Review by SuperSmashBro13
"The sequel to Ike's glorious game comes with a large mix of ups and downs"
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is number ten in the series (number four in America, as the first six were in Japan only) and is the sequel to Path of Radiance, where our beloved hero Ike saved the continent from turmoil. Radiant Dawn is known for its considerable difficulty compared to other Fire Emblem games (so I've been told, anyway). This, combined with the fact that it's a sequel to another game, suggests that if you're going to step into the Fire Emblem series, you probably should not do it here. Nevertheless, if you're new and you want to look into this game anyway, I've got some parts where I'll explain what the game is like, but otherwise, I'll be speaking to you as if you already know what Fire Emblem is all about.
PLOT: 8/10. It's actually more like "plots"--the game is split into four parts, each with a different story attached. These stories connect to the next plot in some way but usually bear no large relations. The first part of the game focuses on the reconstruction of the kingdom of Daein, as three years before (in Path of Radiance) Ike and the Crimean Liberation Army took it over and gave Begnion reign. Unbeknownst to the rest of the continent of Tellius, the corrupt senators of Begnion are oppressing the Daein citizens and ordering their men to be particularly cruel and harsh to them. A small group of freedom fighters, the Dawn Brigade, fight back, trying to make Daein a safer place. This group is led by Micaiah, a Light Mage with the ability to heal with a touch. After a large stunt in Daein's capital, the Dawn Brigade is forced to leave. They eventually meet up with Prince Pelleas, King Daein's orphan, and join him to take back Daein. Part two (which is extremely short) focuses on Queen Elincia and her struggles as rebellious Crimeans believe she's unfit to be queen and attempt to overthrow her. I'm not going to spoil the rest. At first, I didn't think the four stories had any significant meaning, but they do lead into the next part very subtly. The plot feels a lot different from the plot of PoR. In PoR, you had a goal. You knew where the game would end and had time to prepare for it all. In RD, the plot's here and there and everywhere, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. The individual stories are interesting and well-developed, but the separation's led to some unfortunate flaws. So, for explaining plot elements not completely understood or simply kept hidden in PoR, for making all four stories interesting, and for succeeding in very often creating auras of drama and suspense, but for lack of character development for most characters, no goal in sight until the very end, and for causing the game to have so many characters and alternate between groups so much, this gets an 8/10.
Yes, there is little character development. Only main characters such as Micaiah and Sothe get the spotlight while you rarely see any of the others. The best you can hope for them is for a couple of short Info conversations. What's worse, Support conversations have been removed. Alright, not "removed," but "greatly reduced." You no longer have long conversations at base that reveal the characters' pasts and personalities; you just have them saying a couple of stale lines to each other on the battlefield if they stand next to each other (something generic such as "Hi, _____! Don't you like fighting?" "Yeah, _______! It's great!") The characters don't feel like family like they did in PoR; they just feel like a bunch of units at your disposal.
GRAPHICS: 8/10. I can see that the graphics are better than PoR's, especially where the movies are concerned. On the battlefield and in fights, the graphics look a bit sharper, a bit more defined. The portraits that appear when people talk look more professional, too. The graphics in the movies also appeared more polished, and there's no fading shadow effect (everything moves at the same speed, and the screen doesn't look faded and blurry while the movie's playing). There are more movies than PoR, and they're awesome. Even the short movies which take about fifteen seconds are awesome (Kurthnaga leveling a castle, for instance). Unfortunately, the short movies aren't available in the Theater, though they should be.
Battle animations have been made cooler, too. In PoR, one unit would run to the other, pause, attack, receive a boring counterattack, and possibly attack again if its speed was high enough. In RD, they don't just run up and attack; Sothe's a human blur as he flips and spins at his enemies, and he back flips to avoid enemy attacks. Magic attacks look a whole lot better. In PoR, they were pretty generic looking (Elfire looked just like Fire), but in RD you can (gasp) actually tell them apart! Elfire wraps around the enemy and Arcfire dances above before suddenly plummeting and exploding. And when people get killed, the deathblow plays in slow motion for a second before resuming normal speed. It makes it look pretty cool. If your attack is powerful enough, they'll get knocked off their feet; critical hits send them flying if you manage to kill them with it. And speaking of critical hits, even they have been made cooler. It's no longer just a rush forward and a really powerful hit. Enemies are hit numerous times with flips, rolls, jumps, and anything else that makes it look like it hurts.
