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CodeZTM
03-16-2009, 03:51 PM
Fire Emblem:Shadow Dragon was a "must have" game for me, which is pretty awesome considering that there is not many series out there that I "stalk". Its predecessors on the handheld for me was the Fire Emblem for the Game Boy Advance and Fire Emblem:Sacred Stones (for the sake of the review, I'm ignoring console versions of the game), both of which I highly regard for wonderful gameplay and hours upon hours of enjoyment for years and years. Does Shadow Dragon keep up to this legacy, or does it fail miserably?

Fire Emblem (for those who don't know, but should) is a strategy based game, revolved around the medieval times and usually involving foreign politics, war and some sort of old-age threat of darkness overpowering the land. Shadow Dragon takes the cake with all of that. You play as Prince Marth, a young man who was ripped away from his kingdom after an ally nation betrayed his father, the King, and was forced into hiding until the day where he could retake his nation. It begins simply as a game to retake Marth's throne, gaining individual allies along the way, forming a small militia, but evolves into a race to stop an ancient darkness from overtaking the entire world.

The first aspect that most should realize is the graphics. The graphics are such a step above the previous two entries into the series here in America, it's almost mind-boggling. Even for the DS, the graphics are specatular and clean cut. In short, they're sexy. The animations graphics, as usual, are rather annoying to watch over and over again, but luckily can be turned off at the flick of a switch. The map environments have an eerie similarity to the previous two titles, relying heavily on already used graphics.

But most are probably wondering, "how exactly does the DS function with the game?". Thankfully, the gameplay with the DS is fun either way you look at it. Gamers are free to use the stylus to go through menus and select destinations for your characters, or can go old school and use the arrows/buttons like previous games have allowed. The bottom screen of the DS utilizes the gameplay map, while the top can toggle between character stats and the view of the entire map on a large scale. The top screen is a function that previous games lacked, and is a WONDERFUL addition for those who hated scrolling through screen after screen looking at character biographies in the previous games. So, therefore, the gameplay is drastically improved upon the previous titles in the series.

That being said, the gameplay has also taken a HORRIBLE turn for the worse. Key components that made the previous games so wonderful were axed, which made the already staggering amount of difficulty in gameplay even worse. The first aspect removed was the "rescue" option. If by accident or misfortune, one of your weaker units was low on health and feared death in the next enemy's turn, one of your heavier or mounted units could "rescue" said units and protect them until time where they can receive medical attention. The notorious Fire Emblem "forever death" almost required this feature, unless one was desiring to start the entire mission over again. Shadow Dragon rips this feature out of the game, and the lack of its power is blatantly obvious. It's aggravating to have an enemy counter attack, make a unit weak, have a few other things go wrong, and lose a unit forever. If you're ethical like me, you restart because you can't stand seeing them die and blatantly blame you for your massive stupidity. Some would argue that this would make gameplay more "strategic", but I don't buy that. In real life combat, you'd pick up a fallen/wounded comrade, and not think anything of it. It was just a bad choice on the developer's part, and it's obvious.

One other bad choice on the part of the developers was taking away the over world map. In Sacred Stones, gamers could choose their destination and move around the country if they wanted. This means that level grinders could replay previous areas, and gain experience/money in order to strengthen themselves for tougher areas/missions. The feature was first implemented (handheld-wise) in Sacred Stones, and I was sad to see it ripped away in Shadow Dragon. Some people don't want to play directly through the story and advance the plot. I enjoyed level grinding at times, and learning new strategies and just generally playing the battlefield. That's sadly what Shadow Dragon does. The gameplay setup is horrific! Text/Dialouge-----> Battle/Mission -----> More Text Dialouge -----> Repeat. That's what the realm of Shadow Dragon is, and doesn't deviate from that ladder for a moment.

Having never played any previous Fire Emblem games earlier than the original Fire Emblem for the GBA, I can't say much for the story in comparison to what Shadow Dragon is remaking, but I liked it from an unbiased perspective. Fire Emblem doesn't like to stray from it's key winning formula (Dragons+War+RoyalFamilyTornFromCountryAndTryToWin ItBack), and Shadow Dragon reflects that. In fact, Shadow Dragon reminds me a lot of Sacred Stones, with just a few exceptions here and there.

I'm not one to give number ratings, but instead, I prefer to speak about my "reccomendation".

To the hard core Fire Emblem fan, this is pretty much just a slap in the face. The things that made Fire Emblem so great was ripped out and thrown to the wind. So the fanbase isn't really going to take much liking to it. The graphics have improved, and there are some neat DS innovations thrown in to make it fun, but it just fails on so many levels. The story isn't innovative (albeit, no Fire Emblem Story is ever innovative), so the tale isn't going to move anyone to purchase. Casual gamers or someone new to the Fire Emblem series will get a bad taste in their mouth. Sacred Stones for the GBA was probably the BEST handheld version of Fire Emblem, thus it will be hard to keep up with its greatness. Had Fire Emblem stuck with what Sacred Stones was, and improved upon graphics/ds functionability, it would have been much more enjoyable.

As it is, Fire Emblem:Shadow Dragon is a waste of money in the recession-ridden economy of the United States, and would better off be rented or passed over all together.

~CodeZTM