Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem[a] is a fantasy tactical role-playing game franchise developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo. First produced and published for the Family Computer (Famicom), the series consists of fifteen main games and three spin-offs. Described by its creators as a "role-playing game simulation", the gameplay revolves around tactical movement of characters across grid-based environments, while incorporating a story and characters similar to traditional role-playing video games.

A noted aspect of gameplay is the permanent death of characters in battle, removing them from the rest of the game should they be defeated. In the newer titles, from Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem onwards, players get the choice between Classic mode, where characters permanently die, or Casual mode, where fallen characters revive for the next battle. The series title refers to the "Fire Emblem", usually portrayed as a royal weapon or shield that represents the power of war and dragons, a recurring element in the series. Development of the first game began as a dōjin project by Shouzou Kaga and three other developers. Its success prompted the development of further titles in the series. Shouzou Kaga headed development of each entry until the release of Thracia 776, when he left Intelligent Systems and founded his own game studio to develop Tear Ring Saga.

No games in the series were released outside of Japan until two characters, Marth and Roy, were included as playable characters in the 2001 fighting game Super Smash Bros. Melee. Their popularity eventually convinced Nintendo to release the next game, The Blazing Blade, in Western regions under the title Fire Emblem in 2003. Many games in the series have sold well, despite a decline during the 2000s which resulted in the series' near-cancellation. Individual entries have generally been praised, and the series as a whole has been lauded for its gameplay, and it is cited as a seminal series in the tactical role-playing genre. Characters from multiple games have also been included in crossovers with other franchises.

Titles

Timeline of release years
1990 Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light
1991
1992 Gaiden
1993
1994 Mystery of the Emblem
1995
1996 Genealogy of the Holy War
1997
1998
1999 Thracia 776
2000
2001
2002 The Binding Blade
2003 The Blazing Blade
2004 The Sacred Stones
2005 Path of Radiance
2006
2007 Radiant Dawn
2008 Shadow Dragon
2009
2010 New Mystery of the Emblem
2011
2012 Awakening
2013
2014
2015 Fates
2016
2017 Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
2018
2019 Three Houses

Games

According to a developer interview with the developers of Fire Emblem Fates, there are currently 16 games in the Fire Emblem series, including remakes of earlier titles.[1] Of the sixteen games, thirteen have been original games, and three have been remakes.[2]

The first entry in the series, Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, was released in 1990 for the Japanese Famicom. A second title for the Famicom, Fire Emblem Gaiden, was released in 1992. It is known for having unusual mechanics compared to the rest of the series, such as dungeon exploration. It takes place in a similar timeframe as Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, but on a different continent. In 1994, Mystery of the Emblem was released for the Super Famicom, containing both a remake of Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light and a sequel of the first game. Two more games were released for the Super Famicom in 1996 and 1999 respectively: Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776.[3][4]

The next entry released was The Binding Blade in 2002 for the Game Boy Advance.[4][5] A prequel to The Binding Blade - The Blazing Blade - was released for the Game Boy Advance the following year.[3] It was released overseas under the title Fire Emblem in 2003 in North America and 2004 in Europe, the first official exposure to the Fire Emblem series in these regions.[6][7] The final entry for the Game Boy Advance, The Sacred Stones, was released in 2004 in Japan, and in 2005 in North America and Europe.[3][4][8]

The ninth entry in the series, Path of Radiance, was released on the GameCube worldwide in 2005. It was the first Fire Emblem to feature 3D graphics, voice acting, and full-motion animated cutscenes.[3][4][9][10] A direct sequel to Path of Radiance, Radiant Dawn was released for the Wii in 2007 in Japan and North America, and 2008 in Europe.[3][11][12]

In 2008, the series returned to portable handhelds with two releases for the Nintendo DS. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon was an expanded remake of the first game, released in 2008 in Japan and Europe, and 2009 in North America. Shadow Dragon makes use of unique DS features unavailable to the Famicom and introduced new characters, added additional story elements, revamped mechanics, and modernized graphics.[13][14][15] A Japanese-only entry, New Mystery of the Emblem, was released in 2010 for the DS as a remake of Mystery of the Emblem.[16][17][18]

The series moved to the Nintendo 3DS with Fire Emblem Awakening, the thirteenth game in the series, released in 2012 in Japan and 2013 in North America and Europe.[19][20][21] Awakening was a major success with high sales figures and credited as revitalizing the franchise.[22] The second entry for the Nintendo 3DS, Fates, was released in June 2015 in Japan, February 2016 in North America, and in May 2016 for Europe and Australia. Fates comes in three versions: two physical versions titled Birthright and Conquest, and a third route titled Revelation released as downloadable content.[23][24] A third entry, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, was released on the Nintendo 3DS in 2017.[25][26][27] Echoes is an enhanced remake of Gaiden, maintaining many of the unique features of Gaiden while revamping the graphics and script, and adding several ease-of-play improvements.

