Title: Fire Emblem Gaiden
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It seems all of Nintendo's long-running series have had one quirky title. Super Mario Bros. 2 as well as the second Legend of Zelda both stand out from the rest of the games in their respective franchises. Donkey Kong 3 was also a strange twist to the early Donkey Kong formula as it featured pesticide and bugs instead of gorillas and barrels. The second Fire Emblem game is the required eccentric uncle of the Fire Emblem series. Fire Emblem Gaiden was released on March 14th, 1992 about a week before Sega's Shining Force debuted for Sega Genesis. Gaiden enjoyed even more success in terms of sales than the original Fire Emblem, but, as with the second Mario and Zelda, fans of the series either loved or hated Fire Emblem Gaiden.
Fire Emblem Gaiden, which fans of the Ninja Gaiden series probably know means Fire Emblem Side Story, takes place in the same world as the original Fire Emblem, but on a totally different continent. There is little mention of the original game's continent of Akanea, and the action takes place in the land of Valencia, which is home to three kingdoms. The kingdoms of Sofia and Rigel are bitter enemies, but they avoid war because of the kingdom of Mira. Mira is actually more of a city than a large kingdom like Sofia or Rigel, and is home to a shrine dedicated to a priestess of the same name. When conflict between the two warring nations became too much to bear, Mira created a river to separate the two kingdoms at their northern and southern borders. Mira said the river would remain until both nations went to Mira and agreed to remove the river at the same time. Although Mira was worried about war between Sofia and Rigel there is another threat to all of Valencia. The master thief Geeth has taken over much of the eastern part of Valencia, but due to the river he is unable to concentrate his power in either Sofia or Rigel at one time so he mainly focuses on Sofia. At the same time Rigel is in the midst of a civil war that is looking to get worse before it gets better. All of this is going on when you begin Fire Emblem Gaiden.
The main characters in Fire Emblem Gaiden both hail from Sofia. In fact, one of the characters, Celica, is heir to the throne of the country. However, General Tozeh, with the aid of the kingdom of Rigel, has killed the king of Sofia and taken the throne for himself. It appears Tozeh was also working with the thief Geeth to ensure Sofia was distracted enough to pull off his coup. The people of Sofia aren't going to take this lightly, however, and led by the second main character, Alm, they set out to recruit soldiers, defeat Tozeh, and attack Rigel. Celica, however, doesn't want to invade Rigel, as she believes Emperor Rudolf is not a bad man. She thinks of him in this light until it is discovered Rudolf was behind the disappearance of the priestess Mira. Mira usually keeps the peace in Valencia so her disapperance is the main reason why Geeth and Tozeh have gone unchecked. So it is up to childhood friends Alm and Celica to save Mira, defeat Tozeh, and invade Rigel to finally bring peace to Valencia.
Fire Emblem Gaiden has the same battles as the first game, and screenshots of the battlefields in this game are nearly impossible to differentiate from screenshots from the first game. The difference between the two games, and what made Fire Emblem Gaiden extremely unique, was the deluge of RPG elements added to the game. Instead of a large number of battles spread across a world map, there are five extremely long chapters consisting of classic Fire Emblem battles as well as town exploration similar to role-playing games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. You are presented with a world map and a route chartered out for you. Each step on the map represents a location you can visit such as a town or cave, and some locations contain enemy icons that let you know a massive battle will take place there. The battles, while larger than those in the original Fire Emblem, have a few restrictions not present in the original game. For one, there are no shops to buy weapons from during battle so you can only get new weapons from treasure chests, defeated enemies, or in town. This takes away from the strategy a little bit, but your characters upgrade in pretty much the same way they did in the first game. Another difference in Gaiden when compared to the original game is characters changing classes. Some characters in Gaiden can change class when they reach a certain level, but the difference from other Fire Emblem games is you can choose from five different classes for these characters. Archers and magical units work differently as well. Archers are no longer given an attack bonus against flying units, and they can counterattack melee attacks. Magic spells drained the HP of the spellcaster in Gaiden and they can learn new spells as they level up. This was also the only Fire Emblem where you fought against monsters other than dragons. You could even create some monsters of your own by summoning clay soldiers with your spellcasters.
Fire Emblem Gaiden is generally considered to be one of the hardest Fire Emblem games. If you lost enough units in chapter one and completed chapter two you may find out you can't continue because of the number of units you lost in the first chapter. Some people would play through ten hours of the game before they found this out. The game was brutal, and is probably only surpassed in difficulty by Thracia 776 for Super Nintendo. There was a hidden easy mode in the game, which gave you double the experience and more items from enemies, but it still made for an incredibly difficult videogame. For fans of the Fire Emblem series Gaiden truly stands out among the other games in the series because of the greater influx of RPG elements. A lot of people still liked the game seeing as it sold even better than the original game, but most people were happy when the next Fire Emblem was more in the vein of the first title. In fact, the next Fire Emblem game would even include the original Fire Emblem with a few bonuses and improvements.