And guess what? They curve to turn corners now! No more left, down, left, down; they just move diagonally. This makes cutscenes between battles actually look normal. Good choice on their part.
SOUND AND MUSIC: 10/10. PoR had awesome music. RD has awesome-er music. It sounds like they really put a great deal of effort into it. I'm racking my brain, and out of the eighty or so tracks that make up the game, I can't think of any that were boring or annoying. Most of them I absolutely loved. Aesthetics of Deprivation, A Grasping Truth, and Eternal Bond are some of my favorites, but all of them are really good.
The sound effects have even improved. It's hard to say how they've changed; they just seem to be more defined. It seemed like you had a handful of sound effects in PoR. Somehow, it seems you have a lot more in RD. Magic attacks actually SOUND nice to listen to. A blast of lightning sounds like a powerful blast of lightning, not just some magical attack.
We've got more voice actors and more people speaking in the movies, too. Unfortunately, there's no hearing what Nolan, Edward, or Leonardo sound like, but you do hear the voices of some of the Greil Mercenaries and some others. I think the voice actors are pretty good (though again, there are a couple that I don't like a whole lot). Ever want to hear Shinon snap at Rolf? Now you can!
GAMEPLAY: 8/10. This is where most of the ups and downs take place. Just case you really are new to this series, I'll go over the basics. It's like a huge game of chess. Move all your units, and your turn ends and your enemy moves. Then it's back to you again. The game is divided into chapters (and, in this game, parts). Each chapter is a stage (one chapter is separated into two stages). Beat the stage, and you move onto the next chapter. Your goal in each chapter varies. It can be defeating the boss, killing all enemies, surviving, seizing a tile, and more. The entire stage is a grid which you can move your units across. You've got all kinds of units, such as Pegasus Knights, Mages, Soldiers, Archers, and others, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. By defeating enemies, you gain experience. Gain enough experience, and you'll level up, increasing your stats. Units can hold weapons which have their own stats, and laguz (people that can turn into animals) will have to wait for their Transformation Gauges to fill over time in order to transform into deadly beasts capable of wreaking utter destruction.
Another thing unique to Fire Emblem is the fact that when a unit dies, it dies forever. You can't bring them back or fight with them. Some people (mostly those who are very logically-minded) hate this factor. They think it makes the game too hard and too frustrating. I love it. I mean, think about it: If your units came back after each chapter, there'd be no strategy to the game. You could thrust your Level 8 Myrmidon against a Level 17 Armored Sword and not worry about a thing when your unit is mercilessly crushed. After all, they'd come back, right? So the eternal-death thing makes you a lot more cautious and makes you think before you act. The people who don't like this factor are probably the ones who enjoy games where you barge in with no strategy and jam the fire button until you get a blister. If you're that kind of person, then no, you will probably not enjoy Fire Emblem a whole lot, 'cause guess what? There IS no barging in with no strategy here. That gets you killed. This is a strategy game. You should know what you're getting into before you get into it.
RD is a notch above the other Fire Emblem games in terms of difficulty. Enemy reinforcements come nearly every turn in every chapter, and you're thrust into a few total-war situations where you directly or indirectly command thirty of your guys to defend against fifty of the enemy that has constant reinforcements. The characters you start with a pretty lame, too. Micaiah herself is so weak that nobody would use her if they didn't have to. Unnaturally slow for a Mage, she lacks the speed, health, or defense necessary to destroy an enemy. And you're forced to use her in every chapter you control her group in. The others aren't much better. They're either mediocre or just subpar. After part one, you get units which are actually worth something, but you have to survive part one first. It's literally no fun playing as a bunch of units which can't hold their own. And they come out underleveled later since you haven't used them in so long, which means you won't use them anymore anyway.
