Fire Emblem VI: Sealed Sword for Game Boy Advance

Review Scores

Alternative Names

ファイアーエムブレム 封印の剣


Intelligent Systems



Release Dates

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03/29/02 Nintendo
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Community Stats

Owners: 17
Favorite: 1
Tracked: 1
Wishlist: 2
Now Playing: 2

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User Score

Presentation - 8.0
Gameplay - 6.5
Value - 6.5
Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade is an interesting game looking back as an important cornerstone of the series, but can this game stand on its own, or does it deserve to be better known for Melee?

Game: Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade/The Sealed Sword (Fire Emblem: Fuuin no Tsurugi)

Platform: GBA

Year: 2002

Developer: Intelligent Systems

Genre: JRPG

Localizations can often be fickle mistresses. Nowadays we have an online, interconnected world, so the concept of not being able to get a game due to regional releases seems quite pointless and archaic: digital download, physical imports, fan patches to untranslated games, emulation… There’s a plethora of ways of getting a game, but back in the day, if a title was released on a single region, you were pretty much screwed. Even if you managed to get a hold of a copy, it would probably be untranslated and you’d need a local hardware to bypass the regional encoding. Thus, many popular series have had multiple installments completely absent from certain parts of the world, which can make things confusing if they are part of an ongoing story. In the case of Fire Emblem: Fuuin no Tsurugi (or most commonly known as The Binding Blade), its limited localization was even worse, considering it had its main protagonist represented in Smash Bros. Melee, causing a lot of confusion about who was that character. But to me, the most confusing part of The Binding Blade was to learn it was the first Fire Emblem game on the GBA. Back in the day, I only knew about The Blazing Sword and The Sacred Stones, because they were both available in Europe and they were translated in Spanish. So to learn that The Blazing Sword was not only not the first game in the series, but was actually a prequel for this game that never came out, was rather confusing. With Three Houses going around and proving the popularity of the series after years of obscurity, I decided to try what is probably one of the most important titles of the series, to see if it holds up to this day, and also to compare it to the other two GBA Fire Emblem games, both in technical aspects and story-wise.

Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade is a turn-based JRPG made for the GBA by Intelligent Systems and released in 2002, exclusively in Japan. Before I start this review, a bit of warning. The copy I’ve played is an English fan patched version, as I don’t know Japanese, and thus played on an emulator. Also, I’m going to spoil both The Binding Blade, The Blazing Sword and The Sacred Stones, to compare the games’ story and technical aspects, so read at your own discretion.

The Binding Blade starts in a fantasy continent, Elibe, centuries after the war between humanity and the dragons. After the great heroes defeated the dragons, humanity spread throughout the land, and organized in different kingdoms. At the time of the game, the Kingdom of Bern is trying to conquer all other territories by force to unify the land. This leaves the other countries to try and organize against this aggression. The story starts with Roy, prince of Pherae, who has to organize a resistance movement against it, and all of the tribulations he goes through, as he uncovers Bern’s motivations and the dark secrets behind them… So far, not particularly different from previous or subsequent Fire Emblem games. I would even say it is very straightforward, too much in fact. For example, the way they introduce the dragons is too simple. For anyone who has played a Fire Emblem game, the fact there are dragons is not really a surprise, but the way they introduce them into the story is too plain: they just introduce them in a conversation around chapter 3. Chapter 3. They just say out of the blue that Bern wants to resuscitate the dragons to take over, with very little backstory given. You learn more about dragons throughout the game, and it takes a while until you fight one, but the stakes of the game are risen as much as possible from the very get go. In Blazing Sword the game is much more balanced. First it’s the story of Lyn discovering her heritage and going back to her family, then it’s Eliwood and co. trying to stop a possible war that a shadowy organization is trying to cause, then finding some strange lady that the same shadowy organization is trying to capture, THEN they introduce dragons as a possible threat. Binding Blade’s story feels somewhat compressed, whereas Blazing Sword and The Sacred Stones feel much more natural, with Blazing Sword taking a longer time to tell its story and The Sacred Stones having two routes that tell parallel stories for most of its run. It does not help that Binding Blade is the shortest of the GBA Fire Emblems by far, if we count both regular and secret chapters. In theory The Sacred Stones is shorter, but because the game splits between Eirika’s and Ephraim’s side of the story, it gives us six extra levels. The short story affects the character development as well. Roy is quite a generic RPG protagonist. There’s nothing really going for it, outside of his doubts on his own capability to suddenly carry the Lycian army to victory after a series of disasters. In Blazing Sword, Eliwood was only slightly more developed, but at least we had another two protagonists, Lyn and Hector, who are much more interesting and give us enough interactions to get to know them better, and with The Sacred Stones, the tragedy of Lyon’s fall and its effect on Eirika and Ephraim is probably one of the better stories the series has ever delivered. Maybe it’s because Roy doesn’t really have a counterpart to have decent character development, only having Merlinus as an assistant and Guinevere as a source of exposition, which is not enough. The rest of the cast feels the same way, but to be fair, this is just a matter of opinion.

