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Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light

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Ankoku Ryuu to HIkari no Tsurugi

Ba japan fe01.png


Nintendo R&D1
Intelligent Systems




Shouzou Kaga

Release date(s)

JPMarch 31, 1990
Virtual Console
JPOctober 20, 2009




Fire Emblem Gaiden

Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryuu to Hikari no Tsurugi (ファイアーエムブレム 暗黒竜と光の剣, Fire Emblem: Dark Dragon and the Sword of Light) is a Famicom game released in 1990. It is the first game in the Fire Emblem video game series. It is widely accepted to be something of an archetypical codifier for the strategy roleplaying game genre as it exists in Japan, with many other Japanese games of the genre following in its stead.[1]

The game is set on the continent Archanea, just one of several lands in a world explored by later installments. The game follows the story of Marth, the exiled prince of the fallen kingdom of Altea, as he travels Archanea to raise a resistance army to combat the Dolhr empire, which currently dominates much of the land, and to find the lost sacred sword Falchion to allow him to follow in the footsteps of his ancestor Anri and slay Medeus, the tyrannical Shadow Dragon.

Ankoku Ryuu has spawned a large number of sequels and other related works, with its story canon comprised of six of the thirteen Fire Emblem games. It has been remade twice, first as the first half of Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem in 1993, and again as Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon in 2008. Its sequels, both direct and indirect, include Fire Emblem Gaiden, Mystery of the Emblem Book 2 (and by extension New Mystery of the Emblem, its remake), and Fire Emblem: Awakening. In a loose sense it also has prequels, in the form of Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776, set on another land in the same world, but thousands of years in the past and referencing some of the events which were happening and characters which existed on Archanea itself at the time.

Ankoku Ryuu was, like the following five games, never released outside of Japan. Along with The Binding Blade, it was in a way responsible for sparking international interest in the series, when Marth appeared with Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee in 2001. Their appearance ultimately resulted in the international release of Blazing Sword and all subsequent games until New Mystery of the Emblem. While the game remained untranslated and not released on the international Virtual Console service for Wii, its 2008 remake Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon did receive an international release, finally bringing the story of Marth to the rest of the world.


Small portrait masked marth fe13.png SPOILERS! This section contains key plot or ending details. Read at your own risk!

After the fall of Altea, Marth spent the next three years in exile in Talys, a young island kingdom. After helping repel a pirate invasion of the country at the request of its Princess Caeda, Marth and his remaining forces departed Talys to travel to Aurelis, to meet with the refugee Princess Nyna of Archanea and begin a revolution against Dolhr's grip on the world. At Aurelis, Marth's forces united with those of the country's Prince Hardin, leader of the country's resistance, and from there they reclaimed Aurelis from the Macedon occupation allied with Dolhr.

With Aurelis secured, the newly-dubbed "Archanean League" travelled south to the Holy Kingdom of Archanea itself. After being forced to make a brief detour to Pyrathi and to defeat its Manakete King Mannu, Marth was approached by Catria of Macedon's Whitewings squadron, who informed him of the plight of its princesses Minerva and Maria, the latter held hostage to force the former to serve Dolhr. On this news, Marth led the League to Castle Deil to free Maria, and the grateful Minerva joined with his forces, as did the three Whitewings later. From this victory, they marched on the Archanean capital Pales and liberated it from the Dolhr occupation under Volzhin.

The League's next task was to free Altea. The army marched to Gra, Altea's traitorous neighbour and an ally of Dolhr, and brought down the country and its King Jiol; after the fight, Marth was disappointed to find that Altea's royal sword Falchion, said to have been stolen from his dead father by Gra at the war's onset, was not there. His advisor Malledus theorised that Gharnef, the Dark Pontifex and resurrector of Medeus, was the one truly responsible for the blade's theft, and so the League made a fruitless detour to Khadein, the country under Gharnef's control, to recover it; there, Marth was informed by the White Sage Gotoh that they could not defeat Gharnef and recover Falchion without the Starlight spell, the only weakness of Gharnef's Imhullu spell, and tasked them with finding the Starsphere and Lightsphere, artefacts required to recreate it. The League then returned to Altea and reclaimed it from its master, Morzas of Dolhr.

With Altea reclaimed, the League's new task was to defeat the remaining allies of Dolhr: Grust and Macedon. The army first travelled to the southwest, to the Fane of Raman, to find the Spheres and free Tiki, the Divine Dragon princess, from Gharnef's control. From there, they conquered nearby Grust, defeating its general Camus despite wanting to spare him. The army travelled next to Macedon, now ruled by Minerva's ambitious elder brother Michalis, liberating it and bringing the Spheres to Gotoh, currently living near its castle, who from them forged Starlight.

Gotoh transported the army to Thabes, a distant ancient city and the current home of Gharnef, where they engaged Gharnef in battle and slew him with Starlight, recovering the Falchion. With the tower reclaimed, they found Marth's lost sister Elice, held captive by Gharnef for the past three years. With no other opposition remaining, the League turned on Dolhr itself, charging into the Dolhr Keep where Medeus himself was confined until his strength fully recovered. Marth engaged Medeus in battle, wielding the Falchion, and the Shadow Dragon once again fell. With the war over, at the advice of Nyna, Marth proposed to Caeda.


As the series' first installment, Ankoku Ryuu is a much simpler game than its successors; even so, many of the series' basic and defining gameplay points already existed.


Ankoku Ryuu is comparatively simple and linear in structure compared to its successors. The game features 25 chapters, with no sidequests or alternative routes possible.


Ankoku Ryuu features 52 playable characters; in any one playthrough, however, it is only possible to recruit 51, as the player must choose between recruiting Arran and Samson.


Fan translation

Ankoku Ryuu did not receive an international release, but unlike other games which met this fate, it went largely ignored in light of Mystery of the Emblem and later Shadow Dragon remaking it, giving it the perception of being unnecessary in light of existing in superior forms. As such, it was not until 2010 that a fan translation patch was completed, done by Quirino of the Serenes Forest forums[2].


In other languages


  1. Gamasutra: Game Design Essentials: 20 RPGs
  2. Serenes Forest Forums: Fire Emblem NES Translation