Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light

Sometimes Nintendo’s way of thinking is beyond baffling. Take this NES re-release for example. As you’re likely aware, Nintendo has a platform on Switch full of SNES, Famicom and NES games. A handful are added periodically for online subscribers, including Japan-only titles. So, where did Nintendo put this localised re-release of the first-ever Fire Emblem? Why, the eShop of course. Yours for just over a fiver, and only available for a limited time!

Grumbles aside, I’m glad this entry saw a re-release. It’s really good, and not just in the ‘good for its time’ way. 8-bit titles are a real mixed bag. For every Super Mario Bros. or Twin Bee, there’s an Urban Champion or Wally Bear. Luckily, Fire Emblem is one of the Famicom’s finest.

For the uninformed, Fire Emblem is a deep and involving strategy series. You take control of units across a battlefield attempting to get to a castle, where your player will defeat the enemy inside and claim ownership. Fire Emblem has one big twist, though. Once one of your party dies they’re dead forever, so you need to be careful about chucking your troops into battle without backup.

This classic formula is still in use today, not just in modern Fire Emblem games but also indie efforts such as WarGroove. The only things absent in this original title are the romance and story elements.

Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light – to use its unwieldy subtitle – gets right to the heart of what makes strategy games fun. All the elements are here, from levelling up to using different weapons. It feels fully-featured but never overwhelming. We were left wondering why Nintendo didn’t localise this sooner. 

It comes highly recommended. It’s tense due to the permanent deaths your comrades can endure, as well as being surprisingly fun. Battles move along at a decent speed and the modern touches Nintendo has added, including speeding up enemies turns, rewinding and creating quick save points are all welcome and worthwhile.

Faults are negligible. It takes a while to figure out the weapon ‘triangle’ system, and sometimes its roots show a little, but it has mostly aged like a fine wine. It cuts to the chase when so many modern games are laborious and slow – in the time it takes for modern games to load and finish their fancy intro sequences, a battle here will be well underway.

If you’re a fan of strategy games and want something light and quick, this comes wholeheartedly recommended. We just wish Nintendo had been more charitable and made it available on the NES Online service.


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