, those that you control in part 1 – are able to be promoted twice. For example, Edward starts as a Myrmidon, which can then be promoted into a Swordmaster. From there, it is possible to promote into a Trueblade.
Characters gained in later parts of the game start out promoted, though they still have their second promotion once they reach a high enough level. When a character is promoted to their highest class, they automatically gain their Mastery skill – no Occult scrolls required here.
Naturally the Laguz return as well, though they way in which they work has changed. Their major stats are doubled when transformed, and their level caps at 40. Once a Laguz reaches level 30, they can learn their Mastery Skill using a special item.
A new feature added for Radiant Dawn was height – some maps would have different elevations. Naturally, having the higher ground gives a character an advantage with increased damage and accuracy, whilst fighting from lower ground means that accuracy takes quite a hit.
Radiant Dawn changes up the Support system, by allowing all characters to potentially support with one another. Whilst this can be useful for matching up characters of certain affinities, there’s no personality to the support conversations – the conversations consist of one or two lines of dialogue that give away nothing about the characters. The support system is present, but proper Support conversations were dropped for Radiant Dawn.
In terms of weaponry, dark magic returns and thus so does the GBA Trinity of Magic: Light beats Dark, Dark beats Anima, and Anima beats Light. The Trinity of Magic for Anima remains as well.
Laguz weapons, called Strikes, and knives now have weapon ranks. Laguz characters are unable to swap Strike weapons, but increasing the weapon rank improves power and accuracy.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Release dates: January 31st 2008 (JP), March 9th 2008 (NA), June 26th 2008 (AU), June 27th 2008 (EU)
Yep, back to the crossover fighting game series once again. Whilst Roy didn’t make the cut for the Wii entry of Super Smash Bros., this game was Ike’s debut in the series. This would also be the first time that Fire Emblem got a stage in the game as well: Castle Siege. A fair few songs from the Fire Emblem franchise could play on Castle Siege, including ones from Gaiden, The Sacred Stones and Radiant Dawn among others.
Though Roy didn’t make it into this game, Marth did return. Trophies of Ike and Marth, as well as their Final Smashes can be unlocked in this game, but they aren’t the only Fire Emblem characters to appear in trophy form. It is possible to earn a trophy of Lyn from Fire Emblem (the 7th game), and she is also able to participate in battles as an Assist Trophy. The following Path of Radiance & Radiant Dawn characters also have trophies in Brawl: Ashnard, Elincia, Black Knight & Sothe.
Collectible stickers also feature characters from Mystery of the Emblem, Binding Blade, Fire Emblem (still the 7th game), The Sacred Stones, Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
Platform: Nintendo DS
Release dates: 7th August 2008 (JP), 5th December 2008 (EU), 16th February 2009
A remake of the very first Fire Emblem game, and this one would actually go on to receive an international release. This allowed players outside of Japan to experience Marth’s first story.
Naturally, being a remake, the story is pretty much the same as it was in Dark Dragon and Sword of Light. Actually, it seems like the game is fairly faithful to the original, for better or for worse.
New Gaiden chapters were added, though accessing them meant sacrificing a number of characters as they were unlocked based upon the number of fallen units the player had.
Shadow Dragon also introduced reclassing into the series – it becomes possible to change the class of a character. There are limitations to that, and as such it is impossible to make all of your characters who can reclass into Cavaliers/Paladins for example.
Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem
Platform: Nintendo DS
Release date: 15th July 2010 (JP)
The second DS Fire Emblem title was another remake, this time of Book 2 of Mystery of the Emblem. However, this game never saw release outside of Japan.
New Mystery of the Emblem introduced the ‘My Unit’ character – a customisable character who plays a role in the story much like the Tactician in Fire Emblem. However, My Unit is actively involved in combat.
Creating My Unit involves giving them a name, choosing their appearance and fortune and assigning them a class. Different classes are available for male and female My Units.
New additions to this game include a prologue and sidequest chapters, more than three hundred base conversations (including support conversations), remakes of the BS Fire Emblem chapters and three new downloadable chapters.
Accessing sidequest chapters is easier than in Shadow Dragon, as it doesn’t require you to allow units to be killed.
Casual mode was also introduced into the franchise with this game, in which allies whose HP reach 0 aren’t permanently killed and instead return in the following chapter.
