Game Reviews Nintendo Wii Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn

Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn Steve Schardein Hot

http://digitalchumps.com/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/300x300s/9b/7f/ec/277_1_121107720754.jpg
Written by Steve Schardein     March 24, 2008    
 
6.4
 
0.0 (0)
0   8   0   0   0
 
Write Review

Videogames

Release Date
November 05, 2007
MSRP $
49.99
ESRB
Players

Fire Emblem is one of those franchises that was popular in Japan long before it ever hit Western shores. One reason for that is probably that it’s such a challenging game (if you’re familiar with the series, you are well aware of the once-they’re-dead-they’re-gone game design). But nevertheless, several years ago, we saw the very first Fire Emblem hit American store shelves, and since, the franchise has managed to maintain a respectable cult following of hardcore strategy enthusiasts. While it makes for a perfect portable franchise, the first American console-based entry in the franchise arrived on the GameCube a couple years ago, and although it didn’t set any new standards within the genre, it carried the torch forward.

If you missed the Fire Emblem game for the GameCube (Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance), you’ll be happy to hear that while this new console-based entry in the series, similarly titled Radiant Dawn, is indeed a direct sequel to its predecessor, it actually does not rely on your having played the previous game. That’s because instead of providing a continuation of Path of Radiance’s storyline, Radiant Dawn simply tells the story from another perspective—that of a good-hearted, rebel faction within the enemy ranks. It’s an interesting (if not thoroughly confusing) approach to be certain; the game is essentially divided into four parts, all of which feature different lead characters and new armies. You will meet up with familiar faces along the way (if you played the GameCube game), but it’s okay if this is your first console Fire Emblem, too.

Wait… what did I just say? Wow, actually, that’s completely untrue. Sure, you should have very little trouble picking up on the plot even if you missed the GameCube Path of Radiance, but this game is no place to start on the series. That’s because Radiant Dawn is one of the most maniacally challenging strategy games ever created. With a relentlessly punishing difficulty level and unfathomably steep learning curve even on the easiest setting, Radiant Dawn provides a level of punishment that even Castlevania III and Super Monkey Ball would fear. You hardcore strategists might be thinking “What’s wrong with that? Games these days are way too easy, so I appreciate a challenge every once in a while.” But then you would be misunderstanding. This game is not just a challenge—it’s a torturous romp through turn-based hell. It’s tough even on the easiest difficulty setting!

The Dawn of a… New Day?

Radiant Dawn might be a brand-new game, but if it weren’t for the funky new controller and widescreen presentation, you’d almost think you were playing the GameCube title. That isn’t always a bad thing, but admittedly the general lack of voice acting and full-motion cut scenes does detract significantly from the experience. Radiant Dawn even returns to the same old dialogue scenes in between each battle, which feature cardboard cut-outs of each character accompanied with scrolling text. Excellently drawn cardboard cut-outs, but entirely static nonetheless. Boring, right? Yeah, it honestly could have been done better—and I’m not usually one to complain about a lack of voice acting, either. Thankfully, there are a handful of full-motion videos, complete with great voice acting, speckled throughout the campaign to spice up the experience… but it’s quite a downer coming off of one of those dramatic, well-done FMV sequences and diving straight into the still-frame read-it-yourself dialogue cut scenes.

Battle animations are particularly dull, as well, and chances are you will have located the option to switch them off by the time you begin your second battle. At least the soundtrack is instrumentally fantastic (the Fire Emblem games are known for featuring some of the best MIDI around), but the pieces aren’t as inspiring and memorable as the good old Game Boy games. Overall, there’s almost no evolution to be seen in terms of presentation, and that’s a shame.

On the other hand, Fire Emblem traditionalists will be happy to hear that nothing much has changed in the way of the classic formula, either. Radiant Dawn features lots of characters, plenty of hidden items, all the usual complexity in terms of stat growth and whatnot... it’s a big game, too, with several dozen battles, most of which I never had the chance to see before having to write my review. Like all turn-based strategy games, you’re in charge of commanding your units throughout these battles to safety—but unlike other games, if you lose a unit, they’re gone for good (unless, of course, you reset the game and resume from your last save point).

One of the problems with console-based strategy games is that they’re, well, confined to a console. These types of games are simply perfect for portable gaming systems—you can just pick up and play, quit when you like, and resume at your next opportunity, regardless of where you are. That also means that it doesn’t sting as badly when you lose. In Fire Emblem, for instance, it’s already distressing enough that you will have to play through the entire mission again from the start if and when you lose a character you wish to keep. That’s made even worse when you realize that you will have to spend another 30 minutes of your time in front of your television at home, bound to your gaming console, playing through the exact same thing you’ve already done once before. Thankfully, Radiant Dawn actually reconciles this problem with a new, controversial addition: the first-ever Fire Emblem mid-battle save feature that allows you to reset and resume from any point during the battle. Some purists have criticized this policy change since, in some respects, it almost negates the entire dead-and-gone play mechanic altogether. But considering that this is a console-based strategy game, it’s actually a great addition that saves headaches—although it still won’t save you from replaying the mission if you’ve gone beyond the point of executing a rescue for the doomed character when you saved your game.

