Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Fire Emblem:Radiant Dawn, Part 1

Game Completion: Through Chapter 1:1

I am a long-time fan of the Fire Emblem series, so I have been anticipating this game for a while. Obviously enough, I got it as quickly as I could (it was released yesterday after all). For those who don't know much about the series, Radiant Dawn is a direct sequel to Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, and is the tenth game in the Fire Emblem series, though only the fourth to have been released in the United States.

The game has just been released, so I will avoid spoilers.

So far, early impressions are mixed.

First off, I had a severe problem when I tried starting a new game using data from Path of Radiance. The game froze, and a load buzz sound persisted until I shut off the console completley. This was repeated every time I tried. As such. I ended up giving up on that, and just started a new game without old data. Since I was looking forward to using my old data, I'm not very pleased.

However, the game itself so far is playing very well. It very quickly recaps the important elements of the last game's plot, and establishes the basic elements of the new plot. The heroine Micaiah's kindness and special abilities are laid out quickly, the dark, somber mood of an occupied country is felt, and the heartless cruelty of the occupying army is made crystal clear in short order. I already have a character on my "must see die" list, which is pretty impressive, actually. The music, while subdued, is beautiful, and sets the mood nicely. I also like how the first two missions transition in such a clear and logical manner, with the second mission being a direct logical result from the first, and how these missions solidify the character portrayal of the heroes so nicely.

In terms of gameplay, it is classic Fire Emblem. I am playing on Normal difficulty, and it is already surprisingly tricky. I had a few close calls with a few characters, and a lucky dodge of an attack is all that saved me from having to restart the second stage. I like games with this kind of challenge, so I am quite happy. Also, the use of more complicated objectives then "defeat all opponents" so early in the game is quite a nice change of pace from the rest of the series. I hope it persists.

One problem so far is in stage design. Traditionally in Fire Emblem games, houses that you can visit during a mission have a red roof, and a clearly seen. Path of radiance added a clearly open front door. In the second mission of Radiant Dawn, this was not the case, so I nearly missed some places to visit, becaise I did not recognize them. I understand that red roofs do not match the grim visuals the devoloper was aiming for, but some visual elements should have been added to make visitable locations clearer.

Anyways, my wishes and fears concerning the game are as follows:

1) The good speed and mood of the plot gets maintained over the course of the game.
2) The new systems and modifications to the Fire Emblem formula work out.
3) All the mysteries and plot threads that persist from Path of Radiance get a satisfying resolution.

1) That, like the last game, the Laguz characters will lack a clear role, and have more drawbacks then strengths.
2) That the many interesting characters returning from Path of Radiance will outshine the new cast, and prevent them from being interesting. Also, the opposite, in which the good characters from the last game will be completely overshadowed.
3) The classic elements of a Fire Emblem game get implemented poorly.

Finally, I have a few closing comments about the manual. As a whole, it is good, but like most other Fire Emblem game manuals, it doesn't explain many important elements in enough depth. Among other things, I don't know how the Support system works in this game (whether it works like it did in Path of Radiance, or the older system, or something else), and I don't know how it relates to or is different from the new "Bond" system.

I will post about more things in depth when I get to play the game some more.

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