Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn

Matt Triponey - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

GAME TECH INFO

Computer Platform: Nintendo Wii
Produced by: Nintendo
Price Range: $41-50
Learning curve time: A few days
Age level: Teen to Adult
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and up)

Reviewed By: Matt Triponey
STAFF REVIEWER

Overall Rating: ★★★★★
Genre: Strategy
Christian Rating: 3 of 5 (average)
Gameplay: 5 of 5 (excellent)
Violence: 3 of 5 (mild)
Adult Content: 4 of 5 (barely present)


Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn.  Illustration copyrighted.

Fire Emblem has been a relatively under-the-radar franchise for a while, which is a shame…especially considering that Radiant Dawn is the tenth game in the series. Unfortunately, most people only recognize Fire Emblem as “those games that have Marth and Roy in them.” And that's completely inaccurate, as Marth and Roy aren't in this game at all.
Fire Emblem games are notorious for their deep strategy, their epic plots, and their unforgiving difficulty. Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn does not shy away from any of these. It's a great game, and it may be a turning point for the series, that one game that puts this franchise in an A-list priority.

PLOT:
The game begins three years after its GameCube predecessor, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. A quick summary for the uninformed- in Path of Radiance, you play as a mercenary named Ike, who hails from the kingdom of Crimea on the continent of Tellius, the only continent remaining on the planet after a catastophic flood. After neighboring country Daein, led by Mad King Ashnard and his right hand the Black Knight, attacks Crimea and kills Ike's father, Greil, Ike sets off on a mission to help Elincia, the sole remaining heir to the Crimean throne, build an army to take back the capital. They travel to a country called Gallia, home of the laguz, a race long despised by the humans (who are called beorc in this game). Ike and Elincia manage to unite the two races, and they defeat Daein.
That's where Radiant Dawn comes in. It's been three years. Begnion, an empire that aided Ike in his war, now occupies Daein. However, Begnion's good-hearted leader, Apostle Sanaki, is being overpowered by her corrupted Senate. They send General Jarod to oversee the Daein garrison. Jarod is as corrupted as the Senate, and he quickly begins to oppress the citizens of Daein. A band of theives (in a Robin Hood sense- they rob Begnion and give the rewards to the citizens) called the Dawn Brigade finally decides they've had enough, and they rebel. The main character, the face of the Dawn Brigade, is Micaiah, a healer with strange powers and a hidden past. At her side is Sothe, a familiar character from Path of Radiance. With the other Dawn Briage members- Nolan, Edward, and Leonardo- they draw the citizens of Daein into a fight against their Begnion oppressors.

Fire Emblem Screenshot

GAMEPLAY:
Most chapters are divided into four basic parts- plot advancement, base menu, battle, and plot advancement. The plot (which is fantastic) is advanced by scenes of dialogue featuring hand-drawn artworks of the characters. The base menu comes next, and it is important. Throughout your Fire Emblem experience, you will recruit over 70 different characters for your army. Obviously, you can't use all of them. The base menu is where you train and equip the units you intend to take into battle. You can also forge weapons, buy items such as vulneraries from the shop, and even build relationships between characters. After that, you go into battle. Combat is turn-based. You get the first turn, followed by your enemies. Occasionally, neutral and allied units will be on the battlefield and will take turns as well. The game plays much like chess- move your unit to a space within his or her movement range and select an action. Certain units have advantages over others- for example, there is a weapons triangle and a magic triangle, and some units, such as Pegasus Knights, are weak against other units, such as Archers. Some maps will have specific objectives- for example, one mission involves you preventing the enemies from killing hostages they've taken. Mostly, though, you'll just have to out-strategize your opponent and defeat all of the enemy units. After that, there is a little more plot advancement, and the process starts over. The system has hardly changed at all from the last Fire Emblem…but as they say, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it!” It's absolutely fantastic, and it's a blast to play. It's one of the best strategy games on the market.

VIOLENT CONTENT:
As you may expect from a game such as this, violence is present. However, it's completely bloodless. Enemies get struck, and they just flinch, fall to their knees, and vanish. The most graphic violence in the game is actually in the handful of cutscenes, but even there, it's bloodless and nothing beyond what you'd see in a Star Wars movie.

Fire Emblem Screenshot

SEXUAL CONTENT:
This game is perfectly clean sexually. The characters are all dressed modestly, and sexual situations do not occur. It's squeaky clean.

LANGUAGE:
There are about five or six mild profanities in the game, all of them 'd–n.' However, it's all written out as text, and there is no voice acting. Pressing the B or Start buttons will let you skip over it.

SPIRITUAL CONTENT: This is the section of the game that made the Christian rating drop down to 3 of 5. The game has a heavy amount of spirituality in it. As a fantasy game, the expected magic use is present. Laguz units can transform into animals, which may offend some people. For the first three-fourths of the game, spirituality is really just limited to obscure mentions.
Then…comes part four.

SPOILERS
There's really no way to discuss this section of the game without spoiling the plot, so you've been warned.

Ike eventually finds his way into the game again, and he and Micaiah actually end up on separate sides of a very complicated war. However, at the last second of what looks to be their final battle, a dark goddess and a light goddess are both awakened by the chaos. However, the light goddess is actually the enemy. Many years before the start of the game, humanity made a promise to her that they would stop making wars. She decided to go to sleep for 1000 years. If they had not kept their promise when she awakened, she would destroy the world.
Obviously, that promise was not kept. So, she turns most of humanity into stone. Those who remain unite to go face her, convinced that there is hope for humankind yet. After you defeat her in battle, the dark goddess unites with her to become one goddess, and she decides to leave, saying that humans do not need gods, as they have only ever made things worse. That, to me, seems like it could hide an anti-Christian message, but the scene doesn't seem particularly antagonistic towards real religions. Some people may see it that way, though.

END SPOILERS

REDEEMING QUALITIES:
In spite of the heavy spirituality (it is worth noting that all of that only takes place in part four of the game, which is only about six chapters long), this game has many redeeming qualities. As I mentioned, you are encouraged to build friendships between your soldiers. Many maps involve side objectives such as saving prisoners and civilians and protecting allies. Doing so generally brings rewards. You also have the option of talking certain enemies into joining you instead of fighting them. The plot itself has many positive themes. The biggest would be about the racism between humans and laguz, and how they overcome that in the end. War is shown to be a horrible, unnecessary thing. There are many good lessons throughout the script, and the game encourages you, as the army's leader, to make the most moral decisions possible. The game is very well done in this department.

Fire Emblem Screenshot

CONCLUSION:
If you like strategy games or RPGS, you'll love Radiant Dawn, because it's a brilliant mixture of the two. Morally, it's very sound, with the exception of the shaky and frequent spirituality. Some people may be offended by that, and some people may not be. If you can get past it, Fire Emblem is a great game that is definitely worth playing.
I will say this in conclusion- Radiant Dawn is designed for an older crowd, not so much for its content as its play style. This game is BRUTALLY HARD. If you're looking for a challenge, you've definitely found it. Unlike past Fire Emblems, all of which are notoriously difficult, Radiant Dawn does include a Battle Save feature that lets you save permanently from any point in the game. But even with Battle Save, the game is still hard…because if a unit dies, there's no magic potion to bring him or her back to life. Your finger will be pressing the Reset button more than any other one. Regardless, for those looking for a fun challenge, and who can get past the spirituality, Radiant Dawn is highly recommended.

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Year of Release — 2007

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

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