Fire Emblem – Path of Radiance: Progress Log #0

I’m waiting on all kinds of releases this month, and what I end up playing/what falls through the cracks is kind of up in the air right now, so I needed something to occupy myself in the meantime. Something highly structured like Trapt that lends itself to these kinds of posts. Something most people haven’t played. Something that I know well enough to temporarily drop for a new release without losing track of what I was doing. Since I reviewed the older Fire Emblem games back when my reviews were much less competent, it felt like the right time to jump back into Path of Radiance (which has been left ignored by most thanks to its comically steep price) and cover things more fully. After that, we’ll get into my favorite game ever: Radiant Dawn.

[Update: I’m changing this log number to 0 because the game starts with a prologue chapter. That way chapter numbers and progress log entries can line up.]

We’ll be playing on the normal difficulty, and the reason for that is twofold. First, I want to import the save from this playthrough into Radiant Dawn, but that means that the normal difficulty will be the highest available in that game since you have to finish the game once before unlocking the hard difficulty. Radiant Dawn is harder in general, so playing on the default difficulty for both seems like a pretty good upward progression. The second reason is that I’ve played Path of Radiance far less than its sequel and don’t remember a lot about its levels, and the way skills are handled doesn’t allow for the crazy shenanigans that I rely on in Radiant Dawn. I also want to go a little out of my comfort zone and use different characters than I usually choose.

There’s another screen after this one that gives the option of having fixed level ups (determined by what works for that character) or random ones. Obviously we’re going with random ones. This is Fire Emblem. Getting screwed out of a level-up by having a physical unit gain a point in magic and nothing else is half of the fun.

The game starts with Ike and his dad practice-fighting. It doesn’t go well for Ike, but don’t feel bad for him—he’ll become an unstoppable murder god by the time we finally get to Radiant Dawn. Right now he’s kind of fragile and emotional, but he’ll eventually become the single most dependable and stoic character we have. Path of Radiance just has to get his mopey teen years out of the way first.

His sister runs up to complain about how rough things are getting, and we find out that this is some kind of family mercenary business they have going on. Nothing brings family closer together than getting paid for disembowelment.

Of course, it’s not just family. It’s more like Ike’s dad is the boss of a bunch of mostly-unrelated mercenaries, and Ike is destined to take over for reasons that mostly boil down to nepotism. Another mercenary named Boyd shows up and Ike’s dad decides that it’s probably best for his young son to train with someone who isn’t already at the “unstoppable murder god” point in their life. Most likely a good call.

Fighting Boyd, we get our first look at the pre-combat screen. It probably has a name like “combat forecast” or something stupid like that, but I’m going to instead call it the Emblemtron 9000 for no reason whatsoever. The Emblemtron 9000 will be our everything in this game, dictating what we do and how we do it. Those numbers are the difference between life and death, and we’re going to make it to the end without losing a single character because of it. Details about the character we’re controlling will show up in blue, while the same information about enemies will show up in red, and it’s really easy to wrap your head around what everything means: “HP” is hit points, “MT” is how much damage your attack will do if it hits, “Hit” is a percentage indicator of how likely you are to land an attack (there are shenanigans behind the numbers, but they make the whole thing feel fairer over the long haul than the actual numbers do), and “Crit” is your chance to land a critical hit that does three times as much damage as your attack would have done otherwise.

Since the damage we would do in the picture above is the same as Boyd’s HP and we had a 100% chance to hit, we easily finish him off. Obviously, since this is pretty much the game’s tutorial. There are also optional prompts you can select to have series staple Anna explain various mechanics, but they’re kind of patronizing.

Once Boyd is down, Ike’s dad wants to fight again. First, though, Ike’s sister Mist gives him a vulnerary. These things restore 10 HP and will be handy, but we’re not going to actually use it until the Emblemtron 9000 forces us to.

If we attack, Ike-dad Greil will counterattack for 6 damage. Then it’ll become his turn and we’ll lose to his next hit. It would be kind of wasteful to use the vulnerary already, though, so we end the turn in front of him to bait him into attacking. We can take a single hit (and counterattack) and still be alive to take the vulnerary on the second turn. Doing so will end that turn and he’ll attack again, taking another one of our hits in the process. Then we can finish him off with a third hit by actually attacking on the third turn, and he won’t be able to counterattack because he’ll have already been defeated. Knowing when to attack and when to instead bait enemies is pretty much the key to beating any (well made) Fire Emblem game.

There’s probably no difference here between using a vulnerary on the first turn and waiting until the second like I did, but only healing when it becomes absolutely necessary to avoid wasting healing items is a good habit to get into.

Ike gets his first level up of the game, and it’s a solid one. I’d have liked a point in strength, too, but speed will give him a better chance of double-attacking slower enemies, and the increased defense will help him stay in the fight longer and level up more in these early chapters. The stats here are all in line with what you’d expect from most RPGs: “Str” is physical strength and determines physical attack damage, “Mag” is the same but for magical damage, “Skill” determines your chance to hit, “Sp” is speed and determines whether you hit once or twice (or get double-hit by enemies faster than you), “Lck” affects your critical hit chance, “Def” is your defense against physical attacks, and “Res” is your defense against magical attacks.

Having beaten his father (who was holding back, but still), Ike is officially welcomed into the mercenary group and is ready to start adventuring around, killing people for money. I love that the heroes of these games buck the trend of being spoiled-but-good-hearted royals, even if said royals do play a pretty major part in the overall plot.

Before that, though, we have more patronizing tutorial levels to fight through.

[Click here to go to Fire Emblem – Path of Radiance log #1]

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