Fire Emblem is one of those games that I had at such a young age, that I don’t really remember where I got it from. I believe I got it from a cousin for a bithday present but it was so long ago. I remember that I once played Fire Emblem Rekka No Ken around my babysitter at the time and I asked him if he could hepl me since I was stuck. Turns out my younger self was absolute garbage at Fire Emblem because he scolded me for being incredibly bad. Fast Forward many years to the present, and I’ve played every North American release of Fire Emblem, beaten them multiple times, and am currently completing every game on the hardest difficulty. I always have a Fire Emblem game on the go and whenever I’m inbetween games, it’s what I play. I’m telling you this just to give myself some merit as a Fire Emblem fan. You should have absolutely no doubt that I love this series. I love what makes Fire Emblem the game it is. A deep strategy game that focuses on fully fleshed characters instead of faceless units with great RPG elements. I’m not here for the oversexualized characters, the relationship/waifu simulator shite, and I don’t play Fire Emblem Heroes and it’s not a full Fire Emblem game so I’m not putting it on this list. I’m Just letting you know what I love and respect about the series so you know where my head is it before going into here. Let’s break this down ladies and gentlemen.
9. Shadow Dragon
Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon is the one that started it all… or at least, the remake of the one that started it all. Yes, it’s a remake of the first game that started every Fire Emblem trope there is. Things like the character archetype, the final boss being a dragon and the plot of a peaceful nation getting unexcitingly attacked by a neighbouring nation. Even though this game is on the bottom of the list, it still has so many great features. There are new weapons, characters, classes, promotions and even chapters that have been added to this remaster. This game does, however, have a few flaws. First of all, and I know this is more so personal preference, the art style is perhaps one of the most bland and boring of the Fire Emblem series; the sprites aren’t cool or flashy, they don’t have the nostalgia that the pixelated games are associated with and the fighting animations are pretty dull.
The game also doesn’t have a lot of character class variation. There are so many cavaliers in this game that I can’t even remember them all. It’s important to have a few characters who are of a certain class, but when you’re going on 5+ for some classes, it makes each character less special. Another gripe that I’m guilty of is character class change. Although I like it a bit more in Awakening, in this game I find it either useless or it makes each character feel even less special. So what is good about this game, exactly? Well if you’re new to the Fire Emblem series, it can be a good start. You play as Marth, the most famous character from the series, and you get to play a pretty decent story that has a good tutorial. Even though it has every Fire Emblem trope known to the series, it’s the game that introduced them, so you know what you’re getting into with the rest of the games. It’s a great entry level game; if only the gameplay was a bit more interesting.
8. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright
Nothing could contain my excitement for a new Fire Emblem game back in 2016 as, just like many other fans, I had gotten back into the series with Awakening. The game was marketed in a way that made me (and many other people) think that I would have to make some hard decisions in the game when it comes to the fate of some of my characters since there are two games for Fire Emblem Fates, made in the same spirit as Pokemon. Let me tell you that this is not what we got with the final product. This is definitely my least favourite Fire Emblem game but I will say that it does have some good mechanics. But for every good aspect, I feel like there are many bad ones as well. Marketing really drilled it into players about the ability to make big decisions, but really the only one is which side to choose with Hoshido and Nohr, and that choice really only matters if you bought the digital copy. If you bought a physical release, then you’ve already chosen a side and it’s most likely for gameplay reasons. I personally couldn’t care less about whose side I’m choosing because there isn’t enough time to get attached to the characters. The game constantly references past events from the game but never shows you. But other than that, the game has absolutely no meaningful choices. Choices are not incorporated into gameplay at all. The only other thing notable is that one of your characters will permanently get killed if you don’t have a high enough support with him. I like this, it’s a good feature, but the game gives you no indication that he might be killed if you don’t do the requirements. Shadow Dragon had the cool mechanic of having to sacrifice characters at a certain point in the game but in Fates, with a character being killed off because of a support bonus, and it just being one character in particular, it feels very cheap.
Another big fault Birthright had was the classes. Imagine thinking this new Fire Emblem game was going to have all these cool new classes like Ninjas, Oni Savages and Samurai … but these are just the same old classes with new coats of paint on them. Ninjas are just Thieves, Oni Savages are just Fighters, and Samurai are just Myrmidons. I get that Hoshido is supposed to feel more akin to Asian culture but it felt like a cheap way to say there were all these new classes. I know I’m just being nitpicky, but still… The Fates series just didn’t feel like it brought a whole lot of new classes like some of the other games in the franchise.
One of the main things that greatly bugs me about the Fates games is the fact that they’re split into two games. I dislike it for two reasons. Firstly because I feel like the games would be much better if they were just one whole game where you had to choose a different paths each time you start a new game. As I mentioned earlier, if you bought a physical copy of the game, you already knew what path you are taking because it’s chosen for you when you start the game. It only really mattered if you bought the digital copy. Fire Emblem Echoes and Fire Emblem The Sacred Stones also have branching story paths, so why does this game have to make multiple copies? Echoes lets you play both paths at once but Sacred Stones makes you choose between two paths every play through, which I find gives it a lot of replay-ability. When playing Fates, you just decide which game to put into your 3DS when deciding which route to choose. The choice of which family to choose would have been much more meaningful if Fates was just one game, which leads me to my second point.
The decision to make Fates into two games feels much more like a business decision compared to a one that would make gameplay better. It didn’t feel good having to go to my local Best Buy at the time and buy two separate copies of a new game. It really hurt my wallet and after playing the game, it made me regret the decision even more. Do I 100% know if the executive decision was made to make Fire Emblem Fates into two games just for the purpose of money? Absolutely not, but when I bought and played these games, it felt much more like money, and not innovation, was in mind while making these games from an executive standpoint.
Although I do not recommend that new players of the franchise start out with Fates, It’s nice that there is a differentiation in gameplay between the two games. Birthright is for new players, as the gameplay is easier; you have access to unlimited funds and experience, and there are battles outside of the main story. Conquest is a more challenging experience, having limited funds, harder map objectives, and no extra missions to gain experience. Conquest is a better game for only a handful of reasons.
7. Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest
As I mentioned earlier, the whole marketing campaign for Fire Emblem Fates was that you’re going to have to pick which family to side with. You do this because you play as an avatar character, commonly named Corrin. The point of avatar characters is that you’re supposed to be able to make them any way you want and they’re supposed to be an every-man type of character. And while you can make Corrin look any way you want, you’re still getting the same character every single playthrough. This wouldn’t be nearly as big of a crime if Corrin wasn’t one of the worst main characters in Fire Emblem. This was extremely apparent in Conquest due to his inaction. The main antagonist of the game is Corrin’s own father, King Garon, and man does he treat his kids like a pile of crap. But does this matter to Corrin? Not one bit. He constantly makes excuses for letting his father do terrible things and it’s incredibly frustrating as a player. It’s mostly Corrin’s siblings that convince him not to talk back or do anything about King Garon, mostly because he used to be a better man and that they shouldn’t question their father. But we as the player never get to see what kind of character he was in the past. This is very apparent when characters like Xander are always mentioning how nice and kind his father use to be, before he was an absolute madman. They never show what a good king Garon was so it’s extremely annoying when every time he’s being a huge dick and I want to kill him, someone tells me not to because he was once a good father. It led to me not liking some of the characters, especially Corrin, because their motivations and whining about not hurting or killing Garon were either a load of BS or just not justified at all. When your father is threatening to kill you but you say “no he was a good father once, don’t kill him” I’m probably not going to like where this was going. It’s just not good for a game to have a main character that isn’t likable.
