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- The lack of the weapon triangle meant that for a while, the weapon roster was very unbalanced. For example, in the first four games, swords are by far the best weapon type: they're the lightest, the most accurate, they can be used indoors, they boast some very powerful options, and nearly every strong player unit is either a swordsman all the time, or, in the case of Mystery of the Emblem, uses them dismounted. Lances are ludicrously common in the hands of nearly any physical enemy to not be a Starter Villain bandit or an archer, and plenty of strong mounted player units favor lances as well. Meanwhile, axes are a Scrappy Weapon; few if any player units can use axes, the ones that do are generally mediocre, they often lack a "legendary weapon" counterpart outside of the memetic Devil Axe, and the lack of a Constitution stat means that axe-using characters have their Speed dragged to nothing. Genealogy of the Holy War represented an odd midpoint where the weapon triangle existed, but weapon balance was still rather poor; the only playable character who is considered a good axe-user is Lex, and that's really only because he can obtain a Brave Axe very early. It wasn't until Thracia 776 that axes became a truly viable weapon type, featuring plenty of strong axe-users, an (albeit minor) weapon triangle, good axes to use, and Constitution. Fans of the later games, particularly the GBA, Tellius, and DS titles, can find this rather odd, as in those games, the weapon balance is reversed: due to the weapon triangle, raw power being more important than accuracy, weight becoming increasingly negligible, and the existence of the Hand Axe, axes are the best weapon type, swords are the worst, and lances are somewhere in between.
- The NES games had the odd trait of not showing where your characters can move. You had to memorize, or check every time, each characters movement rate and use that to count where they should be able to go in a turn. Also, while Mystery of the Emblem made the movement spaces visible, they were just white opaque squares, and no squares showed where your characters can attack or heal/interact. Genealogy of the Holy War would eventually add visible red attack squares, with The Binding Blade adding heal/interact squares, and, as of The Binding Blade, all squares became color-codednote , something that the series had stuck with since.
- It was really obvious that the earliest games did not understand just how powerful Warp was. In most of the later games where it shows up, it's the very definition of Too Awesome to Use, via some combination of showing up very late, you getting only one, it having at most five uses, it only being able to teleport an ally a certain distance, it only being usable by a character with a massively trained-up staff rank, or it being impossible to repair. In the original Shadow Dragon, and its remake in Mystery of the Emblem, none of these things are true; you obtain your first one in Chapter 3, you can obtain more later on, it has seven uses, it can teleport an ally just about anywhere, many characters can use it untrained, and it can be repaired. Needless to say, it was absolutely busted. Only the DS remakes of those games kept Warp at its old level of power, seemingly due to the Grandfather Clause.
- Some of the Ballistician attack animations depict it using a weapon which is clearly a cannon. Every other game in the series plays Fantasy Gun Control very straight.
- The majority of early games did not scale your XP gain to your level. A level 1 character who kills ten enemies and a level 10 character who kills ten of the same enemies gain the same number of levels. Promotion didn't change this, either—combine that with low stat caps, and Crutch Character units with even a semblance of growth rates (and sometimes not even then) could be surprisingly competent for a very long time. It wasn't until Genealogy of the Holy War that scaling XP was introduced, and the idea of promoted characters gaining XP more slowly than unpromoted ones wasn't standardized until Thracia.
- The games before Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War also did not use some of the more familiar fanfares that that have become staples of the series. For instance, Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, the game before Genealogy, uses a fanfare that uses a bit of the "Near Victory" theme from the first game for its promotion theme, while all subsequent titles started using this theme, which uses a bit of Genealogy's prologue theme, afterwards. Likewise, the level up theme has consistently started with the first two seconds of this theme, followed by the common motif for the game it's in, while the previous games used the theme from the first two seconds of this video for their level up themes.
- The first few games also didn't readily reveal how much damage you'd give and receive against an enemy before entering battle, meaning things were a lot less calculated. Or a lot more calculated if you were willing to look at your opponent's stats and compare it to your own units. Later games showed your stats and your opponents when choosing to launch an attack but you had to subtract their defense/resistance from yourself to figure out how much damage would be done. It wasn't until Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade that you were told outright how much damage you would inflict and take.
- Plot-wise, the biggest example is the Falchion of the original Gaiden. The creator had intended all divine swords to be called "Falchion," but scrapped that idea when he introduced a whopping three legendary swords in Genealogy. So that leaves two completely unrelated swords called "Falchion," one of which is literally just a regular steel sword with a Goddess trapped inside giving it her powers, the other forged from a divine dragon fang. The remake Echoes rectifies it by explaining that it is another Falchion much like the one in the Archanean games, forged by the same dragon.
- Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem was the first Fire Emblem game to have a dedicated character designer in Katsuyoshi Koya. By current standards, the art and sprite work in the first two games frequently fall into the bizarre, with possibly the most infamous example being the first iteration of Marth◊. Comparing that to his far more familiar Mystery◊ depiction just four years later shows how much the series' artwork was improving; comparing it to remakes, Heroes or Cipher only makes the classic art seem even more antiquated.
- Early games (Aside from an experiment in Gaiden) have a much different paradigm when it comes to promoting units, emphasizing the "Prestige" in Prestige Class. Promotion items are to be granted to your best/favourite units and are handed out with appropriate stinginess, often very late in the game, and never enough to upgrade your entire squad. This is particularly noticeable in Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, which otherwise looks and plays rather like a "modern" Fire Emblem, but promotion crests were thin on the ground and Guiding Rings in particular are a hot commoditynote . It wasn't until Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade that the idea of promoting most or all of your A-team started to be plausible, with Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance onward finally taking promoting everyone for granted.
- Terrain bonuses were quite different back in the day. They didn't give any defense (only avoid), and they healed a flat HP amount (+5, +10) instead of a percentage of your max HP (10%, 20%). Defense boosts were introduced in Thracia 776 and stayed, while percentage HP recovery debuted in Genealogy of the Holy War but was removed in the next game only to come back in full force in Binding Bladenote .
- Multiplayer features didn't exist until The Binding Blade, which introduced the Link Arena. This feature only existed in the Game Boy Advance titles, and it was a very strange one at that. There could only be up to 5 units per player, and characters that cannot fight are rendered unusable. Moreover, in The Binding Blade and The Sacred Stones, manaketes cannot be used in the Link Arena, as they're also considered to be unable to fight, due to their dragonstones being rendered as items rather than weapons. In addition, the Link Arena also allows up to 4 players using the same copy of one of the games instead of 2. Later multiplayer modes, Multiplayer Battles from the Archanea remakes and Fates, Double Duel from Awakening, and Summoner Duels from Heroes, decreased the maximum amount of players per game by 2, and allowed noncombatant units and manaketes to be used.
- The Jugdralnote and Elibenote games have a Rankings feature at the end of each playthrough that would rank the player depending on certain criteria, such as how fast they cleared every chapter, how many units in their army survive, and how much gold and items in their inventory are worth. The system is also used when clearing the trial maps in The Binding Blade, though it has less criteria than the main game. Rankings as a feature was slowly becoming less prominent starting in The Sacred Stones, and was abandoned completely from Awakening onwards.
- Like Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light, the Weapon Triangle system that's a mainstay of the series doesn't exist yet. Unlike that game, however, the remake does not add it in — likely because the remake still had no playable axe-using classes. Weirdly enough a splitting axe can be found fairly early on, and it even has stats like a weapon, but is unable to be equipped by any character, including Atlas, an actual woodcutter.
- Weapon Levels and Weapon Ranks don't exist, so a unit can freely use all weapons that their classes have access to from the get go, even the strongest ones.
- This is the only game in the series to use Cast from Hit Points for magic. The types of spells and what levels they are learned at also depends on the character, and offensive magic is cast directly from the user instead of from tomes. Similarly, healing is also Cast from Hit Points, and clerics' utility spells are learned by level-up as well.
- The Brave Sword is the first among the Brave weapons to be introduced in the series, but in this game it acts more like a Killing Edge, as it increases the wielder's Critical rate instead of allowing the wielder to strike twice consecutively like in Genealogy of the Holy War and beyond.
- This game introduces the Falcon Knight promotion for the Pegasus Knight class. In addition, they have the trait of being super effective against undead enemies by default, a trait that later games dropped.
- This is the only game in the series without the wyvern rider class, promoted or unpromoted.
- Character inventories consist of a single slot, and whatever is equipped is put into use in every instance of combat the unit is in until unequipped, unless it's food, which can be eaten at any time. This is a bit shocking to players more familiar with the five-slot inventory system.
- The game in both versions lacks weapon durability (since you can't purchase replacement weapons). It's no longer the only game to lack such, but it has a much heavier influence on character builds than in other games.
- Not being able to purchase replacement weapons and spells being cast directly from their casters means that there is no need for any sort of currency. The remake added a currency system, but only for forging weapons.
- The terrain effects are among the most pronounced to date, with certain terrain providing a whopping 60 points of avoid. Magic ignores these bonuses as well.
