On 20th April, 25 years ago, the very first Fire Emblem game, Dark Dragon and Sword of Light was released on the Famicom in Japan.
During this time, the series has experienced many highs and lows.
Back in 1994, the third game in the series, Mystery of the Emblem sold a record-breaking 776,000 copies in Japan. Fans fell in the love with the series’s complex yet concise gameplay, rich storyline and diverse cast of characters, which few games boasted at the time.
In the coming years, the series ushered in a golden age that seemed like it would last forever.
But later, in 1999, the series’s creator, Shouzou Kaga–the “father of Fire Emblem”–left the company and amidst poor sales of Thracia 776, for being released on the then-defunct Super Famicom, and the uncertain development of Fire Emblem 64, the series’s long-term future became unclear.
It was at this point the higher ups concocted a plan to get the series back on track during this difficult era, by moving the series from home consoles to portables, with the release of Binding Blade for the GameBoy Advance.
Thanks to the inclusion of veteran Marth and newcomer Roy in the international release of Super Smash Bros. Melee, Western fans finally began to notice this Japanese-only series. Then in 2003, Nintendo answered fans’ prayers by releasing the first Fire Emblem title in the West, known in Japan as Blazing Sword.
At long last, the Fire Emblem series received global recognition, but its future was far from safe.
Due to the complacency of The Sacred Stones, the ambitious but ignored Tellius saga and the poorly-received Shadow Dragon remake, the series found itself in a downward spiral of sales, leading to Heroes of Light and Shadow being the first game in the series to skip the Western market since it went international.
Of course, Nintendo started to notice this unfortunate trend and the development team was given an ultimatum of sorts: If the latest game in the series, Awakening did not sell 250,000 copies (the minimum expectation of a Fire Emblem game), the series could be put on hold.
Thankfully, due the team’s efforts and ingenious plan to fill Awakening to the brim with gameplay features, Awakening sold far more than that number in Japan alone. Worldwide, its sales surpassed the 1 million mark, making it the best-selling game in the series so far.
Currently, the series is at another historical high, but if we’re not careful, the series could slip again before it continues to climb.
Fortunately, the series seems safe enough, with Fire Emblem if confirmed to be hitting Western shores. However Nintendo will have a crucial battle to come in explaining how the different versions will work in the West.