FIRE EMBLEM: MYSTERY OF THE EMBLEM / Nintendo / Super NES
 
 
So, this is the third Fire Emblem game, but the most accurate title for it would really be Fire Emblem 1+2. Lemme see if I can 'splain. The first game in the series was Fire Emblem for NES. That was followed by Fire Emblem Gaiden, an oddball side story not connected to the first game that also introduced level-grinding mechanics and an overworld map you could move around on.
 


Mystery of the Emblem, which is the next release and the first for SNES, packages both a remake of the original Fire Emblem and the true sequel to it all in one bundle. The engine that drives both games here strips out the map and level-grinding that Gaiden introduced, going back to the completely linear style of the original game that hops you straight from battle to battle. The story ends up being a nice self-contained little package; Fire Emblem 1 is the tale of Prince Marth's defeat of the evil dragon-abusing Darunia Empire, and Fire Emblem 2 picks up immediately in the aftermath of that as one of your allies from the original game has ascended to power and is now trying to become Emperor of the World for some reason.
 


The remake of the first game is pretty much just a straight "grade-up" job. The graphics are improved, the soundtrack is the same but has better sound samples, and the menu has been tweaked a bit to make it more sensible to navigate. You can also now trade weapons and items between characters on a menu between battles, instead of having to clumsily swap stuff during a lull in the fighting. The one big tweak to gameplay is that there is a new "Dismount" command for the horsie-riding troops, which allows them to go on foot at any time. There's a cost to it, though; during the levels that take place entirely inside, such as the attacks on various castles, any mounted troops that you deploy are forced to dismount. Mounted knights also can no longer use swords while on a horse; they have to dismount to use those, but on foot they lose the ability to use their lances.
 


So I suppose this is the preferable version of the original game to play, since it has the smoothest menus and best appearance. However, if you never liked the extremely demanding perfectionism of the original game ... there's nothing different in this cartridge and the whole package is probably going to do nothing for you. The style of murdering the shit out of your characters forever if you put someone even one square in the wrong direction is not toned down at all in the prequel and is embraced to an even greater degree in the sequel, with the third map of the second game already punishing you brutally for not wasting half your life walking in a big circle around the outer edges of a map. If you hate the idea of restarting maps multiple times because you didn't have a Spock-like foresight of how every single move would unfold from start to finish before you even took your first turn, or because asshole enemies spawned in behind you, steer clear of this one.
 


I still give the game a decent rating (3/5) since it is in fact pretty decent, but after having played the first four entries in the series now I completely understand why Nintendo was so reluctant to localize them outside of Japan. Part of it is that they're a little darker and more violent than the usual Nintendo fare of the period, sure. But I think more of it is that they're an artifact of overly demanding masochistic Japanese game design that definitely would not have gone over well here in the late 80s / early 90s.
 
 
 
 
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