Gameplay-wise, it’s pretty solid. The game is composed of a series of levels played on a map divided in tiles. You control a series of units, each one with certain abilities, weapon choices, affinities... the usual on an RPG. The player and the AI take turns to move their units to defeat the enemy and accomplish certain objectives. The key feature of most Fire Emblem games is its perma-death, which means if you lose a character, that character is dead. You can’t use it anymore for the remainder of the campaign, so most players will have to take that into account when strategizing. And in all honesty, it’s quite refreshing to get to play a Fire Emblem game this difficult again. Casual mode, which blocks perma-death and has been a staple of the series since Awakening, makes the games surprisingly easy. Binding Blade has none of that, you lose a character, they are gone for good, something especially harmful once you start reaching later levels, where you simply can’t use other units because they don’t have enough experience to fight safely against enemies. The shorter campaign also adds to the difficulty, forcing you to deal with promoted units faster than usual, which means fighting them with a considerable power difference. Unlike The Sacred Swords, there’s no over world feature, each level takes you to the next one directly, so there’s no chance to grind, unless you get risky and try the arena present on some levels, but that has a high degree of killing your characters. Though that difficulty may be somewhat troubling due to the relatively scarcity of promoting items. Each class can use a particular item to “promote” to a much stronger one, and can be used after the unit has reached level 10, though it’s preferable to wait until level 20, as their stats won’t be as good if you promote right away. The scarcity of some of this items means that some characters will be at level 20 for a long time, and they won’t be able to make use of further experience until they promote, wasting valuable experience. There’s the option of the secret stores, but they are, by definition, a secret, a bonus that experienced players might find, not something for a more casual form of play. Roy in particular is a pain to promote, considering it does so almost at the end of the game, when there’s not much room for growth anymore, and thus he remains unpromoted for most of the game. And considering that the death of Roy means game over, his vulnerability is a huge problem. Leveling up can be a huge gamble in general, because there’s no way to know if the unit will improve in all of its stats, or just in one. This random aspect of the game will become vital in hard mode, something that lasts to this day, though nowadays recent entries have options to reset levels somewhat and continue the grind.

Fire Emblem games also invest a lot in the support between characters. When putting two characters together in the map, they will eventually develop a form of support, which will give them not only stat bonus during battle, but also a neat story. While most people know Fire Emblem nowadays as “that JRPG with dating sim elements”, this is crucial to give each character a personality and extra protection. Binding Blade also has this, but there’s one thing that makes this system here particularly annoying: you can’t see which characters you can’t pair up. That means that you might be trying to increase the support between two characters who can’t pair up, wasting time and effort. Something as simple as a list of compatible character goes a long way, and while you can just go to a guide, that’s something the game should avoid at all costs: require external help. Fortunately future games added this feature, but it was somewhat disorienting to try and play without this. Also, you can’t see already made conversations outside of the game, which sucks. Again, this was added as a quality of life feature in following installments, so points for fixing this.

Lastly, there’s the matter of the extra levels. In Fire Emblem games, there are usually hidden levels that you unlock by accomplishing certain goals, which the game usually doesn’t tell you. This is one of those things to increase the replay value of the game, as you will eventually learn everything you have to do to unlock all of the secret levels. However, Binding Blade does something that I cannot forgive: it hides the true ending of the game behind this secret characters. If you don’t play and beat all of the secret levels of the game, you will reach a normal ending, and miss out on a couple of extra levels and the actual true ending of the game, including character epilogues. This is completely absurd, considering that, first, you’re going to need many, many playthroughs to know all of the secret levels before beating them on a single campaign, and second, you won’t even know there’s a true ending if you don’t really read about it. Maybe you’re able to reach it after just a couple of playthroughs, but after beating the game several times and getting the same ending over and over again, how are you going to suspect there’s a true ending? Again, the game should not need external aid to reach all of its content, and even so, hiding the true ending behind all of this seems excessive and pointless. The other GBA Fire Emblems don’t do that, they just add extra story and extra levels, but they don’t interfere with the story in such a way.

The presentation of the game is still stellar. This is some of the best sprite work on the GBA, if not ever, and it’s no wonder Blazing Sword and The Sacred Stones reuse a lot of assets for it. Sprite work like this is sorely lacking in today’s gaming scene, and even the more animesque presentation of Fire Emblem nowadays cannot match the charm of this animations. The music is also decent, adapting its tunes to the hardware as much as possible.

Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade is an interesting jump from the other Fire Emblem games. The GBA offered a platform much better suited for this kind of JRPG than the home console alternatives, as its portability would allow players to take their time and beat it in their own terms. However, it is certainly not a perfect game. The story is underwhelming, its length is questionable and a couple of odd choices make it beg for a decent amount of quality of life improvements. It is very interesting to see how superior the Blazing Sword is compared to Binding Blade, as the sequel serves as a prequel. If you played Blazing Sword first, you might be surprised of the amount of simple improvements they did to the original template, and how big of a difference they make.

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Opinion (5)

Clyde32 posted 17/12/2014, 10:35
This is a good game. Shame it wasn't localized.
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Spring posted 22/04/2010, 04:17
Ah, FE6. I my absolutely honest opinion, this is THE greatest Fire Emblem game. Great story, deep and fun strategy, awesome characters and development, and it has Roy to boot : )
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nordlead posted 05/03/2009, 12:13
this fire emblem was never released in the west, so I don't understand how they could have 330k US sales.

They must have this fire emblem mixed with one of the other 2 that were released in the US.
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supreme123 posted 31/01/2009, 03:15
http://web.archive.org/web/20041209193033/http://www5e.biglobe.ne.jp/~hokora/gbarank.html .

In the final of 2004 this game have selled 330,000 copies in america. Very good for a asprite made game.
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Valkyria00 posted 05/07/2008, 01:50
This game is damn hard!
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