Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn Review
When it comes to the Wii, many games stand out among the library for various reasons. Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is the single greatest of them all, which may be surprising to some given the fact that it doesn’t incorporate motion controls in any way. It can be argued that games on a system so devoted to the motion-control experience should at least have some of that mixed in, but in this individual case it would only serve to distract from the magic, and make no mistake—this game has more magic than a wizard smoothie.
After all, this game requires no gimmicks. Don’t expect the sappy coming-of-age cutscenes of Path of Radiance, because everyone has grown up and learned to take trouble in stride (and there’s plenty of it to go around this time). Don’t expect to be able to abuse the bonus experience system, because you can only gain points in three random stats per level, making it a poor way to level up weaker characters. Most of all, don’t expect to have your hand held throughout this experience, because you’ll encounter difficulties far greater than those of the Game Boy Advance entries. Profanities will be screamed haphazardly at the TV, the sky, and any loved ones who happen to be in your immediate proximity as you struggle to make your way through this game without losing any characters. You know why? Because this game is totally worth it (though your loved ones will likely disagree).
Make no mistake: this is a game where failing to think ahead five moves will ruin you. You won’t spend the first few chapters being taught the ropes while you’re more or less untouchable; death in the first chapter is unlikely, but the second to seventh chapters can manage to be unforgiving to those who expect anything less. That’s not to say that this game is merciless or somehow cheap. In fact, Radiant Dawn manages to have some of the fairest AI of the entire series. When you fail, it’ll be solely due to a lack of foresight on your part, and your failure will be so obvious and absolute that you’ll quickly discover how quickly you can transform from a rational human being to a total drama queen. My record is about twelve seconds to completely make the transformation. Don’t fret, though, because a feature has been implemented in order to alleviate the difficulty for those unfamiliar with the Fire Emblem system. Your progress can be saved anywhere on the battle map, provided you’re playing on either Easy or Normal difficulties. Hard difficulty eliminates the ability to save except for between maps, which is wonderfully chaotic since losing a character means they’re gone forever (unless you restart the system and start the map over) and maps can last upwards of an hour.
Aside from the difficulty, one of the major qualms people seem to have with Radiant Dawn is the absence of spoken lines, as if it would somehow be better if everyone had a voice and spoke their dialogue. Having played through the screechy voices in such games as Eternal Sonata and having witnessed the awkward faux-emotion of Final Fantasy X’s voice acting, I can assure everyone that the lack of character voiceovers is proof that God exists and loves us all very much.
Another problem people seem to have is with the graphics, because games these days evidently have to be photorealistic to be considered valid sources of entertainment. Anyone who holds that opinion can take their HD graphics with their massive amounts of bloom and cram it up their ass with a turkey baster. Gameplay matters. Story matters. Presentation matters. Passing up this game because of the graphics would be like passing up the opportunity to eat a bigass sundae made out of magic and edible rainbows because it didn’t come with a cherry on top. That’s not to say that Radiant Dawn has sub-par graphics, either, because the portraits and the “almost cel-shaded” 3D models fit into the context of the game surprisingly well and provide a nice bridge between the styles of the old and new. While most games are content to dazzle players with endless cutscenes in order to cover up their flaws, this game has no such flaws that need covering up.
One of the best things in the entire game is the fact that you’ll go through most of it with several different teams, two of which end up clashing throughout the whole of Act III. The very characters you helped to become strong will alternate between being enemies and being playable, which is an amazing feeling, knowing you can never allow anyone to become too powerful for fear of dooming yourself when they’re storming your gates.
The latter portion of Act III, as well as a smaller portion of Act II, manages to convey a real sense of chaos. There are large armies coming your way, and your allied AI characters will quickly perish since their forces are mostly comprised of suicidal idiots. These maps are incredibly fulfilling to finish, because they not only require strategy in combat but also force you to think of creative ways to protect the weaker characters in your party from the incoming onslaught.
I could literally double the length of this review talking about how great this game is. Suffice it to say that playing Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is like making love to an angel and having a mindgasm that lasts for hours at a time, complete with the warm glow of reintroducing yourself to an old bad habit. It’s just that good.
Here’s what you should do: