Review by Drache the Dork
"A solid fanservice to those who know and love Path of Radiance, yet sadly lacking to all others."
I'm definitely a fan of the Fire Emblem series, though even more definitely not one of the pros. I have loved every Fire Emblem game that has come to America to some degree, including this one. However, the problem with the series is that if you've played one, you've played them all. The same old formula from the old days (I wouldn't be surprised if the first Fire Emblem was extremely similar!) is still used, with a few changes here and there.
The aforementioned formula involves the same old RNG monster (RNG meaning Random Number Generator) to determine what happens (I mean EVERYTHING, from how much you hit to the amount of criticals you do, and beyond), and many features that have been used ages ago. This system is old, yet still solid enough to make a decent game. Regardless, it would be nice to see a few new bones in the very skeleton of this formula.
Basically, it goes like this: You have a leader figure (not always a lord, and the person changes often), you have an objective (and once in a blue moon, more than one), you drag your units across the map and have them fight to reach said objective (RNG monster starts to rear its ugly head here), and you must keep the leader alive above all others (which is another place where our adorable monster comes in).
As you move from chapter to chapter, the battles will allow you to determine who you should use, and who to bench. It's pretty easy to tell which ones are wimps in most cases, so you shouldn't have a problem with that except that there's 72 characters to choose from (everyone from Path of Radiance except Largo, many familiar faces from said game, and a few new ones). Although you have several groups in the game, they all meet at the end, and you can only choose so many units in a battle.
Going back to the RNG monster, after so many battles, a unit will level up (duh). A portrait of the character and his/her stats (and stat gains) will be shown. The stat gains are entirely random, although some units are more likely to get certain growths than others (i.e. a mage will get many magic growths, but defense is rather rare). Sometimes you'll get lots of growths, sometimes you'll get one or two. When you're in the base, you can use your bonus experience to level your characters up, and you'll always get three stats. Otherwise, there's never a guarantee. You still have some items that increase stats, but those aren't exactly common, and therefore, should only be used on the people who need them.
Here's something that's good and bad at the same time: this game is hard. Even on normal (I've never played on easy, being familiar with the ins and outs of Fire Emblem). A (somewhat untrue, yet reasonable all the same) general rule to live by when you're under attack is: If the attack can hit, it will hit you. I wouldn't say it's so hard you want to throw down the Wiimote in frustration, but it certainly takes a lot of time. Thankfully, this difficulty is less frustrating than it could be due to battle saves. If someone dies, just reset and try something else.
Since we're on the subject of death, it should be noted that the thing that separates Fire Emblem from many other games of its genre is that if someone dies, they never come back.
When you look at these lovely characters when they're alive, you'll notice that they have some skills. Micaiah, for example, has Sacrifice, which gives her HP to someone else. There are many others, and you should use and abuse them to their limits. However, you can only have so many on a single character, so choose wisely! Also, many old uber skills from Path of Radiance, such as Sol, come upon promotion.
Then there're supports. Supports have three levels, and give the characters certain bonuses. There are three levels in these supports, and each time, the bonuses get better. Said bonuses are determined by the character's affinity (fire, dark, etc.). Also, unlike previous Fire Emblem games, you can have supports between ANY two units.
Now, onto the higher notes of gameplay. Dark magic has returned from the dead somewhat (it was completely absent in Path of Radiance), and knives are now true weapons that you can master like everything else. There are a few triangles to memorize that determine which weapons work best against which. For instance, axes are best to use against lances, but they should avoid swords. Knives don't have any weaknesses, except that they are rather weak themselves. However, when you get a really good unit, it shouldn't matter which weapon is used as long as it has a good chance of hitting. The different types of magic each have their own uses, such as dealing more damage to certain units.
Oh, and by the way, hard mode lovers, you can forget anything I just said about the triangles. No such thing at that level.
All the units have a class, whether it's a mage, thief, or paladin. Most of them change to a better class when they hit level 20 (in older Fire Emblem games, you had to use items, but Path of Radiance changed that to be automatic at said level). The 40 level overall limit was how it was for a long time. Now, however, you get another chance to change classes. In total, you get 60 levels to burn through (although many characters start promoted or at higher levels), and no more. Laguz units, however, never change class, and level up to 40.
There was no wow factor about the plot. It was staler than month old (miraculously preserved) bread. Fire Emblem games are supposed to be more decent than this with the plot, yet this was a half-assed attempt to give closure to Path of Radiance.
First of all, you have three groups: of Micaiah, and her useless cronies, of Elincia, and her do-goodie knights, of Ike, and his much more powerful mercenaries. The conflicts (all somehow related) bring them together in the final part of this four part game.
Micaiah is your typical patriot. She loves Daein. The end. Seriously, she practically gets worshipped by the people because of all her good deeds against the evil Begnion soldiers. Gimme a break.
Elincia's part has you taking control of people other than her in many cases, and it's the shortest part of the game. Anyways, Elincia is your typical queen. Loves the country, loves the people And her knights are typical as well. They love her, and will protect her with all their might. Well, that's sweet, but is there any other kind of knight out there? Sheesh.
Ike isn't quite as typical. He works for money money money, not just for the sake of doing a good deed. He, despite having a somewhat bland personality, still stands above the first two leaders, unfortunately.
Some of the plot itself would have newcomers thinking What the hell is that supposed to mean? The terms ARE explained, yet it doesn't quite cut it. The only way to truly get a feel for how significant all of these strange things are is to play Path of Radiance.
Naturally, a game would be full of plot twists, right? Yes, of course. Well, this game sure had them, but most are sadly seen coming from miles away. Only a couple aren't so easily guessed.
My biggest complaint would be the ending, however. It felt far too empty, and there was a plot twist that, although it DID need to be addressed, felt like it was just tossed in for the hell of it.
Ah, and one more thing before I move on. This game is on the Wii. Can I see some voice acting outside of the cutscenes for once? Apparently not. The narrator is quite good at setting the scene, however.
Any person who played an older Fire Emblem game knows about the support conversations. Well, they essentially don't exist now. Just a few lines of dialogue (back on the battlefield at that!) between any two characters.
In other words, they exchanged quantity of supports for quality of conversations.
This is my HUGEST complaint about the game. I wanted to see at least a few between certain characters I liked (particularly the funny ones), but noooooo, that wish went ungranted in the cruelest way possible.
Also, the other extras in this game weren't too whoopy. You get to view artwork, old Path of Radiance conversations (if you transferred the data from that game and by the way, you shouldn't transfer easy data to Radiant Dawn, as it won't work), and a couple other things. Wow.
Not great by any means, but it gets the job done. Some of it's fun to listen to, the rest is rather mediocre.
I don't care much for graphics myself, but to be honest, the best looking parts of the game were the cutscenes. The rest didn't show much improvement from Path of Radiance.
Considering the fact that no score got above a 7, Radiant Dawn is merely decent, and most enjoyable to those who played Path of Radiance. The only others who may enjoy it are those who like a decent challenge in strategy games.
I do NOT recommend this for anyone else.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/05/07
Game Release: Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (US, 11/05/07)
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