Fire Emblem (universe)
The Fire Emblem universe (ファイアーエムブレム, Fire Emblem) refers to the Super Smash Bros. series' collection of characters, stages, and properties hailing from Nintendo and Intelligent Systems's franchise of fantasy tactical role-playing games. This long-running franchise, which is considered by many as the quintessential Japanese strategy RPG series, consists of sixteen core installments (including three remakes) and four spinoffs, each of which features an expansive cast of playable characters and, more often than not, a self-contained story. Six of these core installments, most of which were released prior to 2003, have to date never been officially released outside of Japan.
Characters from the Fire Emblem series first appeared in the Super Smash Bros. series in 2001's Super Smash Bros. Melee, with the debut of Marth and Roy from Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light and The Binding Blade, respectively. Their appearances in Melee are frequently credited with sparking global interest in the Fire Emblem series and beginning the international distribution of the series. Since then, six more Fire Emblem characters have also become playable in Super Smash Bros.: Ike from Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, Chrom, Lucina and Robin from Awakening, Corrin from Fates, and Byleth from Three Houses.
During the early years of Nintendo as a game developer in the 1980s, software programmer Tohru Narihiro was hired by Nintendo to port Famicom Disk System software to the standard ROM cartridge that was used outside of Japan on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Narihiro would assemble a small team of other programmers to help port software, as well as to provide programming support for many of Nintendo's games. This team would be officially founded as Intelligent Systems in 1986. In addition to providing programming support, Intelligent Systems would soon begin developing their own games which were designed to be drastically different from the standard Nintendo faire; they would almost immediately become a second-party developer for Nintendo and release exclusively on their platforms from then on.
Though Intelligent Systems programmed various games of all kinds for Nintendo, the first game in their transition to simulation-based games was Famicom Wars, a turn-based strategy game set in modern military times and the first entry in what would become the Nintendo Wars series. Following that title's success, Intelligent Systems game designer Shouzou Kaga would pitch a personal project of his to Nintendo, which was a strategy game similar to Famicom Wars, but combined various Japanese role-playing game elements and a medieval fantasy setting, all of which were heavily popularized by Dragon Quest at the time.
Kaga's project, and the first title in what would become Intelligent Systems' long-running strategy RPG franchise, was Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, released for the Famicom in Japan in 1990. Though it was both one of the earliest games in the turn-based strategy genre and one of the first such games to incorporate JRPG elements, the game was met with flat initial sales and reception. This, taken together with how the original Final Fantasy did not sell well in Western markets at the time, prompted Nintendo to decide not to release the game to Western markets.
It would take at least two months for Japanese sales to improve strictly from the spreading of word-of-mouth, leading Intelligent Systems to release a number of follow-up installments—starting with the experimental side-story Fire Emblem Gaiden for the Famicom in 1992, which incorporated traditional JPRG elements and told two parallel stories. 1994 saw the release of Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, a direct continuation of Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light that also contained a truncated remake of that game, which remained the best-selling Fire Emblem game in Japan until 2012 and remains one of the most recognizable Fire Emblem games there.
An unrelated experimental game project under development at Intelligent Systems eventually became the fourth installment Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, released for the Super Famicom in 1996, which attained a cult status for its grander scope, gameplay innovations, and multi-generational narrative in which players would marry units off to each other to bear powerful offspring; Genealogy of the Holy War received an interquel of its own, when Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 received a relatively limited release in 1999. Between these two games were a short series of downloadable maps for the Japan-only Satellaview peripheral, called Fire Emblem: Archanea Saga. After the release of Thracia 776, Kaga left his position at Intelligent Systems to start his own studio and a similar series to Fire Emblem on the Sony PlayStation, a development which would result in a bitter lawsuit and estrangement between him and Nintendo. Meanwhile, the franchise was taken over under the direction of Narihiro for the foreseeable future.
While Super Smash Bros. Melee was under development for the GameCube, HAL Laboratory answered Japanese fan requests to include Marth from Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light and Mystery of the Emblem as a playable character, after failing to include him in the Nintendo 64 title due to time constraints. At the time, Intelligent Systems was deep into development of the sixth Fire Emblem title, The Binding Blade, for the Game Boy Advance, and HAL Laboratory took the Fire Emblem representation a step further by including its main character, Roy, as another playable character in Melee to promote the upcoming game (although The Binding Blade was originally scheduled to be released before Melee, delays caused it to launch the next year). Nintendo of America was initially apprehensive about keeping these two then-unfamiliar fantasy swordsmen as playable combatants in the North American release, but enough Western players previewing the game during debug testing expressed interest in them that it was decided to keep them in, while only leaving their voices in Japanese. This decision paid off and changed the course of the series' history: Marth and Roy were among the most popular characters in Melee worldwide (the former particularly in the competitive scene).
