Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance - Reader Retroview  

Tough on the Outside...
by KnightTrain

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40-60 Hours
+ Captivating story
+ Amazing cast
+ Refreshing battle system
- Frustrating battle system
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   In the land of Tellius, there lies the small, peaceful country of Crimea. Its peace, however, will not much longer last. When the neighboring country of Daein, led led by King Ashnaard, suddenly attacks and swiftly takes control over the weak land, Princess Elincia and her consorts escape into the woods where they stumble upon a ragtag group of skilled mercenaries. Among these mercenaries is the young Ike, whose chance encounter with Princess Elincia sets him on a journey across the entire continent to return her to the throne of her country and defeat the "Mad King" Ashnaard. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance is the third Fire emblem title to be released in the US, and the first (and only) for the Nintendo Gamecube.

   Path of Radiance is a strategy RPG with a unique flavor. The game is broken up into a multitude of chapters, each one hosting one battle. Each battle takes place on a grid-based battlefield where height and terrain must be taken into account if you want to succeed. The battles have player turns and enemy turns. Upon the players turn (which is always first) you have the opportunity to issue commands to your characters in any order. The thing that really stands out in Path of Radiance's battle system (as well as every Fire Emblem game) is that if one of your character's HP reaches zero, they are gone for good. No phoenix downs or resurrection spells. To top it off, the battles can be very long and difficult. Some may last for 40 minutes or more. So one wrong move can cost you to lose a lot of progress. That being said, Path of Radiance's battles can cause an insurmountable amount of frustration. Also, the characterization is too good for this kind of battle system. Each character being unique, which there own special stats and personalities, it is hard to lose one and simply move one. On the plus side, the battles are really detailed and thought provoking. It's really refreshing to have a game that requires such extensive strategy and risk that the reward is that much greater when the battle is complete with everyone still standing. It does lose points, however, for its ability to cause controller-throwing behavior.

   Between each battle is where you do all of your micro-managing. You can reward party members with bonus experience, buy items and equipment from the merchants traveling with you. The highlight of this section between battles is that you can see conversations between various characters depending on the characters you have in your roster, giving a lot of back story and characterization. You can also Assign "support conversations" between characters. For each character, there are other characters that are able to have a support conversation with the first. You can have a total of five support conversations for each unit and a max of three with an individual character. These conversation help increase stats on the battlefield if two characters that have had a support conversation are standing close to each other.

Showing the way Showing the way

   Yuka Tsujiyoko, veteran Fire Emblem composer, wrote the music for Path of Radiance. The music is very well done, and matches the theme of the game well. Nothing too spectacular, but easy on the ears nonetheless. What is realy neat, though, is how the music seamlessly transitions between pieces throughout the battles and you might not even notice. The music for the Player's turn and the Enemy's turn is different, and it melds very well so that it sounds almost like one song. There are also a few scenes with voice acting. Nothing that makes the ears bleed, but definitely not oscar material. The amount of voice acting is very small, so it's not really worth regarding.

   A lot of Fire Emblem games are very similar to one another. Features from past games always seem to return to newer additions to the series with very little original features added. There is one thing worth mentioning, and that is the ability to select and hold enemies attack ranges while you're dealing with your own characters placements during each turn. During your turn, when you press the A button (the big green on) while your cursor is over an enemy, there movement and attack range will hold its place and remain as a reddish hue over the battlefield while you're inspecting other units. You can select multiple enemies in this fashion and it makes it easier to not accidently place a weak character, such as a priest or and archer, in the line of fire as enemies will always go for those that they can kill fastest first. This is a real boon to the series as it helps take some of the edge off. Other than that, the only other thing that is very different from past titles is the games graphics.

   This brings us to the visuals. Being the first Fire Emblem game to be released on a 3D console, Path of Radiance is the first to utilize 3D graphics. The battlefields look a lot better than previous games, and they can be zoomed in and out of and partially rotated for a better view. The battlefields are also more realistic in respect to the sprites, and they look really good. The scenes where the characters are carrying out their attacks is also really well-done and a step above previous entries to the series, making the battles just a little more fun to look at. Between battles, though, pre-drawn backgrounds and 2D characters take center stage. Each character has only one portrait that doesn't change despite how sad or angry they might be. Nothing that couldn't be done on previous generation consoles, so it's mostly during the battles that the graphics are their best.

Wind apparently hurts Wind apparently hurts

   The story in Path of Radiance is very multilayered and extremely well done. It takes place on a continent in which the tension between the different countries is very thick, especially between the countries of the beorc (humans) and laguz (beast men). It has a top-notch cast of characters where differing personalities and attitudes collide to make one captivating story about a group of mercenaries, outcasts, stowaways, and royalty who try to bring peace to the land to prevent the awakening of a chaos-loving god from destroying the world. There is so much political intrigue, prejudicial strife, and eye-opening plot twists that it can be hard to put the controller down. Despite the frustration that can accrue during battles, the reward of continuing the amazing story is worth it.

   As mentioned before, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance is a difficult game, and especially difficult for those who are unfamiliar with the series. If you now how to play Fire Emblem games, then the difficulty will be a little easier to deal with. The time to complete this game is a little hard to measure since there will probably be a lot of resetting. At the end of the game the clock might read somewhere around 30 to 40 hours, but the actual time (depending on your skill and amount of times reset) will be much more towards 40 or 50 hours.

   Being well-known for frustrating gameplay, the Fire Emblem series has the big job of keeping its players from quitting the game. Where other games fail to do so, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance has such a captivating cast of characters and stunning story that the battles are worth dealing with. They can even be really fun if you play your cards right. All in all, Path of Radiance is worth a look by any RPG fan. It's a good addition to an RPG-deprived console.

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