- This article is about the gameplay mechanic. For the spell from Gaiden and its remake, see Death (spell).
|“||I don't want any of you dying on me! Remember--you only have one life!||”|
Permanent death is a unique aspect of gameplay in the Fire Emblem series. While other role-playing games may allow the player to revive or otherwise heal fallen party members, Fire Emblem is unique in that any time a unit's HP is reduced to zero, the character completely dies and can no longer fight in-game, requiring the player to restart the chapter if they do not wish to lose the unit. A few games have offered rare and limited ways to revive a deceased unit, and modern Fire Emblem games from New Mystery of the Emblem onward have allowed the conditions of permanent death to be changed as part of selecting the game's difficulty.
The presence of permanent death acts as a way of giving clear consequences to the player's actions, giving a clearer reason to make careful tactical decisions to avoid losing units. Despite being regarded as permanent death, some characters that are either essential to the plot (such as L'Arachel and Innes in The Sacred Stones) or otherwise important to the main character (such as Marcus and Oswin in Fire Emblem) may stay alive in the game's story and continue to appear in dialogue cutscenes, but for gameplay purposes they are counted as "dead" and can no longer be used in-battle.
The player's units are not the only units affected by permanent death; the same rules apply to enemy armies, which have no way of reviving their lost units, and to the NPC armies who occasionally support the player's forces. Howver, the deaths of enemies can sometimes also affect the player negatively. Potentially recruitable enemies, such as Ilyana and Tauroneo in Path of Radiance, are affected by permanent death, and having any of these units killed prevents the player from adding them to their army unless they restart the chapter. On rare occasions, the deaths of enemy units even can even impede the player's progress in the rest of the game; for instance, in The Binding Blade, killing Douglas when he appears as an enemy in Chapter 16 not only prevents the player from recruiting him later, but also results in the player being prevented from accessing a sidequest to obtain the Aureola tome, which ultimately prevents the player from accessing the game's true ending.
While the game normally continues if a character is felled in battle, the primary exception is if a player's Lord character is killed. If this happens, it is an automatic failure of a chapter and causes a Game Over, as the player is unable to continue without Lord characters.
The deaths of certain other characters, playable or otherwise, occasionally also trigger a Game Over state. In particular, defensive chapters where the objective is to protect a certain helpless NPC will result in a Game Over if the NPC is attacked and killed; examples include Zephiel in Chapter 26E/28H, Natalie in Chapter 4, and Merlinus in Chapter 13x in Fire Emblem, and Mansel in Chapter 19 of The Sacred Stones. Other defensive chapters involve protecting a throne, gate or other key point and preventing enemies from seizing it; should an enemy seize it, this will also cause a Game Over.
In a particularly unusual case, if the player attacks the boss Fargus in Chapter 15xE/16xH of Fire Emblem, this will result in a Game Over, as the chapter's goal was to talk to Fargus to secure passage to continue the lords' quest. Even if Fargus survives the battle, the attack will anger him into withdrawing his offer of aid, ending the game anyway.
Even though permanent death has been present in the series from the beginning, ways to avert it have also been present from the beginning. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light introduced the rare Aum staff, which allows a suitably talented user of staves to revive a single deceased unit. Later games introduced similar staves, with Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War featuring Valkyrie and Fates introducing Bifröst.
There are numerous restrictions placed on the use of these staves to counteract their appealing power. Both Aum and Valkyrie have a very limited set of users; Aum is only usable by Elice in the original games (with Maria, Yumina, Caeda, Minerva, and Sheena being added in the remakes), and Valkyrie is only usable by Claud and his staff-wielding son. In Shadow Dragon, Aum cannot be used to revive the character who was sacrificed as a decoy in the game's prologue. Bifröst will only revive units who died on the same map it is being used in, and will not revive anybody who died before then. All three of these staves can only be used once before they break, and although Valkyrie can be repaired through the weapon repair shops present in Genealogy, doing so is extremely expensive.
Fire Emblem Gaiden has a similar mechanic with the lion-head statues found in the game's Mila shrines. Three of the game's shrines have their lion heads allow the player to revive characters, with each being able to revive just three characters. Owing to the split paths of Alm and Celica, the player cannot combine the use of these statues, but on the other hand the lion heads technically allow the player a way to transfer units between the two parties; for instance, if a unit dies in Alm's party, Celica can revive them at one of her lion heads and they will join her party instead.
Occasionally, due to plot importance or the structure of the game's story modes, characters may not permanently die if they are killed.
In Genealogy of the Holy War, Deirdre and Julia will be captured by the enemy if their HP is reduced to zero, rather than being killed, and Sigurd or Seliph will find them at the final castle at the end of the chapter. However, this won't apply to Julia anymore when she is recruited again in the endgame, and her death under these circumstances will be permanent.
Fire Emblem introduced a different way to circumvent permanent death. In Lyn's story, any characters who have their HP reduced to zero can still return in either Eliwood's or Hector's stories, albeit with reset stats. Despite this, characters will again be completely unusuable if they are at all felled in these stories, and there exist no ways to revive them. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones features a case similar to this, where in the mandatory sidequest Chapter 5x, the Cavaliers Forde and Kyle can be defeated but will still be playable when they return three chapters later. The Paladin Orson also will still appear as the boss of Chapter 16, regardless of what happens to him in Chapter 5x.
The four-part structure of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn results in a case similar to the above two games. Due to the fact that the game takes place over four parts, some characters, both playable and NPC, can be defeated in combat, but still return in later chapters.
Main series games from Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem onward feature Casual Mode as an optional part of the difficulty settings of the games. If the game is being played in Casual Mode, units will be removed from the chapter when their HP is reduced to zero, but they will return as playable units in the next with no penalties; the opposite of this is Classic Mode, where traditional Fire Emblem death rules apply as normal. All of the respective games' difficulties can be played in Casual Mode or Classic Mode with no restrictions. In all games except Fates, the defeat of the Lord character still causes a game over in Casual Mode.
A game over in Thracia 776.
A game over in Shadow Dragon.
A game over in Awakening.
A game over in Fates.
A game over in Shadows of Valentia.