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Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn Review

A strategy RPG epic worth waking up to

The Fire Emblem series stretches back to pretty much the beginning of all time - from cosy old NES classics to the more recent Path of Radiance on GameCube, and the Game Boy Advance essential The Sacred Stones. But while almost every game in the series has been a shining beacon of the strategy RPG genre, Radiant Dawn feels more like a stepping stone on the path to the next true advancement for the series.

Not to say that this is anything less than a brilliantly balanced game with oceans of tactical depth, but simply that Radiant Dawn is regrettably similar to its GameCube predecessor. None of the Wii's available features have been implented - you won't find any motion controls here, and the game is sadly bereft of any online options.

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Shepherd's Delight

As a strategy RPG staple, Radiant Dawn has you commanding a massive cast of characters across over 40 turn-based battles, each fought on a tactical grid. At its simplest, the battle tactics require you to adhere to the timeless rock, paper, scissors philosophy but with with swords, lances, axes and so on. At the same time you also have to take into account direct and ranged damage and the order in which you attack. At the more complex end of the scale, you'll be processing an unyielding flood of intimidating statistics, while promoting units and juggling their various skills to ensure success.

Advance Wars is the best reference point for those unfamiliar with the series as the same mechanics of movement costs, unit effectiveness and attack ranges come into play during every turn.

Empowering you to strategise in every detail of the battle, the game throws information at you at every turn - from showing you the amount of damage you'll inflict before you attack to the chance of your attack missing, or the chance of the enemy retaliating with a critical hit.

Radiant Dawn delivers a satisfying and precise breed of strategy, leaving very little to luck, and everything else down to that piddly blob of grey you call a brain. In fact, there's very much a right way and a wrong way to play any Fire Emblem title, and the problem for newcomers to the series is that both ways look extremely similar.

This is a harshly difficult game to wrap your head around and it doesn't tolerate complacency for a second. Every action must be deliberate, and failure can be staggeringly swift. Leave a weak character unguarded for just one turn and the enemy will most likely nip in and tear them to little pieces, regardless of how well you thought the battle was going.

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Corpse Bride

The death of one of your handful of main characters punts you rudely back to the title screen. For the rest of the cast, death is surprisingly - if realistically - permanent. The game simply continues without the deceased, their demise affecting the storyline to varying degrees. It's an unforgiving consequence that will deter players who will, quite rightly, hate seeing all of their hard work fall to irreversible pieces.

A newly implemented Battle Save system softens this blow though, allowing some much-appreciated recourse when you've irresponsibly allowed your favourite character to be thwacked. Using this system you can essentially save and resume games mid-battle, rather than the usual 'suspend' system (which allows you to resume only one measly time).

The introduction of new characters is equally dynamic, with the ability to talk with some enemy units during battle leading to dialogue that might not only be helpful, but could lead to that character joining your team. Likewise, visiting houses on the battlefield rewards you with items, information and weapons, and supportive conversations between your characters in the midst of all the fighting lend Radiant Dawn its unique RPG flavour.

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29 comments so far...
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  1. Slayso Friday 14th Mar 2008 at 16:13

    And with that my excitement has hit fever-pitch.

    Thank you very muchly!

  2. Icarus_Kid Friday 14th Mar 2008 at 17:27

    i never played the gamecube version
    so really this will be an all new game to me! :)
    so what, do u up the % if u havn't played it before, or does it stay the same?
    Bully review next plz!

  3. Donal Friday 14th Mar 2008 at 17:37

    I clicked the NMH review and ended up on this.

  4. Fyxe Friday 14th Mar 2008 at 17:51

    i never played the gamecube version
    so really this will be an all new game to me! :)
    so what, do u up the % if u havn't played it before, or does it stay the same?
    Bully review next plz!

    As long as you are aware that it is essentially a GameCube game with a bit more omph you could take the score of the prequel into account, given that you haven't played it. Path of Radiance recieved an 85% in the old NOM, for your reference. Then again, that scored lower than the GBA games for similar reasons that Radiant Dawn dropped marks, so if you haven't played them either... You're probably in for a treat.

  5. City Of Delusion Friday 14th Mar 2008 at 19:52

    Hmm... A Fire Emblem with a low-ish score.

