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 strategy RPG series in Japan, consists of sixteen core installments (including three remakes) and four spinoffs. Until the early 2000s, every new installment had only previously seen releases in that region, with Nintendo declining to localize abroad until two of the series' protagonists, Marth and Roy, appeared as playable characters in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Their appearance in the game sparked enough global interest for the series to begin international distribution. Since then, Fire Emblem as a franchise began to grow and expand beyond its foundations, with the protagonist of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Ike, appearing in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. In Super Smash Bros. 4, they were joined by Lucina and Robin from Fire Emblem Awakening and Corrin from Fire Emblem Fates. In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, they were joined by Chrom from Fire Emblem Awakening and Byleth from Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
During the early years of Nintendo as a game developer in the 1980s, software programmer Toru 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 programmer 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. Eventually, the original Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light would be officially translated and released outside of Japan in 2020, as a special limited-edition bundle for the Nintendo Switch to commemorate the series' 30th anniversary.
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 under the Fire Emblem moniker. All of these future titles remained exclusive to Japan and brought with them their own innovations to the franchise: Fire Emblem Gaiden for the Famicom in 1992 introduced an overworld map and told two parallel stories; Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem for the Super Famicom in 1994 streamlined the user interface and served as both a remake and sequel to the original game; Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War for the Super Famicom in 1996 allowed units to pair off and bear powerful offspring and introduced skills and the Weapon Triangle; and Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 for the Super Famicom in 1999 fleshed out weapon proficiencies and introduced fatigue and the "Fog of War" battle conditions.
Between the releases of the latter two titles were a short series of downloadable maps for the Japan-only Satellaview peripheral, called BS Fire Emblem, or 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, 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 the main character from the first Fire Emblem continuity, the swordsman and hero-prince Marth, 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. 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.
The decision revolutionized the series's global presence. Marth and Roy were among the most popular characters in Melee worldwide (the former particularly in the competitive scene), and this popularity, in tandem with the unprecedented Western success of Advance Wars, were 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, simply titled Fire Emblem outside of Japan (and given the subtitle Rekka no Ken in its Japanese version, officially translated as "The Blazing Blade"). Internationally released entries since then include Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones for Game Boy Advance in early 2005, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance for GameCube in late 2005, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn for Wii in 2007, and Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon for Nintendo DS in 2009. The only Fire Emblem title not released internationally since The Binding Blade was New Mystery of the Emblem for the DS in 2010, as the previous games (particularly Radiant Dawn) performed under expectations.
After what amounted to a four-year hiatus from a Western perspective, a new entry was released worldwide as Fire Emblem Awakening on Nintendo 3DS in 2012 in Japan and 2013 overseas. Due to the waning interest and dwindling commercial sales of Fire Emblem titles, the team was informed that Awakening would be the last game in the franchise if it did not perform well. In response, the developers sought to make this title a culmination of the series up to that point, incorporating elements and mechanics from throughout the series's history such as marriage and children, online battles, the Weapon Triangle, a player avatar, and Casual Mode. Contrary to expectations the game was released to widespread success, selling over 250,000 copies within its first week and over a million copies worldwide, subsequently revitalizing interest in the Fire Emblem franchise more than ever before. This resulted in subsequent titles riding the wave of success that Awakening started.
Almost immediately, Nintendo requested a sequel to be developed for the 3DS due to Awakening's unprecedented success. The core team who worked on Awakening was brought back and sought to improve and expand upon that game's foundations. A central goal of this new project was to provide a narrative from both sides of a conflicting war, a goal that would entail three cartridges' worth of gameplay content. Fire Emblem Fates was revealed for the Nintendo 3DS in January 2015 and released in Japan on June 25th of the same year, with the game receiving overseas releases the following year. Unlike any previous title, this installment was released in three versions — Birthright, Conquest, and Revelation — with each version focusing on a different facet of the conflict between the royal families of Hoshido and Nohr. All three versions retain the same world and cast of characters, but had different recruitable units and approaches to difficulty: Birthright being the easiest, Conquest being the hardest, and Revelation serving as a middle ground between the two. Both this and the previous installment were also known for heavily incorporating downloadable content, which consisted of additional maps, story scenarios, and recruitable units to further replayability. Fates went on to see as much commercial success as its predecessor across all three versions, even going so far as for Nintendo to declare the series a "major IP" for the company.
In January 2017, four additional Fire Emblem games were announced: Fire Emblem Heroes, a mobile title bringing together characters from all corners of the series's history; Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, a remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden from the ground up for the Nintendo 3DS (and additionally the final mainline title for the system); Fire Emblem Warriors, a hack-and-slash spinoff in the vein of the Zelda spinoff Hyrule Warriors for the Nintendo Switch and New Nintendo 3DS systems; and a new core series installment due for release on the Nintendo Switch, later revealed to be Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which would release worldwide on July 26th, 2019. The last title marks the mainline series's first return to home consoles since Radiant Dawn over a decade prior and would be its first appearance on an HD platform. The development of Three Houses was assisted by Koei Tecmo and the scope of the narrative was directly inspired by the fourth entry, Genealogy of the Holy War. On release, the game secured the franchise's widespread appeal by becoming the single best-selling entry in the series to date, with the strongest launch sales in series history and over 2.87 million copies sold worldwide by November 2020.
As a series of strategy RPGs 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. Over a dozen games have been released, and they take place within at least five separate timelines and continuities — "sub-universes" that have nothing to do with each other unless otherwise specified — typically defined by the main, isolated continent the game takes place on with its own unique cast of characters. One of the common elements between these separate stories is how they often involve an important plot device dubbed the "Fire Emblem", which differs in form and relevance between each continuity.
The different sub-universes explored thus far are explained below (excluding spinoff titles):
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.
Full Trophy List
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).
In Super Smash Bros. 4
The Fire Emblem series had undergone a heavier boost in representation than ever before in the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS 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)
Collectible trophies that appear in both the 3DS version and the Wii U version.
for Nintendo 3DS
A trophy of Tharja was planned and was seen in-game during the ESRB review period, but was scrapped for the final release.
for Wii U
Only one Trophy Box appears in the Wii U version. It is titled "Heroes of the Emblem".
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)
The kanji aruji "主" denotes a Master Spirit.
Games 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
As the game is set in the same world as Genealogy of the Holy War
Notably, it is the first mobile game to be represented in any way in the Super Smash Bros. series.