Title: Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryuu To Hikari No Tsurugi
Originally written for
In the summer of 1988 Nintendo released Intelligent Systems' first game under their new moniker: Famicom Wars. The game saw great success in Japan, and convinced Nintendo to allow Intelligent Systems to develop a game they had brewing that possessed many of the same strategy elements of Famicom Wars, but also including many role-playing elements that would differentiate the game from the popular war strategy title. The game had been conceived by Shozo Kaga, and under his direction the studio quickly went to work to develop it. While it wouldn't be the most technically impressive game on the NES the gameplay would be mimicked by every company from Sega to Squaresoft, and the series would eventually become the most popular strategy/RPG series in Japan even after all of the copycats were released.
On April 20th, 1990 Nintendo unleashed Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryuu To Hikari No Tsurugi upon the Land of the Rising Sun. Translating roughly to Fire Emblem: Dark Dragon and Sword of Light the game was the first mainstream strategy/RPG beating Sega's Shining Force by two years and Banpestro's Super Robot Taisen by a year. Fire Emblem featured battles similar to Famicom Wars in the fact that the battles were totally automatic and were decided based on offensive and defensive numbers. Fire Emblem, though, featured battles between individual units while Famicom Wars had groups of troops attacking each other. The major difference between the two games, however, was that while Famicom Wars was based on building troops and sending them off to their deaths, Fire Emblem was about unique characters who gained levels like in an RPG. Another catch, and a staple of the Fire Emblem series, was that once a character died that character was dead for good. Although there was a way late in the game to revive a single character, there was no reviving multiple characters like in the Ogre Battle series that would come in 1993. Even better is that cut-scenes would change depending on what characters were still alive, and some cut-scenes might not be seen at all if a certain character was dead. This led to some serious strategizing by Japanese gamers who wanted to see every character make it through to the end of the game.
Marth, who many Nintendo fans know from his cameo in Super Smash Bros. Melee, is the star of the original Fire Emblem. Marth was prince of the kingdom of Altea, but he was forced into exile by the king and resides in the island kingdom of Talis at the game's beginning. However, an evil alliance of the kingdoms of Dolua, Gra, Grunia, and Macedonia has seen Marth's former kingdom quickly overrun, and Marth worries about his sister who remains in Altea. When pirates attack Talis it convinces the king of Talis to send Marth, along with the kingdom's armies, on a quest to free Altea and strike down the evil kingdoms on the continent of Akanea.
Early in Marth's quest to free his kingdom he discovers his sister has been kidnapped by the evil Garnef so he can use her power to resurrect the dark dragon Medeus. When Medeus is resurrected he takes control of the kingdom of Dolua and leads the armies of the four evil kingdoms. As a descendant of the original wielder of the Sword of Light, Marth is given the Fire Emblem, which is a part of the powerful Falchion sword and proof that Marth is the destined wielder of the mighty blade. The Falchion is the only weapon capable of defeating Medeus, and Marth must find the weapon if he has any hopes of winning.
The original Fire Emblem was the game where Intelligent Systems tested things out. The arena forced you to risk both money and the fighting unit in order to participate, you couldn't save in the middle of a chapter, and the victory condition of every chapter was to seize the castle gate or throne with Marth. That didn't take away from the fun of the game, however, and it is also considered to be one of the most difficult in the series. To beat the late chapters of the game it is necessary to recruit some of the early powerful characters and protect them for as long as possible. Of course it was difficult to protect your characters in the game, but recruiting them in the first place usually entailed protecting a village from attack, which was many times almost impossible to do if you wanted all of your troops to survive a chapter. Another difficult part of the game was that the Falchion sword could easily be missed in the game, which would force you to fight Medeus without it. It was possible to beat Medeus without the Falchion, but certainly not easily. The original Fire Emblem provided a great challenge for gamers, and its immense success would warrant a sequel two years later.