Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn Hands-On

We spend a few hours with a near-finished version of this promising turn-based strategy game.

Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn's North American release date is now less than a month away, but this week marks the first opportunity that we've had to spend some time with an English-language version of the game. The differences between the North American game and the Japanese version that we played previously are minimal, but the addition of 16:9 support is certainly a bonus for those of us with the necessary hardware to play games in widescreen. Given that the Fire Emblem games are known for their strong character-driven narratives, playing the English-language version of Radiant Dawn has let us get a much better feel for the story than we had previously. We've also put to good use a number of new features that we didn't know existed until now.

When you start a new game of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, you'll be able to choose from three difficulty settings, though the hardest of them will be locked the first time you play. That might be disappointing for those of you who have beaten previous games in the long-running series, but having spent some time playing on the middle difficulty setting, we can report that it offers a reasonable challenge. If you're a fan of the series, then you might recognize some of Radiant Dawn's protagonists, such as the rogue Sothe, who is undoubtedly one of the most powerful characters in your party early on. You'll also recognize the vast majority of Radiant Dawn's gameplay features, although there are definitely a handful of older ones returning, and some all-new features in the mix.

Combat animations are brief, but they look good and don't get old nearly as quickly as you might expect.

For those of you who aren't familiar with this particular turn-based strategy series, Fire Emblem distinguishes itself from the competition with a number of key features. Perhaps the most obvious of these is the fact that once a member of your party dies in the game, that's it; they're dead. If the character in question was story-critical then you'll unceremoniously be presented with a "game over" screen. If his or her presence isn't strictly necessary for the story to progress, then you have the option to just continue onward, which can be a difficult decision if you've invested a lot of time into that character's development or simply happen to like his or her particular brand of damage-dealing. In previous Fire Emblem games, the idea of replaying entire levels in an attempt to save a character's life could be a daunting prospect, but Radiant Dawn introduces a "battle save" option that lets you save your progress at any point during a battle. This has the side effect of making the game significantly easier if you choose to use it a lot, but it certainly beats having to play through the early stages of any given battle repeatedly.

Another feature of the Fire Emblem games that's worthy of a mention is the fact that characters who are being attacked don't simply stand there and take whatever they've got coming to them. Your party members and enemies alike will often manage to evade incoming attacks and, more often than not, will retaliate with powerful attacks of their own. It's not a groundbreaking feature by any means, but it adds an extra layer of strategy to the proceedings because, by positioning one of your stronger characters in a spot where enemies are more likely to attack him or her than any of your other characters, you might be able to wipe out a significant portion of the enemy force when it's not even your turn. With that said, your enemies in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn aren't stupid, and they'll seize any opportunity you give them to attack the weaker members of your party. Priests and archers are certainly favorite targets, though any class that's relatively bad at defending itself will almost always be attacked ahead of your more traditional fighting classes.

The last distinguishing feature of the Fire Emblem games that we'll mention on this occasion is the way that character development is handled. Every character is rated in eight attributes, such as health points, skill, magic, and luck. When a character levels up, some of those attributes will improve, but how many of them and which ones get the boost is completely random. Because of this, no two games of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn will ever be quite the same, and a character who is nigh-on unstoppable for you might be a waste of space in a friend's party. You'll have the opportunity to influence character progression somewhat by allocating "bonus experience points" in-between missions, but even then you won't get to choose which attributes get boosted.

Enemies will invariably target weaker characters if you don't instruct your tougher ones to protect them.

Although we've played through only a handful of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn's missions at the time of writing, there has been no shortage of variety. We've been tasked with wiping out enemy forces, escaping from levels by reaching an exit, escorting defenseless characters to safety, and defending a small group of friendly characters facing an overwhelming enemy force for a number of turns, for example. Furthermore, there are invariably multiple ways to approach each level in the game, and once your party size exceeds the number of characters that you can play with simultaneously, the outcome of the battle will often be dictated by who you choose to take to the battlefield. Interestingly, you'll quite frequently have opportunities to add to your party by meeting certain criteria and convincing enemies to join you. For example, on one of the missions we played, we were able to convince a soldier to join our group simply by having a specific member of our party talk to him. How did we know that it would work? We didn't. But in the story sequence preceding the mission, we learned that a friendly soldier had offered some assistance to our party, and on the battlefield this particular soldier was labeled with his name rather than just his class.

