NOTE: This article essay will contain spoilers for the video game Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War. If you are planning to play this game in the future then I HIGHLY recommend going in blind.
Also, for you weirdo cornball hardcore Genealogy of the Holy War fans: For the most part, I’ll be using the modern fan translation names for characters, items, and locations. For in-game quotes, however, I will be using the Reparation 0.78d translation patch script from Serenes Forest. Why? Well because I’m old enough to remember when that patch first came into the community. I’m also old enough to have some fun with both your young aunt and mom while they’re dressed up as Deidre and Tailtiu while I’m recording everything and I got some Marvin Gaye music playing in the background so don’t try me. Plus, I don’t feel like replaying the Project Naga patch for quotes.
Anyway, let’s get to it!
A few months ago, I was watching Projared’s retrospective on Final Fantasy VI. In the introduction, he mentioned that most gamers have that one special game that had made the biggest impact on their life. It is that one single game that shaped us into becoming the person we are today.
A game that we will never forget.
For me, that game is Intelligent System’s Fire Emblem 4: Genealogy of the Holy War, released on May 14th, 1996 for the Super Famicom (the Super Nintendo in the West). Genealogy of the Holy War or FE4 for short is a strategy role-playing game, serving as the fourth installment of the famed Fire Emblem series that is often hated on by
pedophiles Super Smash Bros. fans. Directed, designed, and written by series creator Shouzou Kaga and produced by the late Gunpei Yokoi, the game take place on the continent of Jugdral (which is based on some Norse myths of something, idunno I’m not that much of a nerd).
Jugdral is divided into eight countries. They are The Kingdom of Grannvale, The Kingdom of Verdane, The Kingdom of Agustra, the Munster District, The Kingdom of Thracia, The Republic of Miletos, the Kingdom of Silesse, and the Kingdom of Issach.
Mentioned in Kaga’s designer notes, Judgral exists in the same world as Archanea; the continent in which the events of Fire Emblem: Dark Dragon and Sword of Light (FE1, i.e. the irrelevant Marth’s game)take place. Historically, FE4’s events predate FE1’s by thousands of years.
In the Grann Year 757, barbaric warriors from Issach raise an army to attack the city of Darna: southwest of the Aed Desert. Upon hearing the news, Prince Kurth of Grannvale and his confidant Lord Byran of Chaply set out to investigate.
Taking advantage of the brewing conflict, Verdane builds an army to invade Grannvale. Leading the invasion (on orders of his otherwise pacifist father, King Batu) is Prince Gandolf (and no, not the Gandolf portrayed by legendary fruit booty actor Sir Ian Mckellen, mind you). Gandolf successfully captures Junby Castle; slaughtering most of its knights and civilians. Following that, he proceeds to kidnap Junby’s princess, Aideen to take her as his bride.
Hearing news of his childhood friend’s kidnapping, the main character Sigurd; scion of Chaply and son of Lord Byron, vows to deliver justice to Verdane. Joining up with Sigurd are his loyal knights: Noish; a proper and diligent man, Alec; a playful flirty guy, and Arden; the slow one.
FE4 starts simple. Aideen’s kidnapping can be akin to her fellow yet mainstream Nintendo princess contemporaries Zelda or Peach’s kidnapping in their games and it’s up to the hero to save her.
But that’s where the comparison ends in terms of princesses getting kidnapped and such.
Aideen’s kidnapping and the invasions were two smaller steps of a much larger and insidious plan for one cult – the Lopty Cult – to not only rule the world, but plunge it back into the darkness it once suffered under centuries prior.
It doesn’t just end there.
While the invasions were orchestrated by the Lopty Cult, it must be mentioned that the cult had “help” from an ambitious leader who desired to end bigotry and discrimination by any means. Even if those means include pretending to be an ally for multiple leaders only to set them up for death – and personally murdering Sigurd himself so he can rule Granvelle alone as emperor.
Not so simple, huh?
If you’re like me, you didn’t expect things in FE4 to play out the way they did. Neither you nor I could have predicted that something as innocent as Sigurd marrying Deidre would lead the world to near ruin. Furthermore, Sigurd would face his own personal tragedies in his short life.
Tragedies such as:
- Branded as a traitor by his beloved motherland after being framed for the assassination of Prince Kurth.
- Forced into fighting his best friend Elidgan to the death.