Fire Emblem Awakening
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release dates: 19th April 2012 (JP), 4th February 2013 (NA), 19th April 2013 (EU)
This could have potentially been the final entry in the Fire Emblem franchise. It turned out to be one of the most popular entries in the entire series, and it is thanks to Awakening that the franchise continues going strong today.
After two remakes, Awakening was developed to serve as a “greatest hits” of past Fire Emblem ideas. As such, it has many elements from previous titles, whilst bringing new 3D graphics and CGI videos to the table, as well as downloadable content.
In Awakening, the halidom of Ylisse worship the Divine Dragon, whilst Plegia worships the Fell Dragon. As such, relations between the two nations are strained.
The prince of Ylisse, Chrom, leads a group known as the Shepherds in order to preserve the peace within Ylisse. He ends up meeting a mysterious stranger, and that turns out to be the beginning of a fateful journey.
Though Awakening has a standalone story, it is actually set in the same world as Shadow Dragon, Gaiden, and Mystery of the Emblem, just 1000 years later. No knowledge of the aforementioned titles is required, but longtime fans might just get a kick out of the connections between them and Awakening.
The customisable Avatar character returns from New Mystery of the Emblem, though Awakening was the first time that international players could design their own character. Unlike previously, the Avatar starts with a fixed class: Tactician. However, it becomes easy enough to change it with the use of a Second Seal item.
Much like Gaiden and The Sacred Stones before it, Awakening has an explorable world map. From the map it is possible to enter story or optional battles, as well as managing characters and items. Enemies and merchants will occasionally appear on the map, and there may even be visitors from other worlds.
Awakening added two new mechanics to the franchise; the dual system and pairing up. When a character enters combat with an ally next to them, the ally will appear beside them as a support unit. Support units increase the lead unit’s stats, as well as providing offensive and defensive assistance. Dual Strikes and Dual Guard may also activate – Strike means the support unit delivers a follow-up attack, whilst Guard allows the support unit to negate damage. Characters with stronger bonds have a higher chance of activating Dual Strike or Dual Guard.
Pairing up two characters works similarly to rescuing units in previous games. However, Pairing Up leads to an increase in stats rather than penalties, and it is possible for Dual Strikes and Guards to be activated.
As character’s bonds grow over the course of the game, they’ll be able to have Support Conversations to strengthen their ties. It is possible to have two characters of opposite genders marry each other by attaining an S rank support. When two characters get married, it becomes possible to recruit their children due to some timey-wimey stuff.
When it comes to changing classes, there are two options available. The first is promoting the unit with a Master Seal. Much like in the Sacred Stones, many of the classes have branching promotions.
The other option is to reclass with a Second Seal once a character is level 10 or higher. The Avatar is able to reclass into almost any other class, whilst other characters are limited in choice by their personalities and upbringing. Reclassing a character reverts their level to 1, but it allows them to keep any of the Skills they have learned.
Skills are tied to specific classes, and it is possible for a character to learn multiple skills through use of Second Seals. Each character can have up to five active skills equipped at once. Whilst a character is able to learn more than five Skills, those not equipped remain inactive.
Classic and Casual modes return from New Mystery of the Emblem, and difficulty goes from Normal up to Lunatic. There is another difficulty beyond Lunatic if you crave quite a challenge.
Being on the 3DS, Awakening takes advantage of the handheld’s communication features. Local Play allows 2 players to fight against the computer in Double Duel mode. It is possible to have other players’ teams show up on the world via StreetPass, and additional content was distributed for free via SpotPass. Through SpotPass, players would receive characters from previous Fire Emblem titles and new sidequest chapters.
There’s also the paid downloadable content, which can be bought from the eShop and provides new maps and missions. Some of them even feature characters from previous games.
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, Wii U
3DS release dates: 13th September 2014 (JP), 3rd October 2014 (NA), 3rd October 2014 (EU), 4th October 2014 (AU)
Wii U release dates: 6th December 2014 (JP), 21st November 2014 (NA), 28th November 2014 (EU), 29th November 2014 (AU)
Marth and Ike returned from the previous Smash Bros. games in the 3DS and Wii U versions, and they brought some new company along with them in the form of two representatives from Awakening: Robin and Lucina. Robin represents the playable avatar character from Awakening, whilst Lucina is the daughter of Chrom. It is possible to play as either male or female Robin.
The Castle Siege stage returned from Brawl, as well as two new stages inspired by Awakening: Coliseum for the Wii U version and Arena Ferox on the 3DS. Of course, the Fire Emblem stages also had plenty of Fire Emblem music to go along with them as well.
