Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken- Review  

Standard Tactics
by Lucky Melchior

20-40 Hours
+ Very Good Tactical Battle System.
+ Excellent Replay Value.
+ Very Good Interface.
- Lackluster Storyline.
- Unassuming soundtrack.
- Mediocre graphics.
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   Fire Emblem is the seventh game of the series, however it is the first one to be released in North America. The Fire Emlbem series began in Japan in 1990 and is regarded as one of, if not the best TRPG series. Yet it took until 2003, when Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken was released as Fire Emblem to North America, for the series to cross the pacific.

   As with most tactical RPG's, the focus is on the battle system. In fact all of the action takes place on the battlefield. Unlike many TRPG's you can not shop or visit villagers in between chapters. In fact, you must visit shops and speak with villagers during the battle. Enemy units can destroy villages if you do not reach them first. As for combat, you control many units that are each one of many different classes. The battles system is based upon the weapons triangle, swords beat axes, axes beat lances, and lances beat swords. This works similarly for the three magic types. The strategy does not end there however, where your units are placed is very significant. For example if a unit is on a woods panel their evasion rate will increase. Every terrain has it's own advantages or disadvantages. Weather also plays a factor in the strategy, there could be rain or snow that slows some of your units down. There could also be fog which lowers the visibility of all but certain classes or those with torches. One last significant aspect of the battle systems is that once a character dies they are permanently removed from your roster. Quite often you may be forced to restart a chapter because a key ally was killed and you cannot afford to lose them. Overall, Fire Emblem has a very good tactical battle system.

All the action take place on a tactical grid. All the action take place on a tactical grid.

   The storyline is fairly standard for a tactical RPG. The game takes place in the land of Lycia, which is a confederation of states. Each state is a monarchy ruled by a marquess and all of Lycia is governed by a council of the marquesses. The story is told from the perspective of three nobles, each from different states in Lycia. The first ten chapters or so are essentially a tutorial as you control Lyn, who discovers she is a long lost granddaughter of a Marquees and that she must stop a plot of insurrection. After these tutorial chapters end, the main quest begins and the remaining chapters focus on Eliwood, the son of a marquess of a different state in Lycia. He embarks upon a quest to find his father who has recently gone missing. He eventually meets up with Lyn and his best friend Hector, the brother of another marquess. Their investigation into Eliwood's fathers disappearance leads them to discover a sinister plot that threatens all of Lycia and a mysterious organization known as the black fang. A very annoying aspect of the storyline was that you are included in the storyline as a tactician, but are not a playable character. It was as if the developers had to justify why the player was imputing commands. This was even more of an annoyance because it broke up the story and gameplay. Often important exposition that progressed the storyline was interrupted as the characters turned to address you. Moreover, everytime you recruit a new character they introduce themselves to you. The characters interactions with you are very mawkish. The entire situation feels very contrived and it never really makes sense that three powerful nobles would take a wandering stranger into their confidence, let alone allow him to tell them what to do. Overall, taking into account the frustrating nature of your inclusion into the story, Fire Emblem's story is average.

Weather, such as rain, is a factor in battles. Weather, such as rain, is a factor in battles.

    The game's soundtrack is rather average, at best. While there are no terrible tracks, there are none that really stand out either. Of course the aural capabilities of the gameboy advance does not help things either. Fire Emblem's graphics are rather unassuming as well. While the sprites used on the tactical map are passable, each enemy army is often composed of similar units as you and therefore each board becomes a sea of the same units and similarly looking terrain. There are somewhat visually pleasing anime stills peppered inbetween each chapter. The battle animations displayed in combat are decent. Overall, Fire Emblem has acceptable visual and aural presentation, but hardly noteworthy.

   Fire Emblem's interaction and interface are one of it's stronger attributes. First of all the game is constantly auto saving, if you want to stop you need just turn off your GBA and then the next time you turn it on you can resume from the exact same point when you turned off your GBA. The menu system is simple and well laid out. It is easy to manage the equipment of all your allies. The game is of standard length for a tactical RPG. Your initial playthrough should take you around 25 - 30 hours to complete. However, you will likely log more hours of playing time after your initial playthrough as the game has tremendous replay value. Once you beat the game once, you can replay a second quest. Only this time the story is told from Hector's perspective. This quest contains some new chapters that were not in the first quest and the old ones are told from a different perspective. There is also a Hard version of each quests that can be unlocked. Moreover, there are plenty of hidden characters, some of which can only be obtained in Hector's quest.

   The Fire Emblem series is the standard of the tactical RPG industry. The seventh entry to the series is a game with mediocre aural and visual presentation, and lackluster storyline, but excellent battle system and interface. Overall, Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken is a very good game that is a good introduction of the Fire Emblem series to North American audiences. If you are a TRPG fan that has never played this series and you have a GBA or DS, I suggest picking up this title.

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