- Hearing news that his little sister Ethlyn and brother-in-law Quan were murdered in an ambush by King Travant of Thracia.
And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg of FE4’s story and how dark it can get.
Genealogy of the Holy War is the darkest entry of the series (don’t listen to those Scared Stones fanboys who claim that game is the darkest; they don’t know what they’re talking about all they know is how to indulge in their necrophilia kink through Orson). The story features controversial themes and topics such as incest, rape, abuse, and children sacrifice.
It’s not a tale of happiness, glory, and triumph.
Even when our heroes are ultimately victorious, the continent of Grannvale has been torn apart by war. Royal families have been split apart due to petty differences or lust for power. The children of these once-grand and proud families are forced to repair their bloodline’s reputation. Smaller nations are either engaged in civil wars or have been completely abandoned by the empire; left at the mercy of savage bandits and thieves.
To quote a gentleman from The Godfather of Harlem: “I’ve learned one thing about war, Bump. Nobody really wins.”
Shouzou Kaga paints war not in black and white, but with spots of gray. While of course there are enemies that the player must defeat leading up to the ultimate big evil, Kaga likes to portray these enemies as heroes in their own right. This shines clearly with certain villains.
Ruthless King Travant of Thracia is viewed by Grannvale as a despicable man who, through the eyes of others, thoroughly disrespects the code of knighthood. He, along with his famed Dragon Knights, is often compared to hyenas: willing to slaughter anyone for cash.
In Chapter 5 of FE4, Travant uses Quan’s 3-year-old daughter, Altena, as a human shield during an ambush attack by Thracia against Quan’s troops. Travant threaten to murder Altena if Quan didn’t surrender his holy lance, the Gae Bulg to him. After killing Quan and his wife Ethlyn, Travant raises Altena as his own daughter: not out of love or guilt, but to use her as a weapon against her own people and surviving family members in the future.
However, if one were to dig deep into Thracia’s situation, one will come to understand Travant’s actions.
Travant’s kingdom, South Thracia, is surrounded by steep mountain ranges that can barely provide resources for its people. For years, Travant requested aid from North Thracia (as North Thracia’s soil and land are heavily enriched with minerals) only to be shot down by Quan and his family. Therefore, South Thracia suffers from systematic poverty.
To combat poverty, men take up mercenary and farming jobs. Women take whatever job they can to provide for their family (they’re selling that poverty monkey on the “Me love you long time” side of the game).
South Thracia’s situation is beyond dire.
While outsiders of South Thracia see Travant as a cutthroat man, his people view him as the liberator who’ll deliver them from poverty. Travant is a patriot who is fed up with his people’s suffering.
Next, Arvis – the ambitious leader who spearheaded most of the game’s events. Arvis’s a tragic man who, as Seliph (son of Sigurd) puts it, “a victim swept by fate”.
At the age of seven, Arvis witnessed his father, Victor, committing suicide. His mother, Cigyun, ran off with another man (Prince Kurth) due to Victor’s womanizing actions (he even raped Cigyun’s favorite maid; impregnating her with Arvis’s half-brother, Azel). From these events, Arvis was forced to ascend the throne at an early age.
Through Cigyun, Arvis is the descendant of Maera: a holy man who had the moral courage to fight against his oppressive kin: The Loptrian Empire. Maera was a good man; however, he had the blood of the demonic god Loptous coursing through his veins.
Now, for those unaware of FE4’s lore (why are you even here?), you may be wondering who’s Loptous and the Loptrian are. Well, let’s go back to how Judgrall is connected to Archena.
Avris (and Maera)’s ancestor, Galle I, was a simple bishop who traveled the world in search of the legendary Earth Dragon tribe. Landing in Archena, Galle would encounter the Earth Dragon, Loptous. In exchange for raw power, Galle would offer his body and soul as a vessel for Loptous.
Later, Galle returned to Judgral; using his new powers to organize a mass army to effortlessly conquer the continent. Galle and his decedents would ruthlessly rule Judgral for two centuries. The Loptrain Empire fell when Galle’s decedent, Galle the Seventeenth was killed by the Twelve Crusaders (ancestors of some of the major heroes and villains of FE4), with the help of Maera: Galle’s younger brother.