Then there was the DLC, which added two more Fire Emblem characters to the roster. After being absent since Melee, Roy returned to Smash Bros.. The other character pretty much served as an advertisement for the next game in the Fire Emblem franchise: Corrin from Fire Emblem Fates.
All of the playable characters in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U received amiibo figures, including the Fire Emblem representatives: Marth, Ike, Robin and Lucina. The DLC characters also received amiibo – Roy’s amiibo is currently available, whilst both Corrin amiibo – male and female versions – will be available on July 21st 2017.
Fire Emblem Fates
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release dates: 25th June 2015 (JP), 19th February 2016 (NA), 20th May 2016 (EU)
The second Fire Emblem game on the 3DS, Fates focuses on two nations: the peaceful Hoshido and the glory-seeking Nohr.
Much like in Awakening, the game begins with customisation of the main character, and the same difficulty levels return, as to does the option to play either Classic or Casual mode. In addition to Classic and Casual, there is a Phoenix mode that revives defeated characters on the player’s next turn.
There are three versions of Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, Conquest, and Revelations. All three were available to those who bought the Limited Edition of the game, whereas those who didn’t have to choose between Birthright or Conquest. The route they didn’t choose, as well as Revelations, can be purchased as DLC.
Birthright has the main character side with Hoshido, and is most similar to the gameplay seen in Awakening. There are extra opportunities to gain gold and experience throughout Birthright, making it the easier option out of all the versions.
Conquest is the route the player takes when they choose to side with Nohr. There is a limited amount of experience and money to be gained in this version, which makes it the more difficult version of Fates. Different objectives also crop up.
Revelations is a mixture between Birthright and Conquest – it has the same opportunities to gain experience and money as Birthright, whilst offering the varied objectives seen in Conquest.
Birthright, Conquest and Revelations all feature their own unique stories, and it is strongly recommended to play through the former two before tackling Revelations.
A feature called “My Castle” was introduced in Fates, which allows the player to build their own castle which serves as a base for the army. Shops can be built, allowing the sale of weapons and items – upgrading the shops grants access to better equipment.
It’s also possible to build mines and farms, from which items can be acquired in order to create accessories or prepare meals. Meals can be used to give a chosen character a boost.
Through StreetPass, it is possible to visit other players’ castles. You can battle their army, buy items and recruit characters.
Again, it is possible to forge the relationships between characters, and even get certain pairs married. Married characters can then have children, who can then be recruited thanks to more timey-wimey stuff.
For the first time in the franchise, Fire Emblem introduced same-sex marriage. A male avatar character can marry Niles, whilst the female avatar has the option to marry Rhajat. Niles is only available in Conquest and Revelations, whilst Rhajat is only available in Birthright and Revelations.
Fire Emblem Cipher
Release date: 25th June 2015 (JP)
When Fire Emblem Fates was released in Japan, a trading card game called Fire Emblem Cipher was released alongside it. At the time of writing, there are ten different series available, with more planned for the future. Characters from the various Fire Emblem games and Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE make are featured. It’s not just characters from the games that appear either – one of the series features characters from a Fire Emblem manga series.
Each series of cards contains 100 different types, with rarities from normal up to super rare.
Starter decks are also available, with each one containing 50 cards. Some of those cards are exclusives that can’t be found in a booster box.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE
Platform: Wii U
Release dates: 26th December 2015 (JP), 24th June 2016 (NA & UK), 25th June (AUS)
Now for something completely different; a game developed by Atlus that is a crossover between the Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem series. The game is set in modern-day Tokyo, and focuses on the members of the Fortuna Entertainment talent agency who end up fighting evil beings known as Mirages. They do so by allying with friendly Mirages, and are thus known as Mirage Masters.
So how does Fire Emblem fit in? Well, the Mirages are based off of Fire Emblem characters – specifically, characters from Shadow Dragon and Awakening. The weapon triangle is also present, and the weapons the Mirages can wield are based off of those seen in Fire Emblem.
The Fire Emblem stuff in Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE only makes up a small percentage of the crossover. It’s there, but there isn’t too much of it.
Fire Emblem Heroes
Platforms: iOS, Android
Release date: 2nd February 2017 (Worldwide)
The first Fire Emblem game released for smartphones. With Fire Emblem Heroes, the idea is to summon heroes from across the entire franchise to progress through a story or fight other player’s teams.
