Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon Review Story ------------- 7.0 Gameplay ------- 9.0 Graphics -------- 7.0 Sound ----------- 7.0 Tilt/Value ------ 9.0 Story ------- 7.0 Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon takes place in a continent called Akaneia which is ruled by the various kingdoms that control the land. A long while ago the kingdom of Doluna, ruled by a dragon race called Manaketes, invaded neighboring kingdoms and enslaved humans. The ruler was called Medeus, the Shadow Dragon. Anri, a heroic swordsman, appeared wielding the blade of light called Falchion slew the Shadow Dragon and with it peace returned. 100 years have now passed since that historic event but the Shadow Dragon has returned once more. However, Marth is now the one with the task of slaying the Shadow Dragon with the Falchion. The story of every Fire Emblem has been linear yet at the same time good enough to keep the players intrigued in the game. This time Intelligent Systems have taken a different route and remade the first Fire Emblem released in Japan as a DS game instead of creating a completely new game. This can bring about problems in the game but due to the way it’s executed it is a perfectly fine-tuned game. Marth is the main character of the game and he is the son of the ruler of the kingdom of Altea. Eventually his kingdom is overrun by a neighboring enemy kingdom and he must escape with the few allies that he has. Eventually many years pass and so on and so forth. The story is very linear in that there is virtually no plot twists and is fairly short. However, just because it lacks these plot elements does not mean that the story isn’t great, but it doesn’t mean that it will dazzle you either. The story of a journey of a young man to reclaim what he has lost is quite fascinating and the setting of the game in a medieval time period makes it that much better. Another great aspect of the story is the dialog of the characters, especially Marth. The way that Marth speaks will bring life to him and seem someone that seems somewhat real. Not only this but certain dialogs change depending on the choices that the player has made throughout the duration of the game. This only adds to the deeper aspect of the story. Unfortunately there are a few problems with the story aspect of the game that weakens the overall game. One of the main problems is the characters. The characters have almost no interaction with each other. This makes the game seem very robotic and dysfunctional at times. The only interaction that you will see will be with Marth and some of his companions, but only some. The lack of emotion in some parts and the lack of attachment the player will have with the characters take a great chunk of appeal to the game’s story. Another problem is the length and linearity. Although the story is interesting, it is much too short and much too linear. The game provides not much background info to make the story seem broader or give the player a chance to think about the story. The game will most likely take you 8-15 hours, depending on your skill level, but that means the story will only be at least a fourth of the total amount played. Quite disappointing in that regard… Gameplay ------ 9.0 Fire Emblem has been a long running franchise as a turn-based strategy game. Although this sounds somewhat boring it is quite different from what one might expect. The player has a control of a certain amount of units on a map and moves them around in a grid map and attack the opposing team. This may be very simple and easy when heard or read but once the player takes hold of this team, everything changes. The characters that you have on your team will be a valuable asset in your journey to come. At first the player will start out with only 1 unit but this will grow as you can have up to 30+ characters, but not all on the map at once. The choices are many but you must choose a few characters to place on the map. Each characters have different classes that they belong to and have different stats and stat gains. This will allow the player to choose which class they prefer and which characters the player will enlist into combat. Each class can hold a different type of weapon and though the types are not many, the weapons itself are. They range from swords to axes and tomes to staves. Each weapon has its ups and downs and advantages and disadvantages. Swords may be more effective against an axe but to a lance it will prove to be much weaker; a system known as the weapon triangle. This incorporates much strategy into how the player will manipulate the characters on each map and which characters will be chosen for the map. Each side takes one turn moving all the units they can exchanging blows to each other depending on each unit’s range. As your units attack and defend, they will gain experience. Once they reach 100 they will level up and gain stats. Eventually they can promote into a much better and versatile class and along with it comes more stat bonuses. Promoted units don’t change the gameplay much but will change the outcome of the battlefield. Battles are fun and invigorating