While some licenses are turning 35, others, slightly younger, are turning 30. Recognized worldwide for a few years in the Tactical-RPG genre, Fire Emblem is now one of Nintendo’s essential licenses. Yet its genesis remains unknown to many Western fans. And the failure of the DS remake more than 10 years ago will not have helped Marth and his battalion of comrades gain public recognition. Without any real ambition to help Marth to be known by fans of the series and with the aim of celebrating with these fans an anniversary of the retro genre, Nintendo decides to locate for the first time the NES version of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the blade of light! Let’s go back 30 years to the first game in the Fire Emblem series!
The enigmatic English Shadow Dragon
Many have known the famous Hero King Marth, through the many battles he fought in the Super Smash Bros. series against Nintendo’s all-star cast from Melee to Ultimate. Recent fans of the Fire Emblem series may have gotten to know him thanks to Fire Emblem Awakening on 3DS, an opus that actually takes place several millennia after Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light. Title which will have saved the Fire Emblem series from its descent into hell and which made numerous mentions to the King-Heroes Marth.
Some may have come to know him through the Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon remake on DS available translated into French! However, these are only a few chosen and the first opus of the series remains to this day unknown by many. So, for the 30th anniversary of the Fire Emblem series, releasing the first game in the series to appear on NES is not a bad idea. We find it just a shame to release it and brag about its localization which is a first for this opus, but it is only an English translation. All the more unfortunate that, as we mentioned, a DS remake is available and it is translated into FR.
Others will go further by criticizing that it would have been better to bring out the Remake in HD rather than a 30-year-old NES rom. On this point we remain on our guard since it is certainly about celebrating 30 years with certainly the desire to offer the original experience. A bit like not opting for an HD version of the Super Mario 64 remake released on DS in a certain 35-year-old compilation… This anniversary is suddenly targeted at hardcore fans, with notions of English and those whose Retro won’t be a problem. Another mysterious point, moreover, is an anniversary with the same deadline as Super Mario 3D All-star, that is to say that the game is only available on the eShop until March 31, 2021!
For the record, we follow Prince Marth of the continent of Akaneia in his fight against the Empire of Dolhr. Our hero was able to flee his invaded Kingdom accompanied by a few men to the island countries of Talys. Marth is the descendant of the hero Anri who defeated the Shadow Dragon 100 years ago armed with the Falchion sword of light. The current invasion by the Dolhr Empire allows it to reclaim the Lands, but also to steal the sacred sword. The only bulwark against the dark threats to come. A few years have passed since this invasion and this escape and we are on a battlefield of Talys repelling Pirates. It’s time for our trained young prince to face the Empire once again and follow the heroic road of his ancestor! On the way to more than twenty war chapters to go through this experience!
NES game requires, we are facing a very archaic game system in our era. It is one of the first tactical-RPG experiments of its time and it was revolutionary in those ancient times. A Tactical with more than twenty playable characters with whom you can bond. An attachment that can be painful when the health of one of them drops to 0 and he dies permanently via the famous Permadeath. The Game over also awaits you at the corner of the battlefield if death should reach Prince Marth.
Different character classes, different weapons, item management, leveling up and progression of your characters, maps with different landforms / attributes as well as villages and dwellings to explore. We can already see what constitutes the basis of the Fire Emblem games. But it is a very old base and the youngest fans will notice the archaism of the experience from the launch of the game with these 2 save slots only as well as on the first missions of the game. They will see that although the cursor is moves on an invisible grid, by clicking on a character you cannot see its range of movement at all. Our character flashes to indicate that he has been selected and it is a question of moving his cursor until he no longer advances in order to understand the limit of a unit.
We also cannot see the range of enemy units. The famous series weapon triangle does not exist, but your gear has durability as well as a few properties. Each class of unit does not necessarily have an evolution. We have a convoy of complex items to use and an inventory limited to 4 items for each character. Access to statistical information about characters is difficult. Then when we approach an enemy, we can not see any information in order to anticipate the coming confrontation. It is about learning all this information by playing the game and calculating all the data yourself. Like the probable protection rate of a terrain on your unit or damage or critical hit data for example.
At the time, we had quality experience in the genre. On the other hand in our era, we quickly detect the limits of this experience and all the defects coming from these totally dated mechanics. Starting from the observation of a Retro experience, it is thus difficult to tap for free on the faults of a bygone era. We will still welcome Nintendo’s few efforts to modernize this experience. A modernization inspired quite simply by the possibilities offered on the NES or SNES games available to Nintendo Switch Online subscribers.
Ability to change the pace of play, create a fast save and fast load, or roll back. It is also possible to change the game display between Normal and Pixel Perfect. Welcome options on this NES port. Although the display options will not change much for your eyes. A pretty good achievement for the NES with some pretty epic clash animations for that time. On the sound part, we have themes that are part of the musical heritage of the series even today, through arrangements and numerous covers. Music that we like to hear here in their original version accompanying the various moments of the story of this genesis opus of the Fire Emblem series.
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