Because of the four parts, you are given control of so many characters that it's not even funny. In general, you would choose your best thirteen or so to level up. You would never train fifty or sixty. It's also hard to enjoy alternating between groups every so often. One second you're in control of Geoffrey, next it's Micaiah, then back to Ike--by the end of it you really want to stick with one group, and you don't have that liberty until the very end.
Thankfully, in this game, laguz are actually useful. You had no control over when they transformed or not in the last game. You can now choose to remain in human form when the Transformation Gauge is full or revert to human form to preserve the gauge. In general you'd probably prefer beorc, but the laguz aren't burdens anymore.
Some other nice changes: You can remove Skills without deleting them, and there are THREE classes now. That means beorc can reach a total of Level 60, and laguz can reach Level 40. Third tier units receive awesome looks, deadly Skills that could previously only be learned from Occult scrolls, and, of course, much higher stats. I enjoyed the third class change because it certainly gives you an advantage; however, as lethal a weapon as you are now, during the last chapter (which is split into five parts), you realize that you're not invincible.
REPLAY VALUE: 6/10. There's not a whole lot left to play it through again for. Nobody wants to try Hard mode (Easy mode is equivalent to Normal, Normal's equivalent to Hard, and Hard's equivalent to Maniac. In other words, Hard mode is borderline impossible). There are also no Trial Maps to be unlocked. However, by restarting the file (beating it, selecting the file after saving, and saying yes to starting a new one), you get additional perks and bonuses, such as the chance to recruit characters you never could before and to see and hear some additional things you couldn't see or hear on your first playthrough. If PoR is on a GameCube Memory Card and the Memory Card is in your Wii, you have the option of uploading data from PoR into RD, which records the Support conversations you saw in that game and (supposedly) gives characters that reached their maximum level stat boosts of some kind. But after beating the game, there's really not a whole lot else to play for.
GAME LENGTH: 10/10. Radiant Dawn is a long, long game. On average, it should take you probably over 50 hours to complete. Renting's not a wise choice for some games, but it's especially stupid to rent RD. Not only is it the wrong entry into the Fire Emblem series and not something you should base your opinion of the series as a whole on, but you'd probably have to race against time to beat it all before returning it.
TOTAL SCORE: 50/60. I left out Control Ease because it's hard to screw up the controls in a game like this. You can use a GameCube controller if you so desire, however.
PROS AND CONS:
I've never done a pros and cons list before (usually it's just a list of any flaws you should be aware of), but I feel we need to set it on a scale this time.
+ Excellent music
+ Awesome battle animations
+ Loooong game to keep you busy
+ Interesting and intriguing stories
+ Third classes!
+ More control over laguz
+ Suspenseful Lord-of-the-Rings style showdowns
+ Incredibly awesome movies
- Little character development for the minor-ish characters
- No Support conversations to make up for the lack of spotlight for said characters
- Alternation between the three groups gets old fast
- Micaiah's gang sucks
- No Trial Maps and little replayability
CONCLUSION: Balancing out the good parts and flaws, I'd say good beats bad. However, if you're asking, "Which game is better: Path of Radiance or Radiant Dawn?" I'd probably say Path of Radiance. It may not seem as sophisticated or complex as Radiant Dawn, but it didn't have a number of the flaws it has, either. You were given about thirty characters, not sixty, and Ike could beat anybody by the end of the game; Micaiah can't, no matter what you do with her. It also had better character development, more replay value, and a goal in mind. But is that saying that Radiant Dawn is bad? Of course not! It's awesome! Go look at the pros again. You have to admit that it outweighs the bad. While Radiant Dawn should not be your first voyage into Fire Emblem, if you like Fire Emblem, you should add this to your collection.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/24/09
Game Release: Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (US, 11/05/07)
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