Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn Review (Wii)

Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn

Once upon a time, a blue haired young man was added to some fighting game you might have heard of called Super Smash Brothers Brawl who went by the name of Ike. I grew to enjoy playing as Ike in that game. I thought he was pretty powerful, and being the naive kid I was, thought he was the coolest thing ever. Likewise, when I went into a GameStop and saw a game titled Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, I remembered reading something about a Fire Emblem in Ike’s trophy description. After I made my parents buy it for me, I promptly went home, and got way too confused with the game mechanics. I was only around eleven, and had a huge problem trying to get through the game without getting killed on the first turn. Then I got to around chapter 6, got mad Ike wasn’t around, and put the game on a shelf and wouldn’t touch the copy again for around six years. By that time, I would actually take the time to read tutorials, and eventually beat the game. But was the six year wait worth it?

Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is the sequel of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance for the GameCube. The latter of those I wouldn’t play until just recently (to which I had mixed feelings of). Luckily, if you listen to the narrations provided in every between-chapter interlude, you would learn all about the story of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance without exactly needing to play it. Essentially, Ike, the man from Super Smash Brothers: Brawl, won a war and killed some guy who went by the name of Black Knight. Daein, the opposing country, was put under rule of Begnion, an ally nation to Crimea, Ike’s home country. Bengion put Daein in their rule, leaving the citizens of Daein a caged mess. Three years later, Daein is still in Begnion’s rule, Crimea is having a civil war, and Ike and his mercenaries are nowhere to be found.

One thing you will notice is that Ike is nowhere to be seen in the gameplay of early chapters. Well, Ike doesn’t actually appear in this game until Part III, i.e. around 16 chapters in. The game is separated into five parts. For the first part you take control of the Dawn Brigade, a group of teenagers lead by a mysterious Silver-Haired maiden named Micaiah trying to liberate Daein. In Part II, you play as the Crimean royal army trying to win the Civil War in their country. In Part III, you take control of not only the Greil Mercenaries, Ike’s group of soldiers, but you will also occasionally take control of the Dawn Brigade and the Crimean Royal Army, all three of which having their own goals. I won’t spoil Part IV or Part V, but Part IV is easily my favorite of the bunch. You really need to play the game to see why it’s so genius.

The game’s story, like most Fire Emblem games, is pretty amazing. I won’t go any further in to it other than I already have, but I will say it’s probably the best Fire Emblem in terms of story. Another thing I loved about the game was that it included a glossary of terms, characters, and locations, and even features a tree of characters and their relation to other characters. It seems small, but I honestly think all games should implement this. It gives you some insight on the world’s lore, and is honestly just a fun read.

The gameplay of all Fire Emblem installments are focused almost entirely on your decisions. Every decision counts in Fire Emblem and you need to fully understand what to do and how to execute it before going in. Lucky for you, there aren’t that many major mechanics you need to learn, but there are a lot of little things. For instance, you need to know that bows and wind magic do extra damage to flying units, and fire magic does extra damage to beast laguz, units that can transform into an animal, ranging from cats to dragons. You need to learn early that you need to fight enemies with units that are around the same level. If your unit is too weak you won’t stand a chance and if your unit is too strong, they will take almost all of the experience from the unit, wasting a potential level up to another unit. This adds a whole new level of strategy to the game. For instance, you will come across characters that start at an incredibly low level and can only deal a small amount of damage to an enemy unit. Perhaps you would like to attack using a stronger unit to get the enemy to low health, allowing the other unit to gain more experience. Maybe you wouldn’t even want to use the weak unit and focus on units that actually stand a chance without level-grinding. It’s this layer of depth that really makes you think of what the best characters would be to use and what the best characters would be to ditch.

Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn Battle

The entirety of the Fire Emblem series has many layers of gameplay to it. From the rock-paper-scissors mechanic of the Weapon Triangle, to the various terrains found throughout the game. In this game alone, you will have over 70 units at your disposal and over 50 chapters to fight your way through. While not all units can be used at any time, you need to consider which units to bring along. For instance, you may not want to bring a pegasus knight to a chapter full of archers, and you may not want to bring a unit on horseback to a chapter with mountains. Unlike most Fire Emblem games, you need to use a lot of units to get by. You can get away without using all units, but a vast majority of them need to be on standby for several chapters. While you won’t bring every unit to the final chapters, almost all units have some sort of practical use at some point during your adventures. Another thing you need to take note of is whether or not you want to recruit some units. For instance, in the prologue of part II, a wyvern knight flies across the map. If you talk to him with a specific unit, he will join you. If you do not talk to him, this unit will be the equivalent of being dead to you; you cannot use him at any point in the game (This specific unit is arguably the best in Fire Emblem history, so you don’t want to miss out). That’s another thing you need to watch out for; death. Unlike Fire Emblem: Awakening, you can’t select a casual setting where all of your units will come back next chapter. If any unit dies, they are gone for good. Every unit absolutely must come prepared to a chapter. If there are several sword users, bring lance users. If it’s fog of war, bring thieves or torches. You can’t risk not paying attention to the map or else you may need to say goodbye to even your best units.

