Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon Hands-On

What's old is new again in our latest look at the Fire Emblem series' debut on the Nintendo DS.

The next Fire Emblem game represents a step forward for the long-running strategy series, while ironically being a blast from the past. The upcoming Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is the first in the series to appear on the Nintendo DS; the game itself is actually a remake of the very first Fire Emblem game, Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Tsurugi, released way back in 1990 on the Famicom in Japan. Naturally, the translation to the DS has brought with it more than a few improvements, graphically and otherwise, but at its core, Shadow Dragon is still a Fire Emblem game, which is a very good thing.

The Fire Emblem series is finally coming to the DS…in the form of a remake of the very first FE game.

An intricate storyline full of medieval intrigue and backstabbing is at the heart of Shadow Dragon, beginning with the hero Marth, prince of the kingdom of Altea. As the game's five-part (!) prologue unfolds, Altea is overrun by invaders--its king lies dead on the field of battle, and Marth is sent out of the kingdom to preserve the royal bloodline and, presumably, right the wrongs beset upon him by his enemies.

The game's dense plotline and big cast of characters should please fans who enjoy that kind thing; for our purposes, we were more interested in hopping into battle and testing out the always-entertaining Fire Emblem formula. You start out with a small band of warriors--essentially Marth and a few trusted lieutenants, including Jagen, a heroic paladin who is considerably more powerful than the rank-and-file soldiers you command. Characters have a set number of tiles they can move on a map, with soldiers on horseback able to move farther than those on foot.

The turn-based combat is resolved based on a number of different factors: the class and level of both combatants, the weapons they're wielding, and more. Melee attacks, for example, can be executed only when you're standing next to an enemy. On the other hand, ranged attacks from archers and soldiers with javelins can happen from several squares away.

It's in learning your soldiers' individual strengths and weaknesses that the tactical aspects of Fire Emblem come to life and the game's addictive nature is revealed. The game's translation to the DS brings with it some advantages that weren't found in the original game. For instance, while the action takes place on the lower screen (and is controlled with either the stylus and touch screen or with the buttons), the upper screen serves as a handy information dump, where you can access important statistics about the members of your party, what weapons they are carrying, and more. In a game like Fire Emblem, where a single wrong move can lead to disastrous results for your party, having that kind of information handy is invaluable.

Warning: Death is permanent in Fire Emblem, unless, of course, you power down and start the battle all over again.

Even with all of the data at hand, however, you're going to have to make sacrifices. Anyone who has played a Fire Emblem game knows the pain of losing a party member--especially one you've spent weeks or months leveling--in battle. Shadow Dragon won't be an exception to this rule, however--in fact, early on in the game, you're actually forced to choose one of your trusted lieutenants to pose as a decoy so Prince Marth can escape his enemies, essentially dooming the lieutenant in the process. And, as any Fire Emblem fan will tell you, in this game, death is permanent. As the game implies, sacrifice is often essential to victory.

As you progress through the game, you'll add new members to your party--some of whom have specific abilities. In the early going, you'll add an archer, a Pegasus-riding warrior, and a cleric of sorts who wields a healing staff. As you make your way through the levels, you'll also encounter friendly villagers who will offer wisdom and sometimes new weapons or cash you can use at vendors to replenish your stockpiles. Weapons (and magical items) wear out over time, so sooner or later you'll need to visit a store (or call on your caravan) to load up on new items or replace your inferior equipment with upgraded weaponry.

With the game released last summer in Japan and just before year's end in Europe, it's high time that Shadow Dragon is released in the U.S. next month. We're most curious to see how the game's wireless multiplayer (both local and via the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection by the looks of it) will work, as that should give an already deep game even more replay value. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is due for release on February 16.

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122 comments
sephiroth_god
sephiroth_god

if thats the screens from the actual DS game i am dissapointed but if there from the nes/snes or wut ever system it was on then i retract my dissapointment cause with the scale of powers the DS can put out i would expect better visuals even if it was 3d it would and should look better

caocca
caocca

Mhmmmmmm.... I wonder why there's no one making the review?..... why could it be? I mean it's a fire emblem... why why why? Because the only shadow in this game is the shadow of the game boy advanced games tha's why! And there's no cool critical moves here.

milt_llama
milt_llama

Aw, really? No sweet critical moves in this game? Those are the best, that sucks if they're gone!

