|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Intelligent Sys.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
December 1, 2008 - Five years ago American gamers were formally introduced to the Fire Emblem games for the first time. The Famicom series has been enjoyed in Japan for close to two decades. Gamers response to the first game to officially reach U.S. shores was overwhelmingly positive, in-part due to the excellent strategic gameplay and players casual familiarity of the series spurred by inclusion of Marth in Super Smash Bros. titles.
Soon youll be able to explore the series roots in a DS remake of the Famicom game that started it all. Both Fire Emblem and Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones on the Game Boy Advance were excellent and punishingly difficult titles that whet our tastes for more abuse. While many other popular GBA hits have found franchise updates on the DS, its rather surprising we havent seen a DS iteration of the Fire Emblem series sooner especially given just how well turn-based strategy titles have worked out on the dual-screen handheld. The patience of the faithful will be rewarded, when Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon releases next year.
An updated remake of the premiere launch of the Fire Emblem series, Shadow Dragon introduces players to the plight of the young Prince Marth who must save the Archanean kingdom from the grip of the newly resurrected dark dragon Medeus and the evil wizard Gharnef that returned him to life. Marth is joined by a band of warriors who must strike back at the corrupt dark forces that have overrun the continent and return peace to the land. For its DS release, the game includes four prologue missions that beef up the story and serve as a tutorial to get newcomers accustomed to the core concepts Fire Emblem revolves around.
Though the game retains the same visual style as its GBA predecessors, the graphical upgrades in Shadow Dragon are readily apparent. Character portraits show minor animations during story scenes and have a smoother look to them. The 2D units on the battlefield look nicer as well, and they have a cel-shaded appearance thats slightly more in line with the Wii titles. The dual screens also allow you to keep better track of the action. A constant battlefield map remains static on the touch screen, while combat animations, character stats, a mini-map, and story elements are relegated to the top screen. It will be a familiar experience for anyone who tested their mettle with the previous games only with a finer polish.
So far, it appears much of the gameplay in Shadow Dragon will remain very much in-line with other titles in the series. The only major difference is the inclusion of touch controls, which should make moving units far easier. Your units will be deployed on each battlefield, and youll strategically move them around the map grid each turn attacking foes, capturing key points, and completing objectives to win each level and progress through the story. The standard rock-paper-scissors triangles for weapon and magic attacks still apply. As before, each unit will level up through experience gained in combat, and they can be individually equipped with weapons and items. Every so often, new units will join your ranks.
Though the latest Fire Emblem title will fit right in among the gaming collections of fans of the Advance Wars series on the DS due to their similar gameplay styles, the two differ in one very crucial way. Any units that fall on the battlefield in Fire Emblem are lost for good; they cant be revived. This can be incredibly frustrating, and even heartbreaking, to have a favorite character youve spent hours leveling up suddenly eat it on the battlefield. The only remedy is to reload from a previous save point, which means replaying a portion of the current battle or worse, depending on when you saved last. To ease some of the sting, Shadow Dragon will feature three different save options. You can save in-between battles, do a quick save on the battlefield to return later (losing the temporary save data in the process, or save the game in mid-battle using the new checkpoint system. Reaching crucial checkpoints on a map rewards you with the ability to reload the game from that point in battle. This may not sound like much of a big deal, but it will make the new game far more enjoyable for the countless players who have suffered greatly over having to press onward after the loss of a major character mid-way through any of the previous games.
Expanded multiplayer features are also going to be part of the package. Presumably, there will be some form of local wireless match options. Youll also be able to take five of your units online to pit against other players through Wi-Fi battles with support for voice chat. While the new features may not revolutionize Fire Emblem, bringing the series to the DS with Shadow Dragon will offer many hours of adventuring and strategizing to keep fans satisfied.
CCC Staff Contributor