Nov 13, 2007
Okay folks, time to wipe those silly smirks off your faces; this isn't some mindless minigame compilation or Wii-mote-waggling shooter. This is Fire Emblem, a super-serious, cerebrally-challenging strategy RPG series that's more than earned its place in the spotlight alongside Mario and Link. Those of you with Wii Remotes in hand, waiting to train a puppy or cook with Mama, might be scratching your heads in bewilderment, but true Nintendophiles know exactly what we're talking about. Fire Emblem has been delivering the turn-based strategic goods for years, and with the release of Radiant Dawn, the brain juice-pumping tactical fun continues.
Like a Beorc Swordmaster, this direct sequel to the GameCube's Path of Radiance, wields a double-edged blade. The core gameplay mechanics of the series' previous titles remains nearly untouched; the old system worked great, offering hours of tactical strategizing, so we're fine with the if it ain't-broke-don't-fix-it approach. However, stubbornly sticking to other last-gen aspects yields some disappointment.
It would've been nice, for example, to see the visuals get a next-gen bump. They're by no means bad. In fact, the pre and post-battle cut-scenes, and even the in-game visuals, hold a certain old-school charm. Still, it would've been cool to see some eye candy evolution from GameCube to Wii. Same goes for the Wii Remote; while mapping a strategy RPG to the motion-sensing peripheral probably isn't the greatest idea, would it have killed them to implement the Wii's most famous feature, even marginally? Finally, where's the multi-player? If any game is screaming for online battles, it's this one.
While we wince at the aging esthetics and lack of online support, we're thrilled that the previously punishing difficulty has been tweaked with a save-during-battle feature. Before masochistic fanboys cry foul, know that the game is still tough as nails, and your cute little avatars still remain dead once slain on the battlefield (unless, of course, you reset the whole chapter). Seasoned strategists should also appreciate that Radiant Dawn, like its GBA and GameCube forefathers, is an addictive time siphon; you'll get at least 40+ hours of Daein-vs-Crimea action, spread over four chapters. Faithful fans will further enjoy seeing many of their favorite anime-inspired faces - and lots of new ones - return to the grid-based battlefield. In fact, one of Dawn's cooler features allows a stat boost to your returning characters via a GameCube memory card (assuming you completed Path of Radiance).
Radiant Dawn carries the successful torch of its predecessors without really building upon them. The core recipe is as solid as ever, but a few next-gen tweaks here and there could have evolved the series beyond its last-gen trappings. Serious series fans will find lots of familiar fun here, and newcomers - if they can burden the learning curve - will discover a satisfying strategy title that won't aggravate their Wii elbow, but will certainly flex their gray matter.