Review by CyborgSage00x0
"While not a blazing inferno (obligatory pun), FE10 marches on as a worthy sequel."
It's hard to get as classic as Fire Emblem-although it was only recently that the world outside of Japan got to truly taste what this great TBSRPG is about, for the fans, the games just feel like home. Conflict on massive scales is the way to go in these worlds, and with Radiant Dawn, FE celebrates its 10th game released.
Which brings us to this game, the sequel to the GCN's FE: Path of Radiance (PoR). This game adds a new look at a conflict not yet resolves, and even introduces some new elements into the FE world. Yet, my feelings have been battling with themselves about this game, as there are good and bad things to be found here. Here's how the game breaks down:
I found this story to be even more compelling than that of PoR (Path of Radiance), which is saying a lot for a sequel. What does this tales have to offer?
For starters, all the events pick up 3 years after the great war of Tellius in PoR. Daein has been crushed, and is being controlled by neighboring Begnion. However, corrupt generals rule over the ruined country, and no heir or noble claims to rule Daein. Basically, it's a nice allusion to Germany after WWI. But, there is hope. A young girl named Micaiah and the rouge Sothe (whom you will remember from PoR) lead the Dawn Brigade, a sort of Robin Hood-esque band that tries to bring hope to Daein.
From there, all of the events take place. One of the interesting elements to how the story is told (and ultimately shapes how much of the game handles after that) is how different stories and perceptions overlap. The game is divided in 4 chapters, which is comprised of 3 major story arcs: Michiah's Arc, Queen Elincia's (rather short) arc, and Ike and Goddess arc (which involves all characters from the previous arcs).
Basically, the point of views and units you control will flux greatly-you could be controlling Michiah's group one sub-chapter, and then Ike's the next. At some point, you will even have to fight against units you previously controlled! Add in a few dramatic and powerful moments, and you have an interesting perspective on a well followed story.
I won't give away too much, but let's just say this game answers many questions you may have had about the first game, and creates a whole new scenario of conflict on a much grander scale. You will meet characters of new and old, and get to experience how perception and deception can shape the tides of a war.
BOTTOMLINE: The story picks up and expands where PoR left off, and gives a different look at a bigger conflict than before by using different techniques and a shadier story.
HOLD IT! For me, graphics do matter in this game in a way, and allow me to explain the score.
But to be frank, you'll notice right off the bat that the graphics really haven't changed at all since PoR-I *think* is because this game was still designed for the GCN, before it was discretely moved to the Wii. Well, it would explain why the graphics are generally bland. Character models, backgrounds...not much is impressive in this game, especially when comparing them to graphically awesome games like SMG and MP3.
HOWEVER, I do have a great amount of praise. See, as much as I liked PoR, I had a big problem with the battle animations. The GBA FEs had very quick, yet spectacular animations of attacks, with the best obviously being the critical hits. But PoR had much longer battle sequences (most likely unavoidable, actually, due to 3D rendering) and pretty boring attacks. Even only 2-3 criticals were worth watching.
Not so in this game. Thankfully, Nintendo and IS caught wind of this, and greatly upgraded the battle scenes. Every unit now has about 2-3 different way to attack, even when performing a normal one (a Myrmidon might back flip slash, do a normal quick slash, or a down stroke).
This doesn't affect damage and stuff of course, but if much better to watch. And the criticals and Skill kills are very nice to watch, which was great. This goes along greatly with how the attack animations have gotten faster, which is great: I wanna see quick but awesome attacks. And it doesn't hurt that some of the character models almost look like they have taken on a bit of cel-shading, or something, and things like shields and armor looked smoother than before. Overall, I was very happy that this at least was given an upgrade.
That being said, the game still has sub-par graphics. Then again, this game doesn't really need great graphics-it a TBSRPG, so basically if the battle animations look ok and you can see the menu, you're good. And obviously, you should be playing this game for the story/combat/etc. Plus, even though there are still not many, the beautiful cinematic cut-scenes are back, and they look great.
BOTTOMLINE: The battle sequences have gotten better, the cut scenes still look great, and there seems to be a very subtle touch in making the graphics smoother. However, it's very noticeable that this game hasn't grown much overall from PoR.
If you are unfamiliar with Fire Emblem altogether (in which case you might be confused as hell at this point, but bear with me, I'll get to you lot), then you are sadly missing some great FE classics, like "Together, We Ride!", the FE themes songs, and other noteworthy hits from game to game. And while the FE theme is obviously here, there really isn't any standout music here.
