Game Review

Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Thomas Bowskill

Fire Emblem is a renowned turn-based tactics series that can be most likened to a combination of Risk and Chess (and if that’s not got you salivating, you may as well read no further).

Following in the wake of the GameCube’s Path of Radiance, Radiant Dawn sees the story of Tellius develop from several perspectives. As is typical in the series, the world is gearing up for battle: the Laguz (Beastmen) and Beorc (Humans) are fighting against themselves and each other’s nations- the civil order that Ike and Greil’s Mercenaries restored in the previous game is in ruin. Full-scale war is on the horizon - war, the proverbial hammer needed to break the seal on the dark god’s prison within the Fire Emblem. Something sinister is afoot, and each nation has its own tale to tell…

Told from the perspective of the strong political forces within Tellius, each ‘part’ of Radiant Dawn forms a cornerstone to what is the grand narrative. As the game progresses, these separate stories become intertwined - culminating in a climax of epic proportions. Because of heavy emphasis on story, there is a heck of a lot of text to read - prior, post, and during battle. Regular segments where the story is dictated to you by the narrator, and the occasional cutscene, makes a dent on the amount of reading, but there’s still a lot to get through. For the most part though, the plot is pretty engaging - if somewhat cringingly clichéd at times.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the gameplay is where Radiant Dawn comes into its element. As previously mentioned, Fire Emblem feels like a crossbreed of Risk and Chess - or, to qualify a gaming example, think Final Fantasy Tactics mixed with Advance Wars. You have a series of units - the characters in the game - that you can move around on a grid-based battlefield in order to meet your objective: killing anything not on your side. Each side takes it in turn to move their units though the battlefield, trying to gain a measure on purchase on the opposition’s ranks through tactical deployment and use of the terrain.

Core to battles is the combat: at the basic level we have a trinity of steel (swords beat axes, axes overpower lances, and lances defeat swords) and magic (fire scorches wind, wind buffets thunder, and thunder zaps fire - how’s that for a verbose overload!) Then there are archers, ballista mechanisms, healing mages, throwing weapons, thieves, and mounted units such as horses, dragons and unicorns… oh, and, that’s just the Beorc. The Laguz are a different kettle of, er, beast: their clan-based transformations make them the toughest units, but they need to revert back to their weak human forms after a short while - meaning they're a bit of a double edged sword. Each unit gains experience in battle, which allows them to increase their strength through levelling up.

While the selection of units is important, terrain plays a vital role in the strategy too- after all, bottlenecking an enemy in a corridor is much more effective than letting them overwhelm you in a hall. There are levels when areas of the map become shrouded wherever allied forces are not - aka, Fog of War. In such missions, enemies are not opposed to a spot of blindsiding. In addition to this, the Wii version sees height advantage considered - he who has higher ground can twatt the opponent harder (my proverbial masterpiece there). It goes without saying then, that you need to be well prepared for battle- i.e. your units must to be kitted out with the right equipment at base camp.

I mentioned earlier that the objective of Fire Emblem is to kill everything not on your side - that was a bit of a lie. Firstly, there is a bonus experience system in place that rewards players based upon the satisfaction of specific criteria - e.g. not killing certain enemies, protecting villages from bandits, or winning within a set amount of turns - giving you additional experience points to level your units up at base. Secondly, I did not mention the paramount objective: keeping your units alive - If someone dies in combat, they’re gone for good. With this in mind, each battle becomes a deluge of calculated decisions to ensure victory without suffering the loss of even one individual - a mighty task!

To elucidate on every aspect of combat is nigh on impossible, so just be rest assured in the fact there is a detailed tutorial. That being said, one final aspect does merit attention: the difficulty. Simply put, Radiant Dawn is hard. Very hard. The enemies are numerous and ruthlessly efficient - they will go for the kill whenever possible. This means you have to constantly be on your guard and think every single movement through. It’s pretty easy to become crestfallen when playing Radiant Dawn - to have half an hour’s worth of work obliterated due to a previously unnoticed threat, or a lucky critical hit, is extremely infuriating.

Finally, we have the visuals: in this respect, Radiant Dawn does what it needs to, and nothing else. Apart from the odd cutscene, the story is told by static images, which gives the impression of reading a book. Maybe things could have been a bit more polished - especially the battle animations - and there is no real Wii functionality, but these seem to be such trivial things when compared to the perfect orchestration of the game’s lifeblood, war.

Conclusion

Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is a strategist’s heaven. With over 30 hours content, the wide variety of levels, tactics, and missions will more than satisfy your thirst for war. Be warned though, this is no easy game: you will be tried and tested at every turn by the brutal opposition. The presentation of the story is not the best, and there are vast chunks of text to get through, but strategy fans don’t really mind that, do they?