A very interesting feature that was put into these games was the “My castle” feature. This feature was a little castle area that the player got to customize with different buildings and defense weapons. In between missions you visit the different buildings to hang out with people from your army, buy new weapons, and many other things. A few times throughout your quest, you will have to defend your castle from enemies, and the difficulty will depend on things like where you place your buildings and what units you choose to defend. My castle also had an online feature, you could go and see how other players customized their castle, and you could also try and invade their castle to reap it for rewards. It was a fun mechanic and led to much better customization compared to making an avatar character.
If you have played Conquest, then you know the gameplay is a lot harder than most Fire Emblem games, which isn’t bad if you’re a long standing fan and veteran, but can be incredibly daunting to new players. This is neither good nor bad, it all depends on what kind of player you are. Being a rather seasoned veteran myself, I even found the game to be quite difficult, which was a nice change to the series. The thing with these difficult games in the Fire Emblem series is that they don’t have a lot of variety in all the characters you can use. Choosing what character to use in a playthrough is one of the best parts of a Fire Emblem game, but in Conquest, it’s incredibly difficult because of one feature that has been heavily criticized in the Fates games.
It started in Awakening but Intelligent Systems went a step further with it in Fates, and that is child units. I’m a bit on the fence about child units, but in Fates, all bets are off because they are just ridiculous. In Awakening, the story somewhat fits around the child units and kind of makes sense. But in Fates, they give no explanation, it makes no sense and you can tell it’s a forced mechanic. Now, I know it’s a Fire Emblem game and there are fantasy elements, but how the child units are introduced in Fates is just bizarre. They’re apparently put into a pocket dimension when they are born, which ages them faster but the parents are in the real world so they age normally. Even for Fire Emblem, thats weird. In Conquest, when you have limited funds, access to experience, and you can’t use many units, children were the last thought on my mind. In my playthrough, I only used 2 of them because I just couldn’t afford to stretch out all the experience with all those units and it sucks that you can’t use so many of the units that you’re given. If you’re a fan of Awakening however, you will notice some specific units that stand out.
Owain and Inigo were my two favourite characters in Fire Emblem Awakening, so when I saw they were in Fates, I was overjoyed to see these two loveable guys, also joined by Severa (another character from Awakening). But alas, after I was done being overjoyed, I realized it was kind of strange that these characters were in this game. I figured that it would be explained in game, or that Fates would be set in the same universe as Awakening. As I got through a chunk of the game, and read through most of the three characters support conversations, I realized that my questions would not be answered. They reference and mention the fact that they aren’t from the Nohr or Hoshido, and that they miss their friends back home but as the credits rolled, I didn’t get an answer. It honestly wouldn’t be a big deal, if it didn’t feel like the game was just using the same game mechanics and characters from Awakening. Fates, which feels like more of a direct sequel, should build off of Awakening’s mechanics to be even better, but instead, it just feels like the developers wanted to use the same mechanics that were popular because Awakening sold so well.
I know I’m being more critical of Fates than I was of Shadow Dragon, but that’s because Fates had a good foundation to build on but didn’t do much with it. It copied many of Awakening’s mechanics but didn’t improve upon them. Some of the story elements and characters either aren’t explained fully or can get very annoying. Fates is a much more fun game to play when compared to Shadow Dragon, which is why it is higher on this list, it’s just bogged down from being much better by many aspects that just feel copied, or not fleshed out enough.
6. Sacred Stones
Much to my surprise, since I hadn’t even known of its existence for years, I often hear long time fans say that The Sacred Stones was their first Fire Emblem game. It was the second game to hit North American shelves and is a much-loved game in the series. I specifically remember when I first found out about the game. I thought Fire Emblem Rekka No Ken was the only Fire Emblem game for the Gameboy, but when I first got a good Android phone, I downloaded a ROM of Rekka No Ken because I was young and couldn’t afford to buy a physical copy of the game. When I went to go download the ROM, I got recommendations for another Fire Emblem game called The Sacred Stones. I quickly downloaded it, and thus began my deep dive into Fire Emblem once again.
If you have played a lot of games in the Fire Emblem series, then you know that they usually fall into two categories. There’s the linear games, which feature things like resource management and limited experience, and the game makes you go from chapter to chapter. The other ones feature non linear gameplay, usually having a world map that the player can venture around on, and extra battles that the player can get more money, weapons and experience from. The Sacred Stones falls into the latter type of game, which is the opposite of Rekka No Ken.
The gameplay of Sacred Stones is very tight and I can see why it is many people’s favourite game in the series. It starts off, as many Fire Emblem games do, with a country being invaded by the previously friendly neighbour, thus resulting in the lord character escaping with the paladin class unit. But even though the start of this game is like a lot of other Fire Emblem titles, it blooms into a game that is quite different. As you progress a few chapters into the game, you meet two characters named Garcia and his son Ross. Garcia is quite the seasoned and famous warrior and his son Ross would like to follow in his footsteps. When you click on Ross’ character, you see that he is a Journeyman, a class never before seen in the series. Ross is one of three trainee units, classes that start off very weak but once they promote, become some of the best units in the game. Ross could eventually become a hero, warrior or berserker, Amelia could potentially become a general, great knight or paladin and Ewan could become a summoner, druid, sage or mage knight. This led to a lot of customization options when choosing which characters to play. My favourite elements in the Fire Emblem series is the RPG mechanics and the classes. So when a Fire Emblem game has more than one class change, I get really excited. Although there are only 3 units that can promote more than once, it makes the game much more enjoyable and I always use them in each playthrough.
The diversity of classes should also be mentioned when talking about Sacred Stones. It was the first Fire Emblem game to feature branching class changes. This means that when you promote a unit to a better class, you have a choice in what promoted class they become. An archer doesn’t automatically become a sniper, the player has a choice on whether they become either a sniper or ranger. It’s like this with every other unit in the game, which can make every playthrough you do incredibly different. It still makes each character feel very unique, as they cannot change classes, but the player has a choice about what they promote into. They really feel like they’re playing a specific role, instead of just being able to be any of the classes like in Shadow Dragon or Awakening.
I’m trying not to talk too much about story in this list because story is very subjective (like this whole list isn’t incredibly subjective).I’m not going to talk about whether or not the story is good or bad, but I will touch on the length of it. The Sacred Stones can be a lengthy game if you want it to be, but if you’re playing it just for the story, it isn’t going to be the longest journey. There are only 21 chapters, and 1 gaiden chapter, making it the shortest Fire Emblem game to date. There are multiple dungeon type maps that can really fill your time in this game if you want it to. If you want to train your units or just complete these dungeon maps for fun, your game time will be majorly increased. They are also quite difficult when you attempt to best the higher level maps. Although the story may not be long, that doesn’t mean the game isn’t filled with lots of content, or that it can’t be enjoyed for many long hours.
Fire Emblem The Sacred Stones is a very fun game that would be great for beginners. The diversity in class types, as well as having trainee units, make the game enjoyable and can make every playthrough different. Although the game isn’t very long, you can make it much longer depending on what kind of game you want to play. It was a great second Fire Emblem game to bring to the North American shelves.
5. Fire Emblem Awakening
Depending on who you talk to, fans might say that Awakening saved the Fire Emblem franchise and painted a bright future, or that it was the beginning of the end. It was the first of 4 3DS Fire Emblem games that made the franchise one of Nintendo’s heavy hitters. Depending on what you value in a Fire Emblem game, this game will either be a favourite, or your most hated game. This is because of all the new features and mechanics that were implemented into the game. But does this reinventing game make the franchise better, or is this the end for long time fan? Let us discuss.
