In September of 1999, Intelligent Systems released what would be the final game to appear on the Super Nintendo.
Fire Emblem already had a strong following rivalling fans of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest in their intense loyalty, and the game's unique style provided a fitting end to what was a very long-lived system. Now, in 2001, Fire Emblem: Maiden of the Dark is under development for the Game Boy Advance, and it looks as though it's going to live up to the reputation of its predecessors as an in-depth, strategic game, very different from any other RPG.
Fire Emblem is difficult to place to a genre; on balance, it is best defined as a simulation-RPG. There are elements of tactical battle involved; the game uses a system not unlike that in Tactics Ogre or the classic PC strategy game Civilization to direct the flow of battle; however, once units collide, the game shifts into a different mode which is chiefly concerned with trying to maintain a statistical balance that will allow the enemy unit to be defeated. Emotions and relationships factor into the battles, and often, the actual fighting takes the back seat to management of the player's statistics. Speed and power have to be balanced, and these decisions have a direct impact on the progression of fighting. There are also long-distance magic attacks, and if a unit is on the other side of a wall, it is not visible to the player.
The story of Fire Emblem is another area in which the game is unique. Events that occur due to player actions influence the story; for example, if a general is killed and he was a tyrant, it can affect the attitude others have in dealing with the player, as well as the units that were under his command. Nintendo and Intelligent Systems have remained fairly tight-lipped about the game's storyline; however, previous entries in the series have tended to be somewhat interrelated, with each new title bearing a strong influence from the previous games(the third Fire Emblem title went so far as to have a version of the first title in the series included on the cartridge to allow the player to become acquainted with that game's plot). As such, there will likely be some shared elements. Previous Fire Emblem titles have also included the concept of lineage which allows the player to play as a character for roughly half the game and then switch to that character's descendants several generations down the line, but whether this will be included in Fire Emblem: Maiden of the Dark remains to be seen.
Generally, playable characters have differed from game to game, and if a character appears in more than one game, it is with a minor role in their repeat appearance (the exception to this rule was the third Fire Emblem, which contained almost entirely the same cast as the first). Similarly, locations on the world map are generally changed around from game to game. With little plot information available, this makes the actual nature of the story somewhat sketchy. What is known about the plot at this point is that the game will have much the same tone as previous entries in the series, suggesting an in-depth and emotional story. In terms of actual story details, Fire Emblem: Maiden of the Dark is the story of the hero's town, which is locked in struggle with a neighbouring country which had previously been a strong ally. There is no apparent reason for this outburst of aggression, and so the player, taking the role of the hero, must not only protect the town against harm, but must also uncover the mystery surrounding the unprovoked attack.
Fire Emblem: Maiden of the Dark is slated for a July 2001 release in Japan. There is no real expectation of this game arriving in North America, although such a release has not been ruled out.