Note: Another one of my unfinished articles. Well, technically. I needed to find sources for a few things when I wrote it, but didn’t. Oh well. The basic gist is simple: Why did Fire Emblem skip the Nintendo 64? Share your theories below while I set the scene…
The Fire Emblem franchise has appeared on a number of Nintendo systems, and it will soon make its debut on the Wii U with the crossover Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem. It’s nice that the series has managed to be on every system like a Mario, a Zelda, a…*reads the title of the post* Erm, wait, what? Huh? It skipped the Nintendo 64? But why? And how?
Well, let’s first set the scene a bit.
It’s 1999, and Fire Emblem: Thracia 776, was released…for the Super Famicom. Not even mentioning the fact that it was initially not intended to be a normal release, Thracia 776 was a SFC title at the time when the Nintendo 64 had come out…in 1996. For emphasis, Genealogy of the Holy War came out in May of 1996, the N64 came out in June. Unfortunately, the life cycle of the N64 lasted until November of 2001, and the Gamecube came out.
So just what happened? How did Fire Emblem manage to skip the Nintendo 64?
Well, let’s start with the technical problems. It’s not quite a secret that the Nintendo 64 was a revolutionary system with its bringing of the analog stick, but it’s also not quite a secret that RPGs on the consoles were few and far between. Cartridges had run its course compared to memory, yet Nintendo choose to use it, despite other competitors moving forward to using discs, which contained more space and more memory. With the upgrade to 3D, this presented a challenge for the Intelligent Systems staff. Considering the type of style Fire Emblem employs, it looks like they would have needed more time to actually create a manageable FE game for the N64. But knowing all that, couldn’t have IS just stuck with the traditional FE style? That depends on how they planned the game, and if they planned to have it in 3D, then it might have taken a while to get the engine right.
But unfortunately, it was more than just the technical side of things, it was the internal side of things. First, one of the Producers of Fire Emblem, Gunpei Yokoi, left Nintendo in 1996, or essentially after Genealogy of the Holy War. Then it came down to where will Fire Emblem go now? Well, the creator of the series, Shouzou Kaga, supposedly wanted to go back to the Akaneia series — hence why Fire Emblem: Akaneia Saga (BS Fire Emblem: Akaneia Senki) was released for the Satellaview, with no background music, you gained points for defeating enemies, and you had voice acting — it wasn’t a proper game. It has been surmised that the standalone maps for that game were intended to be in a brand new FE game set in the Akaneia saga. But instead, we had a continuation of the Judgral Saga with Thracia 776. Then in 1999, Shouzou Kaga left the company and started his own studio Tirnanog.
We now move into 2001, and that was when the Game Boy Advance came out. At this point, there was no point in focusing on a N64 version of Fire Emblem. So it’s feasible that whatever plans they had for the game they moved to the GBA line, with of course its limits. And thus, Fire Emblem was at a bit of a stalling point. It also skipped the Game Boy (though that provided its own limitations, so considering where FE had reached, would be difficult to bring it forth for the system), but for a period of time the franchise didn’t really advance.
But it makes me wonder if Fire Emblem had reached the N64, or at the very least, not gone into development hell. Well, not that it would have mattered since Nintendo hadn’t released a FE game in the West at this point….