I wish I were writing about the worst review in terms of worst game ever reviewed. After all, Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing is barely deserving of the single point on the scale that GameSpot gave it, if only because they don't hand out zeroes. Also, "You're Winner" still has some punch when delivered properly. But no, what I'm writing about is the worst review in terms of review quality that I have ever read on this website. The GameSpot review of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn.
Now, to start off, and to be fair, I have yet to finish the game. I'm in the middle of Part 3 and still have a ways to go before I reach the end. Even so, there are so many inaccuracies, misplaced criticisms and obtuse comments that it's absolutely mind boggling. Did Lark play the same game that I'm playing? I assume he did, but wow. Where to begin.
I suppose a good spot to start would be in the closing statements that summarize the review: "Ultimately, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is a huge disappointment. It seems that nothing was learned from the making of Path of Radiance, and as a direct follow-up, Radiant Dawn can't even live up to its predecessor's epic story."
That's actually one of the more sane-sounding statements, if still off-base. I'll get back to that in a moment. Let's try this one: "Despite being a Wii game, it doesn't make any attempt to use any of the system's strengths, such as Mii support, online support, or motion controls and pointing, even though the advantages of such integration should be plainly obvious."
Mii support? He's complaining about the lack of Mii support in a Fire Emblem game? If that's a valid complaint, I should start complaining about the lack of sword combat in Madden. I mean seriously, Mii support? What benefit could that possibly bring? Why is it a negative that it's not in there? Huh?
That bit of lunacy aside, what about online support? I admit that online battles between players in the game would be fun, but here's the thing. Once again, is it something that the game needs? The vast majority of strategy RPGs I've played don't even feature multiplayer components of any kind, and those that do (such as the GBA Fire Emblem titles) I never bothered to use. I play Fire Emblem games for their challenging campaigns and interesting storylines and characters. Not online multiplayer.
And the controls? Well, the Wii provides plenty of control options. There's the Wii Remote turned sideways, the Cla$$ic Controller, or if you really liked the Path of Radiance controls, GameCube controller support. Would it have been nice if units could be moved using the pointer on the Wii Remote? Maybe, but once again, why knock a game for not using such a scheme when there are three perfectly good control schemes to choose from?
Next? More gameplay discussion, in which there is whining about the difficulty: "Although some may see this as a boon, the difficulty ventures beyond the realm of challenging and into the bitter waters of maddening, and it will easily overwhelm even experienced tacticians. The ability to save in midbattle is a welcome new feature that helps to mitigate the punishing difficulty, but because you are essentially forced to rely on it all of the time, it cheapens the overall experience greatly--unless you like the idea of starting entire battles over again upward of seven times until you can complete them without losing precious allies. There are three difficulty settings, but as previously mentioned, even the easy setting is extremely tough."
As an experienced Fire Emblem player, I find the difficulty on Normal a challenge, but not overwhelmingly frustrating. I originally thought that the Battle Save feature was nothing more than a way to make the game easier for newcomers, but it's really a tool for everyone because the of the steep difficulty climb compared to Path of Radiance. And you know, as someone who has gotten used to the particulars of Fire Emblem gameplay, that increased difficulty isn't so bad. That the game threw me into the fire instead of a series of increasingly complex tutorials disguised as missions is great. Newcomers still have tutorials to reference, and it is an admittedly steep hill to climb, but is the fact that the game doesn't hold your hand really a bad thing? Some missions have been tense, but the mission design and variety in Radiant Dawn is miles ahead of the missions in Path of Radiance with a greater variety of objectives and environments.
Enough about the gameplay for now. Let's get to the story: "With your army, you will battle a series of villains that are for the most part so laughably one-dimensional that they might as well be cackling while tying young damsels to railroad tracks and twirling their handlebar mustaches."
Huh. All right, then. The review states that the villains do get better later in the game, but let's put the focus on the villains in the early portion, specifically Part 1, focusing on the Dawn Brigade's battle against Begnion. To recap, at the end of Path of Radiance, Begnion took control of Daein, and an occupation force was since put in place. Doesn't it strike anyone else that realistically, a corrupt military commander in such a powerful situation might get his jollies from putting his boot down on the populace? It was already well-established in Path of Radiance that Begnion's senators are corrupt, so why should that corruption not extend to members of the military ranks?
To touch on the story of Radiant Dawn in general, the game is much more event-focused than the previous game, which was focused entirely on Ike's maturation. Path of Radiance introduced the major players, and most every surviving character from the game makes an appearance in Radiant Dawn in one form or another. For people that have played the previous game, these are characters that we already know, and so there's no need to reintroduce them. Rather than a personal story like Ike's, this is a story of the continent, putting focus on specific groups of characters depending on the section, and even leads to some surprises. For instance, there's one chapter in which two minor player characters from PoR, Nephenee and Brom, become the leads in what turns out to be a very tense boss fight. That's just awesome.
One more bit about the story, quoth the review: "Without any way of tying one stationary backdrop into another (given that cutscenes are so rare), events often occur inexplicably, such as one case early in the game when Micaiah is in a forest one moment and in a prison the next."
This is the reviewer being either willfully ignorant or just plain obtuse. I mean really. In the part of the game described here, Micaiah is alone in the forest when her group has split up to look for someone. She falls into the enemy's trap. Naturally, she's sent to a prison. What was the reviewer expecting? What do you normally do with criminals? Hire them to sell junk on QVC?
And on and on. Don't get me wrong. The author of this review has written plenty of reviews that I've either had no quarrel with or have found informative, but his review of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is so abnormally poor that I'd advise anyone looking into buying the game read reviews from other sources. This is a shame because I normally consider GameSpot one of the more trustworthy review sites out there, but in this case, it's a pass. Radiant Dawn is a much better game than the review lets on and the text is inaccurate in so many ways that it's amazing to me that it made it to publication. To respond to the first quote above, the game is not a disappointment to me in the least. Radiant Dawn isn't perfect; it has some flaws here and there, but to consider the game a disappointment or a disaster, particularly with the points as presented in the review, is absurd.