The first thing you get to do when you start up the game is create an avatar character. Although not new to Japanese players, the North American and PAL regions have never had an avatar character in a Fire Emblem game prior to Awakening. You only get to customize his/her looks, and their voice, plus one stat they will be good and bad with, but they will always be the tactician class to start with. Fire Emblem has tried to explain why your army is so strong, and their usual answer is that you have a good tactician. In Fire Emblem Rekka No Ken, the avatar character was Mark, a character that never spoke and was only seen on the map. “Mark” was the games way of explaining why each character moved to each specific square and why your small band of warriors were so powerful. Now in Awakening, the avatar’s default name is Robin, and instead of never speaking and being faceless, Robin is an actual character and unit in the game, that can be used in battle and interact with the other characters in this game. I like the idea of an avatar character that can be any class you want. It’s cool to be able to customize, especially in an RPG such as Fire Emblem that is all about classes. However the Tactician class is exclusive only to Robin and their child, and is arguably one of the best classes in Fire Emblem history stats-wise, so unless you’re really passionate about one of the other regular classes in the game, there isn’t much point in changing.
What about Robin as a character though? Well… there isn’t much to say because liking a character or characters is pretty subjective.I will comment on one thing, and that is avatar characters as a whole are a tricky thing to get right, and I don’t think Fire Emblem has really ever done it well. The thing with Avatar characters is that they’re meant to be an everyman type of character. They’re supposed to be able to be imprinted with whatever characteristics the players wants, so they can play the game their way. As an example, in Skyrim, you can create any type of character you want and play them any way you want. As for their actual characteristics and personality? It’s pretty much nonexistent. Your character doesn’t even speak (but I don’t blame Bethesda for this, the game is ridiculously big) which can really take you out of the game even if there are dialogue choices. Fire Emblem doesn’t quite have the kind of scope that Skyrim does, especially since Robin is an actual character. Unlike Skyrim, he speaks, has a voice and an actual personality. But is he a fleshed out, developed character? Not exactly.
I like Robin. He’s one of the few characters in Fire Emblem Awakening that doesn’t have a gimmick, but he really doesn’t have much of a personality either. Yes he’s loyal to Chrom and the Shepard, and he believes in doing the right thing, but that doesn’t always resonate with people because it’s extremely cliché. If I’m creating and playing as that character, I’d want him to have the personality and traits that I want, so I can play the way I want. Now I know that this is way too big for a video game and especially a Fire Emblem game, but I just don’t see the point of having an avatar character if they can’t be customized to be the character I want to play. I’m not expecting this, I just think it kind of hurts the quality of the game to have these kind of avatar characters. It’s really down to personal preference when it comes to these types of characters, but it’s one of the reasons that Awakening isn’t the best Fire Emblem game.
As we are on the topic of characters, Fire Emblem Awakening is differentiated from the other games due to its gimmicky writing. What exactly do I mean by gimmicky? It doesn’t take long while playing the game to notice that almost all of the characters have one extremely defining characteristic that is pretty unrealistic. As an example, Kellam is a knight for the shepards, he’s quite shy and quiet and thus goes unnoticed. When I say unnoticed, I mean he is literally invisible and people don’t usually see him until he says anything. It would make sense, and be realistic, if he was just shy and people just didn’t notice him. But him literally being invisible? I’m sure you can see why I say the characters are a bit far fetched. Most characters are like this in Awakening; Tharja, Owain, Sully, Inigio, Henry, Miriel; the names go on. One of the first things when being taught how to write stories is that characters should be relatable. I understand that Owain just wants to be the hero, but having an unquenchable sword-hand and constantly shouting wacky attack names? It doesn’t really make for relatable characters.
One saving grace is that Fire Emblem Awakening has very memorable characters, even if they aren’t relatable. A lot of Awakening’s characters are my favourite in the series, and their interactions are pretty fun to play out. Yes the characters traits are gimmicky, but I will always adore Inigo’s passion for women and dancing, Vaike’s rivalry with Chrom, and Henry’s love for all things dead. I don’t fully agree that Fire Emblem Awakening has the best characters in the franchise, but I do think they are incredibly memorable.
One more thing about the characters in this game is that it was the first Fire Emblem game to have voice acting outside of cutscenes. Although it’s only short sentences, it can still add a lot of personality to these characters. One of the reasons that Inigo is my favourite character is because I love his voice acting so much. It adds more character definition and personality, instead of just having to read a few lines of dialogue. It was just another feature that made And Awakening and the Fire Emblem franchise a lot more relevant.
So what about the actual gameplay of Awakening? The classes are fantastic; it has some of the best in the series, and has a great variety when it comes to selection. Just like the Sacred Stones, in Awakening you have options when you promote to a new class.The game introduced a lot of new and fun classes as well as bringing back some old ones. Intelligent Systems brought back the Barbarian/Berserker class that hasn’t been in the series since Largo’s Berserker class in Path of Radiance. It’s personally one of my favourite classes because it isn’t in the series very often, so I enjoy playing Awakening a bit more because of it. Other new classes include the Trickster, Dark Knight, Dark Fligher, Griffon Rider, and Tactician/Grandmaster. Having this many classes, that actually differentiate from the regular classes, really makes this game special.
Unfortunately, Awakening has one very big problem, and that is it’s chapter objectives. Every single chapter objective is just to route (kill every enemy) the enemy. This leads to some pretty boring and repetitive gameplay, that was a really weird decision on the developers part considering past games already had some great varied mission objectives. There aren’t even any maps where you have to defend yourself and really shore up an area against waves of enemies. This is a strategy game, make me use my goddamn brain for more things than just mowing down enemies. This is one of the main reasons that this game is not higher on the list.
The Western Fire Emblem audience has only seen the class changing option once, in Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon, but in Awakening it goes mcuh further. Each character can be 3 different classes and can even be demoted in class, meaning they regress and go back, for example, from a general back to a lower class knight, using a second seal. This makes the game even more replayable, giving some customization options while not making each character feel like their initial role is useless. It also lets you flesh out characters even more because each class learns their own specific skills.
That’s right ladies and gentlemen, skills make a big return in Fire Emblem Awakening, and they make a big difference in gameplay. Your units will automatically learn the first skill in a class when they do a class change, and then learn another when they reach level 10 of their base class. Once they promote, they learn two more skills during their 5th and 15th level. This, paired with the ability to change to a few classes, means you can spend hundreds of hours customizing and fleshing out your characters with different skills. It’s also an improvement upon the skill mechanic of previous Fire Emblem titles where each promoted class usually only gets one specific skill. It’s definitely an underappreciated feature that again makes the game replayable to so many degrees.
There is one glaring feature of this game that, if you have played it, you know I haven’t talked about it yet, and that is child units. Although not the first Fire Emblem game to feature child units, it’s the first North American game, and the first mainstream Fire Emblem game to do so. I left it to last because I’m very on the fence about the whole thing. Story wise, the child units make sense and the whole time travel aspect is what the story is built on. It’s explained well, unlike Fates, and can be quite fun. But if you’re engaged in the Fire Emblem community or have friends who only know the series vaguely, it’s often referred to as “waifu simulator”. Frankly, it’s called his because you can match characters up, marry them, and they will have kids. It was a selling point for the game, and quickly drew in fans who really don’t care about the series, just about creating their one true pairing. It gave Fire Emblem a reputation that it didn’t deserve, as I’m sure a lot of people who don’t play the game just see it as this waifu simulator, and not the fantastic strategy RPG that the series really is. However, the mechanic can be fun if you’re doing it for battle and RPG purposes. Child units gain the ability to change into their parents class and also get one of their skills, which means they can potentially turn out very different. Their stats and hair colour also change depending on who their father is (I always make Gauis marry Olivia so Inigo can have red hair!) However, all of this can lead to some broken-ass units. Want a myrmidon with great speed, defence and health? Just get Kellam to marry Lissa so Owain can be broken as hell by having very unrealistic stats to proportioned to his class. What kind of people are Intelligent Systems trying to market to with this feature? Another thing that the developers are guilty for, which I have already mentioned, was taking this child mechanic and shoe horning it into future games. I just really hope that this doesn’t become a series known always as the waifu simulator, but we shall see once we get more info on Fire Emblem Three Houses.
