Few Nintendo franchises experienced the meteoric rise and continued success like the Fire Emblem series. As a niche, Japan-only strategy RPG, Fire Emblem established itself as one of Nintendo’s leading IPs, spawning new titles, spin-offs, and even a remake of one of its lesser known entries. With 3 Houses’ incredible success—and fans’ ongoing thirst for content—it seems better than ever for Intelligent Systems to release another remake to satiate eager fans.
No game deserves that treatment more than the series’ critically acclaimed fourth installment: Fire Emblem- Genealogy of the Holy War.
No FE 4 story spoilers ahead aside from in-game features.
Fire Emblem recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. For a series running over three decades with over 16 titles under its belt, it has a storied legacy, with countless fans, artists, and developers expressing their love for the franchise.
In honor of the series’ history, many fans and devs have paid tribute with countless art pieces, remastered renditions of music tracks in an official Nintendo released album, polls, and more. The spinoff mobile gacha game, Fire Emblem Heroes, handed bonuses to players in lieu of the celebration.
In Japan, gaming magazine Famitsu held a survey as part of its Fire Emblem anniversary feature. On it, Famitsu asked people what their favorite Fire Emblem games were. The top 5 are:
- Mystery of the Emblem (FE 3)
- The Blazing Blade (FE 7)
- Awakening (FE 13)
- 3 Houses (FE 16)
- Genealogy of the Holy War (FE 4)
In a vacuum, it may be mind-blowing seeing a 24 year old title released during the SNES-era to a Japan only audience beat out a current-gen game. However, to the Fire Emblem community, it was more or less expected.
Fire Emblem 4: Genealogy of the Holy War is often heralded as the greatest entry in the series and series creator Shouzou Kaga’s magnum opus. Many recent Fire Emblem games can trace their mechanics back to Genealogy, such as the iconic weapon triangle, character relationship system, and unit offspring. On top of being a springboard for future mechanics, Genealogy has one of the richest stories among the games, spanning two generations of characters with tons of subtle variation involved.
Previous games didn’t spend much time in the story fleshing out characters aside from the main lord. The reason behind this was permadeath. Non-lead characters could be lost at any time. Given the technological limitations of the NES and SNES era, designing and programming for chapters and story moments specifically depending on certain characters being alive was a tall hurdle.
However, Genealogy defied expectations by doing just that. Player controlled characters were now further developed throughout the chapters. On top of this, they could converse, fall in love with one another, and have children. Said children would bear skills, stats, and growths according to who their parents were, and be playable in the game’s latter half.
There is still casual discussion across communities regarding marriage—doing it for uber-optimized child units or because a couple looks cute together. There is no wrong answer.
Also, to account for any parent-units that died and weren’t able to bear offspring, their children would be replaced by a set character in the second generation story.
Such a thing was unheard of and revolutionary in SRPGs of the era.
This relationship system was further expanded and developed over the course of Fire Emblem’s lifespan. Future games would discontinue the offspring mechanic until Awakening and Fates, but the relationship system had become a series mainstay and one of the franchise’s most popular aspects, giving rise to the notion that Fire Emblem is a medieval dating simulator—which isn’t entirely wrong.
All of this is thanks to Genealogy.
Hope of a Remake
Remakes aren’t outside Intelligent Systems’ wheelhouse. Their first remake was released 26 years ago. Mystery of Emblem falls in a weird camp of being a remake and a sequel. The Super Famicom cartridge fitted the first game, Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, and its follow up, Mystery of the Emblem, into a singular package.
Thanks to the space offered on the new cartridge over its Famicom predecessor, FE 1 was remade using FE 3’s assets, allowing for a seamless transition across the games.
Shadow Dragon and Mystery of the Emblem would go on to be remade again;this time for the Nintendo DS, becoming the 11th and 12th main installments, respectively. Though Shadow Dragon released worldwide, its sequel remains a Japan-exclusive to this day.
The next remake was Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, a reimagining of the niche and lesser known Fire Emblem Gaiden, the second game in the series.
Its announcement was a complete surprise to many fans, who had given up hope that the Japan-exclusive spinoff-esqe game would ever see the light of day in the West. Once it arrived, it was met with great acclaim.
The entire game was remade with 3D models over the original’s 8-bit sprites, a stunning reimagining and overhaul of the game’s soundtrack, animated cutscenes, and fully voice acted dialogue.
On top of the presentational glow-up, gameplay mechanics remained similar to the original, delivering a faithful FE 2 experience with the benefit of modern conveniences. Echoes also added support conversations between characters, a feature not present in FE 2.
Despite slight story and gameplay gripes, it is the definitive way to experience Gaiden.
With Echoes as the latest remake, it makes a Genealogy remake all the more likely. It is the next game in the series chronologically to NOT yet receive the remake treatment. It’s not easily accessible like other titles that came after it, being confined to such an old system, such as Gaiden was. Plus, Fire Emblem communities across the internet have been hungry for anything Genealogy related for years.
The Fire Emblem Heroes community is one such example.
The Heroes Effect
The Heroes community is a unique microcosm among Fire Emblem fans. It is made up of newcomers who’ve never touched a Fire Emblem game outside of Heroes, series veterans who’ve played every title and could recite the growth rates of their favorite units, elitist snobs who like to do nothing but bash Fire Emblem, and filthy casuals like yours truly.
Heroes is a gacha game, where players gamble their resources to pull units that they like. Every two weeks, the developers release a batch of new units for players to summon and add to their barracks.
Every game in the franchise has been represented to some extent, with popular games getting the most representation Curiously, despite Genealogy’s immense popularity in Japan and around the world, it is one of the least represented—and the most shafted.
Characters from other games receive a variety of alternate forms and costumes from a wide range of seasonal and special events. Genealogy has received one—and it wasn’t even for its lead character.
This underrepresentation has led players to speculate a Genealogy remake is underway, saving characters for future marketing. It wouldn’t be Heroes’ first time doing it.
Before Echoes and 3 Houses released, Intelligent Systems used Heroes to market and tease their games and characters, releasing units piecemeal, giving fans a glimpse into the games the characters hailed from. They even attached a new free character bonus to players that purchased 3 Houses and linked their Nintendo accounts.
Though all of this is wild speculation on the fans’ part, the scenario isn’t entirely impossible.
In the meantime, all fans can do is complain about the lack of Genealogy characters—to little to no success—imagine what the potential remake could look like.
What the Remake could look like
Echoes was a fantastic recreation of Gaiden, serving as the principle example of what to do for future remakes.
Its characters, music, and story are incredibly memorable and were given the right level of care and detail to please old fans and invite new ones.
Echoes’ biggest issue, ironically, was being TOO faithful. It replicated some of Gaiden’s problems without bothering to fix them.
Gaiden suffers from some of the worst designed levels in Fire Emblem’s history. Players spend half the game fighting enemies with the other half spent fighting horrid map layouts.
For such a great remake that added layers of convenience and mechanics, this was the one area Echoes dropped the ball.
Genealogy isn’t a perfect game and has its share of issues. Maps are gigantic–among the biggest in the series–making the use of units without good movement obsolete. Certain weapons, skills, and equipment are too overpowered, upsetting the game’s balance. Some could even argue that the children mechanic isn’t explained enough (but that feature is integral to the story so it can’t be helped).
A Genealogy remake should focus on its strengths, like its characters, story, and lore, dialing back on some of its grievances. Instead of staying 100% faithful to the original, the remake should seek to amplify what made it great to improve upon itself like Echoes did for the most part.
Because, when the Genealogy remake is released—and it WILL be one day—it just may be the best of what Fire Emblem has to offer.