Ouch... but so pretty.
As a huge fan of the Fire Emblem series, I was very happy to see not one, but two Fire Emblem titles at E3 this year. I eagerly wanted to see what Fire Emblem would look on the GameCube first hand. I was relatively pleased with what I found.
There are little surprises in the gameplay for anyone familiar with the Fire Emblem series. Each battle is laid out on a grid, and turns cycle through the good guys, the NPC's and finally the enemies. The triangle of power for weapons and magic were on the screen for easy reference.
I chose the battle for Chapter 16, hoping it would give the most challenge, but I was disappointed in that. It was a straight forward battle inside a castle. It provided little challenge, though I used my level 8 Paladin a little too much, since the enemies were bunched up. Typically this means they will all advance and try and take out one person. There was no sign of this in the E3 demo. However, the only option of difficulty selectable was Easy, so hopefully this is why. After Chapter 16, I had to try Chapter 13, which was much more open, and spread my forces all over the board. It also tossed in a third party, adding to the complexity.
One aspect that was new was to issue commands, available only with the hero, Ike. It's unclear what this did, as none of the other characters on my side reacted to any of the commands I gave. Another option allowed Ike to give orders to the third party. These did work, though I was unable to command them to actually attack a specific enemy. They would move around any spot in the grid I did select, however.
What really made Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance shine is the move to 3D. The battlefield shows terrain like never before seen in Fire Emblem, and the battles involve a side profile view of polygonal character designs. All attacks show much more life in this environment, though the drama of death could definitely be sped up. You have to kill countless enemies in any FE game, and they really shouldn't take over 20 seconds to die. All the previous titles had the enemy disappear from the battle scene, and I wish they would return to that simple exit.
Overall, I'm very excited to see Fire Emblem released on the GameCube. Intelligent Systems has successfully took on the challenge of merging the graphical power of the GameCube without overpowering the classic aspects that already make Fire Emblem one of the best Tactical RPG series.