One very last thing I will talk about when it comes to this game, is the pair up system. Basically two of your units can pair up and occupy one space on the map. It increases your stats depending on the classes that pair up, increases supports and sometimes lets the second unit attack or defend during combat. I really like this system, although I recognize it’s very flawed. It once again makes characters super overpowered, and if you’re playing the game on the regular difficulty, then none of the enemies ever pair up. I like the mechanic because it visually shows that your characters are gaining support bonuses with each other, compared to older games. I also like what it could mean if the games map objectives were more varied. It has potential, but Intelligent Systems hasn’t really perfected it yet.
There is no mistaking that Awakening is a great game, but it definitely isn’t the greatest Fire Emblem game. It introduced a lot of new mechanics, which let to a lot of replayability and fun RPG elements, but for every step forward, there were multiple steps back. hell, even leaps backwards. The characters are fun and lively but they’re unrealistic and pretty gimmicky. In the limelight of those characters is Robin, the avatar character, but he’s more like the shell of what an avatar character should be. There are some great new classes in this game, but you really can’t utilize effectively due to every map objective being the same in every damn chapter. I’m eternally grateful for this game and what it has done for the series, but at the same time, parts of this game have given the franchise a reputation that can really turn new fans away. Future Fire Emblem games will always try to build off of this game’s popularity, and I really hope they do it in the right way.
4. Fire Emblem Echoes
The newest game in the franchise, Echoes is a remake of the second Fire Emblem game, Gaiden. It features new and improved graphics, full voice acting, new characters and new game mechanics. The game was faithful to old fans while still being accommodating to new ones. But how does this remake compare to other Fire Emblem games?
I have to give it to the original Gaiden game for inspiring so many mechanics in future Fire Emblem games. I’ll be going into further detail about most of these in a bit, but I thought I should first mention what this game has done for the series. Alm and Celica, the two main characters from the story, clearly had an influence on Eirka and Ephraim’s story in Fire Emblem The Sacred Stones. The game featured third class promotions for the first time, which were later found in Radiant Dawn. Weapon proficiency was also scrapped in this game, which Fates (which came after) also did. Echoes also had 3D dungeons that the player could explore, which as of this moment, seems to be returning in Fire Emblem Three Houses. As you can see, this game is incredibly influential on the series, and the mechanics it brought are still being used to this day.
The gameplay and story being split into two different protagonists is actually a pretty good feature in this game. Whenever I’m playing as Alm and I get stuck or kind of tired of playing as his party, I can just switch to Celica and play as her group instead. The two different groups actually play a lot differently, as they both have many varied units. Alm has more Soldiers and Villager units, while Celica has more Mages and Mercenaries. They also follow different story paths; Alm becomes the general of an army, and Celica’s journey is much more religious. When they meet, it’s pretty clear that they do not follow the same philosophy so they decide to go on separate journeys. It’s a nice change from the Fire Emblem formula of everyone just getting along and banding together instantly.
Perhaps one of the best aspects of this game is that it is fully voice acted. Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn had voice acting in their cutscenes, and Awakening was partially voice acted, but Echoes really outdoes itself. Almost all character interactions are voice acted and it’s the best the series has seen so far. The characters have even more personality and they finally feel like fully fleshed out characters. It’s nice not having to imagine what their voices sound like. I will get down on my hands and knees to beg Intelligent Systems to make all their future games fully voice acted.
One of the thing that really irks me about Echoes is it’s complete lack of classes. I understand that the game has to be faithful to the original, but the number of classes in this game sucks. I really have to hand it to this game because it’s the only other game apart from Radiant Dawn that has more than one promotion per character, but even considering that, the game is still very much lacking in the class department. The game is missing key Fire Emblem classes, like thieves, fighters/warriors, and myrmidons are now class promotions for mercenaries instead of being their own separate class. It just seems like a weird choice for the devs of the original game to not include them, and to still leave them out in the remake. Having such little options for classes means I had a lot of characters who were all the same class, and playing an RPG that doesn’t have a lot of distinct roles isn’t the greatest.
Most of these classes seem to have been axed because, well, there are no axe units in the game besides bandits. Right off the bat, there’s no fighters, pirates,or dracoknights. Why? Why was this decision made? What is the point of just straight up cutting content when it doesn’t improve the quality at all? Are the classes we are given fun? Absolutely. Am I glad that there are multiple promotions? Hell yes. But I really cannot fathom why they cut so much content. Which leads me to another complaint.
There is no weapon triangle in this game. Obviously because there is no third weapon type to make it like rock, paper, scissors. Again, when doing this remake, I feel like it should have been added along with axe weapons. It’s one of the foundations of Fire Emblem so why was it cut but also not added in the remake? There are a lot of things I’d like to ask the developers at Intelligent Systems.
Combat also works pretty differently in Echoes, as attack and defense are literal. If you have 20 attack, then your attacks are going to do 20 damage, but if your opponent has 20 defense, then the attack will only do 1 damage. The same also goes for magic but with magic, when used, it will take away some of your health. Stronger spells will take away more health so you have to be cautious when charging into the battlefield. Archers can also attack from very long distances. Unlike other Fire Emblem games where they have to have a space in between them and their opponent, archers can attack 3, 4, 5 tiles away, hell, even further sometimes. I didn’t think I’d like the way magic and archers work in this game, but I was totally wrong. It feels much more like a battlefield and requires much more forward thinking, which is what I love about these games.
As I mentioned before, weapon proficiency is non existent in this game, which honestly, is very interesting. It’s because every character always has a base weapon that they can use, but they can also equip accessories. These accessories can be better weapons, like a steel sword, longbow or silver lance to do more damage, or an item that increases your stats, or heals you every turn. Equipping some of these weapons will actually give you access to certain skills when you use the weapon enough. These skills can be used any time but at the cost of some health, just like how magic works. Now, I’m a big fan of the weapon proficiency mechanic from other Fire Emblem titles, but the Echoes version of it is very interesting and after thinking about it and playing through the game, I can honestly say that I love it. It’s fun unlocking skills when you change to a better weapon, and I love that you can upgrade weapons at a force, thus making a steel sword into a silver sword using special coins that you find. These weapons are pretty scarce as well, you don’t find them very often and you can’t buy them, so it makes them feel even more special. It would be really cool if future games found some way to mesh the two systems together, but I personally can’t really think of how that would work. Because of the accessory mechanic and how weapons work in this game, Echoes truly stands out from the rest of the crowd.
One major difference in gameplay is the introduction of Mila’s turnwheel. It basically allows you to turn back time, reversing any mistake you may have made that causes a player death. It makes the game much easier and means you won’t be restarting battles as often. But Mila’s turnwheel is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to this game. I like the idea of it and what it means to gameplay, but in Echoes, it’s much too powerful. You can collect clock cogs that gives you more chances to use the turnwheel, but I basically have never run out of uses and thus never lost a battle. I get that the developers are trying to make this game easier for new players and for the gameplay not to seem too daunting, but how easy are we going to make the series? The turnwheel would be much better if you could only use it once or twice a battle, but if I remember correctly, I could use it well past 5 times per battle, meaning I could correct virtually any mistake I made. I really love the idea of this, but it just wasn’t implemented properly and made the game much too easy, and when I play Fire Emblem, I’m looking for a challenge.
