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Review- Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon

February 23, 2009

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a tactically minded person must want an interesting strategy title to play.  Ensemble Studios (may it rest in peace) founded itself on that principle, and while it may have lost its way after a time, the work created within those hallowed halls kept me entertained and harvesting gold and upgrading my town hall to a keep quite often when I wasn’t building cannon towers in Warcraft 2 with Blizzard Entertainment and building walls out of farms.  My point is that strategy titles, be they real-time or turns based, have occupied me for years when I felt the need to engage in some mild megalomania.

That brings me to Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, a revamping of the original Fire Emblem game that was made for the NES (known in Japan as Famicom apparently).  This game had never before been released out of Japan, though in recent years there have been a couple Fire Emblem titles released here, they were part of secondary story lines taking place in the same world but different continents in that world.  In Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, the main character is Marth, of Super Smash Brothers: Melee fame for those of you who never played Fire Emblem on an emulator.

The game has all of the trappings of a Fire Emblem game, from the micromanagment of individual units to the short battle scenes, laughable dialogue, and thrilling music.   For people who have never played a Fire Emblem title before the game can be very frustrating because if one of your soldiers dies on the battlefield, there is no way that you can bring him back, not even if you obtain every item in the game will Aeris… I mean… the soldier come back.  That is what invests me in the Fire Emblem games, along with animated battles and the great unit variety and versatility, the risk that you undertake with each battle.   You could spend hours and hours upgrading Frey, a Cavalier character, only to have him be mowed down by an archer because you were not paying attention to your flanks.

I realize this makes the game sound frustrating and not entertaining, but if that is what you take away from this review, you are missing the point, at least in my opinion.  Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is an epic JRPG/Turn-based strategy game with silly dialogue that allows you to take on overwhelming enemy forces and journey on a noble quest, and have some laughs as well as some tears while you do it.  The learning curve is not steep if you play through the new prologue, which aids newcomers to the series in adjusting to the battle system.  That being said, I guarantee there will be times where you will find yourself stuck on a battle, unable to save one of your units, and you will have to make a terrible choice, and that’s what this game is all about.  There is a sense of urgency throughout the game that makes it all the more compelling, and that is why, time and time again after putting away my DS in frustration, I unzip the case, take out the stylus, and begin the battle again.

-Amanda/Seamus

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