Review by nash_clovis
"Radiant? Shining is more like it."
I won't lie to any of you: my favorite games these last few years have been the Fire Emblem games. PoR was brilliant, building on a great game already. Although, I'm glad this game's name changed from Goddess of Dawn to Radiant Dawn, because it's no goddess. Still, it's probably one of the best games for the Wii thus far. Also, if you want to play this game, you can carry over data from PoR, but only with games that you played through on Normal or Hard difficulty: it's a glitch they had in the North American and U.S releases. The more you know.
If you're new to the series, then here's a brief rundown. You play as a mage, a queen, and a mercenary, from 3rd person point-of-view. They later become the commanders of armies and then you spend your time fighting your enemy's armies. Repeat that for about 30 hours and you have Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. People who liked Path of Radiance will be overjoyed to hear that you get almost everyone back in your party for this game. And, even better, people who were in your party who you never bothered to use since they were 1st tier will be glad to hear that they will be second tier in this game. Another note is that a lot of characters that either weren't playable, or were playable but only in the last chapter, will be playable in this game. You also get a brand new set of units with great potential,' but a lot of them are, frankly, weak. You start out with a mage, an archer, and a myrmidon, which changes it up from the usual get one swordsman and fight' tutorials.
Your first 2nd tier unit, however, breaks from the tradition of 2nd tier units being awesome. His strength stat caps around level five or so. His only useful abilities are that he can open chests and doors without keys, and that he's a meat shield for your mage and your healers. Speaking of your mage, since she's a main character, she changes class when the game dictates. This isn't any different from the last games, but it's the amount of chapters in between those points that makes the whole experience tedious. By the time they are 3rd tier they still won't be able to hit anything twice. Your other units can't dodge to save their lives. It's almost guaranteed that you'll end up swearing at your TV set 3 hours in because someone kicks the bucket.
Speaking of, that's something that I liked about Fire Emblem originally, because having someone die gives it the feeling of losing all your lives in Mario. Not saying that I like doing everything all over again, but it gave you something to avoid that made the game more challenging. But this confounded Battle Save' feature gets rid of that feeling. Basically, if you aren't sure if the move you just made is one that will keep them alive, then you just Battle Save before you move and then move. This means that if they do die, you can just restart from before you moved. Now, this seems like a good thing to many players, but not to me, because I don't feel challenged.
There are new 3rd tier units in this game. These units can be so insanely strong and overpowered that they can then solo the entire chapter, even with a weapon triangle disadvantage. I now bring up the case of the Dragonlord class. This class is the 3rd tier of the wyvern classes. They modified this class, making bows hit for normal damage. Dragonlords have such high defense that nearly every enemy will either miss or hit for no damage. That's great, but it just gets silly when you have A Silver Knight, a Gold Knight, a Dragonlord and Ike on the battlefield at the same time, the battle feels more like slaughter than a battle. Also, don't ask me why they have Silver AND Gold knights. It makes no sense, but apparently there is no bronze knight. I still haven't figured out why Jill gets demoted to a Dragon Knight when she was a Wyvern Lord in the last game. Also, remember those darn Occult scrolls, and how they gave a special skill unique to one class? Well, when they turn 3rd tier, they automatically have those skills. So having a Swordmaster turn into a Trueblade will automatically have the Occult skill. It's actually pretty useful. Although, a lot of other skills don't share the same usefulness.
Skills like Mercy, which let's you not kill anything, and Provoke, which lets enemies attack that unit first, take away from the fun of the game. It often takes me by surprise when I start attacking something, only to realize that I won't kill it because I forgot to take off Mercy. There are so many useless skills that you're actually better off just selling them. Some skills can also be too useful, like Beastfoe. For kicks, I gave it to a Swordmaster with a Tempest Blade and his attack jumped from 29 to 46, likewise with Birdfoe and Dragonfoe. They're good, but I'd appreciate it if they nerfed those skills in the next game, if there is one, since they're so overpowered.
Support conversations are functions that made Fire Emblem special. Having support conversations with people will often give you bonuses, as well as providing some information for the story of those characters. However, now it's just silly. They're predictable and only about 2 seconds long. It starts with Let's go fight on the front lines together! and ends with I can't handle it if you die in battle, so-and-so. This often leads to unintentionally hilarious dialogue between the characters if taken out of context.
Although, there were a lot of things that I actually liked. In Path of Radiance, you'll remember that the environments were incredibly beautiful compared to other strategy games, as well as the character portraits. All NPC villagers don't look the same, either, giving every character on screen unique personality. You can even see the links between the characters with the Records' function at the base. A lot of the time, this feature has a lot of spoilers, so if you actually want to enjoy the story, then I suggest you don't take a look.
So, another part that I like was the soundtrack. It's beautifully orchestrated, and fits the scene perfectly. If you've reached a brief reprieve on your journey to a fortress and you're walking in a forest or a beach, then the music changes to fit that environment. If you are suddenly attacked, it turns to a violent, dark military beat. If you are about to start attacking someone, then there's a jaunty little tune. This makes me sound like a broken record because I've said that about every Fire Emblem game so far.
The story is beautiful. It's very hard to criticize Fire Emblem's story line, no matter what game you're playing. The reason being is that it's always the same. It's always save your kingdom by destroying the bad guys and cruising to victory.' I put bad guys in quotes because the line of good and evil in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn blurs a lot. You'll find one main character's army fighting another lead character's army, and you control one of them. The characters that were in that other party, then, are brought in against you. I hesitated at to bring the death blow to one enemy character at one point because that guy was one of my favorites. Characters that were in your party and then are fighting against you don't actually die: they just retreat. Although, I think Nintendo were really after that kind of hesitation in this game, so I guess they succeeded.
In short, I liked Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. It wins in the main parts (Soundtrack, Gameplay and Environment), but fails in the more intricate details of the game, like Support Conversations and overpowered skills. I think it definitely appeals more to people who have played Path of Radiance and Sacred Stones, so I guess it's a kind of game that only hardcore strategy gamers could love. I still recommend it, though, as a beginner's guide to strategy games.
Ike is still the main character, by the way.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 02/11/08
Game Release: Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (US, 11/05/07)
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