Until about five years ago those outside Japan never got a chance to play the Fire Emblem series which began on Famicom in 1990, but with the one-two punch of success for Smash Bros. and Fire Emblem’s sister series Advance Wars, we’ve now seen two GBA entries (Fire Emblem and Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones) and another two console entries (Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn). But regardless of the platform the gameplay is the same: deep strategy built around a fantasy setting and a war-torn world. But this is where is all began, as Shadow Dragon remakes the Famicom original with a DS face-lift.
Above: That's the Famicom version on the left
FE’s battles all play out across grid based maps, with combat based on a rock-paper-scissor variation called spear-sword-axe. Understanding who to attack, where you want your unit placed with respect to your enemies’ range and how to predict what the enemy will do on the next turn sounds easy. And like all great strategy games it’s quite easy to understand, but difficult – and worthwhile – to master.
Each character is a unique person, which is great compared to the faceless drones of other strategy games. Not only do you have to work to fulfill certain conditions if you want some enemies to become members of your growing army, but when an ally dies in battle you feel real regret. Mostly because they’re gone. Forever. Dead, like Bambi’s mom dead.
That’s where the real difficulty comes in. If you’re a collector at heart and don’t want to lose even one of the characters, then get ready for a rough time. Even on the normal difficulty it isn’t an easy game, but if you refuse to lose someone in your party or let a prospective party member just fly away, you’ll be restarting often.