During gameplay you'll get to check out nicely animated close-ups of characters doing battle with one another, but because many of the game's cutscenes are conversation-based, there's very little animation to speak of. Regardless, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn's visuals are easy on the eyes, even if they don't massively improve upon 2005's GameCube offering, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance.

We're enjoying every minute of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn after a few hours of play, and, frankly, we're eager to get back to it and what the plot has in store for our party next. Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is currently scheduled for release in North America on November 5, though tragically no European or PAL release has been confirmed at the time of writing. We look forward to bringing you more information on this one as soon as it becomes available.

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Discussion

106 comments
MANGAWIIMAN
MANGAWIIMAN

I have never played a Fire Emblem game before.I picked up a copy of Radiant Dawn for £19.98 on saturday and im loving it!!! its like manga chess.put a good few hours on it so far can't wait to get back tonight and get my sword on!!!!

NINgamer19
NINgamer19

where's the review?! it never takes this long

DrBoriz
DrBoriz

Just for how long are we gonna have to wait for a full review?? Well... anyway I'm going to end up spending the little savings i had buying it. @ HoplonGuardPowa They are indeed planing a DS Fire emblem, it's planned release is 2008 (probably for japan) and it will be a remake of the very first fire emblem I think (I read about it on the internet, but i know it's true, put "fire emblem" in search here in gamespot, and you'll se a game, though there isn't any information just yet), so if some newbie is reading this please stop asking again and again here or in the boards if this or FE7, 8 or 9 (american releases) have Marth or Roy as the main character, since that game is Marth's first game. Pleeeaasseee!!!

Orthrand
Orthrand

Nooooooooo no EU release

wiirdawgs
wiirdawgs

between SMG,BwII and this my wii is gonna get alot of playing time

lilkikerman4450
lilkikerman4450

this month is gonna rock! its my b-day lata this month and there are all these great gaming releases coming out its so unbelievable...such as this game! Also im supposed to get a wii this month as soon as my walmart has them in and i can get there b4 there sold out!

emerald101
emerald101

Still looking technically old-gen lets see if it adds up in gamaplay.

lord_planty45
lord_planty45

OMG I HATE NOVEMBER!!!!!!!! lol ppl probably think im dumb for saying that but its just that there are so many good games coming out and i dont have enough money to buy them all!!!! so its so hard to choose what games to get.........anywho i never played any of the fire emblem games *never even heard of them till today* but after seeing this one it makes me one to go out and boy the old ones for gamecube too bad i dont have enough money anywho game looks amazing

HoffmanSony
HoffmanSony

One more Day! now I have to decide whether or not to wait awhile for the price to drop :P

sexypansas
sexypansas

this awesome, I'm just sad that I don't have a Wii

whacker40
whacker40

only under a week left, i can't wait!

dennis8
dennis8

sigh... why do all the games come out on november!!!

GEMINIVice
GEMINIVice

If I had a Wii, I would buy this game. I played Path of Radiance and liked that. It wasn't too hard or to easy. And It was just right in length. Only thing is that by the end of the game I had alot of characters in my group that I didn't even use. Adding the option of replaying missions is the only thing that game was missing if you ask me. Besides that, I think Fire Emblem will be a good game.

HoplonGuardPowa
HoplonGuardPowa

The part where they say the stat boosts are random is incorrect. Individual characters have different percentages for boosting a certain stat when they level, which often relates to their class. Of course, the preview didn't even mention classes... P.S. Anyone know if they're making one for the DS, or is Fire Emblem all "TV" consoles know?

acidglitter
acidglitter

ooo i want this. i hope its as good/or better as path of radiance

lapyx
lapyx

i'm definately going to have to AT LEAST try this. Path of Radiance was awesome.

zaphod_b
zaphod_b

Between my Wii and my 360, I'm going to have some difficult decisions to make in November.

Quilex
Quilex

This is what I have been waiting for. I love turn based games like Shining Force etc. If it come to PAL regions I will get this for sure. As for not being any different from other game of this style that really is the point for me.

