Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light (1990)

by Ji-yeong
6 minutes read


Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light is a pioneering title that established the tactical role-playing game genre. Featuring Marth’s quest against the dark dragon Medeus, it combines strategic gameplay with a compelling story, laying the groundwork for a franchise celebrated worldwide.


Marking the birth of a legendary series, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light introduced gamers to a tactical role-playing experience unlike any other on the Famicom in 1990. This groundbreaking title not only launched the Fire Emblem franchise but also set a new standard for the genre.


Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, known in Japan as Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Tsurugi, is a tactical role-playing video game developed by Nintendo and Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo for the Famicom. It is the first installment in the Fire Emblem series and was originally released in Japan in 1990.

The game is set on the fictional continent of Archanea. The story follows the tale of Marth, prince of the kingdom of Altea. Marth is sent on a quest to reclaim his throne after being forced into exile by the evil sorcerer Gharnef and his dark master Medeus, the titular Shadow Dragon. Forming new alliances with neighboring kingdoms, Marth must gather a new army to help him retrieve the sacred sword Falchion and the Fire Emblem shield in order to defeat Gharnef and Medeus and save his kingdom.

The gameplay revolves around turn-based battles on grid-based maps, with defeated units being subject to permanent death. As you build up your army, you have to carefully choose where to direct and who to attack on a grid-based battlefield.

Long ago, the continent of Archanea was invaded by the Dolhr Empire, led by the Shadow Dragon Medeus. Anri, a youth from Altea, defeated the Shadow Dragon using the divine sword Falchion. The Kingdom of Archanea was restored and the world entered an era of peace.

However, after an attack from the neighboring kingdom of Dolhr, in which his father is killed battling the evil priest Gharnef and his sister Elice is taken hostage, Marth is forced to become an exile in the nation of Talys. Reviving the Shadow Dragon Medeus, Gharnef started a world war to devastate entire kingdoms; murdered Miloah; and manipulated his allies to ruin through various tactics—including kidnapping their children—then leaving them to die once they were no longer helpful to him.

From defending the kingdom of Talys to facing off against the titular Shadow Dragon, see Marth’s humble beginnings from a refugee in Talys to the hero of Archanea! Our scrappy hero must be poised to take on any challenge.

The game was officially localized and released outside of Japan for the first time on the Nintendo Switch on December 4, 2020 in commemoration of the franchise’s 30th anniversary. This updated version features new quality-of-life improvements such as fast-forwarding and rewinding through player and enemy turns, and the ability to create save states in the middle of gameplay.

While initial sales and critical reception were lackluster, it later became popular, launching the Fire Emblem series. The game would later be credited with codifying and popularizing the tactical role-playing genre as a whole.


Key characters include Marth, the protagonist and prince of Altea; Medeus, the dark dragon antagonist; and a cast of diverse characters from across Archanea that join Marth’s cause, each with unique classes and abilities.


Featuring turn-based combat on grid-based maps, the game emphasizes strategy and careful planning. Players must consider terrain, unit positioning, and character relationships to succeed. Character permadeath adds stakes to every decision, making unit preservation crucial.


Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of strategic depth and narrative richness in video games. Despite its age, it remains a beloved and influential title that paved the way for one of Nintendo’s most iconic series.

Review Score



Cover Art


Fan Art

Fan Art Style: Normal

Fan Art Style: Retro

Fan Art Style: Modern

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More