The Fire Emblem series was on life-support for well over a decade. When it was added to Super Smash Bros. Melee, western fans had no way of trying it out! They wouldn’t have access to Marth’s home game for years. There still isn’t an official way to play Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, Roy’s home game, in English either! In 2008, Intelligent Systems remade Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon for the Nintendo DS. This would be the first time western fans got to experience the true story of Marth’s adventure.
Long ago, a great hero named Anri used the divine sword, known as the Falchion, and a legendary shield, the Fire Emblem, to slay the evil Shadow Dragon Medeus. He has few descendants worthy of wielding the legendary blade. After his kingdom is betrayed and abandoned, Prince Marth of Atlea sets out to reclaim these artifacts and put the resurrected Medeus to death.
Fire Emblem is a series known for its tactical RPG elements. You must make do with what you’re given, and strategize to avoid loss. This time around, there is no easy mode. You’ll suffer through the permanent death of your units. Shadow Dragon has the gameplay that I love from future entries, but it’s map design and lackluster told story don’t keep my interest. The story of Three Houses is awful, but at least it’s delivered hysterically. Map design became so stale and predictable that I lost interest in them quickly. Even when they did shake things up, it got stale another eight minutes later.
Shadow Dragon is an ugly game. Before classic Fire Emblem fans get all upset about me “only caring for the anime art style,” I want to say that I’m a huge fan of the GBA art and even the original NES version’s! The unit sprite work here is on the same level as the rest of the series I’ve experienced, but everything else just looks horrendous to me. There’s something about the way that character portraits look that I couldn’t stand.
None of this is helped by the gaming being incredibly indecisive about which screen it wants you to focus on. Hardcore fans may have noticed that you’re only seeing screenshots from the first few chapters. The game has you controlling the map on the bottom screen and all other important information on the top. This would be fine, but it becomes an issue when battles take place on the top screen too! It made it incredibly hard to take screenshots for this review.
If there’s one thing I’m a fan of here, it’s the music. Shadow Dragon, both versions of it, spawned many iconic songs that would return in later entires. However, most of you would only recognize them from Smash Bros. I’m not going to pretend that I’m not in that camp.
I can’t see myself recommending this one. It’s exactly what I feared from the Fire Emblem franchise when starting this series. A bland, run of the mill, SRPG that I simply slogged through to fill a quota. It’s also hard to get your hands on! Physical carts will run you around $45. Nintendo offered it as part of their DS virtual console on the Wii U. I recommend you stay away from any virtual console game on Wii U. Maybe I just missed something here, but if you’re looking to get into classic Fire Emblem, I wouldn’t start with the handhelds.
Super Smash Bros. has received a ton of Fire Emblem content over the years. Some would say “too much”, but I say that they’re only looking at it from the perspective of a game that brought as much of it back as possible. It started with simply Marth and Roy and has grown into one of the biggest presences on the roster.
Marth is the basis for every other fighter from Fire Emblem. Except for Corrin, but we’re not acknowledging Corrin until the end of this wild ride. Marth influenced every sword-wielder that would be added to the roster after him. He feels like “Mario” of this archetype. I’m incredibly happy he’s remained a constant of the Smash roster since his addition. I hope he keeps his place for eternity to come!