Being a Nintendo fan is both awesome and frustrating. Whenever they announce something it might be super exciting, or it might be totally baffling. And sometimes it's both. Such is the case with Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & The Blade Of Light, which you might also know as "the first Fire Emblem game."
Of course, back when Fire Emblem dropped on GBA in 2003 we westerners all assumed it was the first game in a new series. Or at least I did. But truth be told, it was the SEVENTH game - it was just the first to be localized.
Over the years, lots of Fire Emblem games have come to the States, both in the forms of new entries and remakes of old games. It became a cult-classic series, and then thanks to the inclusion of Marth (and a bunch of other characters) in Smash, pretty much a classic series proper. Truth be told, it's easily one of my favorite Nintendo exclusive series. Maybe my favorite.
So when it was announced at the end of 2020 that the original Famicom game would get an English localization and be brought to the eShop for a limited time, I was excited... but also baffled.
1. Why is a digital game being offered for a limited time?
2. Why does the super expensive and super pretty limited edition physical release NOT include an actual physical cartridge?
3. Why is a game that's free on the Japanese Switch Online service now $6 for those of us who live in America?
4. Why on Earth is Nintendo putting resources into localizing a game that's already been remade on the DS?
There's just so much head-scratching going on here. But at the end of the day, I could try to find the DS remake for a pretty penny on the aftermarket, or I could get the DS remake on the Wii U Virtual Console for $10, or I could just grab this new version for $6 and stop the nagging FOMO in my brain due to the limited release. So here we are.
Having said all that, I'm like four hours into Shadow Dragon and having a pretty good time. So I guess I've already gotten my money's worth, really. I mean, I spent the same on Among Us and was pretty let down by that new hotness. Meanwhile, this rusty old Famicom game is kind of a treat.
Look, there's no denying how rough around the edges this game is. But in fairness, it pretty much sparked a console genre. (Well, maybe that's unfair given that Famicom Wars was released two years prior). But still, I used to look at Shining Force as sort of the beginning of these kinds of strategy RPG's. But man, look at Shadow Dragon and it's clear where Shining Force took its inspiration from!
There's lots of little complaints I could make, but they seem unfair. I'm so used to the QOL improvements that the series has gotten as it's refined, but I have to stay in the mindset that this was the beginning and it is what it is. Yes, I'd love to instantly see how far my troops can move without just trying. Yes, there's a lot of info hidden away within menus. But what can you do?
Overlooking the roughness, I'm having a really good time going back to these antiquated roots of the series. I'm not making use of much of the new features. No rewinding or anything. I'm laying in the bed I've made with each turn. So we'll see how far I can make it.
I'll be turning 40 much sooner than I expected. So maybe an existential crisis is due? I don't know. But I feel like since the holidays I've been struggling to really enjoy a lot of the games I've been playing. I didn't feel like I had the time nor focus to dive into Mass Effect 3; I felt like Among Us was a game for younger folks, and the imposter was me - the old dude; Catherine felt way cooler when I was 29 than when I was 39; Pokemon Sword was just MORE Pokemon, and I've honestly played a lot of Pokemon in the past few years, and so on. Beyond that, the urge to collect new games has started to feel like a chore lately. It's like, how do I know what to buy if I don't even know what I'm in the mood to play?
I know Marie Kondo is kind of a buzz-word at this point, but the last time I read her book several years back, I was able to happily apply a lot of the logic to my own video game collection. So my wife re-borrowed the book for me to thumb through again. But all of this is sort of a side-rant.
The funny thing is that while I've been going through this whole WHAT GAME WILL BRING ME JOY kind of breakdown, I've been slowly chipping away at Shadow Dragon. This is an old game that I was apprehensive about handing over $6 for. Truth be told, a lot of the old NES games I've played lately have only kept my attention for a night or two. But I don't know. In a weird - really weird - way, this game has been an odd remedy.
1. It's a tried and true formula for me. I love Fire Emblem games.
2. It's simple. The game mechanics are pretty easy to grasp right away, given you've played Fire Emblem games before. The full map is laid out for you at the beginning of each chapter, thus setting up your new 'chessboard.'
3. It's challenging. I'm not coasting through, but rather having a good time devoting the hour or so before bed to clearing a chapter or two.
Honestly, when I downloaded this game it was more out of wanting to have that little piece of Fire Emblem history. I wanted to make sure I had this game before it disappeared from the eShop next month. And I figured it'd be something I'd mess with for an hour and then say "okay, I now have some first hand experience with the start of the Fire Emblem series." But strangely, I like this game way more than I expected.
I almost wanted to give up on Fire Emblem the other night. I had gotten stuck on Chapter 5, and had my party wiped out twice. Marth had a broken sword. There was some wizard enemy with strong thunder magic that was destroying us. I felt like I was up against a wall.
I took a break with some rounds of Overwatch and then came back to FE with a fresh brain. I created a screen for Marth so he could head towards an item shop. Meanwhile, my squad wiped out a bunch of grunts leaving only that wizard. Guess what? Turns out that wizard ran over to Marth and joined our team! So now I have a super deadly wizard dude in the lineup. Marth bought a new sword, so we crossed a bridge, headed west, met up with some more recruits and wiped out the remainder of the enemies. Chapter 5 is done, and I feel rejuvenated.
There is an alternate reality out there where Shadow Dragon was released on the NES in America. In that reality, I would have played this before X-COM: Terror From The Deep, and it would be my introduction to the genre. In this reality, Fire Emblem would be my long running favorite strategy RPG series; it wouldn't' have taken me until Awakening to get into the series.
As I keep saying, yeah, this game is rough around the edges. But it's also brilliant.