Jeremy enjoys gaming when not working as a manager at the same college he graduated from.
What Is Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade?
Although American fans were first introduced to Fire Emblem through Marth and Roy's appearance in Super Smash Bros. Melee, it was Roy's father Eliwood who starred in the first title (the seventh for Japan) to hit the States. Released on the handheld Game Boy Advance, The Blazing Blade served as a prequel to the Japanese-exclusive FE6: The Binding Blade.
Blazing Blade took the States by storm thanks to its impressive story, challenging strategic combat, and a plethora of characters to choose from. With limited experience, you'll have to make tough decisions about which characters to focus on, and if one of your units falls in battle, it's gone for good. But with dozens of awesome combatants to pick from, which champions reign supreme? These are the ten best playable fighters in FE7! Note that Fire Emblem games use an RNG (random number generator) for level-ups, so the actual abilities of each character will fluctuate between playthroughs. Also, minor spoilers ahead.
|Magic Type||Beats||Loses to|
You'll only ever have Ninian or Nils at once, and they actually share their stats/level, meaning they're basically the same unit who swap in and out as the story demands. Although neither can actually fight, they brandish the unique ability to rejuvenate units who have already acted and let them move again in the same turn.
Ninian and Nils also wield a variety of special dances/songs they can use to temporarily boost other stats, and (like regular warriors), Ninian can form support bonds with certain units to increase battle prowess when in close proximity. Finally, although they're vulnerable to attacks, the incredible HP, Speed, Luck, and Resistance growths of these disguised ice dragons will help keep them alive as long as you're careful.
Another unique character who can't battle, Merlinus nonetheless helps by storing items for your crew. If an ally gains an item with full inventory, normally they have to permanently discard a treasure, but with Merlinus around, it'll instead go to his camp, which you can access in-between levels. You can also visit him mid-battle to swap out with his stock, and he can carry up to 100 extra items.
Merlinus gains experience for each battle he survives, eventually promoting to a mobile camp that can move. Thanks to his incredible HP and Luck growths (100%!), you can actually deploy him as a wall to block off enemy units, especially since Merlinus is one of very few characters who won't die if defeated; he'll simply flee the fight and can return in future clashes. As icing on the cake, he's even got three support options available, making this merchant much more capable than he seems.
Weapons: Lances, Axes (upon promotion)
Knights suffer from incredibly low movement counts, meaning Oswin here lumbers around the field slower than Ike moves in Smash 4. That said, he enjoys incredible HP and defense tracks with surprisingly high skill and resistance growths as well, making him one of the hardest units for enemies to kill. He begins with lances and eventually gains axes, letting you exploit two weaknesses in the physical weapon triangle.
You also obtain Oswin early in Eliwood and Hector's story, giving plenty of time to gain experience, and he far outranks your other general option, the lackluster pre-promoted Wallace. Throw in a heap of support options, and Oswin's one of the best units in the game minus his dreadfully slow traversing. You can counter this by giving him the Boots item to permanently increase his movement, but you only get one Boots (such a rare item, I know), so think carefully before using it.
Unlike future titles, in this game you need promotion items to upgrade, making pre-promoted allies more tempting since they don't require investments of your limited upgrade tools (which can be found in certain levels or bought for ludicrous amounts of gold). Thankfully, Hawkeye joins as a promoted Berserker and arrives with a whopping 50 HP and impressive defense stat (although its growth is poor).
While Berserkers may only wield one type of weapon, they're the only land units (besides their Pirate prepromotion class) that can cross water, and they enjoy high critical rates. Hawkeye's numerous boons and automatic promotion (without requiring the rare Ocean Seal Dart would need) make him a better choice than his only competitor. Hawkeye only bears three possible supports, but two of them also made today's list, offering quality over quantity when it comes to bonds.
Weapons: Light, Dark, and Anima Magic, Staves
Although he only joins in your final mission, Athos offers the incredible powers of a level 20 promoted unit, arriving at full strength. His HP and speed are lower than you'd expect on a maxed-out unit, but his Magic power of 30 plus an S-rank in all types of magic (not to mention staves) let Athos brandish any tome or rod.
Because of his late join time, Athos doesn't bear any potential support relationships, but if you've diligently saved a speed-raising Speedwing item, Athos makes a great candidate since this will let him double-attack several foes (including the final boss) with the Luna dark magic—which ignores opposing resistance.
