Review: Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade (GBA)

With the recent Direct, it’s fair to say that Fire Emblem is in a very good position this year, having three games coming out, with news of a main title game arriving in the following year. But things were not always so successful for the Fire Emblem series. Back during it’s initial release, it was a Japan-exclusive series for the longest time until a little game called Super Smash Bros. Melee came out. The game introduced two Fire Emblem characters for the first time outside of the eastern seas. Marth, the Hero King, from the original Fire Emblem game (as well as the third title, Mystery of the Emblem) and Roy, the Pherae Noble, who, at the time, was the most recent main character in the series, Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade. With the introduction of these two characters, players questioned who these two guys were and with enough curiosity and intrigue, the first Fire Emblem game came overseas, that being the game we’re talking about today. Known simply as “Fire Emblem” in the U.S., the game is referred to as Fire Emblem Rekka no Ken, which roughly translates to The Blazing Sword. Though Fire Emblem would have several new games come out in the future, none of them would really become huge to the point that the latest Fire Emblem at the time, Awakening, was rumored to be the final Fire Emblem game to be made. But due to it’s huge success and popularity, Fire Emblem continues to live on strong. So in celebration of Fire Emblem‘s success, let’s go back to its U.S. roots with the first game released in the states. Come, join with me!

The Blazing Blade is unique in that it has two separate plots that loosely tie into each other. The first plot stars a young girl named Lyn. Orphaned at a young age, Lyn lives alone in the plains of Sacae where she grew up with her parents, who were murdered by bandits. One day, she stumbles upon a tactician (the player) who she decides to travel with, in the hopes of avenging her parent’s deaths. Soon after, she stumbles upon two cavalier knights of Caelin, Sain and Kent, who were sent to find her. Turns out Lyn is the granddaughter of the Marquess of Caelin, through her mother. Evidently, Lyn’s mother had a falling out with her father due to her being in a relationship with a member of the nomadic Lorca tribe, who the Marquess thought were savages. However, as the Marquess ages, he begins to see the error of his ways and hopes to welcome Lyn with open arms. Upon hearing this, Lyn decides to join Sain and Kent on a quest to travel back to Caelin to live her life as a noble. Meanwhile, the Marquess’s brother, Lundgren, does not wish to see Lyn return to Caelin as he has his sights to rule Caelin and does not wish his brother to have a successor in Lyn. Lundgren sends many mercenaries, bandits, and his own personal militia to put an end to Lyn’s life. In order to survive, Lyn meets several new allies along the way, such as the Pegasus Knight, Florina, the nomad Rath, and the young lord of Pharae, Eliwood (just to name a few) and challenges the corrupt Lundgren.

Lyn’s story is entirely meant to serve as the tutorial of the game. There are eleven chapters that teach many of the games mechanics such as the weapon triangle or the many strengths and weaknesses of the various allies recruited along the way. As a tutorial, it’s very thorough and goes into great depth to get it’s point across to the point that the game will force you to take certain actions. For that, I appreciate it, but for veterans who already know the games basics, it makes Lyn’s mode very slowly paced as a result. Luckily, the hard mode version of Lyn’s story cuts out all of the tutorials, making second playthroughs more bearable. However, you have to beat the game first before you can do so. As for intricate plot details, it’s passable. Lyn’s story isn’t really meant to have much depth to it solely because it focuses on teaching new players how to play. Lyn as a character is decent, though there are a lot of times where she seems like a Mary Sue at times. Mainly in the way that no one seems to dislike her. And the fact that she reappears in the actual main plot of the game for seemingly no reason… But more on that later.

For the second half of the game, Eliwood, noble of Pharae and the future father of Roy, becomes the main character. Eliwood’s father, Elbert, goes missing and Eliwood takes it upon himself to go and search for him. Joining with him is Eliwood’s life long friend, Lord Hector of Ostia, the deuteragonist of the game. As Eliwood and Hector traverse the land of Lycia, they discover that Eliwood’s father is kidnapped by an evil druid named Nergal. Nergal wishes to acquire what he refers to as “quintessence” or essentially, another human being’s life force. In doing so, he can call upon the fabled dragons of yore to do his bidding in an attempt to take over the world and become the most powerful being in existence. Allied with the mercenary guild, The Black Fang, Nergal wishes to cause chaos in the form of war so that he may steal people’s quintessence. Eliwood and Hector gather many powerful allies to fight against Nergal, including the previously mentioned Lyn.

