Marth’s Rise to Glory in the West

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When Super Smash Bros. Melee first released in 2001 and 2002, many players outside of Japan were surprised by the inclusion of a specific unlockable character: the hero-King Marth, of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light. Fire emblem was relatively unknown to Westerners as all of the games in the series were exclusive to Japan. Finally, the interest in Fire emblem was created by Super Smash Bros, resulting in The flaming blade being disseminated internationally. A few games were made available outside of Japan after The flaming blade, but Marth hasn’t made his official West debut before Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon was released in 2008-2009 for Nintendo DS. Until then, Marth was known only by his Super Smash Bros. appearances.

Image: Nintendo

The origins of Marth

The Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light was the first game of the Fire emblem series released for the Famicom in 1990. It was then that Japanese gamers became familiar with Marth and the world of Archanea. Marth is the very first protagonist of the series, a prince who fights in the war of shadows against the dragon Medeus. He sets out to acquire the Holy Falchion and the Fire Emblem himself in order to defeat both Medeus and the priest who resurrected him, Gharnef. Marth’s journey is generally regarded as the climax of Fire emblem by the Japanese fandom, but since the Western fandom hasn’t had access to Marth’s story for so long, they generally prefer Path of Eclat.

After being away at Gaiden, Marth made a comeback in Mystery of the emblem, the third game in the series. Mystery of the emblem Was the first Fire emblem game for the Super Famicom, released in 1994. Although it was only released four years after the first game, Mystery of the emblem is partly a remake of The Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light. Divided into two books, Mystery of the emblem includes two books; one is an account of Marth’s first play, and the second is a direct continuation of it.

While most Nintendo fans were introduced to Marth via Super Smash Bros. Melee, this was actually not his first appearance in the west. A 1997 anime simply called Fire Emblem has been made available in English. The anime is very short, with only two episodes produced. As this was the very first piece of Fire emblem media translated into English, there were multiple localization errors, such as the reference to Marth as Mars. Due to its length and lack of interest in Fire emblem outside of Japan, few people have heard of Marth and Fire emblem usually up to Super Smash Bros. Melee.

Super Smash Bros. Marth's Adventure Mode end screen.  Melee.
Image: Nintendo

The effect of Super Smash Bros. on Marth’s popularity

A few years after the anime aired, Marth finally made his video game debut in the West. Marth and Roy are both unlockable characters in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Marth because of his status as the First Lord of Fire Emblem and Roy because of his next match. Many players also weren’t sure who Roy was, but that was partly because of the fact that The binding blade was still in development. However, Marth’s lack of representation in the west is notable for the fact that The Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light has already been published, but is not available to the English speaking public. Many Nintendo franchises had already made the leap overseas, including the same one of medieval inspiration. The Legend of Zelda series, so it seemed strange that Fire emblem had not yet.

Before the release of Melee, Marth and Roy were intended to be playable only in the Japanese version of the game because of this situation. However, during localization both characters were well received and were included in all other releases. Even though they were both strangers in the West, they became very popular, especially Marth. Western gamers became curious about this particular fighter and started wanting his games accessible to them, but they had to wait many years for their wish to come true.

Positive reception of both Fire emblem fighters in Melee has resulted The flaming blade being localized, as well as most Fire emblem games after that. Although Marth and Roy were the ones who sparked interest in Fire emblem in the west, none of their original games were made available to English speakers.

An image of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon.
Image: Nintendo

Marth’s new appearances in the West

While Roy’s game stayed in Japan, Marth’s game eventually made the leap overseas as a DS remake. Shadow Dragon is a complete overhaul of the original game, with the old gameplay reworked to match that of the GBA and Tellius games. Plus, it also includes updated graphics and illustrations. Despite the interest in Marth aroused by Super Smash Bros, Shadow Dragon did not do well in the west. Its release was met with little fanfare. A little over a year later, Mystery of the emblem also received a DS remake, titled New emblem mystery. This game, unfortunately, did not leave Japan, probably because of Shadow Dragon less than the stellar reception.

After New emblem mystery, Marth received small roles in the main games and leading roles in spinoffs. Awakening mentions it frequently, Lucina even taking her name as a pseudonym. Ylisse’s royal family descends directly from hero-King Marth, and the DLC even allows players to recruit him. However, this is not canon to the story. Its presence no longer in Fire Emblem Fates Where Shadows of Valentina, in which he can be summoned via his amiibo.

Fire Emblem Heroes introduced Marth at launch in 2017, and has given him several alts since then. While not significant in the story, he is likely one of the first heroes a player will get and feature in promotional material. Later in the same year, Fire Emblem Warriors was also released. In this game, Marth and his allies are central to the story, being one of three games to have an entire arc dedicated to him. In this, Marth is able to interact with characters such as his descendants of Awakening as well as people who are foreign to him, such as the cast of Fates.

Marth is still a recurring fighter in the Super Smash Bros series, now joined by many more Fire emblem characters. For the next two games, he was voiced only by Hikaru Midorikawa; it had become somewhat of a tradition for him to have a Japanese voice actor, because at the time of his inclusion in Melee, he did not have an English voice actor. However, at the time of Ultimate, he had won an English voice actor in Yuri Lowenthal. Ultimate is the first example of English speaking Marth in Super Smash Bros.

Finally, Marth’s Journey leaves Japan for the first time

Finally, after 30 years, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light leaves Japan for the first time. A limited-time port and localization has been released for the Nintendo Switch online store, along with a special physical edition that includes several items such as a replica of an NES cartridge from the game. Marth’s story is even referenced. by Nintendo itself in the trailer for the port, where two children are playing clinch together and one of them asks who Marth is. Fortunately, thanks to this port, it is no longer necessary to ask this question.

Marthe is Fire emblem most recognizable character, even in countries where his games were not available. But this lack of representation may have been what made him stand out so much; he was an unknown character who kept popping up in crossovers and spinoffs, so of course players would be wondering who he is. It took a long time, but now people outside of Japan can really learn more about Marth from his original game. Maybe one day there will also be a port or a remake of Mystery of the emblem, allowing players outside of Japan to continue to follow Marth’s journey.


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