Gemfire FI

SNES A Day 129: Gemfire


Approximate Release Date: December 1, 1992
Genre: Turn-based strategy
Developer: Koei
Publisher: Koei

If Koei’s Gemfire is an attempt to make the turn-based strategy genre more accessible, then it’s a failure.

There are some steps in the right direction, though, when compared to the developer’s supremely inaccessible Romance of the Three Kingdoms II. There are no goofy PC-style Y/N prompts to be found anywhere and there are fewer submenus-within-submenus to try to navigate. These small changes make Gemfire actually feel like a Super Nintendo game instead of a weird computer port.

Even still, these Koei games feel like work. I find almost nothing in the world less interesting than the prospect of managing food stores for my magic fantasy nation. The level of minutiae that you have to track and take care of is daunting. And most of it is in menus with no explanations for what everything does! You need a manual or guide for Gemfire. Or buckets of patience.

Luckily that’s only half of the game. Gemfire‘s combat has been streamlined from the craziness of Romance of the Three Kingdoms II and now resembles something approaching a Fire Emblem or Advance Wars. Every battle is five-on-five capture the flag on a square field with melee, ranged, mounted, and magic units facing off. The handful of battles I played were fun but few and far between. I think there might be a chance of genre aficionados finding the strategy to be too limiting, but it seems fine for my tastes.

My favorite addition to Gemfire is the addition of demo mode. It plays the game for you. It’s perfect if you want to show off competent play on your SNES blog, like so:

Gemfire is laborious. But unlike Romance of the Three Kingdoms II, I can see some merit in trying to learn how to play this. I just don’t want to.

Tomorrow: I hope Jeopardy! includes a 16-bit Alex Trebek!

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