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Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn Review

Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn is a Turn-based Strategy Game developed by Intelligent Systems, a subsidiary company of Nintendo, and published by Nintendo for their own Nintendo Wii console. Intelligent Systems has been known in the past for working on a number of video-game franchises including Advance Wars, Paper Mario, and of course, Fire Emblem. This is the first Fire Emblem game I’ve played so I can’t comment on my experiences with the previous titles. Radiant Dawn is the tenth game in the series and it was released nearly a year and a half after the launch of the Nintendo Wii.


The game’s story takes place three years after the events of the prequel: Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. One of the world’s countries, Crimea, is in the process of re-building itself after Daein previously invaded the nation and killed the King of Crimea, causing an all-out war between several countries resulting in Daein losing the war. Michaiah, also known more widely as “The Silver-Haired Maiden”, is the main protagonist of the story, and is one of the members in the Dawn Brigade, a group dedicated to liberating Daein from Begnion occupation.


A screenshot for the Tutorial process in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn.

The *optional* tutorial process in Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn


The Begnion Ocupational Army serves as the main antagonists throughout the game, but they are, in turn, controlled by the Begnion Senate, a group of aristocrats supposedly chosen by the goddess Ashera to assist the Begnion Apostle in ruling the Empire. The senators are the real threat, because they are capable of manipulating several nations while the nation of Begnion holds a large amount of power and authority. Many of the senators pull the strings behind the Apostle’s back, which consequently sows the seeds of confusion in later conflicts in the game.


A screenshot of Michiah talking to Numida

Maybe he has a distant cousin in Austria too.


The game itself is split into four parts, with several chapters for each. Each part assigns you with a different group, in order to tell the story from multiple angles. In the last part, however, you will control all three groups, in order to rectify the problem created when the narrative was abruptly disrupted at the conclusion of part 3. Throughout the game you are required to maintain each individual member of your group, because unlike advance wars, allowing a team member to take a fatal blow means that they will no longer be able to assist your essential members in battles later on. Careful tactics are required in Fire Emblem, because the consequences stick with you for the rest of the game, and you will really need powerful team members later on.


Each playable character in the game has a number of influencing factors, from affinities which provide bonuses on certain levels – to abilities such as “Sol”, which triples the damage of the attack and heals the user for the damage dealt, and “Vantage” which cancels an enemy counter-attack – to equipment, like “Bows”, which are indirect weapons, to “Poleaxes”, which are direct weapons, and “Javalins” which are hybrid-attack weapons. All of these factors give each character an edge in battle. There are also special items and equipment, like “Wyrmslayer”, which does triple damage to dragon-laguz and dracoknights, and the “Spectre Card”, which lets non-magic users cast a magic attack. Another key difference from Advance Wars, is that equipment needs to be maintained; for example, an Iron Sword will break after 50 uses, this doesn’t sound so bad at first, but when you get halfway through the game you will start to encounter problems during Part 3 when having no weapons means you can’t attack. While equipment can’t be repaired, it can be replaced. This is done by purchasing replacements from the game’s store during the intermission between the game’s chapters. On top of being able to purchase items between chapters, you can also level up your characters with bonus experience, add or remove skills between characters, promote units, raise statistics with items, create bonds (proximity bonuses) between characters, and forge custom weapons based on items you can currently purchase in the store.



Racism in Fire Emblem



There are many different classes for both player-controlled and enemy units, and there also two different races that you can expect to encounter. The first race is called “Beorc” meaning “Children of Wisdom”, these are essentially human beings at the core, who have no natural defense mechanism to defend themselves, and have to employ the use of weapons and spell tomes. The second which you encounter later on, initially as an enemy force are the Laguz, which means “Children of Strength”. The Laguz use natural weapons such as beaks for the Hawk and Raven tribes, or claws for the Cat, Tiger and Lion tribes, or Breaths (as in to breathe fire), for the Dragon tribes, and these natural weapons never run out of uses. The main differences is that Beorc can constantly attack enemies, and maintain a constant level of strength, whereas the Laguz on the other hand, shift in levels of strength as they are vulnerable when not transformed and can only counter attack in this state, and can decimate enemy forces and tank damage while shifted. For a Laguz to transform, they have a gauge that builds up over time, which increases more dramatically if they are attacked, and once transformed, this gauge respectively decreases over time and with more haste if the unit attacks or is attacked. If a Laguz unit possesses the “Wildheart” or “Formshift” skills, they can transform freely, and at the cost of their strength if they use the former wildheart skill to half-shift.


During the story, the genetic differences between the two races causes them to feel deep resentment for each-other, with the Beorc using the derogatry term “Sub-Human” to refer to the Laguz, and the Laguz to use the term “Human” to describe Beorc. The latter seems to have no effect since the Beorc do not take offense to the term. This somewhat draws parallels with racism in our own world, with Fire Emblem apparently attempting to address this issue in a metaphorical sense perhaps. It’s a sensitive subject nonetheless. Speaking of sensitive subjects, the game’s story has a lot of ethically questionable moments, with the theme of “Sacrifice” being questioned in particular. In the second level of the game for example, there is a scene to which Begnion soldiers are ordered to chase after the Dawn Brigade, and the townspeople buy them time to escape from the Begnion Guards, however, the guards brutally murder a child in the street, causing Michiah to return to the town square to save the child:


Image of Begnion Soldiers standing over a child they just killed.

You are expendable.


Don’t get the wrong idea though, this game is fairly kid-friendly, it just has some scenes that are violent in context. There is no blood or gore evident in the game, and the developers do well to keep the language PG as well. “Dastard” is questionable, but still humorous in the context to which it is presented. Humor is not prominent in this game, however younger audiences will still appreciate the odd visual gag or two.


My one criticism with the game, is the lack of a multiplayer feature, which would allow me to play this game with my friends. For some reason, Radiant Dawn doesn’t have multiplayer, and that makes me sad. The single-player is long enough though, easily possessing over 30 different chapters that range from small skirmishes to epic battlefields. I’ve had the game for roughly two months now, and it’s taken me over a week-straight to play the vast majority of it. After completing the game the first time, you can play through the game a second time for alternate dialogue opportunities and endings, resulting in a few new party members you couldn’t get the first time around.


A cutscene of Skrimir standing on a hilltop with Ranulf

Calm before the Storm…


The graphics are nothing to marvel at, due to the graphical restrictions of the Nintendo Wii and the release of the game just over a year after, but the game makes up for it’s 3-Dimensional shortfall with beautiful 2D artwork that modern games rarely tend to feature (outside of user-interfaces). Nintendo games can triumph in this respect and being able to view full-sized images of each character is a nice feature. The game really shines with it’s CGI cutscenes, which it employs to advance the plot along with in-game animated cutscenes and “talking heads” 2D cutscenes.


Overall this game was a great turn-based strategy game for me to play, and I recommend it for anyone who is a fan of the Advance Wars franchise. It’s a great game for anyone and everyone can adapt to the genre pretty quickly through the game’s tutorial system, I give Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn a score of:


Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn: 8/10


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