During the Nintendo Direct presentation at E3 2018, Fire Emblem: Three Houses was announced for the Nintendo Switch, and is set to release on July 26, 2019.[28]

In 1997, an episodic prequel to Mystery of the Emblem titled BS Fire Emblem: Archanea Senki-hen were released through Satellaview.[29] The events of Archanea Senki were included in the remake of Mystery of the Emblem.[30] BS Fire Emblem is considered an official part of the series by some developers, but not generally by fans.[31] A crossover with the Shin Megami Tensei series, Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE, was released in December 2015 in Japan and worldwide in June 2016 for the Wii U.[32] Tokyo Mirage Sessions was developed by Atlus rather than Intelligent Systems and combines gameplay, narrative, and aesthetic elements from both the Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei series. Fire Emblem Heroes is a spin-off gacha game for Android and iOS, and was released in February 2017 for mobile devices.[33] Heroes is a crossover of characters from across the Fire Emblem series, rather than with another series, and also introduced original characters not seen in any other Fire Emblem game. A crossover with the Dynasty Warriors series, Fire Emblem Warriors, was released for the New Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Switch in 2017.[34] It was developed by Omega Force and Team Ninja.

Characters from the Fire Emblem series have appeared in a number of other titles as cameos or as part of crossovers. This includes multiple entries in the Super Smash Bros. series, beginning with protagonists Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee.[4][35] Characters from the series also appeared in Intelligent Systems' strategy game Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. as optional characters unlocked via amiibo.[36]

A Fire Emblem game was initially in development for the Nintendo 64 and its peripheral 64DD. Originally codenamed Fire Emblem 64, it was first revealed by Shigeru Miyamoto in 1997.[37] Ultimately, due to poor sales for the 64DD and internal structural changes at Intelligent Systems, Fire Emblem 64 was cancelled in 2000 and development shifted to what would become Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade.[38][4][39] Work done for Fire Emblem 64 was incorporated into The Binding Blade.[38][5]

An additional title for the Wii was planned that would have been released after Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, but after trial and error and an unfocused development schedule, the project was cancelled.[40]

Intelligent Systems never planned a Fire Emblem title for the Wii U. Nintendo producer Hitoshi Yamagami said such a game would need to sell 700,000 copies to be profitable.[41]

Related media

A short original video animation series based on Mystery of the Emblem was created in 1997. These anime episodes were released in North America, six years before The Blazing Blade was localized.[42] Nintendo produced Amiibo figures of Fire Emblem characters; they are compatible with Fates, Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.[43][44][45][46] Manga based on the games have also been produced, including Binding Blade and Awakening.[47][48] Two trading card games have been made with the Fire Emblem franchise: Fire Emblem: Trading Card Game, which was released from 2001–2006, and Fire Emblem 0 (Cipher), which was released in 2015 and is still producing expansions and new cards as of 2018.[48][49][50]

Common elements

Setting

The Fire Emblem games take place across multiple unrelated settings within a Medieval or Renaissance-themed time period, with the main protagonist, usually royalty, caught in the conflict of two or more countries across a continent and fighting for their cause.[51][52][53] The continents of Archanea and Valentia are the settings of Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, Gaiden, Mystery of the Emblem and Awakening, and the planned setting for Fire Emblem 64.[4][54][55] Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776 are set in Jugdral, distantly connected with Archanea and Valentia, while Fire Emblem and Binding Blade take place in Elibe. The Sacred Stones is set in Magvel and Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn are set on the continent Tellius.[4] Fates is the only one not set on a named continent, instead known by its main kingdoms, Hoshido and Nohr; however, a DLC path in Fates implies that the two kingdoms are considered legends on the in-game lore of Awakening.

