Review by Krakistophales
"My attempt at an unbiased review"
I've played this game through thoroughly once, and now am on my second playthrough. Let me predicate this whole venture with the god's honest truth that if you enjoyed the GBA Fire emblems, you'll 100% enjoy this game. Now, if you enjoyed PoR (FE9), you will highly likely enjoy this game as well.
I think this story falls directly in the middle, meaning that it was enjoyable, but nothing spectacular, and nothing you'll be losing sleep over because you can't get over how cool one scene or one line was. I personally liked it more than I would rate it, since it has an epic feel to it and especially during all part 3 chapters you get a real sense of heroism playing as the characters you do, fighting the battles you fight, against the characters you fight against.
Part 1 is rather drab, uninteresting and full of uninteresting, cliched motivational speeches about how a rag tag group of unwilling heroes ascend through their good deeds to great heights in politics, suddenly transforming from robin hood like do-gooders into revolutionary leaders and subsequently reformative progressives. It sets the stage for the rest of the game, but I personally could've done with a much more appealing main character and an ensemble which required a little less baby sitting, both in and out of battle
Part 2 is entirely unnecessary and very poorly done. I could've easily have done with more development of either the heroine of part 1 or the hero from the previous game and current hero of part 3. It's really bad, and full of overpowered, pre-promoted units that will siphon the very life of what little exp there is to collect during this part of the story. It could've easily been foregone, and only serves as a suitable stage to introduce the hero from the previous game, and begin his role during this game.
Part 3 is the meat and potatoes of this game. It will fill you with a sense of pleasant nostalgia if you've played PoR, and even if you didn't, the cast of characters that you play with for the majority of part 3 is very likeable. They're of the far more seasoned variety, with characters that have way more substance and grit to them than the group presented to you during part 1 or 2, and you'll get a true sense of why this group is far less rag-tag and far more rugged and "cool", if I dare say so myself. The plot starts to build up during this point of the game, you see epic, large scale battle scenes as well as hectic guerilla engagements, face down fearsome, honorable adversaries as well as deviant, bastard-like villains who you love to hate, and deserve every bit of pain you deliver unto their doorstep. You take control of multiple perspectives during this part of the chapter, and it really serves as a good plot vehicle to deliver some key points this game tries to make. Whether these points are to your liking or not, I can't offer an opinion without spoiling, so you have to make your own call here.
Part 4 happens after and only because of a very important event that happens at the end of part 3. Sounds stupid, but it'll make sense to you if and once you play this game. Not much to say here without spoiling, as you make a mad dash towards the end of the game and discover many key plot points during said dash. Some key characters are developed further, while other key characters (cough, micaiah, cough) are neglected and left behind. It all ends with what I think is a very good lineup of final battles, progressively leading you to the final boss, which is of suitable difficulty, and you'll really feel a sense of accomplishment after beating it.
This story has many awesome points to it that it does develop and deliver quite nicely, and sadly it has many awesome points with plenty of potential that isn't realized in favor of placating the non-strategy RPG faring masses. Honestly, if game developers would stop trying to cater to those who don't like this genre of games and instead focus all of their efforts on pleasing those that do, they'd get hit in the head with the realization that the strategy RPG liking community is a large one, and consistently growing. The reason that I give this game's story a 5/10 is because I feel that, while it has many great points to it that anyone can enjoy, it has many points to it that will annoy someone who craves a very rich, complex, well-developed plot that should exist for a strategy RPG of this or higher caliber.
Again, if you like FE gameplay, you'll love this game's gameplay. It has all of the classic FE goodness, along with some welcome new additions like 3 tier class systems, built in occult skills upon third tier promotion, BEXP being at a fixed stat gain value instead of random (which really helps with rounding and balancing out your units towards the end of their class' level) and a rather decent, though not awe inspiring, array of useful skills that are much easier to manage with the new and improved skill system. The bad points to this game's gameplay, IMO, are that the supports are now virtually just another battle mechanic, as you can now support any character with any other character, rendering support conversations into generic, one-liner gibberish that could just as easily have been Character X saying to Character Y: "How do you like your coffee?" "With cream and sugar, please". This really takes away from a key point of enjoyment among fire emblem gameplay, which was the previous support system. Along with this comes the fact that mages, sages and archsages now have a seperate mastery for each magical element, just like it was in PoR. This can cause problems by way of most people wanting their mages to be well rounded and have maximum or close to maximum mastery of all magical elements (so they can exploit the maximum amount of enemies' weaknesses), and end up trying to balance them out so much they end up neglecting their chief element, which can end you up with not being able to gain SS ranking in that element, preventing you from using the SS tome of that element, which can be rather problematic towards the end of the game. This problem is slightly appeased by way of the game offering you up many arms scrolls, either by finding them or by purchasing them at Aimee's shop, but if you don't read a FAQ as to where to find them on the maps, or don't have enough money (they're 8,000 Gold a piece with no discount), you'll find yourself rarely, if ever, making use of them. The battles here are fun and fair, and if you have even just a sliver of preparation, you'll do just fine.
I really liked this game's graphics. They're a huge improvement over PoR graphics, they're pretty crisp, smooth and really offer up a "pretty" visage for this game's battles, attack animations, cutscenes and everything else graphical. However, I do believe that, for a next-gen console game, they could've done better. I mean, cmon, it's the Wii. This game looks like you could play it on the gamecube (in the vein of Baten Kaitos. That game had absolutely luscious graphics, and it was for the GC). Still, very nicely done, even if it's not up to next-gen par.
You'll want to replay this game at least once, whether it's on normal or hard. This game has a vast cast of characters, many of which you won't be able to bring to their full potential because of time constraints, personal preference, etc. If you have some characters that you really like and didn't use, or would just like to test the waters with some you haven't used, you'll be able to realize their full potential with proper BEXP management and the like. Second playthrough or higher can potentially offer you extra character recruitment, secret dialogue scenes with certain characters and just a slight bit more plot development. Die hard fans of the series and this game will certainly want to replay just to access these features, but it's not necessary to enjoy this game a second time. The only problem you might encounter is the sheer amount of time you'll have to devote to some of this game's larger scale and more time consuming battles, but if you don't mind that then you'll definately enjoy a second and third playthrough.
This music's game is damn good. It really captures the atmosphere of various scenes, from the looming, brooding tones when discovering dastardly secrets to the rather exalted trumpeting meant to accentuate the regality of honorable leaders entering the fray (Caneighis' theme, for instance) to the downright epic and awe-inspiring choral arrangement during the game's introduction sequence. It's good music, and it fits perfectly the tones and atmospheres this game delivers. The voice acting is also on par for key characters, when presented, so that's always a plus. Poor dubbing can really irritate some people, but this game did a good job of that as well.
Overall: 35/50 or 7/10.
This is a very good game, no matter how you look at it. You won't be disappointed playing through this game, and it's compelling enough to play it through at least once, if only to see how this plot unfolds (especially if you played PoR, since this game continues what was started in that game). Rent? Definately. Buy? If you loved PoR and the FE series in general, definately buy this game. Otherwise, rent it for a longer period of time, soak in this game's epic glory and then return it so someone else can do the same. I tried to stay as fair, unbiased and objective as is humanly possible for someone who truly enjoyed this game, and is a fan of strategy RPGs and the Fire Emblem series of games in general.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/19/07
Game Release: Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (US, 11/05/07)
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