    Totally different from the old NOM. Pratically every of them got more or less 90% (the GameCube version being the exception, with about 85%). Each to their own, I suppose.

  6. Sir Lemon Facey Friday 14th Mar 2008 at 21:05

    I think it's difficult for the developers to make the Fire Emblem games differently. Two player battles would take upwards of three hours each, and character creation would not work what with all the lovely pre-drawn anime stylings and FMV cutscenes.
    I guess the only thing they could do without damaging the truly excellent battle system would be creating levels and sending them to your friends. Maybe with forged weapons as rewards and creating your own bosses. That would be great!

  7. MummifiedCoconut Friday 14th Mar 2008 at 21:24

    Probably a fair score actually... for a change... :roll:

    Most Importantly it should deliver the usual fire emblemly goodness, we all know and love.

    I never thought Fire Emblem was suited to consoles anyway, I don't think wii controls would work to make a difference. Improved graphics and online would be the only things to make it better.

    Sacred Stones was a weak game compared to the first one to be released here.

    Just bring on the DS ones and I'll be happy. :D

  8. ryan1987 Friday 14th Mar 2008 at 21:51

    Wii controls would not work for this kind of game,it is essentially just a point and move game so there is no real way to introduce wii controls,78% seems a little harsh. Fire emblem for the gamecube was an amazing game and,even if this is very similar in terms of graphics,it is for this reasoni think it should score atleast 85%.
    If its not broke, don't fix it!

  9. Meow Mix Friday 14th Mar 2008 at 23:27

    Decent enough review, but why do you complain about not using the wii motion controls?

    You penalise games for using motion controls poorly, which is fair enough, but this gave would've had tacked on controls if they were used, so why complain?

    Meh, at least it was fair, for the most part.

  10. MIIMAN Saturday 15th Mar 2008 at 10:14

    No online play is horrible but i'm betting the controls will make up for it.

  11. emperor ing Saturday 15th Mar 2008 at 10:45

    It's a good job they haven't messed around with anything. I wasn't expecting any huge technical leaps over Path of Radiance, which in my opinion is good, as they have kept all the same stuff that I loved out of the GC game. A commendable sequel.

  12. smashbros-kid Saturday 15th Mar 2008 at 12:20

    Seems rather low but I haven't played it yet. Enjoyed the cube game very much so I proablly get it.

  13. killercelibi Saturday 15th Mar 2008 at 12:32

    Fire emblem is one of if not the best game series ever and i feel this game has lived up to it.

  14. dalekmaster Saturday 15th Mar 2008 at 16:14

    Slightly harsh, but then, I'm one of the Fire Emblem fans. This game never was going to use Wii features, the most than would have come out of it would be a pointer control to click where you move your units. Just how do you use the remote in a turn-based stratagey game? That accusation is unfair as the Wii remote is not suited to this genre.

    I agree with the visuals being very poor. I suggest everyone just turn the battle animations off to speed up combat considerably and avoid horrible looking blocks.

    You reffered to Advance Wars, and that only has so much over Fire Emblem, such as the stylus controls and an online mode, but Fire Emblem more than makes up for it with it's likeable characters. Not worth a 12% gap.

  15. Twi Saturday 15th Mar 2008 at 18:34

    Why do you seem so much more inclined to Advance Wars than Fire Emblem?
    I never saw a GBA Fire Emblem game on the top ten GBA games in the mag. But Advance Wars, however similiar it may be, scores 96% at the top of the list.

    I can't help but think your being a bit unfair to FE, surely an 80-something percent?

    I never got Path of Radiance because I normally got whatever got 90% or more in the mag so as to not waste my money. But I simply cannot let you deny me another Fire Emblem game.

  16. Sabrewulf Monday 17th Mar 2008 at 11:04

    Absolutely love the game, don't care if it doesn't utilise the Wii motion controls, turning the pad on it's side makes playing all that more relaxing and you get completely involved!

