Fire Emblem: Maiden of Darkness (lost build of cancelled Nintendo 64DD tactical role-playing game; 1997-2000)
Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade (Japanese: ファイアーエムブレム封印の剣 Hepburn: Faiā Emuburemu: Fūin no Tsurugi) for the Game Boy Advance was released in Japan on March 29th, 2002, as the sixth main entry to Nintendo's tactical role-playing series Fire Emblem. It is noteworthy for being the first handheld title in the series and the first one to be made without Shouzou Kaga's involvement, as well as codifying certain gameplay elements that would become mainstays in the franchise going forward. It was also notable for sparking international interest in the franchise, with its main protagonist, Roy making his first overall appearance in Super Smash Bros. Melee, just four months prior to his actual debut.
However, the game is notorious for its long and troubled production history; it originally began development as the ill-fated Fire Emblem: Maiden of Darkness (Japanese: ファイアーエムブレム：暗黒の巫女 Hepburn: Faiā Emuburemu: Ankoku no Miko), also known as Fire Emblem 64, for the Nintendo 64DD. After years of postponement, the game was shelved and development started over from the beginning, becoming what it is now. Outside of a couple of interviews, as well as development notes and materials, not much else is known about Maiden of Darkness, and has yet to see the light of day, although it has been well-documented by fans of the series.
in August 1996, Not long after the Nintendo 64's release, Shouzou Kaga, the original creator of the franchise, was asked in an interview from the Genealogy of the Holy War Super Tactics Book if there will ever be another Fire Emblem game made for the console. He responded with the following:
"Although it’s not been decided yet, if there is a next game, the level of strategy would be much higher and I would also return to something that’s easier to play. I don’t want to lose what makes Fire Emblem stand out from other games. As for the story, I’d like to explore Archanea’s world again, from before the start of Marth’s adventures when he landed on Talys. Although enemies, I want to develop the stories of interesting characters like Camus and Michalis."
Though he did not mention anything about the Nintendo 64, the idea of a "more difficult yet playable" game would be used for Fire Emblem: Thracia 776, while a prequel to the first game, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light, would be known as Fire Emblem: Archanea Saga for the BS Satellaview.
Nearly a year later, the game was first mentioned in July of 1997 in an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, who said that it would come out during "the later half of next year" before being officially announced in various Japanese gaming magazines in September of 1998.
In early January 1999, Kaga stated in an interview that the game was becoming too ambitious for the console, and confirmed that Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 for the Super Famicom will be developed next. In the Fire Emblem Treasure Book, released in 1999, when he was asked about the concepts of the game, he responded with the following:
"After Genealogy of the Holy War was completed, the theme of the next game was considered immediately. In fact, we had originally wanted to return to Archanea, the stage of Mystery of the Emblem. However, although we intended on this direction from the very beginning, during the preliminary preparations, we realized it was too ambitious and difficult to do with the Super Famicom hardware... If possible, we'd like to do it for new hardware.
As when we spoke previous, I would like to continue Archanea’s saga— possibly a story related to Marth. Of course, we must wait until the proper environment comes. If the game can be made, to tell the truth, I’ll have to think for a long time. I haven’t actually thought much about it. Anyhow, if another game was made, I’d like to realise all of my designs."
Since he once again made no mention of the Nintendo 64, there were signs that the game is being postponed. However, on August 15th, just a few days before the release of Fire Emblem: Thracia 776, Kaga has left Intelligent Systems, and founded a new company called Tirnanog, where he would later develop TearRing Saga following legal issues with Nintendo. Not long after Kaga left, after years of prolonged postponement, and various development troubles, such as problems with the hardware specs, Fire Emblem: Maiden of Darkness was later cancelled in September 24th, 2000.
Development as Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade
Around the time of the Nintendo 64 version's cancellation, the development of Fire Emblem: Maiden of Darkness had to start over. In August 2000, it was announced to be among one of the many titles to be released onto the Game Boy Advance and was first shown in early 2001. As development of the game was moved to the next console, it was heavily reworked, with the plot and setting having been rewritten entirely. The only known characters that were carried over from this game were Roy and Karel.
On July 26th, 2001, Fire Emblem: Maiden of Darkness would eventually be renamed to Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, with a reveal trailer being shown at this year's Nintendo Space World. The game's original subtitle was later used as the title for Idunn and her character theme, one of the main antagonists. In addition, some names used for the scrapped characters from the Nintendo 64 version were recycled for characters that appear in either the final GBA version of the game or games that were released afterwards.
Though Nintendo of America had plans to release the game internationally, it ultimately never happened, with its prequel, Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, being released in the following year and became the first one to see a worldwide release instead. It is unknown if any work has been done for the official localization, or if it was ever produced at all.