Overall, the music fits well. The music plays differently depending where you are (game map, camp, during text scripts, events change, battles, etc.) enough, especially more switches in tracks while battling, which does better than PoR. But only a few tracks really get you in the mood as opposed to past games (specifically, the GBA ones.) But the voice work is pretty good. You won't hear a lot of it (just in the cut scenes), but I think the voice actors do well with the time they have.
BOTTOMLINE-The music naturally fits its environment and works where it presented, but there's nothing that you'll really be humming or remembering after playing the game.
Well, I'll make this short: It's the Fire Emblem we all know and love. As such, it's menu selecting...so there's nothing to really say here, just press the buttons :-). It's maybe a little odd that no motion control was supported at all, as one would imagine it to be easy to point where units should move and such. But the controls work as is; it's kinda hard to screw up menu navigation.
The heart and soul, the bread and butter of any game. But for FE games especially, this is what you come looking for. So it's interesting to see that the formula has actually expanded, and that the designers tried some new things. It's a process that can wield mixed results, but I think it generally works.
First off, if you've never played a Fire Emblem game before, here's the deal-It's a Turn Based Strategy Role Playing Game (TBSRPG)-you will take turns moving your units and performing actions such as attacking, healing, etc. on a grid map (it's not just tiles, though). You then will repeat this process until you achieve your goal. The series brilliantly takes into account on how you move and who you attack as strategy, and uses leveling and experience for the RPG factor to decide the outcome of battles-it's quite a fun experience if you've never played a TBSRPG like this before.
Now, as for this game for those FE vets, let's talk about the new stuff. A big change is the inclusion of a 3rd tier leveling up system. Yep, that's right-now you can become even more than a Swordmaster, or Sniper, etc. This is a great addition I think, as we all know that kinda giddy experience when one of our units are about to level, as that means new stat boost, a new look, different attack animations, and new skills, so giving players yet another reason to push their character forward is great.
This also probably goes along with the fact that this game is long-at least around 50 hours or so, making it one of the longest FEs ever. Of course, longer games are always good, but it's interesting how the game is divided up and in sections to create it's longness. There are 4 Big chapters, and each chapter contains numerous sub-chapters. Interestingly, the lengths of these vary greatly: The first has 11 subs, 5 for the 2nd chapter, 15 for the 3rd, and about 7 for the final. This has an odd mix of advantages and disadvantages.
The good thing about this is the story, as mentioned above. Chapters 1 and 2 focus on 2 completely different teams and casts of characters. Chapter 3 also starts off with a new cast, but mixes the other units in towards the end, with Chapter 4 having the whole conglomeration of them at your disposal.
The upside of this is it allows a greater perspective of story to be illustrated, as it shows various points of views across the whole continent-you'll be trying to create a revolution in a country at one point, and then trying to quell another of a different nation. This method allows the over all plot to truly seem like a global conflict, and perspectives will intertwine and even conflict. I'd say it's one of the best ways a FE story has been told.
However, that's also an annoyance game play wise. Because the perspectives and groups of units you control switch so much, you'll only have a finite amount of time with them before you'll see them again. A good example is that I didn't see my Chapter 1 units again until a late Chapter3 Sub-chapter-by then, they were seriously under leveled compared to other units I then had. This makes it extremely annoying trying to raise and make up for lost time the levels of the earlier units. Not only that, but it's harder for you to personally bond or give a care about the characters that you'll see on and off again. So it's a system that works in one way, but a little clumsy in another form.
Another change is Support. Before, only certain characters could form support bonds with other specific characters, often relating to their in-game stories. However, it's been changed somewhat this round. This time, virtually anyone can form a support with anyone else. This is pretty nifty addition game play wise, as that means you no longer have to worry about trying to constantly lineup 2 characters in order to get the support bonus. This makes it much easier for you to choose your own units to get bonuses off of. However, the downside of this is that the personal relationships between characters are pretty much gone.
Before, in order to get the support boosts, certain characters had to have conversations with each other in-game. It's the same this round, but the conversations have been de-personalized. This was inevitable in order to make support compatibility more open, but the conversations units share are more arbitrary and can really be applied to anyone. Not only there, there are very few special endings resulting in full support between 2 units. While this isn't a game crusher by any means, it's worth noting for those who liked to be rewarded with the special endings.
