Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade (JP) is a Fire Emblem video game released on the Game Boy Advance exclusively to Japan. It is a tactical RPG, single-player video game released in 2002. The English name of the game was first revealed in the Wii video game Super Smash Bros. Brawl in the chronicles.
Battles take place on grid-based self-contained maps and are governed by a turn-based system where units on both sides are given their chance to move and act. Once a unit has moved, depending on their position relative to allied units and enemies, they may perform actions such as attacking or supporting allied characters through statistic-enhancing abilities, or they can wait until the next turn. Each unit has access to different weapons and items, but these will break after a number of uses and must be repaired in between mission.
The effectiveness of melee weapons is dictated with the series' recurring Weapons Triangle mechanic: axes are strong against lances, lances strong against swords, and swords strong against axes. Villages found during map battles will be attacked; if defended by the player, non-player characters within the village will give hints about future objectives. A map is cleared when the boss is defeated.
If characters fall in battle, they are subjected to permanent death, removing them from the rest of the game. If Roy dies, the game ends and the map must be restarted.
During its debut week in Japan, The Binding Blade reached #4 in the sales charts, with over 101,000 units. It was still in the charts in May, having dropped to #17 and reached total sales of over 220,000 units. By the end of 2002 the game sold over 345,000 units, ranking at #29 in the 300 best-selling video games of the year.
Famitsu was positive about the game. One reviewer noted the slight alterations to the series formula with the shift onto the GBA, but said that it was still unmistakably a Fire Emblem title. A second reviewer praised the game's pacing and the eased difficulty of missions allowed by the "rescue" function. A third reviewer praised the drop in difficulty from Thracia 776 despite preserving some challenge, and positively noted the fast reactions of the game AI, enabling a low-stress experience for players.
RPGFan's Woojin Lee praised the game's animation as some of the best on the system, positively noted the added features when compared to earlier entries in the series, and actively praised the game's ability to attach players to characters and the resultant impact when those characters were felled in battle. In concluding his review, he said: "While I'm not sure if the average American gamer is up to the challenge that playing an unforgiving game like [The Binding Blade], I think everyone who tries the game will be pleasantly surprised by how deep and engrossing it is".
Mike Moehnke of RPGamer, writing a retrospective review for the site, praised the game's tactical gameplay and the difficulty being noticeable without being overwhelming. He also positively noted the links to its 2004 prequel Rekka no Ken. His main criticisms of the title were intuitive item management between battles, an underdeveloped and restrictive Support system, and the fact that Roy was a very weak character for the majority of the game. He also negatively noted its continued exclusivity to Japan, although he noted that fan translations were readily available. He concluded by saying that The Binding Blade was "not the best game in the series, but neither [was] it the worst".
- Combined with the positive reception and sales of Advance Wars, which altered Nintendo's view that tactical role-playing games would be unsuccessful in the West, this resulted in the next Fire Emblem title being localized.
- This game, titled Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken in Japan and released in the West as Fire Emblem, is a prequel to The Binding Blade set twenty years prior and following Roy's father Eliwood.
- While Nintendo of America was willing to localize The Binding Blade, the workload of localizing Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones meant that the idea needed to be scrapped, leaving The Binding Blade exclusive to Japan.
|Fire Emblem series|
|Console games||Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light • Gaiden • Mystery of the Emblem • Genealogy of the Holy War • BS Fire Emblem • Thracia 776 • Path of Radiance • Radiant Dawn • Three Houses|
|Handheld games||The Binding Blade • Fire Emblem • The Sacred Stones • Shadow Dragon • New Mystery of the Emblem • Awakening • Fates • Echoes: Shadows of Valentia|
|Spin-offs||Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE (Encore) • Heroes • Warriors • Super Smash Bros.|