I will never forget the day I unlocked Roy and Marth in Super Smash Bros. Melee for the Nintendo Gamecube. My initial reaction was “who the hell are these dudes,” but this sentiment was quickly replaced by exaltation when I realized how much I enjoyed playing as these characters. Unlocking their trophies revealed tales of medieval battles and saving kingdoms. I had no idea which genre these game’s fell into, I imagined it was some sort of action or role playing game. As I grew more fond of the characters I became increasingly perturbed, knowing I may never get the chance to play their original games. Then came the day Fire Emblem was announced for the Gameboy Advance. To my pleasant surprise it was a turn-based strategy game, similar to the previously released Advance Wars. Being a huge fan of the latter, I pre-ordered Fire Emblem immediately and was treated to one of my favorite games of all time. After playing through eight times and completing all possible routes, I ventured forth to the internet to search for new route of Fire Emblem delivery to satisfy my new addiction. This was when I was introduced to emulation in all its early, somewhat inaccurate glory. The first game I obtained, or “ripped from my personal copy of a Japanese Super Famicom cartridge” was Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu (translation: Genealogy of the Holy War) along with an early version of its translation patch. I was absolutely blown away by the game, its multi-generational plot, large scale battles, and series staple perma-death mechanics resulted in it being instantly classified in my top 5 favorite games of all time. I yearned for more, and luckily my needs were satisfied by Seisen no Keifu’s epic “mid-quel” entitled Fire Emblem: Thracia 776.
The graphics in this fifth entry of Fire Emblem, are not much improved from the fourth. Being released in 1999, yes you heard right, SNES + 1999, I would have expected some significant improvement in visuals over the 1996 predecessor. Despite this, the game certainly isn’t ugly and has very smooth and elaborate animations during battle scenes. I am impressed that the SNES could pull off the battle scenes, but am a bit disappointed in some of the lack of variation in the environments outside of battle. I feel as if the levels are too similar looking. The previous game had more varied environments, even different shades of green for grass depending on the levels. Overall, the visuals do not hinder the game and the battles sequences are exciting, over the top and potentially a graphical highlight of the SNES.
Music and Sound: 8/10
The title screen blasts the exceptional Fire Emblem theme song, that graces nearly every opening screen in the series. As usual, the theme instills a major sense of adventure into the listener with triumphant synthetic horns and subtler tones that promise something grand and historic. The music in game is otherwise average, with a few tracks that stand head and shoulders above the rest, pulling the weight for the rest of the OST. Access to this game came early enough in my life that I am extremely nostalgic for the music, even for some of the more mundane tunes.
The attacking and healing sound effects are admittedly basic, but there is something satisfying about hearing that dramatic swipe of a spear from dragon’s back or the startling sound of a critical hit that really enliven the battle sequences.
Overall, the sound and music result in a presentation that help the player cope with the grim reality they face each and every chapter.
Nestled between chapter 6 through 9 of Seisen no Keifu, Thracia’s narrative revolves around Lord Leif, son of Cuan and Ethlin. The goal of the campaign is to retake Manster from the evil Duke Raydrik, with the help of an ever-expanding group of rebels, and ultimately liberate the Northern portion of the titular Thracia. My first playthrough used an intolerable translation patch, but the modern day one is much better so the player can profit from the game’s story telling and easily navigate the menus. While the story isn’t the best in the series, it drives the player forward and helps fill some of the gaps in the previous game’s lore.
Much more important than the story however, is the deep turn-based gameplay, that mechanics-wise is my favorite in the entire series. The game follows the blueprint set forth by its predecessors, maintaining the famous weapon and magic triangles from the previous entry (Sword > Axe > Lance > Sword; Wind > Thunder > Fire > Wind and Light/Dark > All). The triangle bonuses in this game are somewhat subdued compared to the rest of the series, but it is still an integral part of the tactician’s arsenal. Additions to the basic Fire Emblem formula include a Rescue mechanic that allows a unit with a higher Build stat or a mounted unit to carry and protect a weaker ally from damage. This is balanced by the negative impact on the rescuer’s stats. There is also a Capture mechanic that allows the player to overtake an enemy unit in the same way. The foe is held much like a
supported unit, but can have their weapons and items pillaged before release. This is an ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL mechanic to master, considering the game will otherwise devour the weapon durability of the player’s more valuable armaments. It is not wise to waste the game’s better weapons on low-level foes. Thieves can also steal enemy items, even those that are equipped, making the class much more useful than in most other entries in the series. Money is also a highly limited resource, so selling the pilfered or captured items is the perfect way to supplement a light coin purse.
Thracia also contains a large volume of “personal weapons” that are character specific and generally incredibly useful and the should be treasured. Anothe interesting class of items are the scrolls, which effect character stat growths when held. This permits the strengthing of weak areas of characters and can even create mild powerhouses from otherwise subpar soldiers. Some characters, enemy and ally alike, have leadership or movement stars. These special characters have the ability to increase hit and avoid percentage for all allied characters or have a chance to take a free additional turn, respectively. In this cutthroat romp through Thracia where every turn counts, those additional turns feel comparable to winning the lottery.