- Archers can attack from 1-range and have their maximum range increased further upon Class Change, but to make up for it they tend to have lower accuracy. They also have no Anti-Flier bonus when using the default bow, though nearly all equippable bows do have this bonus with the exception of the Rusted and Venin Bows.
- With the exception of a handful of bosses, the vast majority of enemies encountered have zero points of Luck, making them all very easy to land critical hits against.
- Class Changing is done in special shrines instead of requiring special items to do so, each class can only promote starting at specific levels (which vary slightly from class to class), and promotion only takes characters up to their new class's base stats instead of giving a flat bonus like most Fire Emblem games do. Genealogy of the Holy War is the only one to imitate the first mechanic by allowing Class Change in home castles, while Three Houses would also imitate the latter two mechanics.
- Gaiden is very experimental with map designs. There would be huge maps with unused space, battles fought on ships, and entire maps made out of mostly sand or poisonous swamp. It shows its age when the maps are faithfully recreated for the remake. Mystery of the Emblem would later revert back to the map design of Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light. The concept of ship maps wasn't revisited until Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, 11 years after the release of this game.
Genealogy of the Holy War
- The Weapon Triangle originates in this game. There is also a Trinity of Magic that the Tellius games use later on. In this case, however, Light Magic and Dark Magic are equal to one another and have an inherent advantage over the three Anima Magic types.
- This is the first game where Weapon Ranks replace the Weapon Level Stat from Marth's games In this case, the lowest rank is C and the highest is A, with a special star ranking being reserved for units with Major Holy Blood. The ranks are also fixed and dependent on character classes and promotions. A similar rule applies to skills, which are also generally fixed and otherwise only attainable either via promotion or by putting on special skill rings.
- While the Falcon Knight promotion appeared in Fire Emblem Gaiden first, this game separates the Pegasus Knight and Wyvern Rider classes and gave them their own unique traits.
- Interestingly, Sigurd is currently the only pre-promoted Lord in the entire franchise, making him similar to Marth, except the latter started off weak and couldn't promote at all.
- This is the first game to utilize an extensive allied NPC phase. Unlike later games, however, the Allied Phase would happen after the player's phase and before the enemy's phase, whereas all games after have them move after the enemy phase. This is also the first game to utilize a "neutral," yellow-colored phase (which *does* occur after all enemy phases). While later games that utilize yellow units offer some variety in their alignment and actions, this game's yellow units tend to act more as roadblocks, although the Orgahill Pirates in Chapter 3 will plunder and destroy villages. Yellow units could also not be touched by the player unless they become red units (which happens to the aforementioned pirates). As a consequence of the game's setup and structure, the phases of this game are named after factions, as opposed to just "Player," "Enemy," "Ally", and "Other." The "Player" phases are named after Sigurd or Seliph, "Enemy" phases are named after factions you are currently fighting against, and so on and so forth.
- This was the first game to have an affection system, and it does have a forerunner of the Support system - lovers near each other will gain stat bonuses, and there are optional conversations between certain folks to increase affection. However, there's no set system for these convos yet - you'll likely miss a whole bunch of them, even, if you don't know they're there ahead of time. It wasn't until Binding Blade that the system would get more properly codified and transparent in the UI.
This game more or less sets the standards of almost all Fire Emblem games to follow, if not strictly in mechanics, then in presentation. Among the biggest mainstays are the Weapon Ranking system (Ranks E to A, with weapon usage increasing it), an item that promotes just about any unit, side chapters with steps to unlocking them, giving thieves the ability to steal, the ability to rescue other units, Fog of War, and a fully balanced weapon/magic triangle. The overall length of this game (24 Chapters, an endgame chapter, and 10 side chapters) is more or less what every game thereafter follows, with a few exceptions. There are still some major differences, however:
- The aforementioned Fog of War is pitch black, likely due to mechanical limitations, meaning that not only can the player not see any enemies enshrouded in it, but they cannot see any parts of the map that is enshrouded either. What's more, thieves do not get any additional sight in the fog, and aside from Chapter 12, Fog of War only occurs during the gaiden chapters.
- Like in Genealogy, skills tend to be more character-based than class-restricted: some characters come with a plethora of skills, while others have none at all. Attack-based skills in particular are much stronger than their later incarnations (Sol, for example, heals all damage the attacker has inflicted as opposed to half). Similarly, characters that may start in the same class will not always promote to the same advanced class (Mages Asbel and Miranda respectively promoting to Sage and Mage Knight, for example); all other games either have one promotion per base class or bestow more options.