    I think it is key that Nintendo don't alienate real gamers and keep supporting great games like this, not everything has to involve you standing up and waving the remote around, as I say it's nice to sit down like old times every now and then :lol:

    I do however agree that the graphics could do with being more polished given the Wii's capability and would be the only factor preventing a 90%+ score in my opinion, I give it 86%

  17. Bar Monday 17th Mar 2008 at 20:58

    the Minus's against this game are extremely un-fair.

    i for one, am releived i can finally sit down and play a hardcore game for 5+ hours on my wii and not feel as if ive just been swimming for the last 2 days constant. so not using the pointless "point and click" is a bonus, to many games throw in the wii sensor controls and make a complete farce of it and everyone complains its a "gimmick", but when a game comes out that doesnt need motion sensing so it doesnt put motion sensing in, its a bad thing ? hows that ?

    the graphics are pretty standard, but they arent bad, and they dont take anything away from the expierence.

    i cant comment on it being to much like the gamecube game, because i havent played it, i have played the fire emblem games on GBA and loved them, but never got round to getting the gamecube version. so for me this is the first home console fire emblem game ive played and its awesome.

    its created for hardcore gamers, who want a challenge.

    and im relieved that it is that way, coz ive been getting sick of the watered down games that get put out on wii, and maybe everyones just been playing Wii sports for to long at the office, but that score is below what any hardcore gamer would give this game.

    its alteast 85%+

  18. DinkyDonky Tuesday 18th Mar 2008 at 23:02

    Tell you what ! I nearly didnt buy this game , because the review made it look kind of s**te. I bought No More Hereos but was fed up after 2 days . So decided to buy Fire Emblem ; Radiant Dawn . Oh man , I cant stop playing it . It doesnt matter about the graphics or whatever , the gameplay is fun and addictive . Yeah you have to try a few times , but there is a way to defeat the enemy . And you dont have lose a favourate charactor , just start from the last save . I recommend it and I dont normally like RPG's , but its like playing a board game , but bags of fun.

  19. AL X Wednesday 19th Mar 2008 at 14:57

    I like the strategic battle system Fire Emblem uses more than the random group encounters of Final Fantasy/lost Odyssey or the action fighting in Tales of.../eternal Sonata.

    The thing is, im an rpg fan & all Fire Emblem is about is strategic fight, story, followed by another scrap & then story.

    I would prefer that the game had some cities & environments to explore at your own leisure.

    I think this would help the game feel like more of a journey & give you a break from the action, rather than just being a fighting sim with rpg stylings.

    Bring back Shining Force & make it decent again please Mr SEGA! (this means get back the original developers!).

  20. adamwalker222 Wednesday 19th Mar 2008 at 17:30

    the graphics are soooooo good

    if u hadnt guessed im a massive fire emblem fan :D

  21. 91nintendo Wednesday 19th Mar 2008 at 21:01

    I love Fire Emblem, but I'd rather be playing it on my DS or GBA, as it just doesn't seem right to play it on a home console, which is also why I think Battalion Wars has failed. Some games are better on handhelds.

  22. famicomuter Wednesday 19th Mar 2008 at 21:07

    O.K. you lost me... first I read blog after blog about how developers abuse the motion sensing in games, and now finaly a game comes out that does not do that and stays true to its old school roots, and now you miss the use of the remote?
    I have to give props to nintendo for keeping the fire emblem series as it is.

  23. Chaos_Absolute Thursday 20th Mar 2008 at 19:44

    Good, but not as good as Path of Radiance. It's annoying later on to have different armies all at varying levels.

    I prefered it where you had the same army throughout so could level your charaters more evenly instead of having hugely varying levels.

  24. penfolderboulder Saturday 22nd Mar 2008 at 13:22

    That.. Actually, has dissapointed me. I was expecting so much more from the shots that i seen before in the past magazines. I really enjoyed the series, but i am unsure if this one will be worth my money.

  25. Greeno Sunday 23rd Mar 2008 at 15:14

    I completed Path of radiance a few days ago and I've already ordered radiant dawn from the internet. I'm really looking forward to seeing all those familiar characters from the cube game like Soren, Ranulf and the beloved Geoffrey! I'll be getting the game at the end of the week! can't wait!

