Review by raazychx

"The new Fire Emblem... does it really have such a bright view?"

Fire Emblem, Radiant Dawn: It's a lovely game, but the new addition to the series has been reclining towards a sense of laziness, in respect to past installments. For those of who've bought related games in the past, this review will hopefully inform you about the new aspects and quirks of the game, while also hopefully leaving the newcomers to the series with a new grasp about the game's talents.

Compared to the recent Gameboy Advance and Gamecube role-playing titles that were released to America, the new staple to the Fire Emblem series shows some promise in tradition. The game will provide you with swordsters, fighters, lancers, archers, horse-riding lancers and also many varieties of magicians as a collected army as you progress through the story. In general, the gamer will take command and move these characters-- much like in a chess game-- and attack the enemy units in order to accomplish a goal. These goals are varied (defeat a strong character or his army, protect a certain other character on the grid, etc) by chapter, and there are roughly forty-five total chapters in the story to go around. Some missions are very short, and others can be long and drawn out. In general, however, I'm assuming that it will take an average person about forty-five to fifty-five hours just to accomplish the first go-around of the game. The reason the amount of gameplay is so lengthy is because of the meticulous strategy that must be put forth-- early on, if a single character dies, it's a game-over. Later on, it isn't as quite as difficult as that, but if one of your characters kicks the bucket, he kicks it for GOOD-- he won't be usable.

What's always been neat about the Fire Emblem series is the characters and how they interact with environments and challenges. Characters themselves within the story have interesting battle mechanics: for example, a swordsman is likely to defeat a magic user in combat, but a magic user can strike at a distance. Fortunately or unfortunately, however, the difficulty has been given a major boost, even on normal mode. Veteran players will probably see the difficulty right away; compared to the mild flavor of the GBA's first Fire Emblem, this game is about ten nuclear missiles hidden inside a birthday card. Some characters will not be able to keep up with others.

Radiant Dawn is very much similar to the Gamecube installment (Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance) all the way around, but it has also advanced a little. The skill system is still present-- characters can be assigned skills that improve their character utility overall. A wonderful update to that system is this: when you give the character you're using a skill, you can now take that skill off and not have it tossed out the window (a frustration in the previous game). The new units called Laguz-- character units that switch and act between a weaker human form and a very powerful animal form, such as dragons, wolves, even cats-- are still around and ready to kick some tail. A new and interesting twist to a few character classes-- Laguz can now counterattack in their human form, and staff-users can now counterstrike as well, assuming they have the weapons to do so.

Once the player gets a little more inside the game, though, she will see the difficulty increase gradually. All characters have statistics, such as strength, defense, magical power, luck, speed, and etc. Each of these statistics is vitally important; for example, a priest has to move about and heal her allies with a magical staff in the event they are hurt. She relies on her personal magic stat to do so. Likewise, a paladin (which is essentially a solder on a horse, who could have expertise in one weapon or another) has a move score, which determines how far he can move on the map. Some of these scores (move is an example) are locked and controllable, and even assisted through character skills, one such named "Celerity"; some of them, however, are completely at the luck of the player. This is the result of something called the random number generator (RNG)-- you can pick out a favorite character all you like, but he or she is at the whims of the disc's randomly computed scores. While characters have unique and individual identities with their statistics (for example, your main character might have an 80% growth in Health Points, which increases the durability of that character), it is theoretically possible that your character will NEVER level up in that area. So what if that priest who relied on her magic stat doesn't get a high magic stat? She's darned near useless.

Characters themselves have received advancements of sorts-- in the past, characters could change classes. An archer, given time and growth by using combat and experience, can promote to a sniper. Unlike in the past, characters can go one step further-- they can do it again. There are now THREE class tiers instead of two. When units advance into these third classes, they receive new skills called Mastery skills, which can turn the tides of battle in a statistic chance. A great example is the promoted Pegasus unit (a lancer on a flying horse). She can achieve the skill "Stun," which, if activated on a decent percentage chance, not only busts up her opponents, but also leaves them paralyzed. The opponent can't use his next turn; that means she gets to go again on the next turn. There are quite a handful of mastery skills, and this one is only a single example.

This leads, however, to one other issue of this game: character imbalance. While it wasn't much of a problem in previous games, characters are starting to become much more "individual." What that means is that the characters are assigned special skill sets that only they might be able to have while other characters cannot do the same. Also, in respect to skills, some skills are character-unique and cannot be put on another character. Another example of imbalance is the class statistic caps, which are basically limits to a character's statistics (HP, Strength, etc). Later, at the end of the game, a dragon lord can cap his HP at 60, while an archsage of thunder can only cap her HP at 45. Sure, the characters themselves will both be strong, but it would be much easier to kill the magic user than that overpowered dragon lord. This is only a single example of the many times this will happen-- early on, this is a huge hurdle for the gamer to cross over in order to advance in the story.

There are many, many new elements to the game that shift difficulty and strategy. One example is a character's position on the map: previously, a character would be able to just attack, but now characters who are higher in map elevation can achieve stronger and more accurate strikes against characters who are in lower elevation. Likewise, a character at a lower elevations can't fight very well against ones at higher elevations. A priest now has added defenses when he wields a staff; he heals himself at the beginning of every turn, and he can also have added benefits depending on his chosen staff. And, likewise, the new euphoric collection of skills always make a strong change in tactics.

Here is a final look at the game's craft:

STORY-- Not good... A few moments of good, but not good.
The game has a poorly crafted story. While it is occasionally a moment of suspense, story events are usually crafted only to get you moving from one battle to the next. The player doesn't really start getting into any developed story until the second part of the game. Characters also have much less of an identity than they used to. Support conversations, which were used in past games as not only statistical bonuses but lengthy discussions revealing the character's thoughts, have downgraded to a simple sentence or two (which destroys character concept). Some characters have absolutely no storyline purpose when they join, either. In the end, if the player is looking for a GOOD story, you'd best not invest it in this game.

GRAPHICS-- Not bad.
The graphics of the game are actually very well done in 3-D. Previously, in the Gamecube's version, the graphics weren't as sharp; they are now much stronger. The game opens with a well-done movie, and every now and then when, movies will show up mid-play to add a nice effect on the storyline.

Regarding actual gameplay, the problem in this is when the same fighting graphics are used OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. "Fighter-swing-axe, mage-use-lightning bolt!" Many players will be provoked to turn off battle animations in the options menu just because they want the game to move faster. In the end, these are good, but much overused.

GAMEPLAY-- Yes. Yes. Yes. Good.
The core of the game. As described before, you can control your own army on a grid, and have them bout with each other till your heart's content (or you beat the game). Many old elements are there, like the weapon triangles, magic triangles, supports, and etc, while new ones-- such as third tier-classes and the powerful mastery skills-- come in a great hodgepodge. This is what makes Fire Emblem... Fire Emblem.

CONTROL-- We'd be lost without it.
Fire Emblem games are based on: Menus, Menus, Menus, and more Menus. It's hard to lose navigation in this game, so kudos to the controls as usual.

MULTIPLAYER-- Doesn't exist!
This game has no multiplayer functions... Which I think I would look forward to. Sadly, it has none.

REPLAYABILITY-- Uhhh... It depends.
Can you play this game again and again and again? Not likely. One run-through can wear you down, and two would just about do it. Investing about 50 hours in my first time is quite a hefty level of investment. It depends on your own personal nerves, I guess.

Overall Score: 6 out of 10. I wasn't thoroughly impressed with the game, especially in regards to having countless characters to keep track of and character imbalance. Nonetheless-- it's a good game. If I were an impatient person, however, I would reconsider buying this game very much...

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 05/07/08

Game Release: Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (US, 11/05/07)

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