Friday, June 13, 2008

Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn: Second Playthrough

About a week ago, I decided to play through Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn again. It is a good game, so I have been having a lot of fun with it. Knowing what is going to happen next in the game beforehand and remembering some of my old strategies for tricky stages is helping make this playthrough quite a bit easier. However, one thing that is bugging me is that so far there really hasn't been anything new for me to experiment with, and it doesn't seem like the basic game experience is going to be all that different from last time.

Radiant Dawn's predecessor, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, makes a number of additions to the second playthrough that are really interesting. For one, in that game's second playthrough you can acquire item like the Knight Band or Wyvern Band that let you modify the rates at which your characters' stats increase upon level up. Alternatively, you could forego the classic random stat scheme of the fire Emblem series and play in "Fixed Mode" where stat growth is not random at all. These are not major changes, but they are still things that make subsequent playthroughs of the game a bit different than the first time, which adds to the replay value. While I am aware that a second playthrough of Radiant Dawn isn't exactly the same as the first playthrough, it still doesn't have any kind of pervasive game mechanic changes like the Bands or Fixed Mode, which is disappointing.

Still, one thing that is beginning to surprise me about the Fire Emblem series is the extreme influence of the randomness of stat growth upon the game. Because character stats go up randomly based on stat growth probabilities, the same character can turn out very differently depending on how their stats grow. Last time around I completely wrote off the character Nolan because several of his most important stats barely grew at all, resulting in a character who was too weak to even be useful in a fight. Yet this time around Nolan's stat growth has been incredible, and as a result he is one of the characters I have been relying upon the most. When this randomness is combined with the fact that there are more characters than you can even use in one playthrough, and that there are a very large number of different Support combinations, it means that while the challenges you face may be static, the strategies you can use to build a team to overcome that challenge may change every time, and there is never a single set path to victory. In this regard, perhaps it is not strictly necessary that subsequent playthroughs have a large number of added features.

Anyways, I am looking forward to the rest of this second playthrough of the game. Simply knowing basic things like which characters are available in which missions are going to make planning out this playthrough a lot easier, provided that the random number generator doesn't throw me a curve-ball...

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