Having fairly recently returned from the land of the rising sun with the following game intact, I feel that the most appropriate thing to do is to continue on from part 1, onto part 2 of my secret history of Fire Emblem. Sadly, for us over in the West, Mystery of the Emblem wasn’t the only Fire Emblem game that was kept locked away, with part two featuring not only a brand new story, but a brand new cast of characters to go with it. So, without further ado, let me present to you the second game that never made it out of Japan, Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, or ファイアーエムブレム: 聖戦の系譜 (Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu) as it’s known in its homeland.
The fourth game from Intelligent Systems in Nintendo’s cult RPG series, was once again designed by long time Intelligent Systems designer Shouzou Kaga, alongside the legendary Gunpei Yokoi. Sadly, this game would be Yokoi’s the last game before his fatal accident. Nevertheless, this game has become one of the most lost titles within the series, with many people knowing very little about it. This comes despite Genealogy of the Holy War having a considerable amount of similarity to the two most recent entries in the series, the 3DS’ Awakening and Fates.
The most striking similarity comes in the form of the “Rock, Paper, Scissors” gameplay mechanic. A feature that many will not even realise was once not present within Fire Emblem games, having become such a main staple of the modern games since its first appearance in Genealogy of the Holy War. This mechanic sees the lance beat swords, swords beat axes and axes beat lances.
Overall, this added a new layer of complexity to the game’s turn-based battles. It also meant that in comparison to earlier titles, players were now required to implement deeper strategy and planning when considering how they positioned and moved their team of fighters. Though, of course, this mechanic can largely be avoided if the level difference is large enough.
Further similarities also exist in terms of the story, something primarily seen through the development of romantic interests. Once again, in a similar mechanic to that of recent Fire Emblem games, if characters fall in love within the first half of the game, these relationships will see their offspring introduced in the latter half. Thus having second generation characters such as Seliph and Lana join the storyline midway through, in a similar fashion to Robin in Awakening.
Additionally, the offspring of these relationships will gain skills and traits based on their parents. This all means that decisions taken within the game’s earlier chapters, remain relevant after the generational shift in Chapter 6 of 11. Ultimately, this gives the game a personal touch, with all of these character elements perfectly coming together to make a truly unique story and experience.
The plot of the game also makes the game stand out from the bulk of the titles in the series. Most notably thanks to the fact that the eponymous “Fire Emblem”, does not actually appear at any point in the story. On top of this, nor does the series most famous character and hero of the previous title Marth. Instead, the game introduces a variety of brand new playable characters across two generations, bringing a highly diverse cast to the game.
Moreover, the game also takes place in a completely different land, the never-before seen continent of Jugdral. Jugdral is in fact imperative to the way in which the game tells its story, with Genealogy of the Holy War’s tale focusing on the warring territories and political factions within these lands. All in all, this creates a Game of Thrones-esque tale of treachery and deceit, one that doesn’t shy away from adult topics, with the game going as far as to contain themes such as genocide.
Aside from these improvements, many more exist largely due to the decision to stick with the Super Famicom. As such Intelligent Systems and Nintendo were able to utilise the expertise gained from working with the system for many years. This means that the game stands out as one of the more impressive entries in the console’s catalogue, especially given its ambition. The graphics seen within Mystery of the Emblem are greatly improved upon bringing with it dynamic battles, as is the sound which now sports a myriad of scene setting tracks.
Individual traits are also added bringing greater diversity to the gameplay and characters. Moreover, as mentioned before, the dual generational approach means that there are an abundance of characters each with their own individual personalities. Thus making this experience highly personal in a manner that many subsequent Fire Emblem games have employed, especially Awakening and the most recent Fates. All in all, Genealogy of the Holy War is one that despite becoming somewhat obscure, is something that every Fire Emblem fan should definitely do their best to experience.
I hope you enjoyed delving into Fire Emblem’s second game on the Super Famicom, and look forward to the third and final part of this secret 16-bit history of Fire Emblem which will be coming soon.