BigBen11111
BigBen11111

Or they don't have anybody reviewing it.

caocca
caocca

so long and no review.... this game must be crap.(compared to the game boy advanced games)

DestinyCreators
DestinyCreators

True, riariases, I have the game so when you actually play the game, the graphics will be surprisingly awesome.

shadow-cat
shadow-cat

This is one of the best turn-based rpg strategy.The graphics aren't that bad but the overall game play it self is get the storyline is well developed.plus the on-line ply is bound to keep you playing for years to come i high recommmed going out and buying this game as soon as possible

caocca
caocca

Where is the review of this game. It's been out for 4 days now and no review?

riariases
riariases

Yes in this game graphics in battle are pretty important for visuals. But those ARE screenshots that are taken WHILE the charcters are in ACTION. Which means it could be just blurred. My opinion is when we actually PLAY this game, it'll look alot better.

halberdierv2
halberdierv2

I wonder, does this mean marth will no longer speak Japanese in the next Smash Bros?

Dark-Overseer
Dark-Overseer

Although I certainly wouldnt mind better graphics, these are acceptable considering the game is a REMAKE from 1990 on the FAMICOM. As long as it is fun i suppose...

Tdog500
Tdog500

I'll admit the graphics look primative but oh well... maybe they'll improve by the time the game hits the U.S. However the first fire emblem for GBA was totally FANTASTIC in my opinion so I have high hopes for this game. Don't screw this game up nintendo.

Ruhdezee
Ruhdezee

well u missed 3 dollars in the second sentence..... but besides ur stuiped rants about graphics that nobody wants to hear this game looks promising and im looking forward to it

caocca
caocca

Then wait until you played it. And remember the time when you choose and assasin or a sword master in fire emblem shadow dragon? they make cool moves when they perform a critical hit, same thing goes for the paladins etc. In this game the moves are gone.

TheHappyCamper
TheHappyCamper

Note on that last post: I earned $3 every time I said the word "graphics". Sorry.

TheHappyCamper
TheHappyCamper

These graphics are god awful. I dont think there is a nice thing you can say about them. And while I agree that the graphics in the Fire Emblem games take a back seat to what is usually a terrific story, its unacceptable when the graphics actually detract from the game. I would take the graphics from the GBA F.E. over this trash any day.

DerekLee688
DerekLee688

I agree it's a strategy and graphics "shouldn't" matter, but this is also a RPG. So give us some frekin graphics! At least the kind of quality from the GBA Fire Emblem.

Kleeyook
Kleeyook

Sorry! I can't stand its graphics. Can't they just enhance graphics to be like FF4?

MangoLlamas
MangoLlamas

Althought I agree that graphics don't make the game, it couldn't hurt to put good ones in. It's all about presentation when it comes to graphics and if they are sleek and clean it makes the game even funner to play.

Minasodrom
Minasodrom

love the death system, playing this without cheating is going to be awsome!

Geostrike
Geostrike

I don't care what it looks like, I just a new Fire Emblem game. I can't wait for it.

masterds64
masterds64

STOP GOING ON ABOUT GRAPHICS! ...it's all about gameplay,now I never played or had a fire emblem game but I know 1.it's a sister title to advance wars (or famicon wars if you will) but with permant death and without the ability to spawn more troops 2.it's a strategy game, graphics aren't terribly important 3.....it all lies in the gameplay, and if all the serie's game play is rolled into one, I'm sure it would be deemed "impressive" by all... mds64-fan of advance wars/old school games where graphics aren't the issue

knight_killer7
knight_killer7

The fire emblem gameplay is always one of the best in the genere i just hope to see the other ones cus i never understood what i was playing je

caocca
caocca

Hey.... I'm a fan too but everybody keeps giving me the bad signs just for saying this remake sucks, and I've played all of it. C'mon at least wait until you see and play the game before going around giving those signs. At least the people who has played the game did'nt like it either.

Valkarie3
Valkarie3

Be considerate people! All you Naysayers about the graphics haven't played it and those that have went through considerable lengths to get it. This is a port of an old NES game to the recent DS system. I've played and enjoyed every Fire Emblem game so far, and have always wanted to play the original unreleased ones. Just like Final fantasy they are finally releasing these older games from a dark age of gaming that we didn't get to see from Japan. There are literally hundreds of games in Japan that we never see. Some we don't need to, but alot of good quality games that fans go beyond the call of duty to be able to play. This board should be about fans of the series, not gripes about graphics. If you have to have extreme rendered characters then stick with recent games and don't bother with ports. Myself and many included enjoy the stories and gameplay of a game. While the graphics are pretty to look at there's alot more to a game then its graphical appearance. Show some consideration people, this is gaming history we're getting. And I hope they don't wait too long to release the rest of them.