Their popularity, in tandem with the unprecedented Western success of Advance Wars, is commonly attributed to be the driving forces behind Nintendo's decision to localize and release nearly every subsequent Fire Emblem title worldwide. This began with the 2003 Game Boy Advance prequel to The Binding Blade, Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade (originally released outside Japan as just "Fire Emblem"), which was specifically structured with introducing the series' gameplay to an unfamiliar international audience in mind. Subsequently, the mid-2000s saw a steady stream of new Fire Emblem games, including one more Game Boy Advance game, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, in early 2005. Late 2005 saw Intelligent Systems' biggest undertaking for the franchise to that date: Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, for the Nintendo GameCube, was intended as a return to the ambitious scope of the Super Famicom years. Path of Radiance received a direct sequel on the Wii, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, in 2007.
The commercial underperformance of Radiant Dawn had major repurcussions on both Intelligent Systems and the Fire Emblem franchise, which took on a "rebooted" development team whose first projects were two remakes of Marth's games for the Nintendo DS: Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon in 2009, and New Mystery of the Emblem in 2010. New Mystery of the Emblem became the only title since The Binding Blade to not be released outside of Japan, and franchise sales continued to decline enough that when the time came to develop a thirteenth Fire Emblem title, Fire Emblem Awakening, the team was informed that it would be the last game in the franchise if it did not perform well. To combat this, as well as achieve a wider audience in the East and the West, many systems and mechanics from past titles were curated into this next entry, including the Support system, marriage, children, a player avatar, and the return of Casual Mode.
Contrary to expectations however, Awakening was released to widespread critical and commercial success, selling nearly 250,000 copies within its first week and over a million copies worldwide, revitalizing interest in the franchise as a whole. Subsequent titles rode the wave of success that Awakening started, with 2015's Fire Emblem Fates for Nintendo 3DS. This title sought to further the groundwork laid down by Awakening by telling three completely different stories depending on which path the player chose: one designed for beginners, one for veterans, and a third acting as a middle ground. The commercial success of Fates resulted in Nintendo declaring the Fire Emblem series one of its "major IPs". The final core installment released for the Nintendo 3DS was 2017's Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, a remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden that threw out many mechanics of the previous 3DS games while adding some of its own. The most recent core entry is 2019's Fire Emblem: Three Houses for Nintendo Switch, which returned the series to home consoles for the first time in over a decade, returned to a more mature fantasy setting, refined the branching storyline structure of Fates, and carried forth the gameplay innovations introduced in Shadows of Valentia. It is currently the best-selling game in the entire franchise, outselling the previous record-holders, Awakening and Fates, in a single year. Throughout this era, the franchise has been under the direction of two key creative leads: Kouhei Maeda, the director of Awakening, Fates, and the mobile spinoff Fire Emblem Heroes, who has spoken about desiring to broaden the series' appeal; and Toshiyuki Kusakihara, the director of Shadows of Valentia and Three Houses, whose games emphasize world-building and story. To commemorate the series' 30th anniversary, the original Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light would be officially localized and released outside of Japan in 2020 for the Nintendo Switch.
The post-Awakening boom has also seen an expansion of the series into spinoffs that feature crossovers between characters from multiple mainline games. The first was a crossover with Atlus's Shin Megami Tensei megafranchise, Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE for Wii U, announced in early 2013 and released in 2015 in Japan and 2016 globally. An enhanced port for the Nintendo Switch, subtitled Encore, was released worldwide in 2020. Fire Emblem characters also cameoed in smaller games like Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., Project X Zone 2, and Dragalia Lost. 2017 saw the release of two different spinoff titles. The first of which is the aforementioned free-to-play mobile game Fire Emblem Heroes, which grossed over $2.9 million in its first day and has remained Nintendo's most lucrative mobile effort throughout its lifespan. The second is the hack-and-slash action game Fire Emblem Warriors that, like The Legend of Zelda's Hyrule Warriors, is also a spinoff of Koei Tecmo's Warriors series; Koei Tecmo would later co-develop Three Houses with Intelligent Systems. Fire Emblem also had a successful trading card game between 2015 and 2020, Fire Emblem Cipher, having previously had one in the early 2000s.
As a series of tactical role-playing games set in pseudo-medieval, sword-and-sorcery fantasy settings, the many Fire Emblem games share a variety of distinctive series trademarks; there is less emphasis on complex field effects and unique class ability sets and more of an emphasis on effectively positioning stronger and weaker units relative to each other so that they have the best chances to survive waves of weaker enemy units thrown at them. Leveling up from experience points tends to award incremental statistical boosts based on chance, and units are often able to reliably kill certain types of enemy units one at a time depending on the types and properties of the multiple weapons they can equip (weapons that often interact in rock-paper-scissors relationships and have their own durability meters).
Units that fight near each other are often granted the opportunity to deepen their emotional bonds, which sometimes bloom into romantic relationships and affect their personal endings at the end of the main story. What is easily the most oft-noted convention in the series (and by extension most Nintendo properties) is "permanent death", colloquially known as "permadeath"; when one of the player's units has fallen in battle, that character is gone for the rest of the game, never to return, which can potentially have serious effects on the story itself (and in some cases, the player's capacity to finish the game). Starting with the twelfth entry, the series began to offer an alternative "Casual Mode" that breaks away from this norm, so that characters do not permanently die from falling in battle and are allowed to fight again in future battles.
