Another great game from a classic, long lasting series that we've only just gotten a taste of.
Jeansama wrote this review on .
First off I'd like to say that I'm not much of a strategy person and it's hard for me to like a strategy game, no matter how critically acclaimed it is. I was hooked on this one from the start, though admittedly the weapon circle had me in a chokehold for a while until I got used to it.
Not unlike a lot of other strategy RPGs, the gameplay is divided into two parts; dialogue and battles. For every chapter there's a lengthy collection of dialogue before and after the battle, and small conversations during the battles, usually when recruiting a character or fighting a boss, though sometimes you're given the opportunity to use a characters' turn to talk to another. Some people might find the wall of text in the story portions daunting. I don't really mind it, but the thing that bugs is that there's no middle-speed text option. It's either too slow, too fast, or instant--I use the instant one because it bugs me when text goes by much faster than I can read it, but having it pop up instantly is kind of weird too. It doesn't take away from the game, but at the same time I kind of wish it wasn't something I had to worry about at all.
Moving onto the battles, this is where the game shines. Fire Emblem's system has never differed much from it's core, which I think is a good thing. It's not overly complicated, but it's not exactly simple either. The most important thing to keep in mind is the weapon triangle: swords best axes, axes best lances, and lances best swords. They are also weak against the next ones in reverse order. Often times you might catch yourself thinking "Hey! This looks easy, I can do this!" and then one of your characters dies because of something silly that you overlooked. It's a lot harder than it looks, especially on your first time through; mostly because of one very important factor: if you let a character die in battle, they actually die. Well, some live because they're necessary for the story to progress, but you still never get to use them again if you let them kick the bucket. A lot of people dislike this about Fire Emblem games, but I think it's both realistic and challenging, causing you to restart a chapter even if one character dies. Adding to the difficulty, the items that one character can carry is very limited, and weapons break after a certain number of uses. There's also a Hard mode for those who want an even greater challenge, though sadly the Japanese Maniac mode was taken out. I think Hard is more than enough to keep those who want to make the harder game happy. Each character has a second class that you can either promote them to with an item, or let them get to on their own, though the level is quite high (20-22 depending on the character, I think). Unlike in previous games, you don't have choices for promotion, but with the amount of characters it doesn't really seem to be a con.
The characters are another one of the game's strongest points. There's a lot of variety in their designs and personalities, as well as the sheer number of characters there is to choose from. A really interesting feature is Support Conversations, which become available for certain character pairs after they've fought a certain amount of battles together. You'll only get the chance to A level one pair combo for any character per game, so you'll want to look the combinations up before hand if you want to get the best results. A lot of these conversations are important story wise or just plain funny, and in a lot of cases serve as a better character development than the story dialogue (a good example is the Ike/Soren and Oscar/Kieran supports). The Support Conversations on your file even count towards the Wii sequel, so you should definitely make sure to look the pairs up ahead of time.
The music is above average. A couple of the tunes are especially addicting and some others I could do without listening as often as they play, but the really good tracks make up for those. You have the option of turning off the battle animations to save you of the repetitive music and time they waste, which I sometimes do. Though, I tend to go back and turn them on, or at least have them on for my favourite characters. The customizability is quite good, and I'm happy that you can turn down the sound effects, as in a lot of other games they're a bit loud for me on default.
Though this game takes quite a bit of preparation, whether for the game itself or for a chapter alone, it's quite a satisfying experience all the way through. It gets much more difficult in the later chapters, and if you don't recruit certain characters, or let others die, you can wind up in a situation that's really hard to get out of. For those reasons I'd caution naive gamers to be weary, but this really is a quality game that I recommend to anyone.