is marth in this game?Shadow Dragon - the first and only time Europe saw a release before NA, and I am forever bitter about this - was released outside of Japan in 2008. Shadow Dragon is a remake of the very first Fire Emblem game, and you can tell this because first, yes, Marth is in the game, and second, it is quite clearly a remake because boy does it show its roots at being a game from 1990. The graphics might look better on a DS and the characters redesigned with wearable attire, but you can't hide a narrative lacking the nuance of what I'd come to expect from Fire Emblem overall.
Coming straight off my Tellius high, what I can say about Shadow Dragon is 'hmm'. (That's not a good sort of 'hmm'.) This was the game that, to put it lightly, made me lose faith in the progression of the series. Critically, it performed decently, but as for the reaction of the players… I’d go as far to say that Shadow Dragon was almost the proverbial nail in the coffin for the franchise.
The truth is there's nothing that makes Shadow Dragon stand out. The story had not aged well - which lends itself to the timeless argument of whether a game's story should be faithfully replicated in a remake or if it should be updated accordingly. It's also why I struggle going back to, say, earlier Final Fantasy games, finding them one dimensional. There is nothing bad about these stories and plenty of individuals like them - both sides of the update/don’t update camp are well populated - but it just doesn’t work for me. As I wasn’t really old enough to appreciate RPGs and the like in the early 2000s, I had missed out on a lot; and irregardless, this is me now, in a world where videogames are gaining respect as an artform and are mouthpieces for genres and types of story that no one could have expected in the beginning. Games are no longer niche: the almost simplistic nature of these early era games just do not elicit a response from me anymore, if they ever did. They might evoke nostalgia, but I expect more.
And it’s not in the way they look: many games designed specifically to evoke the same kind of visuals, complete with sprites, work for me just fine.
These early wayfinders won't fulfill my narrative desires unless the story is reworked for a modern audience, because I have been saturated by them. They're the building blocks for everything else - in the original Fire Emblem's case, the building blocks for what would become a series spanning over twenty five years - and in every other iteration I had played to this point, I had consumed parts of the original Fire Emblem already. That's how a series with similar fundamental ideas at its core works. That’s how you get series like Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy; that’s why the earlier you go, backwards, the more you struggle. Many mediums don’t suffer from this anymore - but they too had very streamlined, tropey beginnings, as that’s how you lure in an audience. A lot can be said for human beings and expectation.
For me, going back to a faithfully remade Shadow Dragon was incredibly jarring. There are no supports in Shadow Dragon, so what was face deep about the characters was what I got, and what I got was the archetype namers. Seeing where your archetypes come from in their initial stage so late on into a series is not a good thing in this instance, because that's all there was to the characters in question. It's very weird.
Then there’s Marth. Basic storytelling requires that stories are told about the most important moments of a character’s life - to create sequels undermines the groundwork of the first to make another very important life event, which is why sequels are so often not as good as their predecessor - and so it might have been better for a later tale of Marth’s life for Shadow Dragon, not a remake… but Intelligent Systems had already, y’know, done that in an earlier remake/sequel! You’d think after remaking these games so many times, they’d get the hint that this boy just needed to rest (which he finally sort of was in Awakening, but we'll come back to that).
Not only was the story not working for me, but Shadow Dragon just felt... boring. It doesn't look visually impressive, and when a remake looks outdated at release, well. We’re not off to a very good start.
True, some parts of the game are new. There’s a few additional characters and side chapters. A new handheld graphic style. New mechanics, such as class swapping. None of these have a lasting impression and many of them are not good - the most bizarre of these is at the start of the game, where you are forced to sacrifice a character. Now, anyone who’s a Fire Emblem fan knows you do not leave a person behind to die - soft reset, I mutter, angrily cursing the individual who wasted the past hour of my life - but Shadow Dragon forces you to kill a member of your party. It intends for you to leave behind the newbie specifically written in for this sacrifice, and for what purpose? To teach a (whiny) child a moral lesson that he is not untouchable? That's a fair lesson, but... seriously? The mess was just getting messier and we weren't even out of the literal woods yet.
To add insult to injury, Nintendo then decided to remake a remake (stop) of New Mystery which they didn't bother to localise. I've played bits of this, twice, but I just couldn't go back to this universe post Awakening - and it does very much feel like a precursor to it.
Out of everything that grinds my gears in this game, Shiida (or Caeda, for you Americans) and her fellow ladies, particularly Minerva, get a free pass for greatness. Shiida herself certainly possesses the Rems Approval for Quality Ladies. What frustrates me about this is that Shadow Dragon is very much a product of its (original) time - Shiida is a far stronger, competent individual than Marth at the start of the game, a well deserved princess and proclaimer of said title, a force to be reckoned with, and Shiida gets a lot of things moving… but she can’t be the protagonist. She is fulfilling that traditional JRPG role of the feminine woman behind our hero, even if this one rides a pegasus and wields a lance and a sword and is capable of doing whatever without hiding behind a man, thank you. I’ve ranted about this before on my site for Serah, and here it is, happening again, restricting yet another lady from her rightful greatness.
I mean, I get that Marth has to grow to reach Shiida’s level. I get that. But there is a much more interesting progression if the game was told from Shiida’s perspective, and not Marth’s. I feel as though if Akanea was a new continent now, Shiida would get fair consideration to play the leading role, or to at least share it as more than just an afterthought (and love interest).
I don’t know what I can say that I haven’t said so many times before, but Shiida deserves far better than what she got, and if the story was shifted to be about her instead, I would find it much, much more engaging. She’s the foremother to every lady who’s taken charge I see much of where Eirika came from, Guinevere, Elincia, Lucina. Especially Elincia, who reaches the same level of fortitude Shiida does, and she’s another Pegaus Knight Queen. Shiida is the one to watch, and her existence is in its way another archetype. She paved the way for the rest to get their time in the spotlight.
I don't remember playing Shadow Dragon. I know I played it through once, and almost put it down with the intention of never coming back to it far too many times. It was too easy, too simplistic, too dated... I had this game in time for my birthday, but I'd long moved on by new year. To where, I don't remember, but in Fire Emblem perspective, it was back to the safety and security of Tellius, where everything remained great. Still, there's a lot about Shadow Dragon that I don't remember - which is likely why I'm so critical of it, because the worst bits are the parts I do recall. Sadly, there are no magical moments of this game that come to mind, aside from Shiida and Minerva, and Minerva I only appreciate thanks to my experiences with Jill back in Tellius.
I would not recommend Shadow Dragon as something to play unless you want the full experience of the Fire Emblem series - I've heard decent things about New Mystery from other vets (and the art style is nice, too, always a plus), almost as though Shadow Dragon made an informed decision that maybe they should try a little harder at bringing the game forward into the twenty-first century, but I cannot say this for certain myself. Playing one game with a lost groove was more than enough for me.
Who knows? Maybe you'll like these two entries better than I do.
everyone you love is dead - binding blade