The Fire Emblem series has been around for many years now, making appearances on the Famicom, Super Famicom, Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS, Gamecube, and of course the Wii. While the Fire Emblem franchise is pretty big, it is still underrated, and unheard of by far too many gamers. Although the first game in the series came out in 1990, it was not until 2003 that the series was produced outside pf Japan. Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is the first installment of the series on the Wii and is a marvelous game overall.
JP February 22, 2007
NA November 11, 2007
EU March 14, 2008
AUS April 10, 2008
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Players: 1 player
ESRB Rating: E10+
The game starts with a cutscene. A young silver-haired maiden runs through the dark, soldiers chasing after her. As the soldiers round a corner, they realize that she is nowhere to be found. They look for her in the ruins of a nearby building, where the girl is indeed hiding, before appearing to give up and leave. When the girl thinks it is safe to exit, she steps out from a crack in the wall where the soldiers are still waiting to ambush her. She is taken, and when all seems lost, a green-haired boy jumps down from the wall, taking out a soldier and beginning to fight the remaining few. Together, the two take out the small group of soldiers and flee into the night.
(The cut scenes are a beautiful part of this game, and are usually well worth watching, as shown below.)
The player starts as a rebel leader--who happens to be this same maiden--in Daein, a medieval country that has been ravaged by war. Until recently, this country had been invading the rest of its neighbors on the continent of Tellius. Eventually the sinister plans of the country were put to an end. A small group of rebels are now fighting against the remains of Daein's corrupt and ruined army, which, without a real leader, has taken to plundering, stealing, and abusing its own citizens. You fight for these citizens, hoping to eventually reach the top and restore order and hope to your once-respected nation. That's the plot, originally, however this particular Fire Emblem game comes with many plot twists, and even has the player controlling other armies occasionally.
This game is set up on a board made up of many small squares, (which you can decide to show or hide from view) that functions as a map of the battlefield. That may not sound very interesting, but as the game progresses, these maps can prove to be quite large, spanning a town square, a ship's deck, an entire castle, or a dark cave, among others. Each square can hold a person, and by placing multiple people on the board at once, you create your own personal army to fight vast hoards of enemies. Early in the game you really only have around 5 people fighting on your side, but as the story progresses, you pick up additional citizens and troops. By the end you should have a massive army from which you can pick and choose soldiers for each battle.
Radiant Dawn is a turn-based game, meaning you move all your troops one at a time--which can be tedious--and then wait for the enemy to move all his troops. This part is generally much quicker. It is a war game, so the object of each map or level usually involves cutting a swath through the enemies' lines to get somewhere, although the objectives are not limited to simply routing the hostile armies.
The main idea behind combat is simple; if you attack someone, they attack you back. The actual fighting is shown in a cutscene, but one of the options allows it to be held on the map screen. Though the combat scenes are cool at first, eventually most players will probably want to watch battles on the map, because it makes completing levels a lot quicker and leaves the gameplay uninterrupted. If one of the combatants' HP reaches zero, they die. If not, both units stay where they are until their next turn. Now there's more to it than that; there are weapons and techniques involved to make sure you hit the enemy twice, or to make sure he can't hit you back, and there are advantages that certain units have over others. You can also take advantage of terrain in most maps to make things even more interesting. It's all pretty complex, but also pretty easy to figure out, as the game will give tutorials to first-time players (should they want them).
This brings us to our next bit: unlike in many games, the people, (or in some cases animal-warriors,) that you obtain in your army can be lost forever. Many of the 72 playable characters are very difficult to convince to join you, so it is very likely you may go through the game missing potential recruits, who may only appear to enlist when a certain person steps on a certain square, or who may be disguised as enemies. Also, if one of your troops dies on the battle field, they die forever. There are exceptions, of course; if a main character dies, you must restart the level, but you may find yourself restarting many a level anyway because your favorite archer died, and you can never get him back if you continue.
The fact that your soldiers can die forever makes the concept of preserving your army very important. The player will have to find more subtle ways to kill off the enemy's army than to charge them full on. This is where army customization comes into play. The 72 playable characters each belong to a certain class. Human and Laguz (half animal) units break down into further divisions, which include mages, knights, thieves and Pegasus riders, as well as tigers, ravens, and dragons. In each battle, the player can only use a certain amount of units, so if a unit goes unused for even a few levels, they may easily become too weak to hold their own in the next level. Enemies become stronger at an alarming rate, so it is almost impossible to go into the last few battles with an army of 72 well-leveled soldiers. The player must decide almost as soon as he or she gets a new unit whether it will be one of the few soldiers that gets a lot of use, or whether it will be a unit that is ignored until it's too weak to use in battle. This immediate gut call made by the player is what makes your army so different each time you or anyone else plays through the game.
The graphics are amazing during cut scenes. They really aren't that magnificent during gameplay, (shown above) but I didn't find that the graphics took away from the game at all. It's a decently long game with about 30 levels, ranging from 15 minutes for the first one or two, all the way up to about 3 or even possibly four hours per level. The average length--at least for me--played on medium difficulty was about an hour and a half per level. Many of the levels took much longer because I was compelled to restart them when a character died. I loved this game, and to this day it's one of my favorite games of all time. It has an amazing plot, great cutscenes, and plenty of ways to make your army different from any other. The sound is amazing, with separate music for different events, and different music for most maps. The music itself is incredible, but most people won't buy a game just for that. The one thing I do suggest is that any gamer looking to play this should play with a GameCube controller. The Wiimote is not used very inventively in this game, you hold it sideways as an awkward brick-like controller, with absolutely no use of the wii's pointing functions. The GameCube controller fits much more comfortably in your hand and the fact that it has more buttons and an easier button layout makes it more enjoyable overall.
I solidly recommend this game to any and all gamers who love strategy games. For those who don't like strategy, I would not recommend this game very highly. Although it is very creative, it's still a straight-up strategy game. It's not first-person, and it's not real-time, so if running through terrain, killing things is what you want, I don't suggest this. It's much more thoughtful and involves clear thinking and planning ahead, especially on the harder difficulties (some of which require unlocking). If you enjoy watching a plan come together, or watching your army drag an enemy into an ambush, then this game is for you.
I give it a solid, well-earned 9 out of 10 for anyone who loves strategy games. If you liked this game, I suggest you get its prequel as well, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, (for Gamecube,) which sets the story up for Radiant Dawn. Great game.