Game Completion: 100% Complete (I finished it on Christmas, actually)
I have finally completed this game. It was rather difficult, and counting resets and restarts, must have taken me nearly 100 hours. It was a good game, overall, and I am glad I played it. I guess it is finally time for me to write a bit about the game's story. Again, there will be spoilers of the game's plot below.
Overall, the game has a good story. The game has great characters, a lot of interesting twists, several great dramatic scenes, and interweaves gameplay and story very well. At the very least, the story justifies every battle, and every battle moves the story along, which is the most important element of any videogame's plot. While I can't say it is the best story I have encountered in a videogame, it is very entertaining.
Still, there are a few major weaknesses of the game plot, as both a story and a game.
The biggest weakness of the plot is the uneven length and importance of the first three parts. The first part is excellent, and one of the strongest parts of the game. The third part is also very good, even if it is a bit too long. The problem is the second part. The story of the Crimean rebellion has no real connection to the rest of the plot, and as a whole doesn't fit well with the themes of the game. Also, its short length gives the characters of that chapter very little time to grow, making them fall behind the power curve and unbalancing the gameplay aspect of the differing perspectives. As a whole, it seems that the developers couldn't decide whether to make Elincia one of the main characters (like Ike and Micaiah) or just another normal character, and it seems that though they wanted to have three shifting perspectives, they had trouble fitting that many. I think the whole game should either have been shorter, omitting the third perspective, or the third and fourth parts should have been shorter, and more time should have been spent fleshing the third perspective out. In fact, a lot of good could have been done if more of the game was seen from Sanaki's perspective, which brings me to my next point.
The next major weakness of the plot is that, despite the huge importance of the internal politics of Begnion to the main plot, these politics are essentially invisible to the player. Important events, like Sanaki's imprisonment and escape, occur completely off-screen. and when they are revealed to the player they feel more like Deus ex Machina than a logical progression of events.
As a result of that flaw, the major villains of the game, the Begnion Senators, are not visible enough for them to actually be properly developed. All of them, especially their leader, Lekain, are flat, uninteresting characters. One of the biggest strengths of the last game was the way it developed the Black Knight and King Ashnard as villains, but very little of that kind of development is seen here. And even when major villains like Izuka, Numida, or Lekain are finally slain, there is very little fanfare or discussion of the fact. The Black Knight, himself, is a victim of this lack of development. He was an incredibly interesting character in the last game, so much so that I expected him to be the final villain of Path of Radiance when I was still playing through it. But in this game, despite his interesting role in the first Part, he is mostly invisible and absent, and the revelation of his true identity is not handled well. I blame this on the fact that it is pretty much impossible for the player to guess his true identity beforehand, due to the same lack of visibility for the villains. I suppose I can say the same about Sephiran.
Another point is that the game is a bit slow in the first section of the fourth part. There are five whole chapters that consist of only meaningless battles against Ashera's minions, all with the same winning conditions and general battle flow. It didn't advance the story very well, and it got very repetitive in a game that otherwise has very varied and interesting battles. However, the end of the fourth part, the final battle in the Tower of Guidance, is quite good.
Also, even though Yune is a fantastic character, the fact that she only speaks through Micaiah is something of a weakness of the game, because it restricts Micaiah's own ability to play a role in story scenes. As a result, Micaiah, one of the two main characters of the game, and one of the game's best characters, feels absent from the story, and is not developed very well in this time.
Overall, I think the game would have been a bit better if Elincia's chapter was removed, Ike's chapter was moved to be the second part (but ended at the Laguz Army's retreat from Begnion), a new chapter with Sanaki as the main character followed from there to the release of Yune, the final part was changed somewhat, and more scenes depicting the movement of the Senators, the details of the Blood Pact, and the actions and intents of Zelgius and Sephiran were added.
Still, I don't want this to come across as a statement that plot of the game was bad. I really did enjoy it. Sooner or later, I am going to need to play through this game a second time. After all, from what I have read on GameFAQs, there are a few major plot and gameplay changes for a second time through the game, and I really want to see those. But that will have to wait for another time.