A recurring element in the series is the titular magical Fire Emblem. In Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, it is a shield inset with five magical gems. Its name derives from its connection to dragons and weapons of war, being the "emblem of flame".[56] It also appears as a family crest in Genealogy of the Holy War, a family seal in The Binding Blade, a magic gemstone in The Sacred Stones, a bronze medallion holding a goddess of chaos in Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, and a sword in Fates.[57] Other magical elements, including feuding gods and mystical species such as dragons and shapeshifters, are also recurring elements in the series.[4]

Gameplay

Fire Emblem's developers have described it as an "RPG simulation", combining tactical simulation gameplay with the plot and character development of a role-playing game, creating a sense of connection with characters not present in previous tactical games.[58] Battles in the Fire Emblem series play out on a grid-based map, with the player controlling a set number of characters across maps tied to both the game's story and optional side stories. Each character has a specific character class, giving them set abilities and affecting how far they can move across the field. Some character classes have innate skills unique to them, and each character has its own class and stats. Depending on the series entry, a character's class can be changed or upgraded with or without special items. During battle, each character gains experience points by performing actions, such as attacking an enemy, healing an ally, and slaying a foe (which typically offers the most experience points). When a certain level is reached, the character levels up, and new skill points are awarded randomly to a character's attributes, be they the character's health, agility or strength. The more a character is used in battle, the more experience that character gains.[59][60][61][62]

A key element in combat since Genealogy of the Holy War is the Weapon Triangle, a system governing the strengths and weaknesses certain weapons and types of magic have against each other in a rock–paper–scissors fashion. For weapons, lances are stronger than swords, swords are stronger than axes, and axes are stronger than lances. In the magic system, fire is stronger than wind, wind is stronger than thunder, and thunder is stronger than fire.[4][59][60] From The Binding Blade through Radiant Dawn, these three elements are collectively known as anima magic. Anima is stronger than light, light stronger than darkness, and darkness stronger than anima. In Fates, the Weapon Triangle relationships add other weapons: swords and tomes are stronger than axes and bows, axes and bows are stronger than lances and shurikens, and lances and shurikens are stronger than swords and tomes.[63] Most games use a Weapon Durability system: after being used a certain number of times, a character's weapon will break. Different entries have various systems related to weapons: in Genealogy of the Holy War, weapons can be repaired at special shops; in Path of Radiance and future games, weapons can be bought and upgraded, while Fates replaces the durability system with a system where more powerful weapons weaken some of their wielder's stats.[60][64]

Both inside and outside battle, character relationships can be developed, increasing certain battle abilities.[59][65] A feature introduced in Genealogy of the Holy War and used in later titles was characters who fall in love can have a child who inherits certain skills and stats from them.[4][59] One of the recurring features in the series is permanent death, a function in which units defeated in battle are permanently removed from the party, with very few exceptions (one exception being the main character). Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem: Heroes of Light and Shadow introduced Casual Mode, in which dead characters were revived at the end of a battle. Fates added Phoenix Mode, in which defeated characters are revived on the player's next turn. Another inclusion from Fates is 'My Castle', a customizable castle that serves as the player's base of operations throughout the game.[59][64][66]

Development

The first Fire Emblem title, Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, was originally never intended as a commercial game, defined by creator Shouzou Kaga as a dōjin project with three other job-holding students. As it turned out, the game was successful, prompting the development of more games in the series.[67] The game was developed at Intelligent Systems, whose previous notable game was the strategy game Famicom Wars.[4] Kaga would work on the Fire Emblem series until Thracia 776, when he left Nintendo and began development on Tear Ring Saga for the PlayStation.[68] After Thracia 776, the Fire Emblem series had several releases on portable devices. At this time, Marth and Roy from Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light and Sword of Seals appeared as playable characters in Super Smash Bros. Melee, prompting western interest in the Fire Emblem series. The positive reception of the characters made Nintendo decide to localize The Blazing Blade under the title Fire Emblem. Due to its overseas success, it was decided to return the series to home consoles for Path of Radiance for the GameCube. Despite it arriving late in the GameCube's life cycle, it provided a late boost to sales, reaffirming Nintendo's faith in the series.[4][69] By 2010, the series was suffering from declining sales and Nintendo told Intelligent Systems that if their next Fire Emblem failed to sell above 250,000 units, the series would be cancelled. This prompted Intelligent Systems to include lots of features new to the series, intending to make it the culmination of the series.[18][70] The game's reception and sales ended up saving the series from cancellation, convincing Nintendo to continue production.[1]

