Fire Emblem - Review

It's About Time
By: Roku

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 4
   Interface 3
   Music & Sound 4
   Originality 3
   Story 3
   Localization 3
   Replay Value 4
   Visuals 4
   Difficulty Easy-Medium
   Completion Time 15-40 hours  

Nice-looking animations
Nice-looking animations
Fire Emblem
Well, they finally brought the legendary Fire Emblem series to the USA. Is it any good? Yes! I can't believe they haven't brought this series over sooner. Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken boasts an above-average tactical battle system, smooth animations, good music, a high replay value, and a good story. And if that's not enough, it also has a nice multiplayer versus mode!

As with most TRPGs, the battle system is great. You have to carefully plan everything you do or you will be punished. Although it isn't incredibly punishing, a mistake can still cost you half of the HP of one of your units. The weapon and magic triangles further add to strategy as having a strength/weakness in the triangle can often greatly effect the outcome of battle. There are other factors to consider as well such as the weight of a weapon and special weapons. If you use low weight weapons you can often hit the enemy twice per round, thus even if the weapon is weaker you can still end up doing more damage if you plan well. Special weapons mix things up to such as allowing a sword-user to reverse the weapon triangle and beat lance-users, pierce armor, or inflict critical damage to Wyverns. There are a few bad things about the battle system though. The AI is pretty bad to say the least. If you leave a unit with high defense in a special square such as a fortress, ! enemies will attack anyway even if they have no chance of inflicting damage or a 0% chance to hit. To make up for this, you are often forced to fight battles where you are horribly outnumbered or enemy reinforcements come at ridiculous rates.

Fire Emblem 7 only has a few truly challenging levels near the end. The first ten or so chapters are a tutorial which is very difficult to lose and the ten after that are only slightly more difficult. It isn't until the 20s that things finally become a little challenging and even then the AI will still often do something stupid such as committing suicide by attacking your strongest unit(s). As I stated earlier, most of the difficulty comes from you being horribly outnumbered. If you do happen to make a mistake, even a minor one, you will be punished by having one of your units damaged greatly. Mistakes add up, and from what I've heard if one of your characters dies you can never get them back. Fortunately once you've completed the game you can replay it on a higher difficulty setting. Unfortunately even on Hard mode, the AI isn't very intelligent. A nice feature that adds some difficulty is attempting to gain a high tactician rating. While this doesn't directly caus! e difficulty, it can challenge you to complete battles quickly and by doing so put you at greater risk. I found this to be the most challenging part of the game as you are forced to balance several things such as speed, safety, money, character growth, and combat skill.

It's easy to rush through this game with a few well-chosen favorite characters, but if you want to recruit all of the characters, play all of the hidden levels, and obtain a high tactician rank, you're going to have to play about twice as long. Once you've finished it, the game is far from over as there are several replay options. You can increase the difficulty to test yourself, attempt to gain a higher tactician rating, or play the game through Hector's point of view. I couldn't put this game down for weeks after I beat it the first time.

The visuals are really amazing. The overhead view is nothing special, but once you attack something you get to see a full smooth animation of whatever action you gave them. Critical hits and high level spells look especially amazing. To further add to this, there is a large amount of artwork that is shown during important scenes to heighten the mood. The music keeps the mood of the game and is average for the most part, but towards the end of the game it really picks up. The final battles have some of the best gameboy music I've ever heard and really add to the excitement.

I feel a bit outnumbered...
I feel a bit outnumbered...
The story is pretty good, but the character dialog is surprisingly good as well. A lot of effort seems to have gone into the writing as you get a sense of the characters' personalities from just the way they talk. The support system allows you to put certain characters together and hear extra dialog which often reveals something about each character. Through these methods even obscure characters that you generally wouldn't give a second thought to such as the merchant gain their own personalities.

Such good dialog shows how well this game was localized as well. There are very few flaws, if any, and the script flows perfectly. This is especially impressive due to the fact that there is a massive amount of script to go through, but even most of the well-hidden text is well done. The interface is less that perfect, but good for the most part. There are a few annoying button combinations to remember, but the rest is fairly straight forward. A notable example is transferring and selling items. It's not horrible, but there's just no easy way to quickly trade items out of battle.

Fire Emblem Rekka no Ken is a great game. The battle system is great, interface is decent, visuals and audio are far above average, it's fairly original, has a good story and great characters, is well localized, and has a high replay value which makes up for the somewhat short play-time. There are a lot of extras too, and of course that nice little multiplayer versus mode. I almost gave it a nine, but the poor AI brought it down from awesome to great. It's a shame that such a big flaw would be in an otherwise incredible game though. Poor AI usually doesn't bother me, but having a good AI is almost a requirement for a good tactical RPG. I still give this game a high eight and it's certainly worth playing.

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