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Game Profile
Intelligent Systems
GENRE: Strategy
February 16, 2009
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem: Sword of the Seal

 Written by Patrick Mulhern  on October 09, 2009

Review: The original Fire Emblem burns up the DS.

The Fire Emblem series has a long and storied history, much of which the North American audience hasn't seen. It wasn't until the Game Boy Advance that Nintendo brought Intelligent Systems' franchise to English audiences with the re-titled seventh installment, Fire Emblem. The success of the the 2003 title, coupled with the popularity of Marth & Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee, and the love of the developer's other series, Advance Wars, prompted Nintendo to continue localizing installments. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is the latest offering in the franchise, giving international audiences their first chance to play the game that started it all.

A Re-Make With Bonuses
Shadow Dragon follows the struggles of Marth, as he attempts to reclaim his lost kingdom from a warmongering alliance. The nearly twenty-year-old title's story remained almost untouched, a feat that speaks for the strength of the original NES title. The remake may offer the same complex and fantastic story, but that is just one of the features that was left untouched. A number of staple gameplay mechanics in the Fire Emblem franchise were not original to the classic NES title. These include common attributes such as the weapon and magic triangles and additional class types. The developer brought the title up to modern series standards by retconning these now accepted traits.

The first DS title and eleventh installment of the Fire Emblem series has brought some new stuff to the heralded collection. Foremost of the new features is Intelligent Systems' implementation of online multiplayer capabilities. Although the WiFi options are limited, players have been waiting for this opportunity for years. Despite the lack of depth of online multiplayer options, the single mode available is quite enjoyable. Players can tackle friends or foes from across the globe in a 5-on-5 battle using campaign units on one of six maps. Winners are rewarded with special cards (if the option is on) that can buff characters with special effects. The developer's mix of the single-player campaign with an online store allows players to parlay their lone successes into multiplayer mayhem. This also adds an added bit of replayability, giving players a monetary reason to tackle the more difficult settings.

A Re-Make That Misses The Mark
After nineteen years, it is a joy to play the title that is credited with launching the tactical RPG genre. Unfortunately, the remake seriously lacks in the innovation department. The addition of the multiplayer component is welcomed, but beyond that, the title we are handed nothing new. However, if Nintendo allowed the developer to play too much with the original title, gamers would have cried foul for messing with a classic. Shadow Dragon's gameplay lacks innovation at the core, but the developer did bring it up to the current Fire Emblem standards at least, they even took the time to enable DS functionality.

One capability the remake didn't muster is the graphics. Portions of the title glorify the age of 2D art and sprites, but the animated battle sequences are poorly done. The original GBA installment from 2005 has battle sequences on par with this 2009 title. Making Shadow Dragon seem dated during these brief sequences. The animations lack any semblance of detail, leading me to turn them off entirely, rather than seeing a constant reminder of the title's biggest flaw.

Bottom Line
If you want to see what the North American audience was missing, then Shadow Dragon is a great point to jump into the Fire Emblem timeline. If you are looking for a more innovative and DS-centric tactical RPG, then may we point you in the direction of Disgaea DS, a port of the PSP's Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness. That title was itself was a port of the original PS2 title, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Despite its shortcomings, Shadow Dragon lives up to the franchise by offering deep characters, an incredibly diverse cast of characters, a lengthy and engaging campaign, challenging gameplay and for the first time, online multiplayer.

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