Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance starts off slow but evolves into one of the finest tactical RPGs of our time

User Rating: 9.5 | Fire Emblem: Souen no Kiseki GC
Path of Radiance is the ninth entry in the long going Fire Emblem series. If you live outside of Japan though, chances are that you've missed out on this tactical RPG franchise as this is only the third game to be released across the ocean (and the first one to be released on a non-handheld system). Should someone have hijacked the boat from Japan that carried the western copies of Path of Radiance or is it a crime against humanity why we haven't gotten the series sooner?

Path of Radiance opens with young lord Ike, our main protagonist, who is sparring with his friend Boyd while the cliché-o-meter soars through the roof. This throws you into a tutorial that explains the combat system as you control Ike during his practise session. The combat in Fire Emblem has a lot of similarities to chess in that and you move your character on a grid-like field in a turn-based manner. As you engage an opponent in battle, an animation plays out where you see your character's attack and the opponent's counter move. After about 30 minutes of painfully bad dialogues that will make you cringe like you've never cringed before and of being put through a long dumbed down tutorial that must've been aimed at three year olds, Ike asks his father if it isn't about time for him to join his father's band of mercenaries. Of course, his father then replies "No" and the game ends.

At this point, I felt like I needed a wooden barrel full of whiskey to bring myself to continue on with the game. Nevertheless, I did, and three to five hours of chess-like combat and short storyline intermissions awaited me. Just as the combat-story formula was starting to wear out on me, Intelligent Systems decided to switch it up a bit by introducing the player to the party's "base".

Your base is a safe haven where you prepare your mercenaries for upcoming battles. The main purpose of the base is to conduct your obligatory RPG item management, forge new weapons and adjust your character supports. If two characters support each other, they receive combat bonuses when standing within three squares from each other on the battlefield. Character supports can be levelled up as well as this is an RPG, after all, so everything should have the ability to gain levels.

An interesting addition to the game is bonus experience. Bonus experience can be added to any character of your choice while you're at the base. You earn the experience based on how well you perform on the battlefield. I found bonus experience very useful during my first playthrough as it allowed me to try out different characters without having to level them up from scratch.

Another concept worth mentioning is the skill system. You earn skills as you progress through the game and they can be permanently attached to characters while you're at the base. Each character has a certain amount of points that can be used for skills and the strength/usefulness of the skill determines the amount of points it consumes. Skills add various combat bonuses.

The story in Path of Radiance is told through text dialogues during cutscene intermissions. Although the production value would've upped greatly if Intelligent Systems decided to use FMV sequences instead of 2D cut-out sprites, the scenes get the job done. The story begins with your stereotypical RPG cliché of a young boy with great dreams, but it will steadily engross you into the world of Tellius and its internal turmoil. Path of Radiance has a spectacular storyline with a diverse cast of colourful characters. A couple of uncommon topics for a video game are even touched upon such as racial tensions, politics and slavery.

The battlefield is where you'll spend most of your time though. Thankfully, Intelligent Systems delivers an engaging and deep combat mechanic. The battle system uses a rock-paper-scissor approach where a sword is effective against an axe, an axe is effective against a spear and a spear is effective against a sword. The same logics apply to magic spells as well (because we all know that the world would end otherwise). This has been done countless times before but it's a nice touch that adds more depth to the battles.

Each weapon can only be wielded a certain amount of times before it breaks. The lifespan of each weapon is relative to its strength which adds even further strategy to the combat system. In addition to that, some weapons have bonuses against specific types of opponents and depending on the strength of your character (combined with the weight of the weapon), he/she may attack twice in one turn. Of course, each weapon also has values that determine the accuracy and the possibility of landing a critical hit (cliché-o-meter warning).

If you enjoy getting bogged down in statistics, you'll definitely appreciate Path of Radiance. Each character has an overwhelming amount of statistics and a unique biorhythm chart based on his/her personality. Ultimately, though, you'll learn by trial and error the advantages/disadvantages of each character and their class. Unfortunately, the classes in Path of Radiance are extremely unbalanced. There's a possibility that you'll end up in a non-winnable state if you focus on the wrong characters, as you cannot replay old chapters in order to grind for experience. That's right everybody, you CANNOT grind in this game and YES, it is an RPG.

One of the most frustrating aspects of Path of Radiance is the permanent deaths. If a character dies on the battlefield, he/she is gone forever. Combine that with the fact that the difficulty of the game is significantly high for a modern RPG and you'll want to pull your hair out more than a few times during the course of the game. There is no way to save your progress during a chapter either so you have to start all over again if a character dies on the battlefield. This may put off a lot of gamers as it may take up to about an hour to finish a chapter.

Another complaint that I have with the game is the fact that the gameplay consists exclusively of navigating through menus and commanding your troops on the battlefield. I would've enjoyed walking around freely in the world like you can in the Shining Force series. The most important aspect of the game is nevertheless, the deep strategy and engrossing story.

Once you've completed Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance there's really no reason to go back and play through it again (unless you want to unlock everything) as the game is completely linear. You can carry over your save however, to the sequel, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn for the Wii (which is just as good imo).

Path of Radiance is a demanding game that requires your brain cells as well as your time. Those who persevere this difficult RPG will find that the ninth entry in the Fire Emblem series is an outstanding game and arguably one of the best titles for the Nintendo Gamecube. It's a game that you'll look back upon fondly yet with a certain question within yourself: the question of how much we westerners really have missed out on...


- Phenomenal storyline
- Deep combat system with plenty of statistics
- Wide variety of characters to choose from
- You can carry over your save data to the sequel, Radiant Dawn


- Permanent deaths may put off a lot of gamers
- Not being able to roam freely in the world is a bit disappointing
- It's completely linear
- Unbalanced classes