The series' original music was composed by Yuka Tsujiyoko. As the only music composer at Intelligent Systems when Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light was in production, she acted as both composer and sound director, up until Thracia 776, when she left the company to freelance after completing the score for Paper Mario.[68] She has worked on later Fire Emblem games, alongside other composers including Saki Kasuga, Hiroki Morishita, and Rei Kondoh.[71][72] The series includes several other notable staff members: Tohru Narihiro, who was involved in every Fire Emblem since the original; Masahiro Higuchi, who began as a graphics designer for Genealogy of the Holy War; and Kouhei Maeda, who wrote the scenarios for every game since The Sword of Flame and became a director for Awakening.[18][69] Multiple artists are associated with the series. The characters for the first game and the remake of Mystery of the Emblem were designed by Daisuke Idzuka.[49] The characters of Mystery of the Emblem and Genealogy of the Holy War were designed by Katsuyoshi Koya, who later worked on designs for the Fire Emblem Trading Card Game. Katsuyoshi, who was unsatisfied with his work on the series, stepped down for Thracia 776. The designer for Thracia 776 was Mayumi Hirota, whose brief tenure with the series ended when he left Intelligent Systems with Kaga after the game's completion. Nevertheless, his art for the series was described by Kaga as his favorite up to that point.[50][73] Other artists involved in later games are Eiji Kaneda (Binding Blade), Sachiko Wada (The Sacred Stones) and Senri Kita (Path of Radiance, Radiant Dawn).[49] For Shadow Dragon, the character artwork was redone by Ghost in the Shell artist Masamune Shirow.[74] Awakening's character designers were Toshiyuki Kusakihara and Yūsuke Kozaki, who were brought on to give a new look to the series.[18][31] Kozaki returned as character designer for Fates.[1]

Reception

Sales and aggregate review scores
As of February 19th, 2019.
Game Year Units sold
(in millions)
GameRankings Score Metacritic
(out of 100)
Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light 1990 0.33[75] - -
Gaiden 1992 0.32[75] - -
Mystery of the Emblem 1994 0.78[75] - -
Genealogy of the Holy War 1996 0.50[75] - -
Thracia 776 1999 0.11[75] 99.00%[76] -
The Binding Blade 2002 0.35[77] - -
Fire Emblem 2003 - 88.83%[91] 88[78]
The Sacred Stones 2004 - 84.81%[92] 85[79]
Path of Radiance 2005 - 85.72%[93] 85[80]
Radiant Dawn 2007 - 78.95%[94] 78[81]
Shadow Dragon 2008 - 80.80%[95] 81[82]
New Mystery of the Emblem 2010 - -
Awakening 2012 1.9[85] 92.52%[96] 92[86]
Fates 2015 1.6[85] 89.07%[97] 88[87][b]
Echoes: Shadows of Valentia 2017 - 83.34%[83] 81[84]

The first five Fire Emblem games were successful in Japan, selling 329,087; 324,699; 776,338; 498,216 and 106,108 copies respectively. As of 2002, total sales had reached over two million copies.[75] Awakening topped the total sales of both Radiant Dawn and the Mystery of the Emblem remake in its first week. It went on to sell 1.79 million copies worldwide and become the best-selling Fire Emblem title in western territories.[98][99]

The Fire Emblem series is popular in Japan.[5] In 2007, a Japanese public poll named Mystery of the Emblem as one of the country's All Time Top 100 video games.[100] Speaking to USGamer, Massive Chalice creator Brad Muir commented on how Fire Emblem had influenced the game, referring to it as "[a] venerable strategy series", making positive reference to its gameplay and character relationships.[101] In her review of Awakening, IGN's Audrey Drake said that "Far too few people have played the Fire Emblem series", calling it "[a] darling of the hardcore strategy RPG crowd - and one of the shining gems of the genre".[102]

Several journalistic sites have cited its low notoriety in the west as an effect of Nintendo's sporadic localization efforts, along with its place in a niche game genre. At the same time, they have praised the series' gameplay, regularly noting its high difficulty and relationship mechanics.[51][52][62][103] Game Informer and Gamasutra both cited the series as an inspiration for later popular tactical role-playing games, with Gamasutra naming Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Final Fantasy Tactics and the Disgaea series as being influenced by its design.[62][104] Destructoid writer Chris Carter, writing in 2014, praised the series' mechanics, at the same time listing the five best games in the series: among those he chose were Mystery of the Emblem, Path of Radiance, and Awakening.[51] Awakening is generally cited as having brought the series more publicity and player attention.[51][104]

Tear Ring Saga lawsuit

After Kaga left Nintendo, he founded a studio called Tirnanog and began development on a game titled Emblem Saga, a strategy role-playing game for the PlayStation. The game bore multiple similarities to the Fire Emblem series, and Nintendo filed a lawsuit against Tirnanog for copyright infringement. The first suit failed, and the court ruled in Tirnanog's favor. Nintendo filed a second lawsuit, and this time was awarded a cash settlement of ¥76 million. Nevertheless, Tirnanog and publisher Enterbrain were still allowed to publish the title, though they changed its name to Tear Ring Saga, and eventually developed a sequel. Nintendo attempted taking a third lawsuit to the Japanese Supreme Court in 2005, but the second ruling was upheld.[105][106][107][108]

See also

Copyright