As one of the first turn-based, tactical RPG series ever created, the ground breaking Fire Emblem franchise has enjoyed a long and (mostly) glorious history exclusively in Japan, until the release of the seventh title in 2003… then the rest of the world got to see what all the fuss was about. Five years down the track and we’re charged with checking out the tenth instalment, itself no stranger to a bit of ground breaking.
Employing the 3D cel-shaded graphics and FMV introduced to the series in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Radiant Dawn is the first Fire Emblem title for the Wii. This time around, players can experience the in-game conflict from both sides of the coin, rather than merely following one nation's campaign.
The game has three difficulty modes; the hardest requiring you to first complete the game in Normal mode. Having heard how challenging some of the missions were - and in the interests of bringing you as detailed a review as possible (yeah, right), we wimped out and opted for Easy mode, which provides numerous handy tutorials on a ‘need to know’ basis... and there is an awful lot you need to know. You can also access further tutorials via one of the in-game menus – each of which is loaded with pages and pages of statistics.
In a tactical RPG the storyline plays second fiddle to the battles; essentially it’s a slender thread connecting one battle to another. As far as credibility and continuity are concerned this can be dangerous ground, but thankfully the storyline in Radiant Dawn is sufficiently robust and swift-flowing to accomplish its task with considerable aplomb. While the game’s plot follows on from events in Path of Radiance, familiarity with the storyline is not essential as you’ll be brought up to speed with characters, setting and events via cut scenes and character interaction.
In keeping with the Fire Emblem tradition, Radiant Dawn features none of the real-time dungeon crawling and trekking through wilderness that we’ve come to expect from our RPGs – including the turn-based ones, so if you prefer plenty of freedom to choose in your RPG, you may resent being herded down Linear Plot Lane, with no detours.
The game is set on the continent of Tellius, three years after the events in Path of Radiance, with the nation of Daien – defeated after a failed attempt to invade neighbouring Crimea, now under the oppressive rule of another, larger neighbour: the Begnion Empire. The game is divided into four parts, each comprising a number of missions or ‘chapters’. Without giving too much away, you’ll get to experience the mounting conflict from both sides, which not only maintains momentum, but also provides an appreciation of the ‘big picture’.
Most of the playable characters from Path of Radiance reprise their roles, as do the Laguz (lycanthropic ‘beast’ tribes). With the exception of a few tweaks, game play remains largely unchanged… after all, why fix something that ain’t broke?