Fire Emblem, also officially known as Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, is a tactical role-playing game developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo for the Game Boy Advance handheld video game console. It is the seventh entry in the Fire Emblem series, the second to be released for the platform after Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, and the first to be localized for Western audiences. It was released in Japan and North America in 2003, and in Europe and Australia in 2004.
The game is a prequel to The Binding Blade, set on the fictional continent of Elibe. It tells the story of Lyn, Eliwood, and Hector, three young lords who band together on a journey to find Eliwood’s missing father Elbert while thwarting a larger conspiracy threatening the stability of Elibe. The gameplay, which draws from earlier Fire Emblem entries, features tactical combat between armies on a grid-based map. Characters are assigned different character classes that affect abilities and are subjected to permanent death if defeated in battle.
Development began in 2002 as a companion title to The Binding Blade, but development was prolonged from its initial seven-month window as new features were added. While the Fire Emblem series had remained exclusive to Japan due to concerns about its difficulty, the success of Advance Wars and popular demand following the inclusion of Fire Emblem characters in Super Smash Bros. Melee prompted the game’s localization. The game was released to positive sales and international critical acclaim, establishing the Fire Emblem series in the West. Its overseas success caused all subsequent games (with the exception of Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem) to be released outside of Japan.
Fire Emblem is a tactical role-playing game where players take the role of story protagonists Lyn, Eliwood, and Hector as they navigate story-driven missions across the fictional continent of Elibe. The player takes the role of an unseen tactician directing the player army. The single-player campaign is divided into chapters which generally begin with story elements presented through the use of scenes animated with still images of the main characters, then followed by a battle with an enemy; after each battle, the player is given the opportunity to save their progress. In-game currency is gained either through battles in the game’s various Arenas or through other means, rather than from defeating units. Currency can be used to buy new items and weapons at merchants at specific locations within maps. Items can also be exchanged between units during battles.
Battles in the story take place on maps divided into a square-based grid. Battle actions are governed by a turn-based system where each unit on both sides is given their chance to move and act. During gameplay, weather and terrain effects appear such as fog of war or elements of the environment that can be manipulated to one side’s advantage, affecting the progress of battle. Units are split between player, enemy and allied non-player character (NPC) units. Each unit’s movement range and attack range is displayed when selected. The player must clear a map to advance the story: the objectives for clearing a level can vary from defeating all enemies to capturing strongholds or rescuing NPCs. When engaging a unit, the scene transitions into a battle between the player and enemy unit, with battle animation playing out. When hit with an attack, a character loses health points (HP). For player characters, HP can be restored with items or by units with healing magic; it can also be regained by standing on forts, gates or castles, or using a special spell that replenishes health based on damage dealt to an enemy.
Each unit is governed by a character class system, with their class affecting what weapons they can use. After each action in battle gains experience points (EXP). Upon reaching 100 EXP, a unit levels up and its statistics such as attack power and defense are randomly raised, while weapon ranks increase naturally when using their respective weapons. Upon reaching Level 10, and using a special item, a unit’s class can be upgraded to a more powerful version with access to new items and weapons. If a unit is defeated in battle, they are subject to permanent death, being removed from all future encounters and the overall storyline with a few exceptions for story-related characters. If characters crucial to the storyline like Lyn, Eliwood or Hector fall, the game ends and the player must restart the level.
Weapon strengths and weaknesses are governed by the series’ Weapons Triangle system; axes are strong against lances, lances strong against swords, and swords strong against axes. Bows are independent of the system, being effective against airborne units. A similar system, dubbed the Magic Trinity in-game, governs how different types of spells react; elemental magic is strong against light, light against dark and dark against elemental. The strength of weapon types assigned to a particular unit is raised through usage, with its rank ranging from E to S, with S being the highest possible affinity with a promoted character. Characters also have a Support system, where talking in battle strengthens two characters’ relationship, and consequently provides stat boosts. The higher the Support rank, which ranges from “C” to “A”, the better the boost.
Outside the main campaign, players can battle against the game’s artificial intelligence (AI) in the Link Arena: after building a team, the player fights a battle against their own units controlled by the game AI. Fire Emblem also features a Link Arena multiplayer option in which up to four players can link up and do battle with teams of characters from the single-player save file. Players choose up to five characters and equip them like in the main story. During battle, each player takes turns to attack with one character. Weapons are selected automatically for each battle. Victory is determined either by surviving a period of time or aggregating the highest number of points.