March 27, 2014

[Game 044] Fire Emblem: Dark Dragon and Sword of Light (NES - 1990)

Translation by Quirino

Fire Emblem is the first proper strategic RPG for the NES and is entirely the reason why I included some strategy games in my outline.  I've had a raging hardon for the series ever since I first played Blazing Sword all those millennia ago.  I played this particular version, albeit with a different and incomplete translation, perhaps a year before starting this blog.  Luckily, since that's longer than a month ago, I've forgotten pretty much everything about the game.  One thing I missed from when I played previously was waiting before starting the game, as Fire Emblem deigns to give a complete rundown of every character class, complete with stats and everything!

Wow!  A WLV of 5!... What's a WLV?

Oh, weapon level (figured it out as I typed but can't be bothered right now to come up with a different line... maybe later).  Anywho, Shen, let's try to not make the first entry on this gem a stream of consciousness post and focus on the game!  Right!  So the story starts off as one would expect for such a game; there's an evil army that the protagonist, Prince Marth, must stop with his own army.  The dark dragon, Mediuth, was vanquished hundreds of years ago but has returned to attempt to again take over the world (of course!).  Even though Prince Marth was dethroned from his Aritian homeland, he's a decent sort of chap and decides to muster what forces he can in order to help stop the big bad.  He's already got a good group of pals with him, including the sultry Sheeda, who rides a pegasus and is cute as hell.

U-u-uh, g-g-good, and y-y-you?

Others include a pair of mounted knights, Kain and Abel; a paladin, Jeigan; a walking meatshield, Doga; and an archer, Gordon.  As in real life, the males are all expendable (except the prince) and I will devote most of my efforts to keeping Marth and Sheeda alive.  Eh?  What's that?  Oh, you didn't expect a NES game to serve up some hardcore permadeath?  Yeppers, if a unit is lost it isn't just out for that particular level, it's out for the rest of the entire game.  This aspect, in addition to being awesome, can also have some repercussions other than just losing the unit itself.  Some recruitable units will only join Marth's side if certain characters talk to them first.  If that certain character is dead, then — too bad!  No unit for Marth.  In my previous playthrough, I'm pretty certain I would restart the level if I lost any unit but the Inconsolable project plays games as they were meant to be played (except for those times when I don't — *cough* *cough* Wizardry).  I'm fairly confident that I'll be able to keep most of the units alive (the cool ones anyway).

Bros like Riff here will help me keep that confidence.

The first mission is a simple all-out assault on a group of pirates that have taken over a small fortress.  The nearby townsfolk implore Marth to get rid of them and, smelling a good source of XP, he obliges and proceeds to lay waste with his vastly superior units.  Now, it's not just a matter of amassing all the units into a front and pushing forward.  There are also different types of buildings that should be visited, consisting of huts, shops, storage vaults, and town halls.  Huts contains general info or hints and can be visited by anyone.  I usually use Sheeda because of her excellent movement rate which is not hindered by terrain, and also to keep her out of danger since she's a delicate little flower (not always though, she still needs experience).  Purchasing weaponry at the shops is crucial since all weapons not only have a limited amount of uses, but character classes are restricted in which armaments they can employ.  Again, I generally use Sheeda or the less combative classes (clerics, thieves) to run fresh weapons to the front line.  The town hall can only be accessed by Marth and it's always a good idea to have him accomplish this right away.

Cha-ching!

Battles include all the variables one has come to expect from the genre.  Terrain types are in full effect and it's always a good idea to attack first rather than defend.  Not only does striking first give the chance for a quick kill, often a character will get an additional attack after the opponent has counterattacked.

Jeigan maximizing the amount of force he's about
to put into the tip of his lance.  I like how utterly
flabbergasted his foe is from such an insane
maneuver... finishes indeed.

As expected, certain classes will be strong or weak versus the class attacking them.  Pegasus knights like Sheeda are easy pickings for archers and tanks like Doga take minimal damage from most physical attacks.  But Fire Emblem doesn't stop there.  There are also speciality weapons that can be purchased that are effective against a specific class, but less useful against anything else.  These weapons stack with the class system and so it's easy to make a tank or a knight killer.  Each unit can carry up to four different weapons/items, so this provides a huge amount of versatility in unit configuration.  As if all this wasn't enough, FE also is nice enough to have ranged weapons available for most of the non-archer classes (e.g. knights get a javelin, fighters a throwing axe).  Of course, these secondary weapons aren't as powerful as the primary and are easily outclassed by archers and mages, but it adds another tactical option and those are always appreciated.  And those extra tactics are needed, as the second mission right away has the player (most likely) splitting the army into factions to deal with two fronts.  The same thing occurs on the third map, but with a twist.  Two new characters are introduced, Julian (thief) and Rena (priest), who are fleeing from their bandit captors and offer to join Marth if he will protect them.  How many units and which units should stay behind?  Well, those decisions are half the fun of Fire Emblem.

This looks like a good spot for
a bottleneck.  Run, fools, run!

Unfortunately, one of the fighters, Maji, ended up being on the receiving end of a critical from a high level mercenary and perished instantly.

Aw jings!  Oh well, fighters kinda suck anyway.

The formula stays the same for the next couple of maps; eliminate all opposition and take over the fortress that's guarded by a powerful general.  Generals aren't too difficult as they always stay on the fortress tile, even as the rest of his army is being decimated out in the field.  Then it's a simple matter of ganging up on him.  Each map so far, however, throws a little something in to keep the player's attention.  One has an arena that characters can fight against a random opponent, allowing for some risky grinding if desired (a character may be put against a class that he's weak against).  Since it's still quite early in the game, new character classes are popping up quite frequently.  Apparently my memory about my previous playthrough is better than I thought because the floodgates opened wide after recruiting the first available mage — my homeboy Marich!

Yes!  Yes!  Show me all the magics!

Marich has a ranged attack that does a hefty amount of damage and is effective against heavily armoured units.  He'll end up getting massive level gains since he almost always eradicates his opponent outright (XP gained is much higher on a kill).  Throw in a badass outfit and you have one of my favourite characters from the Fire Emblem series.

HADOUKEN!!!

Lest you erroneously think that Marich didn't get the quick kill I bragged about before, he actually immediately followed up with a second attack and terminated that cleric... permanently.  Accumulating all these extra troops comes with a cost in that eventually Marth can't just bring everybody into the next battle.  As in any great SRPG, choices must continually be made in as many different ways as possible.

Hrmm.. Sheeda's falling behind a bit... must remember
to have her attack / steal kills more.

Certain maps will entice Marth to bring in units that generally don't get selected too often (at least by me).  For example, one map has the fight take place inside a castle rather than outside.  The castle holds treasure chests which can only be opened by a thief.  One could just ignore the chests and fight a regular battle, but I think that I'm the same as a lot of you in that...

We're totally hardwired to want loot.

Marth can't just take his time either on this particular map; enemy thieves will loot the chests and destroy the item if they get to the chests first.  The race is on!  Liberation of this castle nets Marth the titular emblem of fire.  This acquisition validates Marth's epic struggle against the heaving tides of Mediuth's vile army.  For the first time since beginning his campaign, Prince Marth of Aritia feels the faint glimmer of hope welling up inside him, growing stronger and stronger with each successive victory.  Beware, Dark Dragon, for Marth Vader is coming for you!