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Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn


Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn on the Nintendo Wii picks up where the GameCube title Path of Radiance leaves off. And while knowledge of the previous game will give you insight into Radiant Dawn, it isn't necessary to have played the title to get the full experience. During Radiant Dawn, various back story items will be revealed to you. Not only that, the game manual itself has a nice prologue section that sets up the story in Radiant Dawn. So, while the game is a sequel, not playing its predecessor will not be a hindrance.

Radiant Dawn begins three years after the events in Path of Radiance. The war torn nations of Daein and Crimea are starting to rebuild their land. With their defeat and death of their ruler, Daein is under the control of the neighboring and powerful Begnion Empire. Determined to lead their land away from the control of Begnion, a rebel group called the Dawn Brigade fight to restore their nation's sovereignty.

Gameplay:

When starting a new game, you are presented with the difficulty choices. The first time you play through the game, you can select from Easy or Normal. Hard is locked out until you complete the game with Normal selected. The difference in Easy and Normal is that in easy mode, the game assumes that you have never played a Fire Emblem game before and presents extensive tutorials at various points in the game. In normal mode, you are able to refer back to the tutorial if needed, but it does not stop to ask if you want to view them. Both modes are challenging for the new and experienced gamer alike.

After the opening sequence, you are introduced to one of the main characters for the first part of the game. You will start in Daein with Micaiah, also known as the silver-haired maiden. Micaiah is part of the rebel group called the Dawn Brigade. This group is fighting to restore freedom to Daein. Throughout the game, you will encounter characters from Path of Radiance as well as some new characters that can be added to your party.

As you play through the game, the story is presented in chapters broken up into distinct sections. Throughout the chapters, you will battle through to progress the story. As you meet the various characters, you can include different combinations to better the chances of emerging victorious from each battle.

The combat employed in the game uses a grid based system. The system will be familiar to those who have played earlier entries in the series. Others who are new to grid based RPG titles will want to view the tutorials to understand the way that combat and other features work. During the player phase, each character in the party can move and attack with detail paid to the weapon or type of attack utilized. After each character's turn, the enemy combatants can move or attack as they see fit. At different points in the game, the battles you encounter will have different conditions to be declared a winner. Some of these conditions vary from defeating all enemies, defeating the boss enemy or surviving a set number of rounds. The game employs strategy and difficulty in the way you approach each battle. You cannot simply power your way through and hope for a win. During each character's attack, not only can you damage your opponent, but they can counterattack and damage you. If you plan movements incorrectly, this can lead to the death of a character. Once a character is dead, they cannot come back to life. Because of this limitation, you will most likely find restarting a battle over to employ a different strategy benefits in the long term.

During combat, your character will gain experience points that will allow them to level up. Each time a character levels up, their stats will randomly increase. You do not have the option of choosing where the stat upgrades. In addition to levels, weapon stats will also increase allowing them do more damage. Between combat, you will be able to explore to learn more about the story and various characters. You will also be able to buy and sell items. Once access is gained, you can forge custom weapons. Another feature of the game is the ability to pair different characters for the purpose of achieving bonus points to their stats. These boosts will help during combat via higher levels of damage or increased accuracy.

While the title is solid and challenging, it does not feel built for the Nintendo Wii. The game does not feature any of the unique controls that set a Wii title apart. There is no pointing or motion sensing controls. The game uses the remote sideways, as the virtual console games do. You can also use the classic remote to control the game. Without motion sensing or pointing at the sensor bar, the game controls smoothly and there are no unexpected occurrences.

Graphics:

The full motion video clips are beautiful to watch and are well produced. Unfortunately, this level of excellence doesn't carry into other aspects of the visuals. The most common way that the game presents various story elements is through still shots with text or a narrator's voiceover to relay the details. While reading the text is not an issue, as most games of this genre succumb to its use, the problem is that the game appears to be dated. The in-game animation and the combat system look very dated in motion. The graphics engine appears no better than the GameCube or the DS. Still, with fairly solid gameplay and a challenging combat system, this issue of a dated appearance doesn't make for an unpleasant experience. Many players do not require fancy graphics and movie quality cut scenes in many of the popular RPG games; especially those from the NES days.

Audio:

As with many Nintendo titles, voiceovers and musical tracks are often placed on the back burner in favor of story and experience. An ominous voice relays important story details to you, but comes across as an almost comedic sounding announcer in the vein of old superhero shows and cartoons. During the few full motion cut scenes you encounter during the game, the voice acting is adequate and none of the voices detract from the overall experience. While the game does offer a decent musical score, it can get repetitive occasionally. The music during battle and exploration is not as impressive as other blockbuster RPG games, but it does fill in the experience and offers something to listen to besides battle noises.

Replay Factor:

There is not much in the way of replay for Radiant Dawn. As mentioned earlier, once you complete the game on the Normal Difficulty, the Hard is unlocked With the difficulty level challenging, even in Easy mode, I am not sure many would strive to complete the game a second time with increased enemy difficulty.

One nice aspect of Radiant Dawn, if you have played Path of Radiance and still have a completed game save, is the ability to import saved data. Characters will start off with boots from the Path of Radiance data as well as any weapons and support relationships. Also, corresponding weapons in Radiant Dawn will receive a boost from the Path of Radiance data. The support relationships will translate into Bond supports in Radiant Dawn and coins will be transferred to increase gold spent on the weapon forging system.

Conclusion:

If you are looking for a game experience similar to recent Final Fantasy games, you will ultimately be disappointed with Radiant Dawn. However, if you craved focused gameplay and a story without embellished full voice acting or tons of FMV cut scenes, then Radiant Dawn fits the bill. While the inclusion of such features cannot make a lackluster title a hit, they can make an enjoyable game more immersive if done right.

At its core, Radiant Dawn is a game that's familiar to fans of the series. While Radiant Dawn makes no use of the Wii motion features, those passionate about an established series remaining faithful to its roots would feel such changes unnecessary. However, inclusion of a Wii control scheme would have been nice. For all the nitpicking, Radiant Dawn delivers a challenging gaming experience for the diehard, classic RPG fan. The difficulty can be a bit of a deterrent for casual fans, who should probably rent the game before purchase.