Fire Emblem Echoes is quite a good Fire Emblem game and a faithful remake. However, I’m the kind of person that likes improvements in a remake and not all of the ones made in this game were implemented well, like Mila’s turnwheel. As I’ve mentioned, what I really value from Fire Emblem games is the RPG elements, so when this game takes away classic classes and things like weapon proficiency and the weapon triangle, I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth. Luckily, things like skills, and the utility of the classes that are present in this game, like mages and archers, really picks up the slack in terms of gameplay. It’s fun having two protagonists to play as at the same time, even if the two teams all have the same classes. The voice acting is damn good and really brings life to each character and I truly hope that it continues in the series. Many fans, including myself, will be enjoying Echoes for years to come, and maybe this spells a good future for Fire Emblem remasters.
3. Fire Emblem Path of Radiance
Fire Emblem Path of Radiance was released back in 2005 on the Gamecube and was the first in the series to have 3D graphics, landscapes and characters. It was also the first to feature full motion video cutscenes, as well as voice acting. It was the first home console Fire Emblem game to be released in North America. Why does this Fire Emblem of many firsts deserve to be 3rd on my list? Pull up a chair and lets chat.
There are so many important aspects that make a Fire Emblem game great, but I feel like with this game, the most obvious aspect is the graphical overhaul. But here’s the dilemma, do I criticize this as a piece of it’s time, or just overall? That seems like an entire article all on its own arguing if art is timeless or if it should only be judged in the time it was made. If you have an opinion, lemme know down in the comments ladies and gentlemen. I think I’m going to judge this as something for the time it was made in because if I’m being honest, today it looks pretty bad. However back in the day, for the Gamecube era, the game looked pretty decent. Most franchises jumped to 3D during the N64 era but as many people know, the Fire Emblem game for N64 was cancelled. So I feel like some fans were a bit taken aback at the time by a game series that seemed so dependant on 2D visuals. The thing I love about 3D Fire Emblem is that every character has unique avatars during battle. Yes some of the units can looks generic, but for the most part, they look like original characters. I know a lot of people feel passionate about the sprites from Awakening and the GBA titles, and I am as well, but the originality of your characters not looking exactly like your enemies looks nice and feels special.
Since there is never a time when I’m not playing Fire Emblem, and I’m constantly watching and hearing other people’s opinion on the series, my own opinion has changed over the years. One of those opinions is that I think the environmental design of Fire Emblem games is kind of boring. Do I love playing on some of the maps? Girl you know it. Are the maps memorable? Well I’ve played them so many times I know them like the back of my hand. But all the games essentially have all of the same kinds of maps. Of course there are some exceptions but most maps can be boiled down to open grassy battlefield, castle, an annoying sand level, the odd pirate ship level and a couple of chapters with some villages and shops. My point is that in 3D, all of these overused concepts and landscapes look a bit more fleshed out. Yes I love the sprites in older games, but it’s the same damn house and shop in every town, the same door, same tree, same mountain. And to criticize myself a bit, it is like this in Path of Radiance to a huge degree, I just think the 3D style of the game makes everything seem a little less similar. Things just seems a bit more real is what I’m trying to say.
One of the things that I don’t like about the 3D Fire Emblem games is that the combat is pretty boring. The normal combat is pretty much just people whacking each other with weapons, and the critical hits just aren’t very spectacular. The older, sprite driven games look incredible and each class’ combat sequence is different and unique. There are also no combat windows during combat, telling the player how much damage they are doing or receiving, or the hit rate and critical hits. I usually turn the combat sequences off in Path of Radiance, and its sequel Radiant Dawn, just because they take so long, look incredibly boring, and if I can’t see how much damage the enemy is going to do then I just don’t see the point. I totally see why there is a high demand for the series to go back to sprites.
The Tellius series (consisting of Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn) is very special because of it’s classes, but POR is special for its introduction of so many new classes. Most of these classes aren’t your normal Fire Emblem classes however, because they’re special units called Laguz. Laguz are a species of sub-humans who can transform into animals such as large cats, tigers, lion, hawks, ravens, dragons and the special heron race. When untransformed, they just appear as very hairy humans with tails. In combat, they have transformation gauges that fill up every turn, or there are items that can be used to fill the gauge. Once the gauge is filled, they can transform and thus their stats are doubled and they can attack enemies. The Beast tribe is weak against fire, birds against wind, and dragons against thunder. They are extremely powerful but level up a lot slower than normal human units. I haven’t played Path of Radiance many times due to it being so hard to find, but I do own Radiant Dawn and have beaten it multiple times. I have never once used Laguz units willingly because I’m too old fashion and I love the typical Fire Emblem units. However, I do realize that Laguz units are a really tight idea. It’s creative and Path of Radiance is the only game in the franchise to really go out of the box with unit types. It leads to a lot more strategy and forward thinking because when the Laguz unit is transformed and they attack an enemy or get attacked, their transformation gauge goes down, and when it hits zero, they go back into their human form where there stats are terrible and they can die easily. You have to plan out where you put each Laguz unit and make sure they don’t get surrounded, or that their gauge isn’t too slow. Maybe my new playthrough, I will use a lot of Laguz units because some of them seem super cool! While we are on the topic of classes, I love the Solider/Halberdier class. This is the only game besides Echoes and Radiant Dawn that has this class and it’s such a sturdy, useful and fun unit types. There are spear fighters in Birthright, but once again, it’s just a cheap copy that was marketed as something new.
Like I’ve said, I won’t try and talk too much about story because that’s too personal of an opinion, unless the story is fantastic. But I will talk about the changes this game made to the Fire Emblem formula. A lot of Fire Emblem games have the same story, just with different names. This game does follow some of them, neighbouring nation invades for no reason, you raise an army up to fight that nation, somehow involve the Fire Emblem, along with the usual parent death thrown somewhere in there. But the game does change up the formula a lot in some meaningful way. First of all, Ike is a great, relatable protagonist who isn’t royalty, unlike the other main characters. His goals are understandable; he’s made an army general even though he doesn’t want lordship or money, he just wants to find the man who killed his father. Which is another thing, the Black Knight is the greatest enemy in the entire Franchise. To be fair, the franchise is known for not having the greatest bad guys, but the Black Knight stands above the rest. That’s probably because he’s quite intimidating. When he appears in a chapter, in a conversation, and you hear that daunting theme come on, you know you’re … and just to prove my point… you’re pretty fucked. I normally don’t swear in my articles but there’s no other way to describe how impossible this guy is to kill. His stats are crazy high, you can’t damage him, and his sword is massive and will easily kill any and all of your units. But perhaps the BEST part about the Black Knight is that you have no idea who he is. I love a mystery character. I think mystery is the cornerstone of any great story and this one is amazing. Even as the stones of Nados Castle fell upon his defeated soul, you still don’t find out who the Black Knight is. I’m sure it really frustrated players at the time because they had no idea there would be a sequel , but it’s better than the same old, killing some stupid old dragon that no one cares about at the end of the game. Like the old saying goes, the hero is only as good as it’s villain, and in this case, it’s definitely true.
