Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn Review
Review By Steve Farrelly @ 09:46am 02/04/08
Intelligent Systems may not make the prettiest games in the industry, but they sure know how to suck you in, and with their latest Wii offering, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, that statement is truer than ever.
As a direct sequel to the GameCube’s Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Radiant Dawn has more than its fair share of story and action to offer, and those who never played its predecessor needn’t fret as Intelligent Systems have been smart, ensuring newcomers are able to pick this up and jump right in, and believe me, once you do, it’s difficult to put down.
Set some three years after the events of the first game, Radiant Dawn flips the dealings that transpired in Path of Radiance upside down. Originally players were controlling a band of mercenaries-turned-freedom fighters as they worked towards restoring the rightful ruler of the nation of Crimea to her throne, which had unjustly been taken by the Mad King Ashnard of Daein.
One of the most alluring factors of these games is the richly detailed stories and equally deep and involved characters. Path of Radiance had an incredibly cavernous narrative that followed countless arcs, twists and revelations; a facet that kept this reviewer playing until the bitter end. Here, it’s not at all about the visual splendour of next-generation graphics, but about being sucked into each of the characters’ individual plights that found the overall make-up of the game’s complex and intricate plot.
The absolute same can be said of that game’s sequel, the subject of this review: Radiant Dawn. The sheer concept of the game’s narrative start-point should be proof enough of that. But the way in which this game manages to set itself up as something of a stand-alone title alongside a predecessor is a thing of brilliance and beauty – something that goes beyond eye-candy (though there’s plenty in the game’s myriad of pre-rendered cut-scenes). But enough gushing. The story is amazing and immersive – ‘nuff said.
Each map you encounter is made up of grids. Characters advance along these based on how far they can move (dependent on unit type) and coming to an adjacent grid facing an enemy means you can attack, wait or use items. Some units are ranged attackers and can engage the enemy from safety, but enemy units are equally crafty and can – and will – do the same thing.
The baseline fundamental for battle in all Fire Emblem games is as simple as rock, paper, scissors. Here, swords best axes, axes best lances and lances best swords. As you progress through the game you’ll find other, more powerful forms of these (for example, a hammer is part of the axe family, but is less weak against swords and even stronger against lances), while magic works in a similar fashion and the various races throughout the game come across strengths and weaknesses based on the same foundation. It’s simple at its core, but deep in the variations of weapons, magics and unit types you’ll accrue and face.
The gameplay and story all progress in chapter form and it’s not until the fourth chapter, that you’ll have a big enough army to allow for a base of operations. Base operations happen in between chapters and allows for micromanagement of your forces. Here you can trade, equip and use items with your characters, organise support teams (basically two characters who, if in correct proximity on the field, can offer each other support bonuses based on a support rank of C, B or A – A being the best), buy, sell or forge new equipment and gather new development arcs for various characters and events. Each chapter will also give you bonus experience points that you can manually hand out to anyone in your outfit, giving you the option to strengthen weaker characters out of harm’s way. Skills and abilities are also managed from here.
Laying On The CouchBeyond the micromanagement stuff, you can also view the Library, which has a glossary for all the important bits linking the two games and the world of Tellius together, as well as a character tree that highlights everyone’s relationship with one another. Records for each battle are also kept here for anyone keeping score of their achievements.
Where most Wii titles on the market are doing everything in their power to chime in on the IR success of the platform, Fire Emblem completely ignores it.
Controls here are so simple, you need only turn the Wii Remote on its side and us it like an old NES pad. This makes this lengthy game journey all the more exciting for those of us not afraid to lay back on the couch, put our feet up and settle in for the long story ahead.
Despite having a tremendously deep story, rich and vibrant characters and involved gameplay, Fire Emblem does suffer from both being too good at what it does and not living up to the new visual standard.
I’d be lying if I said I was happy with the overall presentation. Sure it’s in widescreen, but the stunning pre-rendered cut-scenes just aren’t enough to sate my thirst for vibrancy (it’s almost a tease to watch the game’s characters come to life in the beautiful CG sequences). A game this strong in gameplay and narrative deserves a better look, and unfortunately it really just looks like its GameCube predecessor, which itself lacked visual prowess in that generation of games, also. It’s not paramount to the overall experience, but more detailed backgrounds, better (more varied) animations and a greater emphasis on utilising the Wii’s hidden graphical powers (which really do exist) would have gone a long way to making this an absolute must-own.
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is an incredibly rich experience lacking in visual flair but offers unparalleled depth in gameplay, story and character. It may not be for everyone, but those who’re intrigued by it most likely won’t look back.