On April 20th, 1990, Nintendo released Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light for the Famicom. The Japanese Strategy/RPG series followed with several installments that never came to U.S. shores until the 7th entry. Thanks to Marth and Roy’s appearance in Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001), and largely due to fan demand to release the series outside of Japan, Nintendo would eventually release Fire Emblem: Blazing Blade (2003) in the west for Game Boy Advance.
Why do people love Fire Emblem?
Perhaps one of the most defining traits of Fire Emblem is its character design. Super Smash Bros. Melee created icons out of Marth and Roy. But the series is widely known for its colorful artwork and memorable character designs. While the fantasy storyline tasked you with saving the world, you would also learn about the backstories of your comrades-in-arms.
Fire Emblem: Blazing Blade quickly became popular thanks to its addictive Strategy/RPG (SRPG) gameplay. The grid-based gameplay offered movement similar to Chess. However, the level of flexibility and variety Fire Emblem offered, in its map design, classes, and overall gameplay, resonated well with fans.
But Fire Emblem introduced the permadeath mechanic. Lose a unit and they will stay dead. Your option would be either to press forward without them or restart the entire map and give them another chance. Note that later games, from Awakening onward, became much more forgiving in that department.
While the west had seen other SRPGs, such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, and Shining Force, prior to Blazing Blade’s release, Fire Emblem offered more to the genre. Fire Emblem quickly became known for its addictive gameplay. You could promote your units, earning a new weapon and more powerful stats. Plus you could support units, growing their bonds, and even giving them a special ending together. Blazing Blade featured several difficulty modes, including one that let you play through Hector’s Route. This began a series tradition where you could replay a title to see another part of the story.
Additionally, Fire Emblem is known for its remarkable storytelling. Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn speak of relevant, worldly themes such as racial and class divide. It showcases horrors of war and even pit former friends against each other, something you would see in Fates and Three Houses. Even the Japanese-exclusive titles, like Genealogy of the Holy War, weren’t afraid to showcase dark themes, such as incest and genocide.
Fire Emblem also gained recognition for its music. The map, battle, and recruitment themes all share special recognition. Many of them appeared as remixes in the Super Smash Bros. series. “Together We Ride,” the recruitment theme from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, stood out as being one of the most famous due to its inclusion in Melee.
Decline and Rise
Despite several releases appearing in the west, none of them sold as well as Blazing Blade. In fact, the remake of Mystery of the Emblem, for DS, never came to America. Plus, due to its poor sales, the series began a major decline. It was thanks to every possible effort by developer Intelligent Systems and Nintendo to make Awakening the success it would become. What could have been the final game in the series breathed new life into Fire Emblem.Thanks to heavy marketing, new mechanics, and broadening the fanbase, Fire Emblem: Awakening would go on to become the series best-selling title. It would later be succeeded by Fire Emblem Fates, also released for 3DS. Nintendo would continue to appeal to fans, and reel in new fans, with spin-offs, such as the free-to-play mobile title, Fire Emblem Heroes, which was released in 2017.
Most recently, Nintendo released Fire Emblem: Three Houses, for Nintendo Switch, in summer of last year. The title features over 100 hours of gameplay and story and quickly became one of the Switch’s most successful titles. Among its accolades includes a score of 89, at Metacritic, and winning the Player’s Voice award at last year’s Game Awards. Additionally, Three Houses’ success would also influence Nintendo’s decision to include Byleth into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
How is Nintendo celebrating?
In Fire Emblem Heroes, Nintendo has released a new orb banner celebrating the 30th anniversary. This includes a throwback, of sorts, to Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem. These two stories feature Marth and the origin of the series. Keep in mind that Mystery of the Emblem’s “Book I” is a remake of Shadow Dragon, for the Super Famicom (SNES), while Book II continues the story after.
In this banner, you can summon childhood versions of Marth, Caeda, Merric, Palla, and recruit Minerva as a free unit. As a duo-unit, Palla also comes with her little sisters, Catria and Est. This throwback also features maps based on the original Shadow Dragon. Nintendo will continue posting updates on their social media channels for Fire Emblem Heroes. Keep up to date with their Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts for more info.
Additionally, Nintendo and Cygames’s collaborative mobile JRPG, Dragalia Lost, will also hold another Fire Emblem crossover. While the series has crossed over in the past with Fire Emblem, as well as Mega Man, this event will also center around the series’ 30th anniversary. You can check it out in the tweet below.
How are the fans celebrating?
Twitter has already begun trending #FireEmblem to celebrate the series’ 30th anniversary. If you search for the trend, you will find numerous works of fanart and cosplay dedicated to the series. Be sure to check them out!
Meanwhile, some of the series’ voice actors are also celebrating the anniversary.
Many players will surely celebrate Fire Emblem’s 30th anniversary by clearing routes in Three Houses. I, for one, hope to clear my Golden Deer run before the month ends. Also, if you own Three Houses but haven’t done so already, be sure to check out the Cindered Shadows DLC from the Three Houses Expansion Pass, which released earlier this year!
How are you celebrating the 30th anniversary of Fire Emblem? What’s your favorite game in the series? Let us know in the comments below.