Let’s get something straight: I have a love for Fire Emblem games that borders on the absurd at times. Part of this is because it has essentially stayed the same from game to game with only minor adjustments: FE4 had giant maps and the ability to essentially pair your characters up to have children (your role as director of the nasty actually determines future character stats), FE5 introduced a system to “catch” your enemy rather than killing them outright, FE9 brought the series into 3D, and FE10 gave you two alternating parties that were pitted against each other rather than just the one. Beneath these small innovations always lied the same turn-based strategic candy that has served to enrapture fans for over two decades, and with good reason—it simply works.
That having been said, there’s some good news and some bad news. The good news is that combat is effectively identical to that of its predecessors, though admittedly a tad underutilized. Sadly, the bad news is that this game represents a further attempt at making the series “accessible” by bastardizing the difficulty. Save points in the middle of the level? I can cope with that. The ability to change a unit’s class to something totally different? Could be interesting, I suppose. Both of those things in conjunction with some godlike ballista-wielding characters? That’s where I begin to draw the line.
See, these characters are so useful that it borders on being cheap. All you’re required to do is position your ballista so that no one attacks, then take out targets at a long range. Coupled with the mid-map save points, this basically makes the game lose-proof, which is unfortunate since no portion of the game is too difficult to beat otherwise.
As I mentioned earlier, you have the godlike ability to change a character’s class. For example, if your swordmaster has the same propensity for swordplay as Disney stars have for music, you can just turn that character into a dracoknight, which raises an interesting question: where the hell do these spare dragons come from? You’re too busy saving the world to just find one, and dragons hardly seem like the kind of commodity you can stock up on at the local store. Besides, if there’s such an abundance of ferocious dragons, it seems like it would be infinitely easier to train those dragons to attack things on your behalf rather than risking your own life.
However, there’s an upside to Shadow Dragon. While the new graphics may not be as bright and cheery as those of the GBA entries (the dullness of the color scheme actually fits the tone of the story well), the animations are much, much smoother.
The story has been panned as being unimaginative, but this is a remake of the very first Fire Emblem. It’s not as if they were weaving complicated stories into NES/Famicom games back then, so they don’t exactly have an abundance of material to work from.
I consider this game to be right in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to Fire Emblem. It’s not the best by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s hardly the worst, either. By the way, it’s worth mentioning that the worst Fire Emblem game is still better than most games. It could have been much better had it included the second book of Fire Emblem: Monshō no Nazo (the first remake of this particular game) though, and having the game end when I know there’s more to the story was a bit of an irritating experience. Overall, though, this game is worth a try.
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