but at the same time challenging as you will be pitted against an army of 30 while you only have 12. Along with the weapon triangle comes a new feature added for the first time in the Fire Emblem series. Class Swap, or Reclassing, is a feature that the player can utilize before they go into a battle. Nearly any unit can change classes from one to another, however, there is a limitation and some drawbacks. There are 3 types of sets and a unit can change depending on what set they belong to. If a unit is a mercenary, then he can only reclass into a unit of that set that he belongs to and the same applies to other characters. This allows for versatilities of a team as well as adding firepower to it. Unfortunately the drawback is that characters will either gain or lose certain stats because of that class and a map can have only a certain amount of a certain class. Regardless of these drawbacks, it is still a wonderful system that the player has on his or her side. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is a perfectly fine game but it doesn’t go above and beyond the ordinary to warrant excellence. The gameplay is fun and rewarding but at the same time there isn’t much innovative or crazily exciting to make the game much better than what it can be. The bad of the gameplay is the lack of anything excellent. Graphics -------- 7.0 The graphics style as well as the animations of the game has changed considerably between the GBA and GCN versions of Fire Emblem. The characters look much like anime characters but have an added 3-D rendering effect to it. This makes the character look prettier yet at the same time bland and unemotional. When they talk you can barely recognize if he’s smiling or frowning. Although it’s not like the series to show emotion in character portraits, the pictures lack finesse and details. Not only this but the animation sprites of the character seem very slick, but so slick that it shows no potential on the DS. The graphics that Fire Emblem uses in this game does not use the DS capabilities to the max and therefore falls short on the graphical side. Other than that, the series has taken a slightly different route for how the art and graphics design will be for the future games. It looks okay but not great. Sound --------- 7.0 The music in the game sounds epic yet they are not diverse at all. The sound is most likely what falls most out of the whole entire game, sadly. There is no variety in the type of music at all or there is a completely lack of differentiation. Certain musical pieces are overplayed, while others are shadowed because of it being played only once. This gives the balance of music a complete mess. The musical pieces still use the MIDI synthetic instrumental/techno sounds but that doesn’t truly take away from the feeling of the game. The DS can handle much in the sound department, partially because of its wonderful speakers. Fire Emblem doesn’t use what the DS has at all in the sound section, whether it be a lack of voice acting or the overwhelming amount of MIDI files. However, what Fire Emblem attempts to do, it does it well and therefore earns an okay in sound. Tilt/Value ------- 9.0 Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, although short in campaign, will last you a very long time. This game has incredible replay value due to its difficulty levels, wi-fi capabilities, and branching conversations. First there are a total of 6 difficulty modes. One is Normal and the others are Hard. There are 5 levels to Hard mode and each will test the player’s luck and skills. The first chapter on the hardest difficulty will most likely take the player 60+ turns, timed at least 40 minutes. The challenge that the game has will bring players to replaying the campaign multiple, if not numerous times. The story although short has much to be done. The choices that you make in the game create certain conversations but as a result lose another. If you are a completionist, you will most likely be playing through the campaign at least 3 times. Lastly, the Wi-fi is a wonderful feature. Different from the multiplayer mode offered in previous Fire Emblems, Wi-fi actually lets the player fight against another person’s team in a tactics match. This is most fun and exciting. Not only that but the player can buy online exclusive items through the game’s currency, but the items change depending on the day so watch out. Conclusion -------- 8.1 (boosted from Reviewer’s thoughts) Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is a great game but it doesn’t go beyond what an average player might expect to wow them. The game’s gameplay is stellar in that it does best at what it does. The story is nothing too bad that the player will be moaning through it. The graphics make the characters look somewhat enticing but even more so when they are fighting. The music sounds epic and fabulous. In all said and done, Fire Emblem does what it does best, keeping to the series’ core gameplay aspect but changing things up a bit to keep things fresh. This game is something that every DS owner should check out whether you are a fan of the series or a casual player.