DynamoFan
DynamoFan

@wayward_son_88 - Pokemon's just more of the same yet we all get excited about it if its for the handheld. Come on, you want to change the gameplay to match your Halo etc. We don't. We like it just how it is.

hitomo
hitomo

I want ShiningForce III - it has better KEY-features...

encryptkeeper
encryptkeeper

"Wayward_Son_88 Sounds like more of the same. Don't get me wrong, the Fire Emblem games are really good but it still seems to be the same basic gameplay with very little improvements." Then you obviously don't understand the Fire Emblem games. The series staple is that the gameplay has remained relatively the same over the years. It's one of those things that works so well, that you don't want to change it that much. Think of all the changes done to Monopoly over the years. At it's core, its still basically the same game. Sure, other game series have seen gameplay changes (Legend of Zelda, Mario, Starfox, Metroid) but turn based strategies like Fire Emblem can't really change without becoming something other than a turn based strategy game. Its like saying you should change the gameplay of chess.

sscloud123
sscloud123

I hope they make a PAL version. Why must europe always get screwed (sobs)?!

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

RE:the_Dielen The preview is talking about KEY features of the series in general.

The_Dielan
The_Dielan

new features? most of this was all included in the series as far back as the GBA's. soldiers never just stood there, they always dodged and always counterattacked (if they had enough speed of course)

jg4xchamp
jg4xchamp

I love Fire Emblem buying this day 1.

Los9090
Los9090

I'm going to have to play Path of Radiance again so I can keep some characters for Radiant Dawn.

Wayward_Son_88
Wayward_Son_88

Sounds like more of the same. Don't get me wrong, the Fire Emblem games are really good but it still seems to be the same basic gameplay with very little improvements.

Slash_out
Slash_out

That's the game I am waiting for. I don't care for SSBM or Mario Galaxy or whatever is coming ! Those are nice game of course, but the one I want, is this Fire Emblem !! However I think I agree with Sluhlink. This review was horibly writen. Not the gramar or anything like that. But it present itself like a the reviewer already played the previous games, and then it introduce "good gameplay" possibility, like they were new. While it's actually the total oposite and 90% of what was said here already existed in the GC version... Like your allie counter attacking, or dodging, when attacked, the IA going for weak opponents, The way you can get ennemies to join your forces, the way your allies lvl up.... All of that was already done, and is nothing new.

freek666
freek666

Man this game is gonna be gnarly. It's a bummer theirs no release date for the PAL regions, but hopefully it will come out soon, at least by the end of the year.

Toggy25
Toggy25

Oh yeah so freakin freakin freakin sweet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and there might be one for the ds too.

sluhlink
sluhlink

Here is all the information on Radiant Dawn in case nobody has posted it yet http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/tiara/fe10/ You can also go to home and then select FE DS to get more information on that too. I thought this preview was too vague and horribly written. At least there were no major errors though like in IGN's preview.

ice_radon
ice_radon

I really dont care if there is no waggle really. All games really dont need tons of waggle.

electrum0404
electrum0404

there are rumors about a new FE coming in 2008 for the DS!!! hope its true ... they say it is the marth game but in the DS with improved graphics and gaming

norabbitnofun
norabbitnofun

So the article starts by saying there are new features... but did I miss their description? (I cannot wait for this game to be out!!!)

Princecake
Princecake

no PAL release? :( damn region lock consoles

spy_hellscream
spy_hellscream

Woooo thats pimpalicous! All of the FE games have been the best experience for me. Thank the gods their coming out with another one...hopefully this will be one of many =)

e-racer22
e-racer22

Both GBA titles and the GameCube title were excellent. I can't imagine this one will disappoint either.

Tycerion
Tycerion

Holy crap! I can't freaking wait! Three weeks baby! Then I'm going to disappear for a few days. w00t!

badim1
badim1

omg i want it so mutch lol... will it ever come out in Europe? :(

kazuya246
kazuya246

graphics look pretty bad. I prefer it in 2d

123625
123625

NO RELEASE THIS IN PAL I HAVE THE GAMECUBE FIRE EMBLEM GAME I WANT THIS T.T