The game also adds a Fog of War mechanic, its first appearance in the series, that adds to the already nightmarish difficulty by limiting the player’s vision in certain levels. Perhaps the most brutal and frustrating mechanic in the game is the Fatigue system. Every action a unit takes adds 1 Fatigue Point, if the Fatigue Points are greater than the unit’s Max HP by the end of the chapter, they are forced to sit the next fight out. This can be remedied with the almighty Stamina Drink, which nullifies the fatigue status and permits participation in battle. The only issue is the item’s rarity, Stamina Drinks are somewhat uncommon. Every step and item use must be carefully calculated, it is possible to get to one of the many incredibly difficult chapters without access to your best units, ergo fucking your save file. Complaints aside, I actually think the Fatigue system is a genius addition and forces forethought to become a central part of chapter planning. No other game in the series provides similar incentive for long-term, multi-chapter planning as Thracia does. The system would probably be less maligned by the general public if the system was better described in-game, but the problem can easily be solved by having a solid team off of the bench.
One issue with no silver lining is the possibility of missing with healing staves. The addition of this adds no further layer of strategy, nor value to the gameplay, but does add an incredible amount of unneeded frustration. This is a feature that significantly handicaps the player in a game that already does a wonderful job at doing so.
Finally, the game offers a variety of level objectives, which is a great change of pace. Beware however, some levels have the goal of escaping the level. MAKE SURE LEIF IS THE LAST UNIT TO LEAVE, IF NOT THE REST OF THE PARTY IS LEFT BEHIND. Yes, I partially ruined my first save file by leaving players behind and ended up starting the game all over again. On a positive note however, this permits branching paths within levels, the direction in which the player escapes determines which subsequent chapters are played. This also effects availability of certain characters, elevating this games replayability significantly.
Mechanics are not the only thing that make this game difficult, the level design and enemy reinforcement schemes are completely ruthless. Some levels have enemies appearing in waves, allowing action upon appearance, rather than the next turn. This can be overwhelming for those of us who don’t like to use a walkthrough, but really fits the plot so well considering it is a game about a small force taking on an entire army. Additionally, the AI was programmed by Satan himself, so expect enemy staves to rain status effects down on your party from nearly incomprehensible distances. The issue with the difficulty in this game is its unpredictability. I would have five chapter stretches in which I won on my first or second attempt. Every few levels however, the game throws in an insurmountable enemy force, that takes innumerable attempts to overcome. Rather than being consistently impossible, Thracia is generally a game with above average difficulty, with the occasional map forcing heavy utilization of the reset button.
This is also the only Fire Emblem game I have ever finished without recruiting all the characters available. I keep a save file on Chapter 18 and repeatedly try every so often to recruit the General Xavier, who is only recruitable under very annoying circumstances. I challenge anyone out there to do this without save states, those lucky few who accomplish this earn my respect. Once I even I made it within 1 turn of victory and lost one of my favorite characters. Restarted. Failed.
Overall, this game is not for the casual strategist, rather it is for people who are long time fans of the series and genre… and masochists who enjoy suffering. All kidding aside this game is in my top 3 favorites of the series and it is a shame it never saw a Western release. After the initial playthrough, the game becomes significantly easier. Knowing what to expect and mastering the mechanics lessens the game’s infamous difficulty. The reason people struggle with this game is lack of understanding; the game is only ridiculously difficult in a completely blind playthrough. I would take the risk of admitting that this game’s difficulty is actually a vast improvement over Seisen no Keifu’s series low difficulty. I absolutely love this game and come back to every so often to remind me how much I suck at life.
Serenes Forest (https://serenesforest.net/)
Perhaps the most comprehensive Fire Emblem resource on the entire Internet. Not only does this site provide the latest series news, it also has a well populated Forum and a collection of game specific resources including translation patches, strategy guides, and general FAQ’s. With regards to Thracia 776, the site contains crucial information regarding the stat growth enhancing scrolls, recruitment list, and a laundry list of other resources for those who like to analyze the inner workings of the game. The following is a link to the Thracia 776 Main Page: https://serenesforest.net/thracia-776/
A sort of central hub in the Fire Emblem community for locating the English translation patches to all the Japanese releases is a post on the Serenes Forest Forums from the user VincentASM. This post contains links to the best available versions of the patches:
Leaps and bounds ahead of the translation patch I used for this game, it is currently 90% complete; containing a fairly complete story and fully usable menus. The patch I used still had Japanese characters and corrupted menus, so I thank the creator for really providing an improved experience.
Though perhaps not as popular as Serenes Forest, FE Planet is a solid series resource and provides a large quantity of useful information for most of the games in the Fire Emblem series.
Fire Emblem Subreddit
Probably my favorite place on the internet to lurk on Fire Emblem discussions. The topics are widely varied containing news, ALOT of great, potentially NSFW, user drawings and art, and most importantly actual gameplay discussion.
Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 Fun Facts:
- Leif is the only Main Lord in the Fire Emblem series with brown hair
- This was Shouzou Kaga’s last game, the person responsible for creating the Fire Emblem series. He later went on to make Emblem Saga for the Playstation, which was involved in a major lawsuit with Nintendo. The end result was the game being renamed to Tear Ring Saga. The game was followed up by a sequel on the PS2 entitled Berwick Saga: Lazberia Chronicle Chapter 174.
- The game was originally a side project related to Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu, but became large enough to be a full scale game.
- No version was ever released out side of Japan in any form as of 2017
- A Deluxe Edition was available which included: A dragon plush, a Pegasus plush, a cloth map, character trading cards, a VHS and the actual game. Special thanks to the YouTube user: Kid Cabbusses for uploading a video of the VHS, Which I have linked to below. I obviously do not own this deluxe edition due to the insane price tag, but would not rule out an eventual purchase due to my fondness for the game.