List of Recycled Names
The following names were later reused for other characters. Names in bold are the ones used for characters that appear in The Binding Blade.:
|Lleu/Ray/Raigh and Ephraim||These were the names used for the characters shown in the screenshot. The former was later used for a completely different character that appears in the final game, while the latter was later recycled as the name for one of the main protagonists of Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones.|
|Owain, Bors, and Eliwood||Appears in the surviving script. "Owain" was used as the English name for Eudes from Fire Emblem Awakening, while "Bors" and "Eliwood" were used as the names for two of the characters that appear in the final game.|
|Ike||Roy's original name. It was later recycled as the name of the main protagonist from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance.|
|Idunn||The one shown in the concept art seems to be a completely unrelated character compared to the Idunn from the final game.|
Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade itself can still be found online or physically through various shops, and, as of September 2nd, 2015, is currently available for purchase on the Nintendo Wii U eShop as a Japan-exclusive virtual console title.
No builds of its original Nintendo 64 version were dumped online, or are even known to exist, leaving the whereabouts of it to be unknown. As a demo was never shown to the public, no footage of its gameplay are known to have been recorded either. Aside from various interviews, the only known evidence of its existence is a single screenshot of the game, as well as several concept art and a single page of dialogue that were discovered in the 2015 official art and design book The Making of Fire Emblem – 25th Anniversary Development Secrets, Awakening and Fates.
The link for the English-translated version of the aforementioned script can be found below.
- Nintendo 64 Disk Drive (partially found unreleased video games for Nintendo 64 add-on; late 1990s-early 2000s)
- Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade promotional trial maps (lost promotional DLC of Game Boy Advance tactical role-playing game; 2002)
- Fire Emblem: Archanea Saga (partially lost original Satellaview version of "Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem" bonus content; 1997)
- Fire Emblem Wii (lost tech demo; late 2000s)
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses (partially found Cristina Vee voice recordings from English dub of Nintendo Switch tactical role-playing game; 2018-2019)
- Fire Emblem (partially lost early 4-koma manga anthologies based on tactical role-playing game franchise, 1994-2002)
- Untitled Fire Emblem remake (lost build of cancelled Nintendo 3DS tactical role-playing game; existence unconfirmed; late 2010s)
- Surviving script from Fire Emblem 64, translated in English, as well as an analysis provided by XKAN.
- Serenes Forest article of Fire Emblem 64's development.
- Unseen64 article of the game.
- NIWA Fire Emblem Wiki's article of the game.
- An archived IGN article on Fire Emblem and Mario Paint 64 being revealed through an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto. Retrieved 12 Apr '19
- "I think being on the Super Famicom [SNES] will be fine. If it were on the Nintendo 64, the battle scenes would use polygons and I’d have more to say." — Shouzou Kaga (Genealogy of the Holy War Fan Special). Published October 1996. Retrieved 26 May '21
- Serenes Forest "The Real Mystery of the Emblem". Retrieved 26 May '21
- Article from GameIroIro confirming the cancellation of the game. Retrieved 29 May ‘21
- IGN article detailing the GBA version of Fire Emblem: Maiden of Darkness. Retrieved 25 May '21
- Designs from the Fire Emblem on the Nintendo 64 that never came to be, with information from the interviews in the comments (Making-Of book) "While in the middle of production for the N64 version of Maiden of Darkness, due to various structural changes, game planning basically had to start over from the beginning. While the hero, Roy, remained the same, almost everything else about the game changed, including story and (almost) all other characters. [...] Karel was apparently the only character from Maiden of Darkness to get carried over into Blinding Blade." — Microwaveit on Reddit. Retrieved 26 May '21
- IGN - Fire Emblem Hits Japan Airwaves Retrieved 26 May '21
- RPGamer - Magical Vacation and Fire Emblem GBA Confirmed for North American Release Retrieved 13 Jul '21
- XKAN's surviving script translation and analysis "The dialogue above reveals who they are, as the final line of the page is (in Japanese): “弓は得意なんです！いっつも山で狩りをしてましたから.” This is the exact same line presented in that screen shot. Who says it? Well, it is attributed to Rei. Who is that next to her? Well, it is Ephraim, as right before that he is the one speaking to her, and they are the only two who did not have a “disappear” unlike the rest." — XKAN. Retrieved 25 May '21
- Serenes Forest "The Making of Fire Emblem 64" "Finally, there’s a brief transcript featuring dialogue between Raigh, Ephraim, Eliwood (Ephraim’s father), Aron, Bors and Owain. Eliwood, Raigh and Bors are names of characters from Binding Blade, although it’s unclear if they’re the same characters. Meanwhile, Ephraim shares his name with one of the Lords of The Sacred Stones, while Owain was later used as Eudes’s English name in Awakening. As such, it’s likely they’re different characters, but their names were simply reused." — VincentASM. Published 9 December '15. Retrieved 25 May '21