Before his death, Maera moved to the Spirit Forest: a secluded forest hidden from the outside world to protect his descendants from harm. He’d issue both a warning and an order to his descendants. The order and warning: they are only allowed to produce one child per generation.
If a generation produced multiple children, it’s possible for the off-springs to engage in incestuous relationships to produce a child with major Lotpous Blood – therefore reviving the dark god himself and returning the world back into the darkness it was once saved from.
Guess who has Lotpous blood in his veins?
If that information were to be leaked, Arvis would be executed regardless if he worshiped Loptous or not. Manfroy, the current leader of the Lotpous Cult, knows this. Therefore, he seeks to take advantage of Arvis’ cursed bloodline and vision of anti-bigotry by blackmailing Arvis; forcing the duke to comply with Manfroy’s wishes (allowing the Lopty Church to operate in the open once Arvis ascends the Grannvale throne among other things).
Everything mentioned up to this point is the reason why Arvis wants to be the champion of all those who’re facing oppression just for who they are. He doesn’t want other people to live in fear because of their ethnic background like him. He wants to end bigotry by any means necessary – something that would eventually become corrupted thanks to Manfroy.
And since we’re on him, let’s talk about the man himself: Manfroy.
Note that Manfroy and the Lopty Sect’s actions are heinous and inexcusable. No amount of unjust suffering and oppression have been done unto them because of their ancestor’s actions gives them pardon for continuing the pattern of death and destruction.
That said, we must understand the reasoning behind the Lopty Sect’s actions. Let’s refer to a scene in Chapter 7 of the game: Crossing The Desert.
Upon capturing the Lopty operated Aed Shrine, Seliph, and his advisor Lewyn, examine a temple underneath the shrine. As they walk around the ruins, Lewyn tells Seliph of how descendants of the Lopty Empire were forced to live within the depths of the Aed Desert after the defeat of Galle the 17th and the fall of the empire; as they feared execution due to their bloodline. He expresses doubts that they differed much from himself and Seliph in terms of life, but over time, the descendants succumbed to the darkness and evil within their hearts.
Seliph replies that it’s like the decedents are being punished for their forefather’s sins. Following, he discovers a prayer for the revival of Lopotusu written on the walls. He’s stunned that the prayer was written by a child.
Levin finishes the conversation by stating, quote,: “You have to be careful when placing labels on good and evil, Seliph. Never waste your anger on individuals. Always focus it on the evil within all of us.”
Personally, Levin’s statement and Seliph’s shock hits hard here. Imagine being oppressed for generations just because of your background. Often told that you deserve to be punished simply because of those who fear what you are capable of due to your genetics. Your oppressors strip you of resources to ensure your people won’t survive. Hopeless, you turn into the darkness within your heart. Maybe if you had a little bit of power, you could get back at your oppressors by any means – even if those means include doing unthinkable things to them and their children.
(You know, maybe Manfory and the Lotpy Church had the right idea with their methods).
Prior to me playing FE4, the villains in the games I played (excluding Final Fantasy VI) were your simply plain and honestly, cartoonish bad guys. Evil guys doing evil things simply because they were evil. Nothing else. Nothing more. The games never drove into why they chose the route of evil and darkness; they just told you that they were the baddies and that you had to defeat them. However, the thing that I love about Genealogy of the Holy War is that Kaga designed and wrote the villains in a way that makes you understand why they were “evil”.
Villains like Manfroy, Travant, and Arvis presented their reasons behind their cruel actions with depth. Reasons that some players could relate to. You might have lived in an area that was stricken by poverty. You saw how people struggled to put something on the table for their families. You know first hand the despair that comes with poverty. You could click with Arvis and Manfroy because you’ve faced systematic oppression just because of your race. If given the power and opportunity, you would do what Manfroy and his crew did to liberate your people and do unimaginable harm to your oppressors just so you can make them suffer like they made you suffer (again, maybe Manfroy and his people were in the right).
Today in gaming, it’s common to have well-written villains with depth beyond them being evil for the sake of evil. It’s almost a requirement in gaming nowadays. However, (to my knowledge), back when FE4 first came out, villains with the depth of the FE4 bad guys weren’t common in gaming. I’m not saying that it was a huge groundbreaking game-changer for the video game industry, but still, it was something different.
Overall, that’s one thing that I love about FE4. However, what other things about the game that I love about it to the point that I’m always talking about it? Find out in part two!
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