- This game reuses several mechanics from Mystery of the Emblem, and after this game, they would either be repurposed (the Bond Support system) or completely removed, such as dismounting (and forcibly changing weapons, Staves whose effects can effect just about anywhere on the map, and the stat-boosting Crusader scrolls (which serve the same purpose as the Star Shards in Mystery). The support system in this game has characters receiving strictly 10% (or 20% in some rare cases) support bonuses in certain areas from specific units; later games revamp this with Support conversations and stronger stat bonuses.
- While you can capture units in Fire Emblem Fates, it is not as extensive or as vital as in this game. When you capture a unit, your stats bar Luck and Build are halved (similar to Rescuing), and you can either keep them on you or release them; you can also freely steal their items. Capturing certain characters and bosses are actually required for either recruiting new allies or unlocking gaiden chapters.
- This is the only game with a shared stat that isn't Strength and Magic (Magic is the same as Resistance, meaning that resistance-boosting items and spells also increases magic attack). Also, Constitution/Build and Movement are stats that level up normally, although growths for both are extremely low across the board, with a few exceptions. Tying in with Movement are Movement Stars, which give some units a percentage of a chance to move again.
- This game's Dancer starts off as a Thief. The only way to promote her into a Dancer is to have her talk to the boss in a gaiden chapter; if she does not meet this requirement, then you lose out on it. If you do manage to obtain this, you can freely promote her back and forth between Dancer and Thief/Thief Fighter, though.
- The character menu in this game is somewhat odd, and can trip up veteran players if not adhered to. For one, the "Wait" option is the very first option on the menu. Also, you cannot select your character's starting location on the Battle Preparations screen; in order to put a character elsewhere, you need to change the order of the characters on the unit deployment screen.
- This is the final game in the series to use a plain, single-number RNG for attack accuracy.
The Blazing Blade
- Blazing Blade marks the first time that the series allowed the creation of any avatar-type character. Like most such avatar characters, Mark serves as the tactician for the team. Unlike later avatar characters, Mark is not a combat unit and has no appearance options whatsoever, with even their gender not affecting their appearance and only actually affecting a few lines of dialog.
- Blazing Blade further experiments with Convoy mechanics - where Binding Blade had made the Convoy unit mobile and dependent on dodging large numbers of attacks to level up, Blazing Blade makes the convoy initially immobile and has the unique leveling mechanic of gaining a level for each time it survives a map, and when reaching Level 20, will promote automatically. In addition, in this game the Convoy unit has to be on the map if the player wants to send new items to the convoy and is unavailable in certain maps; in Binding he didn't need to be deployed for this and, starting from Chapter 6, can be deployed at anytime. Later games would all do away with having a separate Convoy unit entirely and simply make it accessible through the main lord.
- Dancers/Bards can use rings, which are items used to buff another unit for the next turn. These have never appeared before or since, but are something of a precursor to the later Rally skills with a larger and more focused effect.
- Blazing Blade is the first Fire Emblem to have multiple story paths with different main characters (previous titles had used branching routes, but always as different options for a single main character), with Lyn's Tale being a prologue/tutorial to the main story and being followed by either Eliwood or Hector's Tale, which are about 90% the same with Hector's Tale having a different first chapter, a few extra chapters exclusive to him, more recruitable characters and a different late-game chapter to acquire a legendary weapon (with both events happening in both routes, but only one being a played chapter) and several additional chapters, CGs, and sidequests, but otherwise containing all the same content as Eliwood's Tale. Later games that would feature multiple routes that have different main characters would have significantly different content on each route.
- Blazing Blade is the first game with player-placeable hazards and barriers. The former, Mines, would never return, while the latter would show up in much the same form in Radiant Dawn and as single-chapter obstacles in Fates. It's likely that the nature of these items was simply considered too hard to balance for them to become staples.
- In an early-installment weirdness for localization, Blazing Blade would be the only title where common weapons would not be fully capitalized, such that an Iron Sword (as it would be rendered in all other localizations) would be an "Iron sword".
- Blazing Blade has noticeably different difficulty settings depending on the chosen tale, with Hector Hard Mode being significantly more challenging than Eliwood Hard Mode and being much more changed from its respective Normal difficulty. The extent of the changes in Hector Hard Mode make it arguably a predecessor to the even more challenging Maniac and Lunatic Modes later titles would have.
- This game's version of the chest key has a special quirk in that its amount of uses is randomized between 1 and 5 for each chest key collected throughout a single playthrough. This has not happened again since.