  26. screaminstar Sunday 23rd Mar 2008 at 17:43

    awesome game. seriously. i love it! I'm ADDICTED!!! :D

    P.S:buy zack & Wiki or else flying monkeys will eat you :twisted:

  27. sigrun Thursday 10th Apr 2008 at 19:07

    I think this review is unfair and biased.

    point 1: the series has never had proper decent multiplayer, if it went online you'd slate it for rubbish multiplayer.

    point 2: you've said many times that wii controls don't make a game better, the controls would be fiddly, frankly I like the controls. You also said in a magazine before that you were happy about this!!!!

    point 3: Do you expect a change in the formula, in many reviews including this you have called it a remake of old tat. Well isn't new super mario bros just that with only a few extra things like the god awful mega mushroom. Fire emblem RD has decent solid new additions while certain other games have pointless additions that just hamper gameplay!!!

    I looked at a cross section of reviews before I bought this and it was not a waste. It's engaging solid, timeless, and look at the great movies.


  28. Smew Thursday 17th Apr 2008 at 21:22

    Exactly what game were you playing Chandra? It certainly wasn't the same Radiant dawn that I was playing because you'd have scored it much more highly than you did.

    For Fire Emblem fans this is exactly what they want - more of the same. Pokemon has been getting away with peddaling the same game to us over and over again for years with gimmicky extras like berry blending and beauty contests, that really don't add anything to the game. Fire emblem on the other hand offers new characters and fresh challenges each time you play. The story line is well thought out and pushes the player's sense of loyalty to their characters by having you switch between the two main opposing armies in the game - a fresh and novel addition to the series. Even the main villains of Lehran, Zelgius and Ashera are well thought out and the only really "weak" characterisation comes from the fractionally two dimensional senators of Begnion.

    Importing clear data from path of radiance means that all the hard work you put in a couple of years ago was not wasted and it doesn't force you to complete the game before you can bring in your elite characters like Pokemon does.

    As for Wii-ness the game really doesn't need to utilise motion control - remember this is a strategy game not a fighter (though a FE fighter would be something every gamer would want to see) and the lack of frantic arm waggling means that this really becomes a work out for your brain (and a much more enjoyable one than Dr Kawashima's) and not a test of physical endurance.

    And as for your criticism that this game doesn't evolve enough from it's predecessor you only have to look to Pokemon and New Super Mario Brothers to see the same crimes have been committed before and if the formula aint broke don't fix it.

    Graphically it doesn't improve greatly over it's predecessor but this is an extension of a great game much like the Wii edition of Resi 4 and any major departure in graphical style would likely alienate the characters from their iterations in previous games. And when you consider the length of time it takes to translate a Fire Emblem Game, had nintendo overhauled it's graphics and game engine from Path of Radiance it's likely we never would have got this within the Wii's lifetime.

    Defensive position aside there are a few minor faults in the fact that some characters are easier to level up than others meaning that it can sometimes feel like the game is forcing you to choose particular characters over others. The four episodes in the game are narrated in an annoying movie trailer way and after waiting so many months for a European release they could at least change the spelling of the first chapter to "under GREY skies". But these are minor gripes and given the addictive gameplay which really drives you to complete each goal the game really deserves a higher score than it was given.

    If you liked Path of Radiance this is an ESSENTIAL buy and anyone new to the series should give this a go as the difficulty curve and the ability to save mid battle makes this much more accessible than past iterations of the franchise.

  29. MrGooseyMoose Sunday 24th Jan 2010 at 18:45

    Simply put, this is not only one of the best games out on wii, but one of the best games out this generation.

    It has a higher difficulty level than many of the other games in the series, and it isn't exactly what you'd call a difficulty curve as opposed to a difficulty vertical line, but by putting in a mid-battle save feature they've given themselves a good excuse to make things tougher for us.

    Motion control in a game like this would be an automatic fail. End of.

    As many have said, there would be no need to change the gameplay formula as its already pretty perfect. Agreeably some polish here and there is always a win win situation... and i believe they gave that in terms of gameplay. Much smoother than its gamecube prequal.

    Although...imagine how great one on one online battles would be. Would last hours at a time...could brilliant...and level designer modes or online item trading would have been a welcome addition but ill have high hopes for the next one to pull through with all that. Shadow dragon on the DS is pretty bland, so i dont count that.

    This game rules!! For anyone who hasnt already bought it, stop reading and start spending!

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