Name: Fire Emblem
Release Date (US): November 3rd, 2003
Platform: GBA
Score: 80
Beat: July 9th, 2015
Written: May 6th - May 7th, 2021

Fire Emblem (ファイアーエムブレム 烈火の剣, Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken, also officially known as The Blazing Blade in English, though I will be referring to it with its original 2003 title) is the seventh overall (I'm not counting BS FE here, I kinda think of it as an extension of Mystery of the Emblem) entry in the Fire Emblem series, the second GBA entry, and the first to be officially localized into English! The subtitle was dropped for the localization, leaving it to be called just "Fire Emblem," which would make things confusing later on when the series became more widely known internationally. Fire Emblem's western debut was met with success, enough anyway for the sequel, The Sacred Stones, to be localized as well. I actually have childhood experience with the game, but as usual, I'll talk about that stuff at the end. It keeps the mechanical simplicity of the previous entry, but reintroduces varying map objectives, good characters, and more. Gates are nerfed enough to no longer be extremely annoying, the music is overall better, and you can finally use items in the base prep menu. The game keeps the Str/Mag split, as does The Sacred Stones, battle sprites are still way out of proportion. An important addition is the Support Viewer, which as the name may imply, allows you to view any unlocked supports along with a percentage of how many supports you've unlocked of the total. Now you can actually read the supports without having to unlock them in a playthrough to see them, which actually matters now because support conversations are much improved over the last game. The game also is technically the first to feature an Avatar/My Unit, but Mark (his default name) is almost non-existent in the story, which is completely fine to me. They wouldn't even try this again until Shadow Dragon, though the My Unit was scrapped before release. New Mystery of the Emblem was the first to feature the My Unit almost as we know him/her today, but that's for another time.

As mentioned above, the map design is improved over FE6. You do more than just Seize the entire game, the egregious reinforcement problem is fixed (excluding Hector Hard Mode), and your army is not arbitrarily split for tons of chapters in the game. Your army is still split sometimes, but it hardly happens. There are some chapters that are not fun, like Battle Before Dawn, as it's a fog of war map where you have to protect Prince Zephiel whom you have to rush to so he doesn't get destroyed. Also, if you want to recruit Jaffar, you have to hope he doesn't get himself killed on the hordes of enemies that come to attack him. This is very likely to happen as he's really good, can't reliably dodge attacks, and has a Killing Edge. But for every chapter like that, there's many more good ones. The opening part of the game, Lyn Mode, which serves as an extended tutorial to the game, can be a bit boring but after you've beat it once you can just skip straight to Eliwood/Hector mode where the story actually starts. I will elaborate a bit more on Lyn Mode in the story portion of the review. And now, time to talk about Hector Hard Mode. This mode sucks. It makes the game play like FE6. Endless hordes of strong enemies, the first few chapters of the game are pure luck, it makes the whole game a slog. Anyone that says to play on Hector Hard Mode, tell 'em to screw off. I haven't played Eliwood Hard Mode, but I assume it's much better balanced considering how little it's talked about. I did a HHM playthrough last year and I did not enjoy it. Some funny things happened, but overall I just wanted it to be over as soon as possible. It's hard, but it's the kind of hard that just makes you sigh. It's not a fun challenge. Lyn Hard mode is fine though. Plus it removes the tutorial prompts and instructions, so you're no longer forced to promote Wallace.

The story is actually not a blatant copy of a previous game's story, but it still takes some cues from FE1. It starts out simple enough, a lone Tactician named Mark (name, gender, and birth month can be changed, as well as blood type in the Japanese version) is found collapsed by a Sacaen girl named Lyn. She takes him back to her hut and cares for him until bandits attack! From there, they meet new friends, new foes, and unravel a plot to assassinate Lyn, who is revealed to be the granddaughter of Lord Caelin, and the heir, provided she is still alive. Along the way they meet Eliwood, who is the real protagonist of the story, but for now, he's a side character. After the trouble in Caelin is resolved, the real story begins in Pherae, a member of the Lycian League. Eliwood's father Elbert has gone missing. Eliwood sets out with his trusty knight Marcus to find his father. Along the way he meets many new faces and some familiar ones too. He also meets the love of his life Fiora Ninian, and together they have Roy, who may or may not be important at some point. Hector also gets married to Farina and they have Lilina, who also may or may not be important eventually. Together, with the power of friendship and justice, they foil the ambitions of the evil antagonist Nergal who wants to bring back dragons that have been sealed away for world domination, not totally unlike Medius. For the most part, the story is pretty great and rather simple to follow. There's one part that ALWAYS bothers me though. Right after Eliwood gets Durandal by defeating Roland, he and his party exits the cave where they were. Nergal shows up along with a big dragon, and Durandal sorta does its thing and kills the dragon, taking Eliwood along for the ride. The dragon is revealed to be Ninian, who is actually a manakete (I can't actually remember if they're called manaketes in Elibe), along with Nils. This part is fine. What isn't fine is that at the end of the game, Brammimond shows up with Ninian, whom Brammimond revived somehow. That always bothers me. It's like, stick with her being dead or don't kill her at all. Regarding Lyn, she has very little to do with the game's plot past her section of the game. There might be a few reasons for this, but anything would be pure speculation. The developers really tried to develop connections between FE6 and 7, but due to FE6's nature as a sequel that was developed first and wasn't really written to take into account something like FE7, it falls short.

