Fire Emblem's STILL burning.
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Fire Emblem. For lovers of strategy games and Nintendo, this name brings joy to the ears with good reason. There aren't many games in it's genre that can come close.
In general, it plays as a tactical RPG in which you move your characters from place to place, depending on a fixed movement rate, based on class. Each class has it's own forte against other classes, and requires the utmost of thinking before you go into gameplay.
One of the things I liked the most about this game, is also one of the things I dislike about it. It's challenging, and forces you to think a lot about what you're doing. The levels are difficult, but not impossible. This gives you an amazing feeling of accomplishment after beating a map, but frustration during. To put it simply, if you don't think you're very good at Fire Emblem, or wish to play casually, do not begin on normal mode.
The normal difficulty setting is amazingly hard. One misstep, one misplaced unit will easily get killed and will be wiped off the face of your unit roster. They have countered this by implementing a 'Battle Save' feature, which is completely unlike Suspended Data, for those who are familiar with handheld Fire Emblems.
Suspended Data lets you pause gameplay, go to the main menu, shut off your game. But, you can't load any other files, lest you lose your suspended data.
Battle Save allows you to actually save in the middle of battle, at any point. Essentially a quick save, in case you feel that you'll mess up.
Thanks to the difficulty, I've found that in order to not lose any units, you have to battle save every round that nothing goes wrong, which gets aggravating. But, if you don't mind losing a unit or two because you overlooked one foe who could kill you, then the difficulty won't bother you. Just make sure it's not your Commanding Unit that gets annihilated though; that causes an insta-loss and if you didn't save before hand, you'll have to start the chapter over.
Although in parts easy to see through, Radiant Dawn manages to keep you immersed in the storyline with cryptic clues to future plot twists and beautiful cinematics, done in a cel-shaded manner (but cel-shaded in a sexy way).
There's a great amount of characters featured in the game, all of the old ones from Path of Radiance carry over, with the exception of Largo due to a mysterious injury. Most characters are attained mid-battle by achieving some secondary goal, like getting a certain character to another, to convert them to your side. This adds even more challenge to the devoted player who wants all of the characters, and to not lose a single one.
Not only that, but they added a third class allowing you to promote your class twice, into an uber unit essentially. Laguz (humans who take the shape of humans) don't promote at all, but have higher stat caps in general, and a 40 level total.
As I had mentioned before, the cinematics are awesome, although unfortunately they're used sparingly. They're all very detailed and decent voice acting is made use of. The ridiculously dramatic dialog will make you laugh from time to time. It's not a serious problem, but in parts you will roll your eyes.
The inherent flaw at Fire Emblem's core is the random number generation. As you level up, your characters randomly get points assigned to a general assortment of stats that befits their class (Warrior: HP and attack, Mage: Magic and resistance etc). But often they barely get any bonuses, or sometimes none at all.
In battle you'll find yourself in a crucial moment, facing an opponent with a 30% chance to hit, and you with a 75% chance to hit, as the battle system is based off random chance and percentages derived from stats. Entering the battle you'll be feeling good, as you SHOULD be able to hit and kill them before they can land their blow on you.
Strangely, what will happen is that you'll miss, and they'll hit you and kill your unit. There have been times in which I had 98% to hit, and they had 17%. I missed, they hit and killed my unit.
I call this strange phenomenon "Fire Emblem Logic". It's evident in all of the franchise's games. It's the first rule of the game engine; if it shouldn't happen, and if the player's unit will die from getting hit, it'll happen, and the unit will die. If you have patience, or don't mind losing a unit here or there, then this won't bother you. But for those who get annoyed at having to save every round or don't want to lose any units, this will drive you nuts. But then again, the system is what makes it Fire Emblem, and I would never change that to be honest.
Although I wasn't expecting a big increase in graphics, I wasn't expecting them to be an exact copy of Path of Radiance. Nothing is polished. They just added another tier of class promotions, and different attack styles so you don't see the same boring slash every attack for a certain class. Somewhat disappointing, but when I got the Wii, I understood that I was exchanging high-brow graphics for fun games and innovative play.
In all, the flaws are minute. For fans of the franchise, or those with a taste for medieval tactics, this is for you. Definitely a good game, and a strong title for the Wii.
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