The games protagonist, Ike, is very different from other Fire Emblem protagonists for quite a few reasons. First, he isn’t a Lord or any kind of royalty. He’s just a common mercenary who accidently gets pushed into a war that didn’t concern him. Ike also isn’t constantly going on about things like friendship or making sure he does what is right, he’s all about survival and being stronger, but doesn’t throw it in your face non-stop. You get to see him go through a lot on his journey, like the death of his father, the relationships he develops with Soren, Ranaulf, and a few other characters, his discovery of the Laguz tribes, and his quest for revenge. It’s a change of pace for the main character to develop real relationships with side characters outside of support conversations. He does, however, fall into the franchise cliché of being a blue-haired swordsman whose parents are dead. It wouldn’t be Fire Emblem without some of the series tropes.
Path of Radiance does have some small changes compared to the others games that improve its quality of life. The first thing is that you can carry four items compared to the past games where you can only carry 5 items and weapons all together. Any character can carry 8 items, 4 weapons and 4 healing items/miscellaneous. Sure, it makes item management easier, but it just makes combat overall more enjoyable and means you won’t have to constantly shuffle around a character’s inventory. One of the things I enjoy about Fire Emblem is resource management, but shuffling around weapons and healing items for 20 minutes because characters can only carry 5 things can get kind of annoying.
Another addition to the series in Path Of Radiance was the base mechanic. In between chapters, the players can do multiple things at the base. Like listening to support conversations, item management, giving players extra EXP, and listening to other conversations relating to story. I much prefer the support system in this game compared to the GBA games. In the GBA titles, characters had to stand next to each other in battle for possibly hundreds of turns before they gained a support. When they finally do, they can only have 5 support conversations total. So if they get to an A support with a character, that counts as 3 support points. It’s a really dumb system that I almost ignore half the time when I play the GBA games. In Path of Radiance, characters just have to participate in the same battle as each other to build supports and they can gain as many supports as are available to them. They also have their conversations at the base rather than on the battlefield, which is way more realistic.
As I’ve mentioned a few times before, there are linear and nonlinear Fire Emblem games, and this is one of the linear ones. The linear games are usually much more focused on story and have limited EXP and funds to go around. This game includes one feature that I think should be in all Fire Emblem games. It would fix the whole idea of grinding in games like Awakening and Birthright to level up your characters. Bonus experience is gained by completing chapters and you can gain even more by completing certain objectives. This means you can strengthen weaker units, or just give levels to whoever you want in between battle. In certain playthroughs, some units can fall behind and eventually become obsolete because they can’t gain the levels to stay relevant. If you’re stuck on a certain chapter, you can also buff units to make them stronger and are able to take on more units. This whole process is much faster, and easier than grinding for levels by doing optional skirmishes. You also don’t have to find promotional items or use masterseals to promote your units. They just have to reach level 21 and it happens automatically. Like I said, it’s these small changes that really improve its quality.
Fire Emblem Path of Radiance is a fantastic Fire Emblem game and a great starting point for new players. If it weren’t almost $150 used, then I would recommend that anyone buy it. Sadly, it is one of the most rare games on the Gamecube. For all it’s good features, Path of Radiance does have a few shortcomings. Although the game does have a somewhat different story with Ike, the Black Knight, and the Laguz, the overall plot is very similar to other Fire Emblem games. The game also doesn’t have many new and interesting classes, but if you like the Laguz units, you’re in luck. But in my humble opinion, Path of Radiance is a fantastic game. The small changes that it made to the Fire Emblem formula really make it stand out from the other games. The Black Knight mystery as well as the overall message of the story, not conforming to society’s standard, as well as racism, really makes a fantastic story. Each chapter feels pretty different, which is complimented by the new 3D graphics. I would recommend you go play this game.
2. Rekka No Ken
Fire Emblem The Blazing Blade, or Rekka No Ken, or just Fire Emblem, was the first game in the franchise to be released outside of Japan and was many fans’ (including myself), first Fire Emblem game. This is the most quintessential Fire Emblem game as it has every Fire Emblem trope, it really teaches you the ins and outs of the game and has a great variety of gameplay that sets a good standard for future games. But why does this first title and very cliché Fire Emblem game stand so high above the rest? Well, for many reasons.
As the game starts out, you’re introduced to Lyn, an orphan from the plains of Sacea, and an avatar character original called Mark. Now, right off the bat, I should say that Mark is basically useless and a sad excuse for any kind of avatar character. But Lyn is the main character for about 10 chapters of the game and can just be considered a glorified tutorial. It teaches you the basics, like the weapon triangle, character classes, terrain, class changes, and other basic mechanics. Many criticize Lyn’s chapters for being boring and just a pointless tutorial that doesn’t really go with the rest of the plot, and yes this is true when you’re playing the game for the 10th time, but when it first came out, and for new players, Lyn’s campaign is pretty important.
One of the best parts of Blazing Blade is the fact that there are 3 main characters. Eliwood, the main Lord who has balanced stats, Lyn, the speedy katana wielding girl from the plains, and Hector, the hot-headed Lord who has high strength and defense. Eliwood is the main character for most of the game, but once you beat the game, you can play Hector mode. Hector mode has a few different chapters and plot points, and makes Hector the main character instead of Eliwood. Even though Lyn is only the main character for 10 chapters, it still feels like there is a lord character for everyone to like. Plus it just means there are more characters who get the spotlight. It also means there are more ways to play and the game has a bit more replayablity than the average Fire Emblem game. Hector Hard mode is also a pretty good challenge which is never a bad things when it comes to these games.
One thing I always hear praised about the GBA games is the pixel art. I know I also mentioned it while talking about Sacred Stones, but this game also has a lot of custom sprites with Eliwood, Lyn, and Hector. Certain characters like Hawkeye, Athos and Nergal also have custom sprites and aren’t even lord characters. I see why so many fans beg the developers to go back to this art style.
As we are on the topic of characters, Blazing Blade holds a special place in my heart when it comes to Fire Emblem. You see, in my opinion, it’s hard to get character party size right in these games. What do I mean exactly? Well your characters don’t feel very special if there are 6 other characters who are also the same class. Yes I realize I have a lot of choice whenever I do a playthrough and I have 6 cavaliers to choose from, but they just don’t feel very special. In Blazing Blade, you only get a certain amount of each class, usually around 2. The second one is usually pre promoted so by the time you get them, you already have better characters. There are even some classes (dark mage, nomad, troubadour) where you only get once character like Canas, Rath, and Priscilla. Even characters like Guy, Matthew, Lucius, Heath, and Dart feel very special because you get most of them early on (some even in Lyn’s chapters) so you spend most of the game with them and they’re your only choice for that class unless you wait for a while. This also means that you don’t have a large cast of characters that you aren’t using throughout your game. Since this is another linear Fire Emblem game, you don’t really have time to train your units, or do you?
In many respects, Fire Emblem Blazing Blade can be quite the strenuous game. It has difficult chapters, and some of the optional objectives can be hard. But unlike most linear Fire Emblem games, there is a way to train your units. The arena is a place where your party fights enemies until one of you dies, for gold and experience. Usually the opponents aren’t very hard but even if they are, you can back out of the fights before your character dies. This can be really game breaking considering you’re always getting a lot of EXP and gold if you win. Yes it’s nice if your units are falling behind, if you need some gold or if you want to spend the time to train a large amount of units. But it’s an easy, although time consuming, way to level up your characters to way past where they should be. It’s just game breaking and deprives this game of being truly difficult when your characters can easily reach max levels and have endless amounts of gold.