The connections between FE6 and 7 are tenuous at best, beyond the obvious. While characters like Eliwood and Hector, who prominently feature in FE6, get much more development and characterization than they ever could have dreamed of in FE6, due to the nature of FE6's writing, it would be difficult to add anything to other characters that do not appear in FE7 or develop the FE6 cast's parents. Some characters are given parents in FE7, like Rebecca is the mother of Wolt and Nino is the mother of Ray and Lugh, but they had to be written out in a way to explain their abscence from FE6. Nino for example, is harrassed by bounty hunters and goes into hiding if she has kids, along with Erk or Jaffar depending on who she A supported. The game really pushes Nino x Jaffar though, so Erk (which him having an ending with Nino just feels weird to me anyway, like, I don't know, it's hard to explain,) probably 'canonically' married someone else. I put canonically in quotes because beyond stuff that's either clearly stated, or so heavily implied it cannot be denied, discussing what's canon or not is kinda pointless. Besides, and especially with the modern FE fanbase (shiver) it just devolves into shipping wars and "my waifu is better than yours" nonsense. Despite all this, it's not really FE7's fault. After all, FE6 was already finished by the time this game was starting development and I don't believe FE6 was planned to have a prequel. Perhaps an updated version would strengthen these connections. I don't think any other FE game really needs a remake. Though the rumblings point to either an FE6 remake which would be fine as you'd be hard pressed to make it worse, or an FE4 remake which is very scary.

The music is an overall improvement from FE6. Many songs return from FE6, albeit updated to sound better. I think for the most part the FE7 counterparts are better, though like I stated in my FE6 review, songs like Beneath a New Light are better in FE6. There are a slew of bonus songs that are unlocked by beating the game in different modes (I believe, I'm not actually completely certain what the conditions are beyond "beat the game at least once") and two more that are unlocked by linking with the Mario Kart: Double Dash!! bonus disk. The non-bonus disk songs are some of the aforementioned FE6 songs, including Beneath a New Light. The two bonus disk exclusive songs are "Legend of the Dragon God" and "Royal Palace of Silezha" from FE3 and FE4, respectively. I'm not sure why of all the songs they could have picked from FE4 they went with the Silesia Castle theme, but here we are. Interestingly, this is the only time Silesia is called Silezha in English media. In the old fan translations, it uses the name (which is in English already) on the in game world map, Silesia. In the official translations, in a bid to make Silesia sound more like Ylisse for some reason, Treehouse went with Silesse in Awakening. Whatever, this is totally unrelated to FE7's music. On my brother's old copy of FE7 we actually had the bonus songs unlocked as we knew someone that had the bonus disk and a GBA-GameCube link cable. However, that copy is long gone and as far as I know, there are no Gameshark codes to unlock those songs in the sound test. I did get a replacement a few years ago, and wowee I picked a good time to do so because the prices the game goes for on eBay these days is insane.

So, to end this off before anymore random tangents, I have quite a history with this game. I had played it as a kid, but never got far. I usually ended up screwing around in the Link Arena using one of the completed saves on the cartridge. I have a specific memory of playing around in the Link Arena during one of those elementary/middle school baseball games. It was evening and I was sitting on a blanket in the grass. It was pretty nice, the weather was just right - not too cold, not too warm. I would give an effort in attempting to beat the game a few more times throughout the years, but I didn't do it until I played through the game on my iPhone in 2015. Back when GBA4iOS was actually a good emulator and not stuffed to the brim with ads. Even though I have no reason to use my i devices anymore, I'm so glad I have the version of GBA4iOS that I do. Since beating it in 2015, I have played it a few more times on emulator, and once on the replacement cartridge I got. This game is near and dear to me, but I'd link to think it doesn't influence my views on it that much. Do play it! It's a great starting point. The difficulty is on the easy side, but it eases newbies into the series. Plus you get a pretty well-rounded Fire Emblem experience. Lyn Mode can be a bore, but I promise it gets better.

-Hat Kid

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