Like most people, there are some things I am pretty good at. I can do a decent roast, parallel park like a demon in the dark, and take the AI in a game like Fire Emblem to school. Once I learned the ins and outs of this franchise, inuring myself to the style in which my dastardly enemies fought, I was unstoppable. Fire Emblem and Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones became two of my favourite games on the Game Boy Advance. Now, okay, I’ll admit to having limited games time with Path of Radiance on the GameCube, more out of circumstance than anything else (I wound up with a GC after its lifespan was over, cut short by the dominance of the PS2, and Path of Radiance was just something I never got my own copy of) but surely missing one game in a four game series shouldn’t make all that much difference?
What did I miss? What? All of a sudden I find myself as weak as a newborn foal in the face of the Begnion hoards. In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, I can’t get a foothold. Levels that I should have been able to knock off in short order thwarted me again and again. I was forced to watch my myrmidons, archers, and mages cut down over and over, and read and re-read their appallingly written parting gasps. Radiant Dawn is making me its woman.
You’re getting this game is hard right? Even that’s an understatement. There are three difficulty settings on FE:RD - Easy, Normal, and… you get it. Well, Normal ain’t so normal. Not as far as I’m concerned. Being an FE old hand I jumped on it, knowing that the Easy setting gives a tutorial that I’d already seen before (this is a sword, stick it in that guy, he won’t like it, try not to die…). That said, I wasn’t quite ready for Hard. And I’m glad of that. Because I might have already kicked a hole in my TV by now.
Taking advantage of exactly zero per cent of the Wii’s functionality, FE:RD follows the Dawn Parade as they quest for light in a land of darkness. Daein has been occupied by the hostile Begnion forces since a devastating war, but a handful of rebels aren’t having any of it. Macaiah (aka: The Silver-Haired Maiden) is a particularly interesting party to the bad guys, because of a special power she has – healing with ‘Sacrifice’, where she takes a hit from her own health to aid her fellows. The story is similar to the other FE games in that there are the goodies, who are wise and true to the point of farce, and the baddies, who are nasty in that bearded, hammy kind of a way. The Dawn Parade are out to save the world, and all the forces of Begnion want to do is hack apart civilians, loot churches and throw puppies into wood chippers…
There’s been no significant leap forward graphically from the GC to the Wii and as far as this generation go they’re so far behind the pack that they’re like the geeky kid who gets shoved into the creek next door to school during cross country and then gets in trouble for getting his PE shorts wet. It’s almost like no effort has been made, which we can all agree is very rare for the Big N. Some of the backgrounds are nicely rendered during the battle animations, but the animations themselves are uniformly lackluster, save some of the spells. The music and sound is ho-hum, but never actively offensive. I suppose it’s as good as it can be for a game of this type.
I don’t know what kind of romance-novelists-chained-to-typewriters arrangement the scriptwriters are running, but I’ve seen better dialogue on an episode of Pingu. It can’t be hard to write things that people might actually say. It’s a trap, sadly, that isn’t unique, but it’s hard to forgive in a fantasy-based game where story is so important.
One thing to be said for the franchise is that since its (English release) beginnings back on the GBA the game has become quite feature rich. The characters have more options and there are many different classes and items. FE:RD, at least, isn’t boring.
It’s a Fire Emblem game, which means, yes, while it’s diabolically hard, the gameplay is solid. More than solid – it’s worthwhile. Diehards and newbies (who are fans of tactical RPGs) will like it, but those in the middle, especially those who spent time on Path of Radiance, might find it all a bit much. I can tell you in no uncertain terms I am getting very, very sick of the Game Over screen, but I do keep going back. Because I loved the first two games so much, I can’t in good conscience dump on this one too heavily, but it seems in virtually every way to be a step down from its three older siblings.