Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon Review

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is a remake of the original Famicom game for the DS, melding together the story from the original with the game mechanics of recent iterations. If you’ve played past Fire Emblem games, like Sacred Stones, then you will be right at home with the goings on. Let’s see what kind of trouble Marth can get himself into.

The game opens with a prologue and training stages, explaining how Marth is forced to flee from his kingdom of Altea after his father, the king, and armies are betrayed by Gra. Marth successfully escapes and must then wait until the time comes when he can reclaim his kingdom and save the continent from the evil forces with the powerful Falchion sword.

These first stages are very simple and are just used to introduce the player to some of the game mechanics. The action and game map are on the bottom screen, where you move your soldiers around, while the top screen displays a myriad of information. Tutorials will pop up on the top screen whenever a new mechanic is introduced and these are very unobtrusive and easy to understand. Aside from displaying tutorials, the top screen can also show character stats or the entire game map with soldier locations.

The main gameplay is fairly simple to understand. Fire Emblem is a turn-based strategy, and you move all of your troops, and then the enemy gets to move theirs. To help you out a bit with your strategy, you can press the X button to display your enemies attack range, so you can stay out of that range until you are ready for battle. There are an assortment of classes and soldier-types so it’s definitely something you need to take into account before haphazardly running into a fight, as some enemies are more vulnerable to certain weapons or classes. Shadow Dragon also makes use of the weapon triangle, with swords, axes, and lances, which works like rock, paper, scissors, however, I found that this isn’t too important. Before you attack, you can also cycle through your weapons with ease to see which will do the most damage, and so forth.

Each character can hold five items, including an assortment of weapons. It’s always good to have a few weapons on hand, as they can only be used a certain number of times before breaking. Also, unlike most games, when a character dies, he or she is gone for good. Each character has a story, personality, and traits, and isn’t some stock soldier you can simply repurchase from a barracks. This adds more urgency to fighting and gives you more of a reason to plan carefully. Luckily, there are ample save opportunities so you can restart if a character does die.

The game opens with you only having a few soldiers at your side, but as you progress, more and more allies will come to your aid and join your army. The main characters will simply join along with the story, but you can recruit soldiers on your own in a variety of ways. You can visit kingdoms on the map, which is done by moving over a specific tile and selecting the “visit” option; or by talking with a specific enemy soldier with a specific character. You can get details on these recruit-able soldiers by visiting towns and speaking with villagers, but this isn’t really necessary, as these enemy soldiers are easily identifiable. Recruiting these characters is very valuable and definitely something you should do whenever you get the chance.

Once you get through the third chapter, more options are unlocked that allow you to prepare before a battle, as opposed to just getting thrown into the mix. You can choose which units will be used in the battle, as well as moving them around the map. You can also change the characters’ classes, and sort out the inventory, as well as upgrading and purchasing new weapons. During gameplay, you can also trade with nearby units, as well as visiting a Forgery to upgrade weapons.

Fire Emblem: SD also features some multiplayer and WiFi modes. With these modes, you can play against a friend or anybody around the world. If you are playing with a registered friend, you can make use of the microphone and chat with your buddy, which is neat. You can also lend out and borrow soldiers that people upload, which is a good way to even the playing field. There is also an online shop where you can get the chance to purchase special weapons.

Overall, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is another great Fire Emblem game that stays true to the series, but doesn’t really add in anything extra. The touch controls work fine, but buttons are more accurate. The WiFi features are a nice addition, but nothing innovative. It is a good remake though, and definitely nice to see Marth take on some soldiers. If you’re a fan of the TBS genre, then this is a great game to play, and with the added Hard mode and ability to take on actual players from around the world, you’ll have your work cut out for you.

Overall Score: 8/10

Posted in cooperation with GamersPlatform

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