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Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light (Japanese: 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 turn-based strategy role-playing game released exclusively in Japan for Nintendo's Famicom console in 1990, and is the first game in the Fire Emblem video game series. It is generally accepted to be something of an archetype and progenitor for the strategy role-playing game genre as it exists in Japan, with many other Japanese games of the genre following in its stead.
The game is set on the continent Archanea and follows the story of Marth, the exiled prince of the fallen kingdom of Altea. It depicts his quest across 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.
Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light 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, then again as Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon in 2008, and the events of the game were adapted into a short-lived anime adaptation. Unlike later Fire Emblem games, it has multiple sequels set in the same world, including 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.
Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light was, like the following five games, never released outside of Japan in its original run. Along with Mystery of the Emblem and 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 Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade 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, Wii U or Nintendo 3DS, its 2008 remake Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon did receive an international release, finally bringing the story of Marth to the rest of the world. Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light itself would receive a proper localization released in December 2020, as part of Fire Emblem's 30th anniversary. This version of the game was available until March 31, 2021.
Rise of the Archanean League
After the fall of his homeland, Altea, Prince 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 beginning, 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.
The final push
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 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 Falchion, and the Shadow Dragon once again fell. With the war over, at the advice of Nyna, Marth proposed to Caeda.
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As the series' first installment, Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light established many of the gameplay points and conventions which remain in the series to this day, but it lacks several major mechanics from future games, such as skills or functions of the preparations menu other than unit selection.
Development on Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light began after the completion of fellow turn-based strategy game Famicom Wars, with the theme of allowing players to "see and enjoy a world from an RPG perspective". Shouzou Kaga, who served as the scenarist on the game, described the idea behind the game as being a hybrid of traditional strategy/simulation games with RPG elements, with the idea being to create a more dramatic, story-rich strategy game where the player would become emotionally invested in the characters and their struggle. The mechanic of permanent death was introduced as part of this, to give the fates of the playable cast more weight and to reward love and care for one's units. The idea was to break from standard RPGs of the time—which railroad players into a single course by necessity, otherwise the game would break—by ensuring that there was not only one way of clearing each map, and that players could approach maps as they choose and devise their own successful strategies. Another consideration was to simplify the game compared to other strategy games of the era, to fit in with Nintendo's philosophy of producing games which anybody can pick up and play.
Unlike most later Fire Emblem games, Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light was developed in a collaboration between Intelligent Systems and Nintendo Research & Development 1. Kaga once remarked that the development of Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light was a small-scale affair which the team produced largely for fun, and this resulted in having few resources to devote to its graphics, something which the team would later come to regret. Similarly, owing to the team's small size, Tohru Narihiro asserts that both he and most other members of the team performed numerous other duties beyond their main focus in its development.
According to Narihiro, the limitations of the NES hindered its ability to support strategy simulation games. With respect to how the team overcame this obstacle, he recalled:
|“||The program in a typical simulation game uses a lot of memory. Our game exceeded the capacity of the main memory available in the NES unit. So we figured out a way of increasing capacity by accessing a portion of the memory dedicated for saving the game. Using this memory together with the main memory we were able to get the game running. [...] To display characters, we loaded a chip into the machine that was able to process and display Kanji characters… So, at Nintendo we were always working as partners with the people who were making the hardware, and I acted as a kind of observer during our development of the NES version of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon.||”|
— Tohru Narihiro, in an interview with Masahiro Sakurai
Kaga was interested in implementing a multiplayer mode of some kind, but this never came to be; the first multiplayer mode in the series was introduced twelve years later, as the Link Arena in The Binding Blade.
- Directer:[sic] Keisuke Terasaki
- Scinario:[sic] Shouzou Kaga
- Programers:[sic] Masaharu Tani, Masayuki Imanishi, Kouji Yoshida, Kei Fukura
- Graphic designers: Tohru Ohsawa, Naotaka Ohnishi, Saotshi Machida, Toshitaka Muramatsu
- Music: Hirokazu Tanaka, Yuka Banba
- Special thanks: Ryoichi Kitanishi, Masafumi Sakashita, Papa Narihiro, Wink Nakamura, Haruhiko Shimizu
- Producer: Gunpei Yokoi
In 2008, Narihiro said in an interview that for the first two months it was on the market, Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light experienced very slow sales, but that its sales slowly began to pick up afterward as positive word of mouth spread about the game among consumers. According to Kaga, the game was met with poor reviews when it first launched and was criticized for being difficult to understand and for its unimpressive visuals. It was not until six months after its release, when a columnist at the magazine Famitsu praised the game, that its sales improved.
As of 2002, Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light had sold an estimated 329,087 copies in its original Famicom print run.
Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light did not receive an international release for 30 years, 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, released by Quirino of the Serenes Forest forums.
- Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light is the only game in the Fire Emblem series in which every class in the game is playable.
Etymology and other languages
|Names, etymology and in other regions|
|Language||Name||Definition, etymology and notes|
|English||• Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light
• Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragons and the Blade of Light
• Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light
|• As of the official English release and Fire Emblem Heroes version 4.7.0. The title refers to Medeus, the "Shadow Dragon", and to the sword Falchion.|
• "Shadow Dragon" was mistakenly pluralized on The Blazing Blade's official website and in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
• Used in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, the Fire Emblem Fates website, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and older versions of Fire Emblem Heroes. "and" was originally used in place of "&".
|Fire Emblem: Dark Dragon and the Sword of Light||--|
|Japanese||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|
|Spanish||Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light||As above.|
|French||Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light||As above.|
|German||Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light||As above.|
|Italian||Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light||As above.|
- Harris, J., Game Design Essentials: 20 RPGs, Gamasutra, Published: 2010-04-26, Retrieved: 2015-03-30
- Sakurai, M. et al., Iwata Asks - Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, Nintendo; (archived by the Internet Archive Wayback Machine), Published: 2012-03, Retrieved: 2014-07-26
- Kaga, S., Sakaguchi, H., et al. (trans. shmupulations), Fire Emblem – Developer Interviews with Shouzou Kaga and Hironobu Sakaguchi, shmupulations.com, Published: 2016-05-03, Retrieved: 2016-05-03
- Kaga, S.; trans. North2, Fire Emblem: Treasure - Interview with Shouzou Kaga, Serenes Forest, Published: 1999-01, Retrieved: 2015-02-24
- ファイアーエムブレム 暗黒竜と光の剣 総集編 １５/１５, YouTube, Retrieved: 2016-08-01
- University of Japan Copyright Center, 日本ユニ著作権センター／判例全文・2002/11/14d 3, Translan, Published: 2002-11-14, Retrieved: 2015-03-30
- Quirino, Fire Emblem NES Translation, Serenes Forest Forums, Published: 2010-04-26, Retrieved: 2015-03-30
- HertzDevil, Fire Emblem Heroes text assets, July 30, 2020 update, GitHub, Published: July 30, 2020, Retrieved: October 30, 2020
- Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light Wii Virtual Console website (Japanese)
- Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console website (Japanese)
- Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light Wii U Virtual Console website (Japanese)
- Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light Fire Emblem Museum section (Japanese, archived by the Wayback Machine)
- Official page on Nintendo of America's website for the Switch version
|Fire Emblem series|