Either way, none of this changes the fact that the game is just so outrageously hard. I think I’ve stated previously that I’m no pushover when it comes to strategy games, but as you read earlier, Radiant Dawn is just downright punishing. Even on the lowest difficulty, you’ll be dying and restarting probably just a few battles in. If you aren’t a Fire Emblem fan already (and a truly obsessive one, at that), this game’s difficulty curve is likely to throw you right off the side of the cliff. Just know what to expect before you plok down your fifty bucks for this one, because it’s truly a rude awakening, for better or for worse.

Even though other Fire Emblem games aren’t as challenging as this one, they’re still usually pretty tough. And typically, a gripping foundational storyline provides ample motivation for the player to continue pushing forward in spite of frustration. What will happen next? What will my reward be for completing this mission? Well, strangely enough, Radiant Dawn’s story really isn’t all that compelling… at least, not at the beginning. Many of the characters at first appear surprisingly paper-thin by Fire Emblem standards, and that’s quite a letdown. Most fitting of this charge are the villains, who seem to lack that level of believability and humanness that make the best bad guys truly evil. In Radiant Dawn, right from the start, these guys kill just for the sake of killing (slaying townspeople who are in their way and the like), and they come off as far too generic and artificial to be truly hated. This deficiency in character development and storytelling makes Radiant Dawn feel sort of like a nightmarishly-tough version of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (minus the portability). All you really look forward to is the next battle, and even then, you still dread the chore of figuring out precisely how to keep everyone alive until the end.

So if you can forgive the hair-pulling difficulty, been-there-done-that presentation, and uninspired storyline, there’s still a solid Fire Emblem game to be found underneath this (extremely) hard candy shell. It’s long, it’s varied, and it’s pure-bred strategy. Unless you like spending hours in front of your television being punished in that trial-and-error Dragon’s Lair fashion, you won’t find the mid-battle save system too offensive, either (although even if you’re a fan of that sort of thing, after just a few battles in when you start to lose characters left and right I suspect you’ll share my sentiments). Either way, perhaps I’m crazy, but after having spent time with both of the most recent console versions, I can’t help but think that Fire Emblem is meant to be a portable series. The punishment of losing a character doesn’t sting so badly when you’re playing on the go, and the dated presentation just fits better. In fact, I can’t think of any real reason why a console-based version would be better unless the presentation is vastly improved.

Either way, if and when we do see another console-bound Fire Emblem, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it tones down the challenge and turns up the aesthetics a bit. There is potential for greatness here, but in Radiant Dawn, the recipe will only be enjoyed by true FE connoisseurs.

Editor reviews

Upon further review, it's puzzling why this game wouldn't have simply been made for handheld instead. There's very little FMV and voice acting, no Wii-specific functionality (not even the IR pointer), and it's long and arduous to the extent that it begs portability. If and when we do see another console-bound Fire Emblem, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it tones down the challenge and turns up the aesthetics a bit. There is potential for greatness here, but in Radiant Dawn, the recipe will only be enjoyed by true FE connoisseurs.
Overall rating 
 
6.4
Gameplay 
 
7.0
Presentation 
 
5.0
Value  
 
8.0
Fun Factor 
 
5.0
Tilt 
 
7.0

Upon further review, it's puzzling why this game wouldn't have simply been made for handheld instead. There's very little FMV and voice acting, no Wii-specific functionality (not even the IR pointer), and it's long and arduous to the extent that it begs portability. If and when we do see another console-bound Fire Emblem, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it tones down the challenge and turns up the aesthetics a bit. There is potential for greatness here, but in Radiant Dawn, the recipe will only be enjoyed by true FE connoisseurs.

Videogames

Gameplay
No Wii functionality; standard Fire Emblem gameplay is still intact. New mid-battle save is a great addition for console play.
Presentation
Same old, same old—looks more like a GameCube game. Occasional FMVs are excellent, but the rest of the presentation needs an overhaul.
Value
This is a huge game, but good luck making it into the meat of it. If you do stick with it, though, you’ll find many, many dozens of hours of gameplay.
Fun Factor
There comes a point where difficulty in a game is less of a virtue and more of an obstacle. Radiant Dawn’s merciless challenge makes it all but unstomachable.
Tilt
It's still good old Fire Emblem... I just wish it had the storyline and balance that the older GBA titles had.
Was this review helpful to you? 
 

User reviews

There are no user reviews for this listing.

Already have an account?
Ratings (the higher the better)
  • Gameplay
    How did the game play? Controls, functionality, etc.
  • Presentation
    How were the soundtrack, visuals, menus, attitude, etc?
  • Value
    Was the game worth the money?
  • Fun Factor
    Was it fun? Was it not?
  • Tilt
    This is your chance to skew the score outside of the stated categories.
Videogames
Comments
Please enter the security code.
 

Comments

S5 Box

Login Form

Other Stuff