With the North American release of Fire Emblem: Awakening for the 3DS right around the corner, I thought it’d be nice to take a look back on the series’s Western introduction. The GBA title Fire Emblem, subtitled Rekka no Ken or The Blazing Sword, was released in North America back 2003, almost a decade ago. Despite what its plain English title might suggest, Fire Emblem (GBA) is actually the 7th title of the growing franchise, with the first game being released on the Famicom in 1990 and later receiving a remake for the NDS. Most westerners, myself included, had their first encounter with the Fire Emblem series in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Ironically, neither Marth nor Roy are playable characters in Fire Emblem (GBA).
This game is actually a prequel to the 6th game in the series, Fire Emblem: Fuuin no Tsuguri (otherwise known as The Sword of Seals or The Binding Blade) and was released on the GBA in 2002 for Japan only. The 6th game takes place 20 years after its prequel and features the more well-known hero Roy, while the 7th game actually centers around Roy’s father Eliwood. Fire Emblem (GBA) takes place on the continent Elibe which is divided up into 8 main territories, one for each of the Eight Legends who are the warriors that fought the dragons 1000 years ago in the war known as The Scouring.
The game’s plot has a lot going on in it, but ultimately boils down to a power struggle amongst the different territories and kingdoms, as well as an attempt by an organization called the Black Fang to revive the dragons. Dragons and humans used to live together harmoniously prior to the Scouring. Could something like this ever be possible again? Even though the history of the Eight Legends is only loosely touched upon, it’s something that I find really cool and enthralling. Each warrior had his or her own signature weapon and had a hand in shaping the territories into what they are today. Maybe I just really like stuff like this…
Fire Emblem (GBA) has varying levels of difficulty, accommodating everyone from beginners to seasoned strategists, and serves as a great introduction to the franchise. The battle system is largely reminiscent of the style from Advance Wars, which is another great strategy game which began on the GBA. The way units moved around the tiles of the maps, interacted with the environment, and engaged in battle was all very familiar.
One of the defining qualities of the series, though, is the fact that when one of your characters falls in battle, he or she is gone forever. Even in Final Fantasy Tactics, you were given a few turns to revive a downed ally, but that’s not so in Fire Emblem. This, compounded with the game’s autosaving feature, called upon a more cautious style of playing if you didn’t want to be an ass and let your faithful comrades die. Like any good RPG, your characters could equip different weapons, gain experience, and interact with each in the heat of battle. Doing so would bolster relationships (sometimes even romantically) and would aid in combat should those two units be close to each other.
The game in and of itself is very aesthetically pleasing. The character designs are some of my favorites from any game or anime ever. The artists did an outstanding job of making medieval attire look stylish, and all of the characters (male, female, and whatever Lucius is) are very attractive. It kind of makes me wish that there was a Fire Emblem anime series. I’d watch it, as long as it didn’t suck of course. The game has some great music as well, from the classic title anthem to the heart-pounding battle themes to the famous recruiting track (“Together, We Ride!”). Not bad for a GBA game, I must say.
Fire Emblem (GBA) is the game that got me hooked on the series. Some of my fondest memories in my entire life are waking up early every day (literally at like 7 AM) during the summer just to play this game. Just thinking about going through Lyn’s chapter for the first time gets me so nostalgic. Needless to say, I’m greatly looking forward to Fire Emblem: Awakening. It’s one of the many reasons that I’ve decided to get a 3DS (and you should too!).
- The GBA’s sound capabilities hold back an otherwise great soundtrack.
- The field sprites feel a bit oversimplified at times, but get the job in the end.
- A great way to introduce yourself into this fantastic franchise.
- Many different difficulty settings, from beginner to completely unforgiving.
- Very nice artwork with the character portraits, backdrops, and the inserted vignettes for special cutscenes.