by: Shouzou Kaga (original), Keisuke Terasaki (director), probably others
by: Strategy wargames
There have been many Fire Emblem games, and most of them never made it to the U.S.,
although this is changing; the original game finally made it to America
recently as a DS title.
The Shining Force line
of tactical wargames is obviously directly inspired by this. A more indirect inspiration was probably Tactics Ogre, which went on
to directly affect Final
Fantasy Tactics and, later, the Nippon Ichi (Disgaea) tactical JRPGs.
Fire Emblem is the first tactical JRPG
wargame released, an inspiration for what would become an entire subgenre. It's
a tile-based man-level wargame set on a grid with role-playing elements. Unique
among computer games of the time, characters weren't interchangeable pawns but
each of them unique, both in class and in stats. The more a character is used
in battle the more experience he earns, making him subtly better in many areas.
Fire Emblem is a game of slow character growth. It's
not hard for a unit to gain a level, but the primary advantage from this is
each of his stats might
increase by one. Every unit has its own level advancement percentage chance for
each of its stats, information which is kept secret from the player, but even a
character with great growth chances might just fail to gain a point in any one,
or even any, of its
stats, leaving him underpowered.
Emblem series are notoriously difficult games, so a bit of bad luck like
this could make following battles rather harder. It's not unknown to reach the final battles
of the game and reach opponents with defense stats so high that only one or two
characters are capable of inflicting more than a few points of damage.
Fire Emblem (Screenshot courtesy http://hg101.classicgaming.gamespy.com/)
is a bad situation for the player to be in, because if an enemy isn't killed in
one hit, if it's in range it gets a free counterattack, and these same
high-defense characters tend also to have high attack power. In Fire
Emblem games, a character who runs out of hit points is usually dead
forever. If this happens with a very useful character, the loss could be enough
to make the game unwinnable in the end.
you compare Fire Emblem to the third
or fourth edition of D&D, the ones that emphasize tactical movement, they
don't really look all that different from each other -- right down to the
"support" for permanent character death.
Fortunately for players, the
game does allow free restoring to the state at the beginning of a battle, so a
favorite character can be saved... provided the player is willing to abandon
all progress yet made in that fight. The ending even subtly changes based on
who remains alive at the end of the game.
some ways, Fire Emblem is more
realistic than D&D. Magic users are relatively rare; most characters would
be classed, in a D&D campaign, as some kind of fighter. Most weapons are
non-magical, and even those that are have a limited durability. And most
opponents aren't monsters but human characters.
D&D got its start in the rules of Chainmail, a not-dissimilar
tabletop game which focused on the efforts of whole armies. It was Gary Gygax's
idea to reduce the scope and add in fantasy characters and an overall
"adventure" overgame to wrap the fighting. In Fire Emblem, the merest hint of that elder pastime can still be