While Lyn’s mode is more on a smaller scale in terms plot, Eliwood’s story delves into a “save the world” type classic. The dialogue can be pretty witty at times, but for the most part, it is just sort of standard. Eliwood isn’t really that interesting of a character, being your typical “goody two shoes” type of character, a wholesome and righteous hero. His companion Hector, on the otherhand, is actually a far more interesting character to follow. Hector is somewhat rebellious for a character of his status, and he constantly bickers with many of the other characters over their ideals. Luckily, there is a Hector mode in this game that places Hector in the spotlight, but it shares many of Eliwood’s maps and even it’s story. If anything, it just sorta gives more detail on Hector’s thoughts in Eliwood’s route. Nergal as a villain is kind of boring as well. He’s just your typical “MWAHAHA! I’M EVIL!” villain. There was actually a chance to give him a little more intrigue as it is lightly hinted that he may have been the father of two other plot important characters, but for some reason, only the Japan version of The Blazing Blade takes advantage of this opportunity, sadly. Overall, the plot isn’t exactly terrible by any means, but the characters you follow throughout aren’t the most entertaining.

Fire Emblem is a strategy RPG which can require a great deal of thought in order to prevail in the game. Players will take control of a set amount of units with a variety of classes in an overhead view of a map. Each unit recruited can have a variety of classes with their own strengths and weaknesses, such as the sword wielding Mercenary or the magic using Mage. Fire Emblem is unique in introducing a system known as the “Weapon Triangle” which essentially functions as Rock-Paper-Scissors. Three main weapon types are used in the game: Swords, Lances, and Axes. Swords beat Axes, Axes beat Lances, and Lances beat Swords. Players have to use this knowledge against the enemy in order to get a boost in accuracy and power. However, the enemy can also use this against the player. The game also introduces other mechanics to give a various classes huge strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the Archer’s bow can do up to double damage to flying classed units, but the archer cannot actually hit enemies at close range, only being able to attack foes at two range. The Pegasus Knight, a flying unit, has very high mobility and can traverse the landscape freely, however, as previously mentioned, Archer’s can do double damage to them, which can stop them from progressing too far on the map. Features like these are what make Fire Emblem really fun, since you have to put a lot of thought into how you play or you’ll end up risking losing on your units, as Fire Emblem has permanent death. If a unit dies, you cannot bring them back unless you reset the game. This gives you a great reason to try and keep your favorite units alive and well because otherwise, it would make the game a heck of a lot tougher without them.

Most of the game has you traversing a map with various objectives. The most common one is to “seize the throne” where a boss enemy will be way on the other side of the map sitting on top of a throne or gate that needs to be taken in order to progress to the next area. Other objectives include surviving for a set amount of turns with a relentless amount of enemies charging their way towards you. There are a few levels that introduce interesting and gimmicky objectives, such as a side map where you have to sneak past a set amount of tough enemies and get to the other side without provoking the enemy. Other maps have a “Fog of War” gimmick that makes certain enemies appear invisible until they appear in your view range, forcing the player to play defensively. All of these features are what make Fire Emblem a really fun and engaging game.

The graphics for their time are actually pretty decent. I actually really enjoy the GBA style for the Fire Emblem games a lot and really love the animations used for most of the classes. Some of them may look a bit cartoony compared to the older Fire Emblem games, which had a more realistic touch to it, but I think it’s fine. The score is actually pretty good as well. Definitely not as good as the previous entry in the series, The Binding Blade, but still great in it’s own ways. “Softly With Grace” is a really catchy boss theme.

Fire Emblem is a really good series of games. They may not always be the strongest when it comes to plot, but they usually do excel in terms of gameplay. I’ve never felt so addicted to a game, especially one where you need to take a lot of thought in every move you make. Other games that fall into the same category of games can feel very similar to each other in terms of gameplay, but I feel that’s just not the case for Fire Emblem. I truly feel that it offers it’s own separate and unique experience compared to other strategy games and I find that absolutely amazing. If you haven’t played Fire Emblem yet, then I urge to go do so. Definitely start with The Blazing Blade, as I believe it has the best tutorial for newer players to start with.

Final verdict: Play it. Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade is a unique and thought provoking title, while also being accessible to new players.

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