Review: Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Posted 10 Aug 2008 at 22:57 by Steven Penny
|"… the game will draw you in and you’ll want these characters to survive to the bitter end."|
What can be said about the Wii? There’s an unending amount of shovelware, core Nintendo games seem to be few and far between, waggle controls are tacked on wherever they can be to these GameCube 1.5 efforts and there’s nothing available that can appease neither the fabled hardcore market nor is there an RPG in sight. Oh, and if you aren’t from Japan or America then you can add in the fact that games are seemingly delayed indefinitely.
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn then, a title that will be overlooked by almost everyone that’s unfamiliar with it, ticks a lot of the right boxes while still managing to falter into some of the wrong ones, too.
If you’ve played any Fire Emblem game before then you know exactly what’s in store for you in this latest instalment. From the beginning, you control a small group of rebels and freedom fighters that call themselves the Dawn Brigade. The party you start with is limited, but as each chapter passes the group will expand as more and more characters, each with their own back-story and skills, join you on your quest. This will include mages and healers, frontline attackers and a spread of the latest laguz additions from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance on the GCN, all of whom are united in their struggle against the imposing rule of Daein. The story is as engaging and thought provoking as ever as it continues that of Path of Radiance. There will be no spoilers here but if you allow yourself to get caught up in developments then you are in for quite a ride.
Before taking to each grid-like battlefield you will have the opportunity to manage your supports, buy and trade items between party members or witness conversations between characters, which, depending on their importance, will sometimes yield new items. When you have decided who is going to carry which items and weapons into battle, then its time to move the troops out. Battle objectives are varied which helps prevent things becoming stale over the course of the thirty odd chapters. You will be tasked with escaping in a certain amount of turns, defeating all the baddies, capturing a certain protected point on the map and all other Fire Emblem goals you are already used to if you’ve played previous games in the franchise. The combat itself is based upon a rock-paper-scissors concept which adds depth to the encounters- you’ll want to attack axe wielders with your swordsmen, but always remember to keep those swordsmen out of the range of any enemies with spears.
By now, if you hadn’t already guessed it, this is Fire Emblem by the books and as you’ve always known it- but is it a stereotypical Wii game?
Graphically, yes its GameCube 1.5 all the way. The graphics are better than Path of Radiance but only marginally so. The highlight is the battle animations that are still stiff and artificial looking, but can be turned off. The maps you will fight on aren’t overly lively or inspiring either. One thing that Intelligent Systems have tried to do is iron out the rigid movement of your party members across the battlefield. In Path of Radiance you’ll recall that Ike and his Greil Mercenaries would take an angular path when getting from point A to point B, in Radiant Dawn its that little bit smoother though still not completely natural looking. You can rest easy in the knowledge that the quality of the FMVs is once again outstandingly stylised and help tell parts of the story that are too important to be depicted through the usual static artwork.
As far as the controls go, there is no unnecessary waggle or other Wii-specific controls tacked on. It’s a missed opportunity because you can’t help but think that some simple and efficient IR controls could have added to the experience. Advance Wars on the DS gives you the option to use the stylus and I’d be very surprised if the Fire Emblem DS game doesn’t follow suit, so why could something similar not have been incorporated with the Wii remote? On the flipside however, this is Fire Emblem in its purest form. You can use the GameCube controller, classic controller or even just the Wii remote to move your troops about as you’ve always done- there is no learning curve as far as navigating menus and the actual playing of the chapters is concerned.
Where you will encounter problems however, is with the actual difficulty of the game. Once again you’re schooled in the harsh and realistic Fire Emblem style where if someone falls in battle, then that’s it. They are dead forever and cannot be revived when you get back to base camp- there isn’t a Phoenix Down in sight. This then throws up some moral issues that you, as a gamer, must deal with. Will you persevere on to the end of a battle after one of your developing troops has been killed or will you restart the chapter with a view to getting through with no casualties? It’s in these situations that Radiant Dawn shines. And don’t think that because you’ve played Fire Emblem before that you know what to expect because Radiant Dawn will kill you a lot no matter how seasoned you consider yourself.
This latest Fire Emblem - and speaking of late, the game is a year late arriving in Europe, but hey, we get the option for 16: 9 which Japan didn’t, so it all balances out, eh? - slots right into that space in your Wii games collection that craves something hardcore and unforgiving. Weighing in at 40-50 hours for a single play through its clearly one of the longest Wii offerings you can get your hands on. You could probably blitz through the game in less time if you are the heartless sort who lets your party members die for the greater good, but the game will draw you in and you’ll want these characters to survive to the bitter end. Which, when it boils down to it, means you will always be just one critical hit away from reaching for the reset button.
In closing, if you’ve played and enjoyed Path of Radiance on the GC then you have probably been waiting for this since the Wii released and promptly picked it up when it appeared on store shelves. If you haven’t played the now rare and expensive Path of Radiance and you’re worried about what you missed out on then there’s nothing to worry about, as Radiant Dawn will quickly bring you up to speed story wise. Don’t forget though that if you have a Path of Radiance save on your old GameCube memory card then you can import data that can be used in Radiant Dawn, meaning it may well be worth tracking down and playing through Path of Radiance before jumping headfirst this Wii iteration. If on the other hand you’ve seen this in Game and you’re wondering about buying it for your mum then steer well clear. Radiant Dawn might boast a cartoony art style but this isn’t Wii Sports or Carnival Games, it’s an age old SRPG that is as traditional as it always has been.
It might be time for Nintendo to take a look at the series and decide where they want to take it in the future before this already niche market has moved on. Its still a solid effort and its only the second 3D Fire Emblem game so there should be plenty of ideas that can still be implemented in the future.
N-Europe Final Verdict
It's Fire Emblem as you know and love it, but if you're new to proceedings then prepare for a baptism of fire.
Best SRPG on Wii
Hasn't been compromised for the casual market
No innovative Wii controls
Few graphical improvements over Path of Radiance
No Wii gimmicks, but also nothing unachievable on the Cube.
Continual restarts can become tedious