After everything Nintendo did to celebrate Mario’s 35th anniversary, the 30th anniversary of Fire Emblem feels disappointing by comparison.
Alongside 2020 being the 35th anniversary of the Super Mario Bros franchise, it is also the 30th anniversary of Fire Emblem. To celebrate, Nintendo has announced that it is bringing Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light to western audiences for the first time with an official English localization. Additionally, there is a 30th anniversary Limited Edition that includes a bunch of fun goodies. It may sound good so far, but the game will only be available for a limited time until March 31, 2021, similarly to Super Mario 3D All-Stars.
Previously, I thought that the direction that Nintendo was going was to bring all the 3D Mario games to Switch following the release of All-Stars. But after seeing the way they are handling Fire Emblem’s 30th anniversary, I’m worried that Nintendo is doing the bare minimum for those who have supported these franchises and Nintendo as a company for several decades.
Not only is Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light a limited time title, but it is only getting a digital release, unlike 3D All-Stars. Nintendo’s first-party titles are notorious for physical copies going up in price over time, making this situation even more frustrating for those like me who are physical collectors. I can see from one angle as to why Nintendo did not do a physical release for Fire Emblem by selling the game for only $5.99, and since it won’t take up enough space to warrant a physical cart. But then why make it available for only a limited time? 3D All-Stars‘ physical release made sense to a degree because they released three 3D Mario titles for only $59.99, and it is rare that we see ports–let alone a three-pack bundle–of classic games like this. But this is the first time the original Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light is coming to the west. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon released back on the Nintendo DS as a remake that was generally well-received at the time, but even then: why not just port Shadow Dragon as a proper release instead?
Super Mario 3D-All Stars is also not the only part of celebrating 35 years of the Super Mario franchise. Last month, the anniversary got its own dedicated Nintendo Direct, multiple new games like Super Mario 35, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, and the upcoming Game & Watch handheld. By comparison, the release of Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light feels underwhelming to celebrate the milestone for Fire Emblem, even if it’s brand new to the west. It is true that Mario is Nintendo’s mascot, but surely they could have done much more for Fire Emblem as another one of their longtime first-party series. Simply put, it makes it look like they don’t care.
Fire Emblem as a series was introduced to many in the west for the first time through Super Smash Bros Melee with the addition of both Marth and Roy. Even though there were many entries in the series leading up to Fire Emblem: Awakening–which saved the series from dying outside of Japan–Nintendo could have used this opportunity to bring those older titles that very few have played to the Switch. This especially feels like a missed opportunity after the series’ most recent entry, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which has expanded its popularity even more. Since its release on the Switch last year, Three Houses has become the second most successful entry commercially in the entire franchise and still has the ability to become the highest in due time.
In general, it is great to see that we’re getting something new from Fire Emblem on Switch, but there were definitely better choices that could have been made to honor the series for its 30th anniversary. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance was one of the first entries in the franchise to make it out west back on the GameCube. The title starred Ike, who is probably best known to western audiences when he was a new character in Super Smash Bros Brawl on the Wii. He received a sequel on the same platform called Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, and since then, neither title has been ported to a newer system despite fans’ requests for it. Even if it was a limited-time release, it seems crazy to think that Nintendo wouldn’t release a dual-pack of Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn with how much of a success the Switch has become in recent years. Both of those games are hard to find and even if you do find them, they’re more expensive than the cost of current Nintendo first-party titles.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because we who are in the western audience are getting a new Fire Emblem game for the very first time, even if we already had access to its remake. But there are still titles in the franchise that haven’t been released outside of Japan at all, and a few that require a much-needed port. With both Zelda and Metroid having significant anniversaries next year as well, my expectations have dimmed on what Nintendo will have to offer once the time comes around. I understand that Fire Emblem is one of Nintendo’s more niche first-party franchises in the U.S., but I think there have been enough examples in the past to show that whatever Nintendo gives us, we will not hesitate to take it.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light releases for Nintendo Switch on December 4, and will be available for a limited time until March 31, 2021.