It was the first one in the States, okay? It was also the first one I played, so it fits.
Fire Emblem has grown to have a lot of extra gameplay mechanics over the years. Weddings and kids. Teaching. Tag-teams. As time has gone on, more and more stuff has been added to this tactical RPG series. It’s practically unrecognizable at this point!
Today, I want to go back to the simple days. When the only thing you had in your tactical RPG was a story, some extra dialogue with side characters, and… a tactical RPG. Today, I want to review the first game in the series to be localized in America, Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade.
Which I’ll be referring to as Fire Emblem. Because I am an American.
This game is a perfect blend of accessible, challenging, and fun! Each level presents a unique and taxing challenging, forcing you to use all of your units and the environment to claim victory! The story, while not exceptional, is emotionally engaging from beginning to end! It has the charming aesthetic of a GBA game (which I am very biased towards, leave me alone), which still holds up to this day.
It isn’t a flawless game, mind you. But we’ll get into that in a bit. Just know this upfront: I adore this game! Problems and all!
Plot: Parent Problems
Plotwise, this game is weird. The tutorial, which is roughly nine missions long, has a story all to itself, almost completely separate from the bulk of the game. It’s come mission ten that the game’s real story begins. So, for the sake of consistency, we’ll go over them both.
You play as a faceless tactician (remember when the only role you played in the game was the tactician and not a super-powerful god person?). One day, after passing out in a field, you’re picked up by Lyn, a friendly girl who has recently been orphaned. With your help, she leaves home and begins to claim her vengeance on the bandits that took her parents. Along the way, you meet up with a pair of knights, who reveal something crucial regarding Lyn that she doesn’t even know: she is the granddaughter of an ill noble lord, and she is his only successor! Unfortunately, the lord’s brother is out for blood, aiming to kill both his ill brother and his newly discovered grand-niece! Now, you and Lyn must make way to her true home, picking up allies along the way to defeat her uncle!
After Lyn’s quest is complete, your character takes his leave of her and goes off on his own adventure. A few years later, he meets up with Eliwood, a noble prince that you met during your time with Lyn. Not long ago, Eliwood’s father has gone missing, and his home has gone to hell. With your help, Eliwood fights back against a mysterious cult that is bringing chaos all over the world. Along the way, you’ll pick up Hector, Eliwood’s oldest friend, and your old friend Lyn! Together, along with a huge cast of other characters, you go on an epic quest to stop dark sorcerors, rampaging killers, and prevent the return of the Dragons!
While the plot does have a few twists and turns here and there, it is far from polished. The characters are all very one-note, with very little to no development. The cast of supporting characters are all fairly bland, with a likable personality and no depth whatsoever. After a character is introduced, they’ll get about a level or two to shine before sitting back and letting Eliwood be a generic Fire Emblem protagonist in the spotlight.
Still, it is engaging. The characters are likable enough to make you care about their well-being. Each scene is engaging and sets the stage for the level ahead perfectly. Every emotional gut-punch hits with enough impact to be both enjoyable and memorable. The pacing is a bit rough, but it is better more often than it is worse.
By Fire Emblem standards, this game has a phenomenal story. But by fantasy story standards, it is just that. Standard. It has many memorable characters and many more forgettable ones. It’s a good story, but it didn’t win any awards.
Were there game awards when this came out?
Presentation: My Friend the GBA
It’s a GBA game. Every game on that thing looked great. At least the ones made by Nintendo and their partners.
This game looks great, even today. The characters and environments are all colorful and distinct. The sprites are rock solid, featuring some of the best combat animations I’ve ever seen! It runs at a consistent framerate, though it isn’t an especially smooth one.
Again: it’s a GBA game. The thing wasn’t a technical powerhouse.
I’d go on about the music. But I feel like that isn’t necessary. It’s a Fire Emblem game. Of course it’s phenomenal! Each track is catchy and memorable, whether it intends to pump you up or get a tear out of you.
Yes. I am biased. Why do you ask?
Gameplay: FE At Its Simplest
This game doesn’t bog you down with a ton of extra features or mechanics. What you see is what you get.
We all know the song and dance by now. Each unit has a weapon/spell that they take into battle, differing stats and abilities, and they stay dead when they die. Swords beat axes, axes beat spears, spears beat swords, and shotgun beats everything and should always be banned. If units fight alongside each other for long enough, you’ll unlock a support conversation that fleshes out the cast (and by ‘flesh out’ I mean ‘put one character’s one-note personality against another character’s one-note personality and see what happens’).
This game is brain-dead simple. However, it is far from easy. Each level puts you up against a large variety of enemies and environmental hazards. If you aren’t careful, keeping your units well-equipped and at a high-level, you could very well lose more than one of your friends in battle! In fact, if you don’t take your time and work to keep your team up to date, you could face a TPK by the end of the game!
Now, it is worth noting that this game can be a bit clunky at times. If you want to attack with a certain weapon, you need to go into your inventory, select the weapon, equip it, then go back to the attack screen. If that weapon still doesn’t do the job and you want to be thorough, you need to repeat the whole process. This may not seem like a big problem. But after doing it over and over, numerous times on one level, it can be super annoying!
Honestly, that’s about all I can say about this game! It is brain-dead simple while still being challenging! It can be a bit clunky at times, but it holds up pretty well even today! It is still one of the better Fire Emblem games, even if the later games in the series are technically more advanced.
Save for Shadow Dragon. But I’m done talking about that.
This game is still a ton of fun to play, flaws and all! It has shown its age in a lot of places, but its still rock solid! It’s a damn shame that it’s so hard to get your hands on a copy these days because it is still absolutely worth playing!
If you can get your hands on it, I’d recommend playing Fire Emblem (Blazing Blade). If you’re a fan of the newer games in the series, you’ll find a lot of fun to be had! Plus, you’ll find a perfectly balanced challenge that will put your abilities to the test!
Now if only they localized the game that comes right after this one in the timeline. For fuck sake, Eliwood’s son is in Smash Bros! Why the fuck hasn’t it been localized yet?!