Fire Emblem was a game franchise virtually unknown outside of Japan until Super Smash Brothers Melee came out. That game featured two Fire Emblem characters, Marth and Roy, as playable fighters. Creating an interest in the franchise that was great enough to get the seventh title, Blazing Sword, and most subsequent titles released internationally.
So, why was the franchise only released outside of Japan at that point? My theory is that the games were simply considered too difficult. Yes, Nintendo had a lot of really hard games, some unfairly so. But Fire Emblem is the most difficult franchise developed by Nintendo itself. The games feature permanent death for party members. That’s right, no phoenix downs, revives, Yggdrasil leaves or anything like that. Except for one single use item that you get later in the game. No or few opportunities to grind and battles that are difficult enough that a single tactical error can easily get one of your team members killed. Maybe I’m wrong about that and there’s another reason. If someone knows for certain I’m sure that person will politely correct me.
Oddly enough, the first Fire Emblem related thing to be released outside of Japan was an OVA. It’s a simple, two episode work developed by KSS Inc and Studio Fantasia in 1996. The OVA is based on the first/third title in the series. (the third was a remake of the first.) So, how does the anime hold up?
Our tale covers the first couple missions of the game. Marth, is forced to escape from his homeland, Altea. It moves to Marth and his men at Talys with princess Sheeda. They’re planning a counter-attack against the army that forced them into exile when they’re forced into battle with pirates for Talys’ sake. Knowing that the encounter will make their presence known to their enemy, they make their way back to their continent, planning to join the princess of Aurelis in her opposition to the hostile Doluna kingdom. Upon arrival at the mainland they encounter and defeat yet another group of pirates. The group hears about a nun named Rena who was abducted by thieves and they go out to save her.
I will give the OVA credit on several counts. For one thing, it does do a good job of covering those early missions. It also expands a bit on Marth’s back story, providing information about his childhood that you really don’t get in the game. I also like that the second episode spends a lot of time giving you Nabarl, Rena and Julian’s perspectives which helps build them up as characters who you have some investment in and also sets up what happens with them later.
That being said, there are some issues with the two episodes. While it is nice to see the character interactions, they do move into padding at times. For example, the first episode has a montage of Marth and Sheeda just playing around in Talys. The second opens with Nabarl killing a group of people who are attacking him for no apparent reason. There weren’t more important things to cover? They glance over the prologue scene pretty fast. Wouldn’t the time have been better spent expanding on that? Even if they were set on adding in some extra details, they could have put something more substantial in.
The game has a lot of characters, even in the early missions covered by this. As such, some of them get better developed than others. Marth and Sheeda are well developed and fleshed out. Nabarl, Rena and Julian are as well. Then you’ve got characters like Cord, Bord and Barst who have one line of dialogue among them and characters like Cain, Abel, Oguma, Gordin, Doga and Jeigan who appear and speak on occasion but don’t get fleshed out by any means. Although Oguma comes pretty close. In all fairness, developing five characters pretty well is about the best you can expect from an OVA that, taken in total, is less than an hour long. There are some very strong interactions too. The way Sheeda recruits Nabarl in particular is just great. Slightly different from the game, but in a way that actually works a bit better.
The art is probably the biggest weak point. It’s pretty standard art for anime in the mid-90s. There are some nice little details like the pegasus animation and the way they differentiate the killing edge from other swords but it’s largely pretty generic.
They did get some great voice actors for this. Marth is voiced by Midorikawa Hikaru, who also voiced Zelgadis and Heero Yuy. He also reprised his Marth role in the Smash Brothers games. Sheeda is voiced by Tange Sakura who was also Cardcaptor Sakura. Koyasu Takehito, who has appeared in a huge amount of anime, voices Nabarl. Oddly enough, both he and Midorikawa Hikaru played Dio Brando in different Jojo adaptations. With Koyasu being the actor in the main series and Midorikawa voicing him in one of the films. All of the actors do their work very well. The music is less well done. A lot of it is pretty generic and lacks impact, leaving little impression.
While there is arguably some ho-yay in the games this was based on, there isn’t any in this. Of course, a lot of that comes from Rickard’s character who doesn’t appear in the OVA. So, the ho-yay factor is a 1/10.
This is one that’s firmly for fans of the series. It expands on some details, fleshes out some characters really well and gives you a nice look at the first three chapters of the game. That being said, there’s really no reason to watch it unless you’re a fan of the game. It simply doesn’t stand alone very well. So, if you’re a fan of Fire Emblem check it out. If you don’t care about the franchise, it’s not going to be worth your time. For myself, I give it a 7/10. Next week, let’s take a look at one more Nintendo based OVA. To be specific, Super Mario Brothers.