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Game Trailer

E3 2007 Trailer for Fire Emblem

User Comments (22)

DamoAdmin

#2

Damo said:

It's better than the current crop of Shining Force games!

When was the last decent one? 1998?

CorbsAdmin

#3

Corbs said:

I've always liked the Fire Emblem games so it's nice to see one available for the Wii.

Nanaki

#4

Nanaki said:

At risk of death, I must confess that I have never played a Shining Force game- Sega pretty much passed me by in childhood.

AVahne

#5

AVahne said:

great review,i have always liked Fire Emblem ever since i heard of it in Melee,sigh too bad its kinda hard to find this game now.after so many months theres one in gamestop i think but i dont know which

Sean_Aaron

#6

Sean_Aaron said:

I just got this off Ebay (new only £21.99 with P+P!) and it is awesome! Reminds me of X-COM/UFO which is one of my favourite games ever.

Pity that Path of Radiance is going for funny money; hopefully Nintendo will do the New Play Control treatment (even if it would only be adding Wiimote/CC control) on it.

More games like this please!

Zenman

#7

Zenman said:

this was a great game, a bit long but worth it, especially controlling the black night for two chapters

SupermarketZombies

#8

SupermarketZombies said:

I downloaded Shining Force II on the Virtual Console and loved it. Still have Shining Soul I and II on the GBA too.

James

#9

James said:

I fear I've become something of a Sega radicalist in recent years - here I am turning to talk to Shining Force when, as Damien rightly says, it's hardly as consistent as the excellent Fire Emblem series, which goes from strength to strength (probably by never changing the formula even slightly for each game - whoops!)

Luigi_La_Bouncy

#10

Luigi_La_Bouncy said:

This game would be great if it wasn't for all the text. Seriously, how awesome would Fire Emblem be if the story was told through animations?

Adam

#11

Adam said:

I don't think Nintendo knows how to work with voice actors. It would be awesome if they did and they could do the story all through animations. Oh well.

Slionr

#12

Slionr said:

I remember when I got my first Fire Emblem-game for the GBA (FE7). I was overly happy for buying this game and its one of my favorite GBA games (perhaps the best game on the GBA in my opinion). When I heard a FE-game was gonna come to the GC, I was realy excited and could not wait. When I got it though, I was realy dissapointed. The story was good and the graphicks: not bad, but for me, it just was not as great as the one of the gba. I, of course did not expect that, but the animations in batle where much stiffer and I felt more connected to the characters in the GBA game than on the GC. The music was not as epic either. Overall, I was though happy with it, but REALY dissapointed. When it came to Wii, I did not buy it, but i believ I will soon. I borowd it from a friend and... well, THIS felt more of what the GC-version should have been. But then again: I was not that happy for it. It was a good FE game, but again I expected more: Better musik, better dialoug (story was great though) and just a bigger uppdate. Even though wii is not that much stronger, It could have given more I believe. It might be just me nip-picking, but those on the GBA was so great, that when it came to stronger consoles.... i just expected more.

Kadaj

#13

Kadaj said:

Amazing game. Excellent story, gorgeous music, and just all around fun.

I beat it on easy, then on normal...now I'm on hard and it is HARD. I refuse to let anyone die, and my god is it tough. A real challenge. The GBA games were good, but my god they were easy.

pokemonzrpg

#14

pokemonzrpg said:

Oh come on Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance was better than this, but it got a worse rating on here!

RetroNL

#15

RetroNL said:

This game is too underrated by many critics, while Path of Radiance on GC is too overrated sometimes. In my opinion this game is the same as P o R only the battlefields are sometimes bigger (incl. more units) the game is more specific in all ways and also more challenging.. The graphics on the other hand are a bit better than the Cube one, while the music is still top notch. I also like the 'seperate' stories and storylines. Though I have to say the beginning can be quite boring compared to P o R though playing it some hours will make you suck in it.
A very good game with an excellent story, and a good sequel to the GC one, though patience in this game is the answer, but rewards very greatly after more than at least 10 hours of playing.

gaminguy

#16

gaminguy said:

@Sean- x-com is such an awesome game (have it from steam) but I really don't think ther're alike too much. (FUn fact: PC gamer put x-com as #11 on best pc games of all time)

Saber

#18

Saber said:

I never thought this game was that hard lol But yet again Ive completed them all.

X-Conor-X

#21

X-Conor-X said:

Shining force is amazing. I must admit, it's one of my favorite games ever, and all entries in the fire emblem series seem on par

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