Something that is somewhat of a downer when it comes to this game is the support system. In Blazing Blade characters have to end their turns beside each other in order to gain supports with certain characters. They then initiate a conversation on the battlefield, resulting in their support level going up. The main problem with this is that characters can only gain a certain amount of support bonuses. Getting to an A rank support counts as 3 support points, and in total you only have 5 points per character. So if you have 7 characters you can support with, you can’t even gain C support ranks with them all. If you want to get backstory for most characters, you’re probably going to have to play the game multiple times. It’s one of the worst variations of the support system in Fire Emblem.
If you have played a lot of Fire Emblem games then you know what Gaiden chapters are. If you haven’t, then Gaiden chapters are just side chapters either give more context to the story, extra characters, or certain items. The best part about these chapters is that they are completely optional. For those who want a full experience, they can complete these chapters to get all the characters and all the story. Although, you will probably need a guide to find out how to get every Gaiden chapter, as they are quite difficult to achieve. They also make the game a lot longer, if you want to have a lengthy play-through for your Fire Emblem experience. All in all, they make this game a lot better, longer and more fun.
Blazing Blade is just a fantastic game altogether. It’s challenging, has multiple modes to play and thus is very re-playable, it has fantastic characters and the RPG elements of the game are perhaps one of the best in the series. The game’s pixel art is incredibly nostalgic and some of the best the GBA every produced. Some of the character models in the game are quite good and some are even specially made for certain characters. Like any game though, it does have a few hiccups. The support system in this game is really bad and frustrating and the game can easily be broken by just abusing the arena. This is a really great place for newcomers to the series. I can only hope that they remake the prequel to this game since it’s region locked to Japan.
1 . Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn
The black sheep of the franchise is, in my opinion, the best game in the series and you better sit your ass down and listen to what I have to say because I do indeed, have a lot to say. I’d definitely say the odds were stacked against this game from the start. This was a serious, difficult game that was on a system built to cater to casual fans that liked the idea of motion controls. But I assure you that this not only the greatest Fire Emblem game, but one of the greatest games on the Wii altogether. After reading this, I hope you go and work until you can afford the game because God damn, this is one of the rarest games for the Wii.
Let us begin where, well, this game begins. It starts with Michiah, a commonwealth girl who can perform miracles by healing the injured without any staves. She is accompanied by the Sothe, the familiar thief from Path of Radiance that was looking for a friend when he met commander Ike. Turns out that friend was Michiah. So if you have played Path of Radiance (which since you’re playing the sequel to it, I’m guessing so), then you’re hit with a whole lot of new characters with a bit of familiar in the way of Sothe. Michiah and Sothe are part of a group of vigilantes who fight for their home country of Daein, to be free from the tyrant reign of Begnion. Many people criticize Michiah and it’s not very hard to see why. I’m sure many people were hoping to see Ike when they started this game but instead they are hit with a bunch of characters who they don’t know who come from the country that was the enemy in the past game. She is always called a “Mary-Sue” type character because of how perfect she is in every way. Now, I don’t know about you but I haven’t met many people who are perfect in my lifetime. I’m not going to argue that Michiah is a great character, or even a good lord (those speed and defense stats are the worst I’ve ever seen), but she isn’t all that bad. Like I said, I believe that Michiah really had the odds stacked against her by being from the enemy country, not being Ike in general plus by being not the greatest character stats-wise. BUT, for once, one of the main lords of a Fire Emblem game is not a blue haired swordsman. Michiah is in fact, the only light mage in the entire game. She also has to make a lot of hard choices by following Pelleas’ orders and entering into a war that she doesn’t believe in. Yes it contradicts her personality but she’s the general of an army, she has a duty and, while contradiction can be viewed as bad writing, there’s nothing more human than contradiction.
There is more to the first act than our Silver-Haired maiden however, as she is part of the Dawn Brigade. They’re a rag-tag group attempting to liberate Daein from Begnion’s hold. I think the Dawn Brigade is a great place to start the game from, because it gives you a perspective of a nation who is trying to rebuild after losing a war and for once, the perspective of the “enemy country” in a Fire Emblem game. Being the rookies they are, they are also the only characters in the game who start as the first pre-promotional units, as all the characters from part 2 and onward have at least changed classes once. Because of the Dawn Brigade, you get to level up and spend lots of time with these characters, while also experiencing every kind of class (except Pegasus knight) from the start of their unit type. Ike and the Greil Mercenaries aren’t in the Dawn Brigade, but you do get characters like illyana, Sothe, Tormond, Jill, and Zihark.
Just like Echoes, Radiant Dawn also has a second class promotion for each unit type, which is why Radiant Dawn is one of the best Fire Emblem games. Radiant Dawn has 72 playable characters in it, 42 of them returning from Path of Radiance, so it wouldn’t be very fun to start out with low level returning characters when you spent all that time levelling them up in the game before. This is one of the reasons why there are 2nd promotions, the others being that the game is quite long, and pretty hard if you aren’t a very experienced Fire Emblem player. Two promotions for each unit types means that you really get to feel a sense of progression with all of your units. Characters like Edward and Nolan go from inexperienced nobodies to absolute beasts on the battlefield. There is nothing better in an RPG than feeling like your characters have really grown statistically. And damn do Marksmen kick ass.
Even though this game has 3rd tier units and some very powerful unit types, why does everyone say it is so hard? Fire Emblem is usually associated with difficult gameplay due to permadeath, so what does this game do so differently that some critics gave it a bad score due to it being too hard? In the Japanese versions of the game there are 3 modes, normal, hard and maniac, while in the North American versions there is easy, normal and hard which replace normal, hard and maniac. If you don’t want a hard experience, just play easy mode, you get almost 50 EXP every time you kill someone, get tons of experience, enemies aren’t that hard, and hell, you can even use units like Fiona and Meg. Is hard mode in this game difficult? Hell yeah. But what do you expect? No one should be coming to this game as a newcomer in the series anyway. They constantly reference things from the first game, the game isn’t very cliché Fire Emblem like Blazing Blade or Awakening, and many of the game mechanics aren’t like typical Fire Emblem. But is this game hard? Not really if you know your strengths. Hell, in easy and normal mode, you can save the game at any literal point in your turn and go back to it if any of your characters die. In past Fire Emblem games, if you saved during a chapter, you’d be kicked to the title screen and be forced to start at that point, and once you do the save gets erased. This alone makes the game incredibly easy. Even during the later chapters, you get characters that are almost impossible to kill and there is literally only 1 enemy in the game who is a 3rd tier unit. Get good if you want to play Radiant Dawn. All Fire Emblem games are difficult, but if they weren’t, it wouldn’t be a good strategy game.
Because this game is so long, and has so many units, it is split up into 4 parts. Part 1 you play as Michiah and the Dawn Brigade as they liberate Daein. Part 2 is Elincia and the Crimean Royal Knights as they try and stop a civil war. Part 3 you play as Ike and the Greil Mercenaries as they join Gallia to fight a war against Begnion. And part 4 you play as 3 different teams which can be customized except for certain characters. Also in part 2, you get to play as the Dawn Brigade for a few chapters, as they join the war on Begnion’s side and thus have to fight against Ike.
The way this game is broken up does have some pretty big flaws. You can go quite a while without playing as certain characters, which sucks if you play on harder difficulty. As an example, you play the first part of the game as the Dawn Brigade, but after part 1, you don’t get to play as them again until half way through Part 3, and it’s only for a few chapters. This leads to a lot of characters being under levelled. There are also a few times when the Greil Mercenaries are pitted against the Dawn Brigade and it is in no way a fair fight. Once you get to part 4, the Dawn Brigade is usually way worse in terms of levels. There are even certain characters who will not be playable during certain chapters for seemingly bullshit story reasons, again, making it hard to level up certain characters. Radiant Dawn is also one of the only games in the series where you get more characters on a second playthrough. I like the idea of this, but the two characters you get once you beat the game are King Pelleas and Lehran, and you get them extremely late in the game. Why wouldn’t Pelleas be playable once you meet him in the game? Yes he is a king but that never stops… basically every main character in Fire Emblem, ever. It’s just a shame something like this wasn’t done better to further promote replayability.