Fire Emblem narratives are often broad sweeping epics, filled with particularly high amounts of character interaction in later games, that typically focus on a young warrior and noble finding his place in a self-contained continent where countries and nations engage in war and competitions of political intrigue. This main character, often assigned the "Lord" class in-game, gathers literally dozens of distinctive characters into a growing, personalized "army" that fights alongside him in skirmishes during his journeys across the continent. Not unlike Final Fantasy, Fire Emblem games are frequently set in brand-new worlds that have no continuity relation to the worlds of other games in the series, and star casts of characters that are near-entirely unique to themselves; only a handful of Fire Emblem games are direct sequels or prequels to other Fire Emblem games. Generally, however, they are all united by common themes and elements, most frequently the existence of an important plot device dubbed the "Fire Emblem", which differs in form and relevance between each continuity.
Below is a summary of the sixteen mainline Fire Emblem games, sorted by their primary setting (and by extension, the continuity to which they belong, with the relationships between each noted).
In Super Smash Bros.
While there was no Fire Emblem content in the first Super Smash Bros. game, according to an interview from "Making of Fire Emblem: 25 Years of Development Secrets", Masahiro Sakurai wanted to include Marth as a playable character to serve as something of a foil to Link, but was unable to do so due to time constraints.
In Super Smash Bros. Melee
Fire Emblem is featured in Super Smash Bros. Melee by two playable characters, their respective game trophy sets, appropriate musical and sound selections in the sound test; this stands in contrast to other franchises which additionally have stages, items and more trophies as well. There is evidence that a Fire Emblem stage was planned, however; hidden in the game's debug menu is a stage entitled AKANEIA, named after the fictional continent where Marth's story takes place, but it was apparently never designed or removed completely, as attempting to access it from the debug menu will only crash the game. Additionally, at the time of Melee's release, no Fire Emblem title had been released outside of Japan, making Marth and Roy the first Japan-only characters to appear in the Super Smash Bros. series, both coincidentally as secret characters.
Main article: List of SSBM trophies (Fire Emblem series)
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Perhaps in response to Fire Emblem garnering popularity worldwide, the series continues to be represented in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Marth returns, with newcomer Ike unofficially replacing Roy as the second playable Fire Emblem character, although Roy does make a cameo as a sticker. The Fire Emblem content has been greatly expanded from Melee, now featuring the first fully playable Fire Emblem stage and many new music tracks and collectables that span from the very first game up to the then-most recent installment, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn.
On the final character select screen (after all characters are unlocked), the Fire Emblem characters occupy the eighth column alongside the EarthBound characters (both of these series were originally Japan-only RPG franchises that later saw at least one entry released in the West).
Main article: List of SSBB trophies (Fire Emblem series)
Main article: List of stickers (Fire Emblem series)
In Super Smash Bros. 4
The Fire Emblem series had undergone a heavier boost in representation than ever before in the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U games. In total, there are the Brawl veterans with visual updates, a lost veteran returning as downloadable content, and the addition of three newcomers (the most newcomers any universe has in the game), all of them being relatively modern in the franchise's history and one of them being DLC as well. All past Smash Bros. stages from this series, the majority of soundtracks and other collectibles have remained largely intact and were further expanded in the new games.
for Nintendo 3DS
for Wii U
Smash Tour item
Main article: List of SSB4 Music (Fire Emblem series)
Arrangements and remixes unique to SSB4.
Arrangements and remixes from previous Smash titles.
Compositions and arrangements directly sourced from the Fire Emblem series with no alterations.
"Omen / Main Theme" from Fire Emblem Awakening was used in "By Book, Blade, and Crest of Flame", the reveal trailer for Robin and Lucina. It is not in either of the final games.
Main article: List of SSB4 trophies (Fire Emblem series)
Main article: Masterpieces
In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The series has seen a considerable boost in representation, incorporating elements from the post-Fire Emblem Fates titles. This is the first title since Melee where none of the Fire Emblem fighters are unlocked from the start. For the first time, the series has an item represented in the game in the form of the Killing Edge. All past stages and music tracks return plus a deluge of remixes, as well as the introduction of two new fighters (one an Echo Fighter and one downloadable content), two new Assist Trophies, and Spirits from across the series. Lastly, all of the fighters now speak English in overseas versions.
Every Fire Emblem stage from past titles return with one new stage added as DLC.
Bold italics denotes an item or Assist Trophy new to the Smash Bros. series.
Main article: List of SSBU Music (Fire Emblem series)
Fire Emblem received 12 new music tracks for Ultimate.
Arrangements and remixes from previous Smash games.
Tracks taken directly from their home games.
Main article: List of spirits (Fire Emblem series)
Media with elements from or in the Super Smash Bros. series
Main article: Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light
A third song, "The Chosen Ones", was intended to be included in Brawl, but was removed.
Main article: Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem
Notably, it is the first mobile game to be represented in any way in the Super Smash Bros. series.