Outside of that, the fundamentals of Fire Emblem are still here. You bring a certain amount of units to a battlefield structured on a grid, and you need to complete an objective. One thing I will praise the game for is the variety of chapters. In Fire Emblem Awakening for instance, every chapter feels the same, you just kill all units or defeat the commander. Not once do you ever break from this formula. On the other hand, in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, several chapters have different objectives. In some chapters, you may need to defend a gate, or survive for a set amount of turns. This makes every chapter feel unique in some sort of way. One of my personal favorites being in part III, where you must defend a castle gate using the Greil Mercenaries. Several enemy units will charge to you, so you need to find a way to properly defend against this. And if your defence breaks in any way, expect a plethora of enemy units to come and pursue their objective. Another one being in part II, where you have 6 units at your control and around 20 ally units. With this army, you must charge to a fort and seize a gate. Reinforcements, ballistas, and promoted units all stand in your way. 

The game’s visuals are…well, it’s very much a Wii game. Outside of higher resolution and slightly more polished visuals, it’s essentially the same as Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, the game’s prequel that came a console generation earlier. I suppose I could let it slide as this is a very early Wii game, but it’s very obvious that a few sprites and other visuals were borrowed. That isn’t to say this game doesn’t look bad, however. The battle animations are very fluid and, despite looking like a Gamecube game, look quite polished. It still isn’t very excusable that the game looks exactly like it’s prequel, but the visuals are still pleasing to the eye. Not to mention that the cutscenes actually look ridiculously amazing.

Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn Field

The game’s soundtrack is phenomenal. A majority of the battle tracks get me pumped and give me ambition to win. While not a battle soundtrack, I will occasionally turn the game music off and listen to Stalwarts Unite, the recruitment theme of this game. Not every track is like this, but most make the game so much more enjoyable. The voice acting on the other hand sounds like they found college students on a street corner and gave them a job. Besides that, the epic music gives the player a huge feeling of excitement, and makes them want to defeat whatever stands in their way.

For the most part, the game is pretty straightforward. Simply complete an objective, watch a cutscene, prepare for the next chapter, rinse and repeat. Despite that, there are a few things in the game that are just flat out stupid. This game offers a New Game+, but for the most part, it’s the same thing. There are two new characters for you to recruit, and a few more scenes you can unlock in the ending (one of which needs you to recruit one of the new characters). Two come to mind, and both are ludicrous. For instance, to get a secret scene that reveals a lot about one character, you have follow a series of procedures. There is just one problem: there is no way you could find this out without looking it up. Not to mention that the procedures are a bit out-there and requires you to be on a second playthrough to even obtain. However, the opportunity to recruit a second character in New Game+ is similar to the requirements for the extra scene in the ending, only FAR more difficult. I’ll avoid saying anything for spoiler’s sake, but I will tell you that looking up the requirements for this online is not something I would blame you for. The reward is quite interesting and the fact that there is no indication to this in the actual game is something that is pretty inexcusable.

Something introduced in Fire Emblem Path of Radiance that came back for this game was the mechanic of skills. Throughout the game, units you recruit will come with a few skills equipped to them. While a few are downright useless, such as Mercy, a skill that prevents the user from killing a unit, some can prove to be quite useful like Vantage, a skill that will allow you to always go first in a battle even if an enemy unit attacked you first. You can equip and unequip any skills off of a unit and you can find additional skills in chests or from enemies. I love this mechanic more than anything in the entire game. These skills make every unit feel unique in their own way, unlike other Fire Emblem games where the only thing that made a unit unique was their support conversations and growth rates. For instance, Edward and Zihark, two units of the same class you get somewhat early on, would feel exactly the same without skills. Granted, Zihark does start out promoted and comes with Killing Edge, but I digress. I wish they would bring back the way skills functioned in this game for a future installment (skills DID come back in Awakening and DID function almost the same way, but the fact that the only way you could find them was by leveling up and not being able to find them in chests or from enemies was quite disappointing).

At the end of the day, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is a phenomenal Wii game. Despite this, I wouldn’t recommend picking this up if you haven’t played Path of Radiance. The story of that game is pretty much explained here in full, but it’s still a game I would recommend playing so that you have some sort of an idea of what you are getting into. I can’t say I think this is the best game on the Wii, but I must say that I found a lot of enjoyment in my adventures throughout Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, and would highly recommend it to any fans of the Fire Emblem franchise or any fan of Strategy games. I give Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn a 9/10.

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About The Author

A nerd who spends all of his time playing Nintendo games and writing stuff. Who would have it any other way?