Intelligent Systems

Part 1: Intelligent Systems
Part 2: Dark Dragon and Sword of Light
Part 3: Fire Emblem Gaiden
Part 4: Mystery of the Emblem
Part 5: Genealogy of the Holy War
Part 6: Thracia 776
Part 7: Sword of Seals
Part 8: Blazing Sword
Part 9: Fire Emblem Tradition
Part 10: BS, The Anime, The Card Game, and the Future

Originally written for
in January 2004
by Derek Miller

A History of Fire Emblem
Famicom Wars

In 1973 Nintendo decided to expand its presence in the electronics market so the company split its electronics department into three branches named R&D1, R&D2, and R&D3. R&D1 was headed up by Gunpei Yokoi who would help in the development of Metroid and Kid Icarus as well as the creation of the original Game Boy. Shigeru Miyamoto also got his start at R&D1 where he worked under Gunpei Yokoi until the success of Donkey Kong prompted Nintendo to let Miyamoto run his own team. In 1986 a group of R&D1 programmers left Nintendo to form Intelligent Systems, but Nintendo almost immediately bought the company and made them a separate division of R&D1 under Gunpei Yokoi. Gunpei's group began work on Famicom Wars, which was released in 1988. The success of Famicom Wars led to the development of the first Fire Emblem game which would be released in 1990.

Just before the release of the Super Nintendo Intelligent Systems was split into four teams: Team Deer Force that developed Super Metroid, Team Shikamaru that developed Mario Paint and assisted in the development of Super Metroid and Super Famicom Wars, Team Battle Clash that worked on the Super Scope and games for the accessory, and Team Emblem. Intelligent Systems saw success with most of their games, but especially with Super Metroid as the game is considered by many to be one of the best games of all time.

Gunpei YokoiPrior to the release of the Nintendo 64 Intelligent Systems devised the Virtual Boy, but the system turned out to be a rare failure for Nintendo. Gunpei Yokoi was embarrassed by the failure and left the company in 1996. In late 1997 Gunpei was tragically killed in a car accident at the age of 56, but his work outside of Nintendo led to what became the WonderSwan portable system. Shortly after Gunpei's tragic car accident the creator of Fire Emblem, Shozo Kaga, left Nintendo to form Tirnanog Co. Nintendo ended up suing Tirnanog for their game Tear Ring Saga for Playstation, which was marketed under the name Emblem Saga until about a month before the game's release. This was a difficult time for Intelligent Systems, and many of their Nintendo 64 projects were cancelled or just were not popular. The one shining beacon during this time was the sequel to Mario RPG, Paper Mario, but for the most part Intelligent Systems struggled for quite some time after Gunpei Yokoi left.

Advance Wars BoxToday, though, Intelligent Systems is committed to Nintendo's portable system, and they have released some of the most popular games for Game Boy Advance. Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Metroid Fusion, and Metroid: Zero Mission are just a few of those popular games, but when Advance Wars was released it really convinced Nintendo that strategy games could do well in the United States. The game was released on 9/11 in the United States, which almost prompted Nintendo to pull it off the market. Luckily they didn't, but the game was delayed for months in Europe, and was never released in Japan. The combination of the September 11th attack and very little marketing for Advance Wars prompted sales to start slowly. As word about the game spread, however, sales picked up and made Advance Wars one of the biggest sleeper hits ever for Nintendo. This convinced Nintendo to let Intelligent Systems create a sequel, but it wasn't enough to convince them to let Intelligent Systems release their next Fire Emblem outside Japan. The game, in Nintendo's opinion, would be too hard for American gamers, but the company told Intelligent Systems to make their next Fire Emblem game a tad bit easier to gear it for an American release. The U.S. finally saw a Fire Emblem game in November of 2003, but it wasn't until seven games in the series had been released. The series started anonymously enough, but it would turn out to be one of Nintendo's most popular franchises.

Go to PART 2: The Creation of a Genre