Debutant Roy is the boy amongst men

Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade (2002)

I’ve been thinking about some notable debuts lately, and there are a lot more dreadful ones than blistering ones. Take some from the world of sport for example, and spare a thought for poor (x driver) in formula 1 who’s career lasted an astonishing x metres before his car gave up the ghost, and his employers subsequently gave up on him. X metres, hardly even worth a tug is it?

I also get great gas out of footballer Jonathan Woodgate’s long awaited debut for Real Madrid, which culminated in at least one own goal and then a red card for good measure, and I should imagine several injuries thereafter.

There’s always millions of eyes on the debut of each James Bond actor, and in many cases the actor doesn’t go onto ever better their first 007 film, although in old George Lazenby’s case his debut happened to also be his denouement. But hey, at least history vindicated him, and he packed a lot of canon and lore into 2 hours. And when the nerds do up their big score, that shall surely make the difference.

Sticking with the sport theme, I wouldn’t liked to have been the opponent for Mike Tyson’s professional debut. Sure you’re in there to act as some jobber for a kid, but when this kid nearly takes your head off with one uppercut in the first 10 seconds you wonder if that beer money was worth it.

There are altogether different debuts of course, I’m thinking about acting debuts, and more specifically than that I’m thinking of the likes of Kelly MacDonald’s acting debut in Trainspotting, where she got the full lot out at age 19. Where do you go from there? Then there was Debbie’s debut, of Does Dallas fame. Tolkien’s debut novel, The Hobbit, was his best. A debut really can go either way.

Against all this, we have an interesting piece of Nintendo history, at least interesting if you’re a complete anorak. Though Smash Bros probably always had the secondary impact of being advertising for Nintendo, it was as early as Smash Bros Melee that characters and elements were used directly as advertisement for other Nintendo products. This is why we all scratched our heads and wondered what was going on when we unlocked Marth, who we wouldn’t see officially in Fire Emblem for years, and even more confused when we unlocked Roy, who hasn’t been properly seen by the West in a Fire Emblem game to this day.

Indeed, this marked a time when a character made his debut not in his own gaming series universe but in Smash bros itself, namely Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade. You were actually able to play as his oul fella in FE7, who had a very strong anime resemblance to what would be his son. But if you want to soak up the lore, you’ll have to take a dip into Japanese waters and get yourself a fan translation for this, the sixth game of the series.

When you do, you’ll find work and animation and proceedings broadly what you got in FE7, although it’s certainly a lot less hand-holdy, no big sister Lyn to take care of you here. This was the first Fire Emblem game on GBA and therefore the first since SNES. Understandable really, as Fire Emblem wasn’t yet ready to go 3D, and the N64 regarded 2D or quasi-2D games about as welcome as a fart in a facemask. 

It turns out though that, like old Woodgate and (f1 driver), Roy’s had a bit of a shocker with his debut. Actually, you could say he had a doubly shocking debut, in similar fashion to how Goldust performed awfully in his first American bout and was even worse when he attempted to get the UK crowd going. Roy’s had two bites at the apple and choked on it both times.

In his Smash Bros Melee iteration, several oversights glitches and general malaise that comes from being a copy and paste job contributed to Roy being firmly consigned to Marth’s shadow. And when none of us had a Betty blue who either of these characters were, one of them being written off in favour of the other meant Roy was in chains from the start.

Bit in the Japanese only Binding Blade, where he eventually tried to show us what he could do in an environment he was comfortable in, it just got sad. In Fire Emblem, every unit has a chance to increase their stats upon levelling up, with 0ercentage growth rates behind the scenes governing how often this happens. You wouldn’t believe Roy’s growth rates – several nail biting battles in a row and barely a strength increase at the end of them. One can sympathise with Roy here, after all we’ve all tried to improve our diet and exercise and seen almost no visible growth, but come on.

Now I freely admit to being a fire emblem noob, in as much as I need an overpowered Lord character to take care of most of the second half of the game for me. That’s how I was able to beat Path of Radiance and Awakening, because other Smash compatriots like Ike, Chrom and Robin were able to breakdance through levels, slaughtering dozens of enemies with a smile on their face and an anime waifu to romp home with.

No waifu for Roy unfortunately, in terms of personality as well as strength, he’s a plank. Units get promoted in Fire Emblem, and a strong promotion can save a unit – but guess what, unless you unlock the real ending chapters (and forget about this without a guide), you’ll only get promoted Roy for the very last chapter, when it’s all over bar the shouting. Only Homer Simpson gets a promotion slower than this guy.

This directly leads to the binding blade being one of the harder fire emblem instalments, even if the tutorial was a fair bit nicer than the one in fe7. You’ll be having to fire up that reset button when one of your pilchard squad gets nailed by a thrown Axe. I must say, and it’d just my personal experience but I had felt that the aggravation over fes supposedly biased rng system was all overblown – I had always felt much more blessed than Cursed by luck- but here when things are stacked against you, I found this game particularly was rigging the odds. Perspectives change quickly when you’re staring down the barrel, I suppose.

You need to be a bit of a gambler at times in Fire Emblem, playing the odds and trying to beat the house, or the spiteful AI in this case. But you’ll be lucky to get through The Binding Blade without spluttering and raging, being dragged away from the table and demanding justice. I know some dweebazoid will be in to tell me that actually the hit rates make sense, but it was becoming a running joke how many eighty-odd percentages chances to hit ended up as wide of the mark as my professional pornstar.

As the first of the gba Trilogy, i should give special praise to this game because after all, even if we anglophones weren’t to know it, this game did establish the lovely Ui and graphics that would come in the new millenium era of fire emblem, particularly the wonderful sprites in battle – get a Critical Hit with the likes of a pegasus Knight or a general and the juice is off the scale. Get a Critical Hit with poor old roy, and… well, I don’t know what happens. Answers on a postcard please?

(Inseet above) You can easily play the game via a very well translated rom, it’s underrated how well they localised it actually, since 20 or so years on Nintendo still don’t want to show Roy’s early awkward years.

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