Then we come to game saves during a mission, probably the biggest, yet simple change a FE game has seen in a while. I'm kinda fixed how I feel about this, but I feel it is overall a welcomed edition to the franchise, and will help get more players interested in FE. One of FE's biggest appeals has been that if you lose a character in the game, it's dead for good. Not knocked out, not oh, Potion X will be able to revive them later-gone, you will never use them or see them for the rest of the game. So if you screw up, you either trudge on with the sacrifice, or you restart that chapter. To me, this has always been a welcomed challenge, as it forces the player to be extra careful when planning attacks and movements, calculation hit percentages, and balancing unit abilities. There is no finer way to the player want to become a better tactician than by making you play for keeps.
However, this game is also much more difficult than other FE games, a subject of some controversy. Vets like welcome the upped challenge, especially in a day and age where games seem to be getting easier and easier. However, even a seasoned veteran like myself was frustrated by the relentless way this difficulty was achieved. The problem is mostly found in the beginning of the game, where enemy units reinforce often, hit for high amounts of damage, and have ridiculously high chances to hit you, regardless of the weapon triangle (Eddie, your beginning sword user, can still expect high 60% attack chances against him, even from worthless, axe wielding bandits). It doesn't feel like the AI improved or that the mission conditions were made harder, but more like you are being bullied. For this reason, the option to save your game at any point feels like a real blessing. Plus, sometimes it is good to just be able to save, in case you need to leave the Wii mid-mission. It should also be noted that once you get a decent distance in the game, however, the challenge feels a little more matched.
Some vets feel this change is sacrilege, but it is important to remember one thing: it is completely optional. The temptation may always be there, but you never have to use the saves if you do not want to. However, broad options in any game are welcomed, so ultimately, I would have to say that this was a good change, and one that vets and newcomers can make use of.
Beyond that, this game is your standard FE flare, which is a good thing. There are some interesting new maps and conditions of victory, but not much has changed besides the aforementioned. I do have some complaints, however.
I'm still curious as to why certain classes have been diminished or outright abandoned in this game, much like PoR. The Pirate/Berserker class is noticeably missing, as well as the Mercenary/Hero. And thieves only have the option of evolving into Rouges. In fact, besides one case, the Assassin class is absent from this game, same with Dark mages (besides a special case). There is admittedly more diversity between the Paladin/General class (like that you can have a sword, axe, or lance knight), but it is still curious why these classes were left out. And when you consider the great new classes introduced in The Sacred Stones (like Mage Knights, Summoners) as well as the class change system (which gave you options of what you wanted to class change into), it does seem a little curious that this system and units weren't used.
BOTTOMLINE-Some of the new changes, like the 3rd Tier levels, are welcomed additions upon already stellar, strategic game play. However, good game play from past games has been ignored in some ways, and there could have always been more new additions. There is also an improved amount of difficulty here, but the in-game save still will let new comers play unafraid.
MULTIPLAYER-Not present in the game. No effect upon score.
RENT or BUY?
It's a hardcore TBSRPG game that is more difficult than, say a casual player would be used to, so it might be worthwhile to rent and try it first. Renting it to beat it won't really work, as this game takes quite a long time to complete, so you might as well buy it.
That being said, this is a no brainier buy for FE fans, as well as anyone who enjoys RPGs. And since there still isn't a wealth of RPGs for the Wii, this game should quench the thirst for those who enjoy the genre. It would also be wise to pick up the GCN PoR first, if you have not already.
+Strong story that's darker than previous entries and it uses different perspectives to tell a broad and engaging story
+Better graphics than PoR, and noticeably better attack animations
+Score that fits the game, with tracks that vary more than PoR. Voice work is adequate.
+New features in game play help keep things feeling new and interesting
+Difficulty has been increased
-Despite the improved graphics, sill notably behind the times
-Music fits fine, just not that extraordinary
-Some improvements from past games have been ignored, and more new additions are wanted.
Fire Emblem 10 makes for a benchmark or sorts for the series, as it can be observed how far this fantastic franchise has come, and how much popularity it has garnered outside Japan in such little time. This game expands and improves from PoR, and is a solid and even addicting play. In fact, I wish decimals were allowed to be used, because this is really more of an 8.5. Pick this baby up if you are ready for a more involved game than others.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/19/08
Game Release: Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (US, 11/05/07)
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