SMGalaxyRulez
SMGalaxyRulez

Hotwhls you complete utter idiot, of course the graphics have been improved! Even the graphics of Mario 64 DS were improved! I think it looks fine, and I will buy it if I can

Hotwhls16
Hotwhls16

ok im so tired of this graphic debate. Ummm this game was on the NES in 1990, so no it will not be the best looking game out there.

7vaan7
7vaan7

uhhh... those graphics look really annoying, i liked the GBA ones more, these just look wierd....

truckcapt
truckcapt

cant wait for this game to come out... im a big fan of the series.... i recomend for players to go back and play the two fire emblems for the GBA..... i think they were the best game ever made for the GBA

intro94
intro94

3d rendered graphics beat old gba graphics .Online multiplayer beats total utter lack of multiplayer.will get.

CatsPajamas118
CatsPajamas118

does anybody know if this fire emblem game has the different class and subclass changes they added between the first gba fire emblem and fire emblem sacred stones?

AAKH
AAKH

I have it. The graphics don't annoy me, sure I would prefer the GBA ones but whatever. Fire Emblem is Fire Emblem. it's still fun, but not as fun as the gba ones, IMO.

caocca
caocca

As I've said before this game isn't good.

parkaar
parkaar

The graphics dont look too good. Looks more like a gba game...

leoleez
leoleez

haha graphics, u guys are funny ppl. I thot that Fallout 3 could do its predecessors more a favor fyi, looks great i saw some cut scenes, an excellent blend, Intelligent systems is very intelligent. I can't wait to play this game

Ameotoko
Ameotoko

...now I like Fire Emblem alot, but this looks pretty shoddy to me, even for blown up screenshots. The GBA's shots looked better, IMO. Sorry, but for this kind of quality, Nintendo and the developer are not getting my money. 35-40 bucks is alot of money to drop for a game that's only on par with the GBA (or a GBA beginning stage developed game, as the case may be) , especially when it's not even a new addition to the franchise. This game is old, and the story will most likely have aged. I can only hope it has aged gracefully. If it debuts at $30 I'd consider it (I doubt it will), but I'm tired of being shortchanged by DS developers who charge more for less. The hardware is there, please utilize it. GBA style games were for the GBA, graphical limitations are no longer as much of an issue. Fire Emblem is a great series, and Marth's DS debut deserved better than this.

riariases
riariases

GBA Franchise imported to the DS. Of course it didn't START on the DS but it took them long enough. Now will they hurry up with a Golden Sun title?

Will47
Will47

Just like zandervm pointed out the graphics will be at least twice as good. But you know even if they arn't it's not all about graphics!

oblivionownn
oblivionownn

Yes, read Raffi3's post. Don't sweat the graphics.

zandervm
zandervm

Of course the graphics don't look great when they're blown up to several times their actual size. A general rule of thumb for DS games is that the graphics are at least twice as good in game as they are in the screen shots.

Raffi3
Raffi3

For those who are criticizing the graphics, they are actually much better than you think. For example, during a battle scene, the units' movements are rendered in 3d. This game is gonna be freakin' awesome!

Payback7
Payback7

Ohhh, love fire Emblem. Not sure about those screen shots though? But at the end of the day the thing I like most about Fire Emblem was the great storylines. BRING IT ON!! :)

plixness
plixness

I've a friend who is totally sold on this. I hope I can get my hands on this and see for myself what the big deal is about :)

Kleeyook
Kleeyook

I'll definitely never bother purchase it! I can't believe its graphics's this horrible! :(

13thGuards
13thGuards

can't wait for this to come out...it could jsut be me, but the graphics kind of remind me of Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

illusion121
illusion121

at least when they did final fantasy 2 for the ds they updated the graphics. this looks horrible

DJSAV_101
DJSAV_101

I can't wait. I'm not a big fan of the graphics though. I liked the GBA graphics more. FE:SD's graphics look kinda blurry. However, that still won't stop me from buying it on day 1.