Summoning new heroes requires orbs, which can be earned from completing in-game activities or with in-app purchases. When summoning new heroes, they can have either three, four or five stars. Three star characters are the most common, whilst five star characters tend to be stronger and possess more powerful weapons and skills.
Three new characters were introduced for this game – well, two new and one legacy character might be more accurate – Alphonse, Sharena and Anna. They are playable from the start, though they only have two stars.
It is possible to upgrade a hero’s number of stars by spending feathers and shards – both of which can be earned from in-game activities.
As characters fight they gain SP, which can be spent in order to teach them new skills. Of course, they gain experience and level up as well.
It seems that a fair few people have now been introduced to gacha games courtesy of Fire Emblem Heroes. They have discovered that, in the words of The Rolling Stones, ‘you don’t always get what you want’. Well, not unless you have large amounts of money to spend just to get that one specific character you’re way too fond of.
Fire Emblem Heroes continues to be updated, with new banners being put up on a regular basis to encourage people to part with their orbs and/or money.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release dates: 20th April 2017 (JP), 19th May 2017 (NA & UK)
The latest entry in the Fire Emblem franchise (at the time of writing) is a remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden called Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. It focuses on the stories of childhood friends Alm and Celica. Alm was raised by his knight grandfather in a small village, but has come on quite a way from his rural upbringing and serves as a key figure in the resistance against the Rigelian Empire.
Celica’s past is less clear, but she does know that she wants to find the goddess Mila in order to bring an end to the war that has engulfed the continent.
Much like in Gaiden, you take control of two different armies – one led by Alm, the other led by Celica. There is a world map to traverse, with enemies to be fought and dungeons to be explored.
The usual Fire Emblem classes are all present: mercenaries, cavaliers, pegasus knights, archers, mages and clerics amongst others. It is possible to promote characters of a high enough level, with villagers having the option to promote into one of a handful of classes.
By equipping characters with certain equipment, it becomes possible for them to learn new skills.
Should you make an error of judgement and end up getting one of your characters accidentally murdered, it is possible to rewind time with Mila’s Turnwheel. The Turnwheel can turn back time one turn at a time.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia also features cut scenes created by Studio Khara, and every line of dialogue has been fully voiced.
The game can be expanded even further with five major downloadable content packs. The DLC provides opportunities to earn more gold and experience, explore Valentia’s hidden past and recruit new characters.
Also being released alongside the game are amiibo of Alm and Celica, which can provide in-game benefits.
That brings us up to date with the most recent game released for the franchise, but as the Fire Emblem Direct revealed on 18th January 2017, there’s a couple more things coming up for the franchise’s future. I’ll briefly go over them here.
Fire Emblem Warriors
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, New Nintendo 3DS
Release date: Autumn 2017 (Worldwide)
After a crossover between The Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors in the form of Hyrule Warriors, Fire Emblem will be getting the same treatment with Fire Emblem Warriors.
At the time of writing, all I really know is that Chrom from Awakening will be a playable character, and it will be released some time in the autumn of 2017 for the Switch and New 3DS.
The same team that created Hyrule Warriors will also be producing this game, so I’m sure anyone who enjoyed the Zelda crossover with Dynasty Warriors will probably enjoy this one as well.
This is not the only Fire Emblem title we’ll be seeing on the Switch, though.
Fire Emblem for Nintendo Switch
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: 2018
There’s less information about this one than there is for Fire Emblem Warriors. All we got was a brief mention during a Nintendo Direct that Fire Emblem will be released for the Switch some time in 2018. Even Fire Emblem for Nintendo Switch is a working title.
That should about cover the history, and near-future, of the Fire Emblem franchise. The focus here has mostly been on the games, but I feel it would be prudent to mention that there are several anime and novel adaptations of the franchise as well. There was even a short-lived anime adaptation, too.
I fell in love with it the instant I bought Fire Emblem on the GBA, and it still stands as one of my favourite video game franchises of all time. In particular, I’m quite thankful towards Super Smash Bros. Melee for introducing the franchise outside of Japan, and the success of Awakening which meant that the franchise continues to this day. With all the DLC for Awakening, Fates and Shadows of Valentia, as well as the revenue from Fire Emblem Heroes, I get the feeling that Fire Emblem will be with us for a long time.
If you want to learn more about the franchise, then I would recommend visiting the Serenes Forest website. Possibly the best resource for Fire Emblem on the web, it contains in depth information for all of the games across the entire Fire Emblem franchise.
You could also check out my post on yuri in Fire Emblem.