The Real Mystery of the Emblem
Credits: TearRing Saga lawsuit page (timeline)
Notes: Interviews are translated and may not be 100% accurate (excludes the Dengeki interview translated by IGN).
Originally, there was a Fire Emblem game planned for the Nintendo 64, known only as “Fire Emblem 64”. It is possible that it was going to be for the Nintendo 64’s 64DD add-on at one point in time. However, before any images or details were revealed, the game was outright cancelled.
Basically, there are no known facts about Fire Emblem 64.
However, instead of just ending this article like this, I have provided a timeline of below below, containing events related to Fire Emblem 64 and the series in general.
On 23rd June 1996, the Nintendo 64 was released in Japan. Of course, the console itself had been in development far earlier than this; it was first unveiled to the public in early 1994. So theoretically there was plenty of time for Intelligent Systems—the series’s developer—to start work on a Nintendo 64 Fire Emblem, or at least begin developing ideas for it.
In fact, not long after the Nintendo 64’s release, Shouzou Kaga—the creator of Fire Emblem—was asked the question that was likely on many fans’ minds: would the next Fire Emblem be on the Nintendo 64?
Although it’s not been decided yet, if there is a next game, the level of strategy would be much higher and I would also return to something that’s easier to play. I don’t want to lose what makes Fire Emblem stand out from other games. As for the story, I’d like to explore Archanea’s world again, from before the start of Marth’s adventures when he landed on Talys. Although enemies, I want to the develop the stories of interesting characters like Camus and Michalis.
Kaga ultimately dodged the question about the next game’s platform, but he explained a fairly clear direction for his next game: an extension of Marth’s story, which was last detailed in Mystery of the Emblem in 1994.
In particular, the second part of his description more or less fits in with BS Fire Emblem, which was indeed released next, in late 1997. In this series of games, players returned to Archanea and experienced four episodes from different characters’ perspectives. Although Michalis didn’t appear in these episodes, there was a large focus on Camus.
Meanwhile, the first part seems to refer to his future plan of creating Thracia 776—at the time, the toughest yet most straightforward game in the series.
Just two months after his first response, Kaga was quizzed again about his next title and whether it would be on the Nintendo 64.
I think being on the Super Famicom [SNES] will be fine. If it were on the Nintendo 64, the battle scenes would use polygons and I’d have more to say.
This time, Kaga clearly suggests that he doesn’t have plans to work on a Nintendo 64 Fire Emblem. His first comment would later be realised in the form of BS Fire Emblem and/or Thracia 776.
The next historical segment, which actually involves Fire Emblem 64, gets a bit confusing in my opinion.
Almost a year later, the existence of Fire Emblem 64 was confirmed in 1997—not by Kaga or Intelligent Systems, but by Nintendo top man, Shigeru Miyamoto.
We’re earnestly producing Fire Emblem 64 (laughs). Actually, it’ll probably come out after Mario RPG 2, the latter half of next year.
The plans for Fire Emblem 64 are steadily progressing. The program team is completing Mario RPG 2, trying to come up with a playable demo… I wonder if I’ve said too much.
Although, for some reason or another, it would take another year before Fire Emblem 64 was formally announced, in the September 1998 issue of Japanese gaming magazine, 64 Dream.
Then in January 1999, Kaga returned to clarify his plans; he explained that his plans for another Archanea game fell through and that he would be making Thracia 776, for the SNES, instead.
After Genealogy of the Holy War was completed, the theme of the next game was considered immediately. In fact, we had originally wanted to return to Archanea, the stage of Mystery of the Emblem. However, although we intended on this direction from the very beginning, during the preliminary preparations, we realised it was too ambitious and difficult to do with the Super Famicom [SNES] hardware… If possible, we’d like to do it for new hardware.
As when we spoke previous, I would like to continue Archanea’s saga— possibly a story related to Marth. Of course, we must wait until the proper environment comes. If the game can be made, to tell the truth, I’ll have to think for a long time. I haven’t actually thought much about it. Anyhow, if another game was made, I’d like to realise all of my designs.
It’s important to note that Kaga felt the SNES wasn’t ideal for his ideal Archanea game, but he didn’t mention anything about the Nintendo 64. It’s possible Kaga was looking into the Nintendo 64 hardware or perhaps another piece of hardware caught his eye…
On 15th August 1999, Shouzou Kaga left Intelligent Systems to form his own company, Tirnanog. Curiously, his departure occurred just days before Thracia 776—his final Fire Emblem game—was released. This is just my personal speculation, so don’t take my word for it, but it seems Kaga was interested in developing for the Playstation even before Thracia 776 was announced.
In any case, with Kaga gone from Intelligent Systems, it was evident that his plans for another Archanea title would never come to fruition… or would they?
As a matter of fact, Kaga’s first game was to be Emblem Saga, a Fire Emblem title for the Playstation. According to Kaga, the game would take place in the same time era as Marth, but would start a new story. So there was still a chance for him to realise his Archanean dream.
A certain shape-shifting youth will have an important role, in the guise of a mysterious bard and sage. Since this game occurs in the same time period as the first game, Dark Dragon and Sword of Light, more characters may return if the need arises.
However, Nintendo weren’t keen with Kaga continuing the Fire Emblem series away from their consoles and sought to sue Tirnanog for copyright infringement. Funnily enough, Nintendo lost the case, but eventually succeeded in suing Tirnanog for breaking the Unfair Competition Law and Tirnanog were fined a huge sum of money.
As a result of this drama, Tirnanog renamed Emblem Saga to TearRing Saga and axed all of the Fire Emblem references.
After our long detour, we come back to Fire Emblem, but it’s future would remain uncertain for a whole year.
On August 2000, Fire Emblem: Maiden of Darkness (Ankoku no Miko) appeared among the list of GameBoy Advance titles that would appear in Nintendo’s Space World event.
In the November 2000 issue of 64 Dream, published in 22nd September 2000, it was announced that Fire Emblem 64 was cancelled because the hardware specs weren’t suited to the game’s system. Development was moved to Maiden of Darkness. (Source)
Finally, on 26th July 2001, Maiden of Darkness was renamed to Binding Blade and the rest is history.