HomeVideo GamesRemembering the Classics: 2015 Highlights

Remembering the Classics: 2015 Highlights

Japan Only Fire Emblem Releases

Genealogy of the Holy War
Genealogy of the Holy War

I have considered myself a fan of the Fire Emblem series since it first came overseas in 2003. This first experience was so enjoyable, I’ve picked up every future installment as it came to North America (the exception being Radiant Dawn as I didn’t own a Wii). When I was gifted a 3DS last year, Awakening was the first game I bought for it. I’m also very excited for when Fates comes in a few months. Whenever there’s Fire Emblem news, my ears instantly perk up.

There was always one problem though. The first Fire Emblem international audiences received was actually the 7th game. Japan had a whole decade of material before people learned about Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Unlike Final Fantasy, which skipped a few numbers internationally and then made up for it with re-releases, nearly all of these games still don’t have official localization. Only the first title got both a remake and a western release as Shadow Dragon, likely to give people a chance to officially play as Marth. Everything else, including Roy’s own adventure, is still strictly for Japanese audiences.

Thracia 776
Thracia 776

Fortunately, we live in an era where emulators and savvy translators exist. Fueled by a desire to check off these old boxes, I turned to fan-translated emulations to experience what Nintendo has yet to give people officially: Genealogy of the Holy War (1996), Thracia 776 (1999), and Gaiden (1992). I had already completeled Roy’s Binding Blade a few years back through this means. It took a hefty amount of time, but I worked through these three games over the year and was incredibly fascinated by how different the experience was for each.

  • Genealogy of the Holy War: This Super Famicom hit is very well-regarded among longtime Fire Emblem fans, and I can see why. It’s completely unlike any other game in the series. Instead of the typical style where each battle is small scale and there are over 20 chapters, Genealogy had a little over 10 and each covered an entire country. You had to capture several castles for victory, battles could take over 500 turns, and the ability to use every soldier was balanced by your limited cast. It was very difficult and I’m fortunate emulators allow you to save at any point. Otherwise I could have lost hours of work with one bad move in my quest to keep everyone alive. Genealogy was also the first game to cover several decades in its story and allow you to play the children of romantic partners in the latter half, something Awakening remixed to great success.
  • Thracia 776: Thracia 776 actually takes place during Genealogy’s mid-game time jump featuring some returning characters, so naturally this was my next step. Its gameplay was very similar to more current titles which made this a pretty easy jump. What completely threw me off though was the inability to buy items. Fire Emblem games regularly have shops to buy products, but in this one, the only way to get better items was to steal from captured enemies. It was a challenge starting the game like this, though overtime my stock became so massive that I was in the clear. Thracia 776 also featured a stamina meter and prevented mounted characters from going indoors if they weren’t on foot. I had to completely revise my strategy whenever either of these problems arose. If I were to use a single character too much one battle, I would be severely disadvantaged when they were too tired for the next (my solution was to repeatedly use main protagonist Leif as he had to limit). As for mounted characters, even my strongest fighters would become nearly useless when I had to take them off their horse/dragon/pegasus. Considering how frustrating this got at times, I can see why none of this ever appeared again.

  • Gaiden: This was quite a major jump for me. After experiencing Fire Emblem in its very detailed glory, including on the SNES, going back to the NES was jarring. Gaiden is incredibly simple in design, and nearly every sprite and action is reused multiple times. Weapons didn’t break, you could only equip one item at a time, magic characters would use their own health to attack, and the entire game is split up between two heroes: Alm and Celica. To play this game, I nearly had to forget everything I had learned previously. You can trace some of the series best ideas to this one title though. Gaiden introduced the navigable world map, which both Sacred Stones and Awakening used to great success. This game also presented the idea of branching out job classes instead of keeping people strictly in one path of growth. Gaiden was easily the most unique experience of this little Fire Emblem history lesson, and it was great seeing how much the series has changed.

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