So in Part I, I gave a generalization of what Fire Emblem is. In Part II, the question must be asked: why didn’t any of the other games come over here?
Back in old days, let’s just say you could only do so much. What is that supposed to mean? Well, making video games had its limitations, which is obvious since technology at the time was great, but it only evolved as time went on. So back then, it was not easy to actually police the correct difficulty level — hence why you get a game like Kid Icarus and also a Mario game that was notoriously difficult. Now, no, I’m not quite the gamer I used to be, but back in the days for the early games, due to limited functionally, games were harder than they should have been. It seems all easy today, but that’s mostly a product of games advancing to a point where it’s easier and more streamlined (of course, if you want a challenge, you increase the difficulty).
Well, what does this have to do with Fire Emblem? Well, it has exactly to do with Fire Emblem. The games were difficult enough as it is, or could have been. Now, you want to spring a tactical RPG that involves strategy, foreign characters, a grid based map, and it’s turn-based? Oh, and it has a lot of text? Well, that may have been the thought process for Nintendo as Fire Emblem was pretty hard, and also may have dealt with subjects that might have been too difficult to understand. There also may have been a case of marketing: with this game being the way it is, how would you try and sell this game to people in the US? Yeah, it has been pointed out in circles that the game’s difficulty may have been a factor in why it never saw a release in the states, but I’d also argue that at time, it may have been a hard sell back in 1990-1991 for a tactical role playing strategy game.
And yes, now I turn into the most memorable feature of Fire Emblem: it’s difficulty. It’s not just Fire Emblem 1 that’s difficult; all of the series are challenging and give the franchise a reputation of being too tough to play. Later games in the series introduced increased difficulty levels, but due to the hardware limitations and the amount of enemy units placed on the field in the early games, it made strategy almost vital to ensure you can keep your units alive.
…Did I say alive? Yep, this was another thing that added to the difficulty: permadeath. Ok, it’s called permanent death, but permadeath works too and has been thrown out here and there, and it’s a feature that challenges your thinking immensely. As I explained in Part I, Fire Emblem was not that much different from the Japanese exclusive Famicom Wars, but one of the the main differences is that you actually got a character, not some nobody or nameless character. Well, if your strategy is not solid, or if your luck is bad, you will lose your character, and you will not be able to bring him or her back. Earlier games in the series did have a weapon that allowed you to revive a character, but that was soon removed in later games. So an already difficult game, and then tasked with trying to keep your characters alive? This would not make strange bedfellows for Nintendo. This is why Fire Emblem games had been exclusive only to Japan.
This thinking started to change thanks to Super Smash Bros Melee. What it did was pique curiosity — it certainly did for me — for two characters and a franchise that was unknown in the West. For me, I was used to stuff like Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, etc (no Metroid though — that interest happened because of Melee for me as well); suddenly, two characters I had never seen anywhere in an English game? Well, thanks to their inclusion (and them not being crappy characters, though I don’t hear good things about Roy), people were interested in seeing what Fire Emblem was all about, and with the release of Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade in Japan on the GBA, a chance was possible to see it released in the West. But once again, it was again too difficult, even with the stripped down version of the game compared to the massive lengths and myths of the last three FE games, and a tutorial included. In the end, we did end up getting that game’s prequel…but I do wonder personally, was potential timing of Fire Emblem mixed? Would it have achieved success faster had NoA released it following the Super Smash Bros. wave? We’ll never know of course, but I’ll always wonder about that.
So now I guess I’ll have the last and final Part left to cover. But I’ve already said what Fire Emblem is…*sigh* well, I guess I have to say what “Fire Emblem” is, and what they have meant to each game.