One thing that I praise the first game in this series for, the support system, was seemingly scaled back in this game. In Radiant Dawn, the support system has almost no dialogue, doesn’t give characters backstories and is probably the worst in the series. When the player is in the base, they choose 2 characters who will support each other, and they can only support one and other and no one else. You can switch characters to support each other, but their previous one gets erased. Support conversations happen on the battlefield and basically go like this, “Hey, be safe out there. Don’t die please!” … that’s it. They’re incredibly boring, give no sort of story, and aren’t personalized for certain characters. It seems a bit lazy that the developers couldn’t write any support conversations and give more backstories for characters that are well loved. With newcomers to the series like the Dawn Brigade, it really sucks that you know almost nothing about their backstory or relationships with each other. Even with well known characters like the Greil Mercenaries, you don’t learn anything more about them either. Fire Emblem is known for having long support conversation that give good backstories to the side characters, but it usually doesn’t paint an entire picture, just one aspect of their life. So with characters like Ike, Oscar, and Boyd, it would be nice to learn even more about them. It definitely drags this game down quite a bit when compared to other Fire Emblem games.
What about the other improvements/fall backs? Well since this game was on the Wii and not the Gamecube like its predecessor, it had improved graphics. Well, for the most part. Things like character portraits and menus look a lot better since they’re much more detailed and don’t nearly look as fuzzy as before. The cutscenes also run a lot smoother and look less clunky. Unfortunately, just like the previous game, the voice acting is still not the greatest, but for the time it was made it, it wasn’t that bad. It just doesn’t hold up to today’s standards. The maps for each chapter, while are improved slightly, aren’t very different. I still find these 3D maps a lot better than the pixelated 2D maps however.
Speaking of maps, Radiant Dawn has the best map variation of the series. If you have played a lot of these games, you know that they basically boil down to: open grass field, castles, a desert level, a few fog of war maps and the occasional town. But this game, it has something special when it comes to map diversity. Chapter 1 of part 2 is exclusively in the sky with only flying characters. There’s a snow map, a battle fought on a crumbling bridge, one fought in a mansion, a swamp map and quite a few other interesting ones. It’s always nice when a Fire Emblem games breaks from the typical formula.
The thing that is the heart of Radiant Dawn is without a doubt the story. What starts out as a battle for freedom from oppressors, becomes a fight against racism, to a battle between two opposing Gods. The whole story revolves around racism and basically how stupid it is. Especially when religion is involved. If we were all created by Gods than how are any of us less than equal? The game even ponders the question of Gods not being perfect beings. Yuna, the god of destruction, doesn’t even know of the existence of the branded race, a race where Laguz and Beorc have children which is apparently wrong in eyes of the Gods. Yet Starfan remarks that they have been treated poorly for centuries and it is all based on lies. Radiant Dawn isn’t just about saving the world from an evil country and then having to fight a dragon at the end. It’s about real world problems and prejudices that we deal with every day. It also shows us that things like racial hate are due to ignorance and misplacement of power. As Jill remarks in the previous game, the people of Daein are taught to hate the Laguz, while someone like Ike who hadn’t seen one, literally doesn’t understand why anyone could hate Laguz, considering they’re all the same on the inside. In Radiant Dawn, most of the characters who hated the Laguz, like Shinnon, Soren and Jill, either have befriended many of the other race, or simply just don’t mind them. It goes to show that once you really get to know the people you hate for no reason, you realize how stupid it is to begin with. Hell, even the branded, who are hated by both races, become well loved. Michiah is revealed to be branded and becomes the queen of Daein, while Soren is actually the long lost son of king Ashnard and is also branded.
Another big theme of Radiant Dawn, like I mentioned before, is religion. Because all of Tellius is engulfed in war, the Fire Emblem releases the goddess Ashera to judge Beorc and Laguz alike as she turns them all to stone. The dark goddess Yuna also awakens, and much to Ike and Michiah’s dismay, she is actually quite kind and thoughtful. She reveals that history is remembered very wrongly, that the gods are very flawed, and that they are very out of tune with the world today. Yuna even admits to Ike at the end of the game that the world doesn’t really have a use for Gods. Ike remarks that it may be true, but that we aspire to be better because of them, which is a really great message. What I’m saying is that the concept and real meaning behind this story is much better than other Fire Emblem games. It has real world problems and concepts that most people can relate to, and that’s what great writing does.
Another great thing these ideas bring with them is fantastic worldbuilding. RPGs usually have very big, sprawling worlds that are rich with history and politics, and Radiant Dawn is no exception. The game very heavily features politics that are not very hard to follow, thanks to it being the second game of the series. The player will probably remember all the countries and the ties they have to one another other, the history of each race, and character relationships. Just like the first game, there is also a lot of mystery, and questions that haven’t been answered in this universe. Things like the identity of the Black Knight, why Serenes forest was burned down, and why King Ashnard started the war with Crimea. Fire Emblem is all about the characters, and you really get a sense of who these people are, where they come from, their ideals, aspirations and desires, and how they fit into this world, all thanks to the beautiful world that Intelligent Systems created.
I implore any Fire Emblem veteran to try this game if they haven’t already, and anyone else who is a huge fan of strategy games. Yes the game can be challenging on higher difficulties but if you want something simple, easy mode really isn’t that hard. Radiant Dawn has the best RPG elements of any Fire Emblem game, with its multiple class promotions, great map and objective variations, as well as a great skill system. The world of Tellius is incredibly fleshed out in this game, to the point where every continent is memorable, that characters are relatable, and the history is very detailed and defined. The mystery and revelations in this game are easily the best in the series, and really make the story standout. The cutscenes are much better than it’s predecessor, as well as the character portraits, backgrounds and menus. The only real shortcoming is the game being separated into parts where you can’t control some characters for large amounts of time, the support system is really bad and barebones, and on some of the harder difficulties it is literally impossible to use certain characters. The 3D graphics are not hugely improved when it comes to chapters and battlefields. But these small short-comings are nothing when compared to the scope and greatness of this game. After writing so much about this game, I think I might just jump back into it. It cost over $100 so you bet your ass I’m going to get my money’s worth.
No matter where I am in life, no matter what I’m doing or what I have on the go, I’m always playing a Fire Emblem game. I will always love this series and the community that is built around it. From everyone I have talked to about this game, it seems like everyone has a different story about why they love it, which game is their favourite and why it is their favourite. Fire Emblem is a fantastic strategy game that really emphasises relationships and good ideals. I love how difficult and punishing it can be due to permadeath, and as each new game comes out, you bet your life I’ll be there to play it. I do have some complaints about the franchise though, like characters beginning to get over sexualized, every character looking like they’re 12, there not being much innovation when it comes to core gameplay or secondary mechanics, and just the clichés that have been run into the ground within the series. Despite all these complaints, Fire Emblem is still my favourite series. I really hope you enjoyed reading my list, I’m sure you don’t agree with it all but I put a lot of time and love into it. Please comment down below and let me know what you think, and maybe we can have a lovely chat about this wonderful franchise. Thank you so incredibly much for reading, I cannot express how much I have though about this article and I’ve never put this much work into anything in my life.