Weapons: Staves, Anima Magic (upon promotion)
Priscilla already stands out by being the only troubadour/valkyrie option you've got, and she initially begins as a healing-oriented unit. Compared to her main healing competition, the cleric Serra, Priscilla brandishes a higher staff rank upon joining as well as a horse mount, letting her travel the field faster and offering some appreciated rescue potential. She's also got impressive growths (other than defense), making her a capable warrior when gaining access to magic. Remember, magical attacks can strike from either range one or two and target generally-lower resistance rather than defense, making them one of the game's best assault tactics.
Priscilla's only real drawback is the amount of time you need to invest in leveling her, as she joins later than Serra and can initially only gain experience through healing. Luckily, Valkyries gain increased experience in this game, letting her catch up quickly upon promotion. You'll want at least one dedicated healer in your run, and Priscilla's advantages almost always make her the better choice.
One of the Four Fangs, the elite members of the villainous Black Fang organization, Jaffar wields some impressive abilities. He was created prior to the introduction of knife items in future games, meaning (like other FE7 thieves and assassins), he wields regular blades. Despite being sword-locked, Jaffar offers incredible speed, skill, and critical rates; give him a Killing Edge and stand back as he mercilessly slaughters foes with criticals.
Using Jaffar also lets you keep Matthew and/or Legault as thieves. They could potentially promote to assassins, but doing so would lose their ability to steal items, and why bother when you've got a beast-like Jaffar available? You'll need to play a bonus level to access him, but the experience and deadly unit you'll gain in the mission more than justify the side quest.
Weapons: Anima Magic, Staves
Blazing Sword offers several mages, monks, and sorcerers with similar stats, so it's hard to pick a favorite among Erk, Lucius, and Canas. However, pre-promoted Pent remains a surprisingly competent unit who equals or even exceeds his competitors.
Wielding impressive stats from the start as well as an automatic A-rank support with his wife Louise, Pent's already strong capabilities are further boosted as long as he's within three spaces of his sniper-class bow-wielding spouse. Although his growths aren't as impressive as some, Pent's prowess upon joining speaks for itself, and (unlike many pre-promoted characters) he remains useful throughout the game. Definitely a sage worthy of being Athos's student.
Class: Lord/Great Lord
Weapons: Axes, (Swords upon promotion)
By far the best of the lord-class main characters (next to Eliwood and Lyn), Hector's stats reflect that of a knight, favoring physical strength and defense. Luckily, Hector has a slightly better base movement that knights, and his axes are helpful against the numerous lance-wielding foes in the second half of the game. Hector also bears a great many support options to further increase his prowess, you obtain him early, he can eventually use swords, and he enjoys access to multiple axes only he can use, like the Wolf Beil and legendary Armads.
Hector's only weaknesses are lackluster movement, resistance, and speed stats, as well as a late promotion (in Eliwood's story, you won't gain access to a Heaven Seal for him until chapter 25). His thunder affinity also isn't the best, as its support boosts provide mostly-redundant defense increases. Still, Hector makes a great candidate for the permanent movement upgrade of the Boots, especially if you're not using Oswin, and since you're forced to use him in many levels, you might as well take advantage of his formidable powers.
Weapons: Swords, Axes
You can obtain either the swordmaster Karel or the hero Harken, but not both. Fortunately, choosing between the two is pretty easy. Harken's average growths are more than compensated by his incredible base stats, impressing in every area other than resistance and making him worthy in the endgame even before his 12 potential level-ups. Plus, because he's recruited from the enemy camp, Harken's stats are even better in hard mode.
Priscilla's brother Raven (who almost made the list) can ultimately upgrade from mercenary to hero and rival Harken, but why not save the experience for other units when you have such an awesome pre-promoted champion headed your way? Harken also wields a B-rank in axes, something Raven will very likely not amass at that point, wielding higher-grade weapons from the start. Finally, Harken's fire affinity increases offensive stats through supports, generally more useful than the defensive boosts Raven's ice bloodline provides.
How to Play FE7
Like most older games, obtaining a new copy of FE7 isn't cheap, and will run you around $60. That said, it's an excellent strategy game that's neither too child-like for adults to enjoy nor too dark for children to play (I'd compare it with Star Wars' maturity level, and the two series even share several plot similarities). Many players also use GBA ROMs to play the title, although some believe this ruins the challenge because of your ability to save at any time.
Regardless of your play manner, Blazing Blade remains not only one of the best Fire Emblem titles but one of my favorite games of all time, and it rightfully spearheaded interest in the series outside of Japan. Thankfully, with a handful of well-received sequels, like FE Awakening and Heroes, the franchise is going as strong as ever. But for now, as we eagerly await Nintendo's next batch of strategic warfare video games, vote for your favorite character and I'll see you at our next countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill