Review by Etrurianmage
"A wonderful game. But a wonderful game that really could have been a lot better."
Let me just start off by saying that I love Fire Emblem. I'm still waiting for the release of the first six games on this side of the Pacific (which sadly may never come, even though there's not any major reason why they shouldn't come over here). Though the four games that have been brought over I've played this way, that way, forward, backwards, and over the seven seas (in other words, a lot). I had really high hopes for Radiant Dawn. Really high hopes. The game is built on a great idea. Take everything you love about Fire Emblem make it all bigger, better, and much more epic. However, as much as some of these ideas were great, some of them really weren't.
Okay, so the game doesn't look that great. But does it really matter that much? This is an SRPG. This isn't a game targeted at casuals who need mind-blowing graphics to play a game. I mean, the characters and scenery in battle look below average to be kind, but there's a bit more to redeem that. I personally was a big fan of the anime art style used in the dialogue. The animations look pretty cool, especially some of the critical hits of units in their second or third class. Also, remember those cut scenes in Path of Radiance that seemed awesome, but were used in areas that didn't really call for them? They're back and they are now used in some of the most exciting areas in the game to further enhance the experience. So essentially, the actual in-game visuals are really bad, while everything else is really good.
I am very pleased with this game's musical score. This game follows in the Fire Emblem tradition of having great music for every situation you will encounter in the game. It it also wonderful in the sense that you can listen to this music and enjoy it while you are playing the game and then go back and enjoy it in the sound room when you finish. My only real complaint is that the music is not so wonderful that you can go back and listen to the game's music again and again for a half hour or more at a time like you could with Fire Emblem 7. Then again, you'd be getting your hopes up a bit high if you were actually expecting that.
Story: Hmm...let's divide this into two different sections. Shall we?
The story itself: 10/10
An epic tale like one you would expect from a Fire Emblem game. At first, the game offers a very deep tale of a world war across the continent of Tellius. Something that really helped to flesh out the story was that the stance of nearly each individual nation of Tellius is shown and given sufficient emphasis. This kind of moved the story from being a traditional "Good vs Evil" thing to being the epic war story that it was. However, I won't spoil anything for you, but let's just say that by the end, the story has definitely taken a turn in a different and epic direction. Plenty of plot twists along the way. In fact, there were so many of them and they were so good, I have to restrain myself from spoiling each and every one of them for the reader right now. Remember some of those unanswered questions that you all had even after the end of Path of Radiance? Yeah those get answered. And (while some may argue), I found the answers to be both surprising and satisfying. Also, as in previous Fire Emblems, less important characters can get a bit more screen time through pre-battle info and supports. Also, the finale (and the fifteen hours or so preceding it) is just beyond epic! In conclusion, really an epic continuation of Path of Radiance as well as much more. Oh, and I finished the game at over sixty hours. Yeah.
How the story was handled: The game's major flaw/10
Remember how I said that the series tried some new things and some turned out well and others didn't? Split story is without a doubt, one that didn't. Path of Radiance took me just over a month to complete. Radiant Dawn took me just under six. While I did have a bit less time for playing games at points within those six month, the difference in time is mainly because I didn't feel very compelled to finish Radiant Dawn until near the end. After all, it can be hard to be interested in a story when you're trying to be interested in over half a dozen stories at the same time (and also managing the armies involved in most of those stories). Remember how I said showing things from many different perspectives fleshed out the story a bit? That is most certainly true, but playing each of those perspectives also bogged it down a bit. I know it sounds like I'm contradicting myself, but this is what I mean when I say that these new ideas came with pros and cons.
Very solid strategic gameplay. A large change from Path of Radiance is the difficulty. The difficulty in Radiant Dawn has pretty much been brought up one level from Path of Radiance (Path of Radiance normal is close to Radiant Dawn easy, for example). This is a very welcome change, in my opinion, as Radiant Dawn really made me make strategic use of everything and everyone at my disposal (but don't make the next one any harder, Intelligent Systems!). I really feel the need to say a lot more, as this is the most important category, but I really can't elaborate much more on this. It's some of the most challenging and strategic gameplay I've faced in a while. What more can I say?
Replay value: 8/10
Well that sixty hour storyline really should give you some majorly compelling reason to want to play through again, huh? Well sorry to disappoint, but second playthrough only has a few new things to really make you want to put that extra sixty hours in. So why the eight? Because second playthrough only has a few new things to make you want to put that extra sixty hours in. You can always go at it again at a higher difficulty, using different units, minus (some of) the frustration of the split story (just a lot less frustrating when you know what's there). Also, there is some new stuff: a few new characters, some new story sequences, and the like. There's also some extras like character portraits and the sound room unlocked upon completion once. The replay value is solid, especially considering that you're probably getting your money's worth even with just one playthrough.
+Deep, challenging, strategic gameplay
+Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful story and characters
+Great art style/character animations
+Wonderful musical score
-Can sometimes make you feel unfairly screwed over (especially if it's your first time with a Fire Emblem game)
Conclusion: It's another solid title in the growing lineup of great Fire Emblems available outside of Japan (translate the others, NoA!!!). Radiant Dawn is a wonderful, deep strategy game. It introduced some new ideas, some turned out well and some didn't. If Intelligent Systems can fix this up a bit, I and already looking forward to the next original installment in the Fire Emblem series. But now, as the review's tagline states, Radiant Dawn is a great game that feels somewhat like a missed opportunity for an installment that could have been much, much better.
Rent or Buy: If this is your kind of game, I'd say buy. Don't rent simply because it's not the kind of thing you can finish in a week. But yeah, this is worth a purchase without a doubt for SRPG fans, especially if you're also a Fire Emblem fan.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 07/17/08
Game Release: Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (US, 11/05/07)
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