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Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon

 

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon

ESRB: Everyone 10+
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Category: RPG
 
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Author:

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Intelligent Systems

Features

DS Wireless Play
Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection
Touch Screen Compatible
DS Microphone Compatible

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is the first Fire Emblem game to come to the Nintendo DS and is a remake of the first Fire Emblem that published what seems eons ago. Previously, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon has only been available in Japan and it is finally making its debut in North America. Being a fan of tactical RPG’s like Final Fantasy Tactics and Advance Wars this title was on my must have list and I was eager to get my hands on it to play.

Graphics

Artistically, the characters have been beautifully illustrated by Masamune Shirow who is best known for his work with Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed. Being familiar with these two series it made me appreciate the attention to detail that the illustrator brought to Shadow Dragon even more. Between the battles there are narrative scenes where you see the many faces of crucial characters throughout the game in the battlegrounds where the story takes place. In these scenes you get to see the illustrations of Masamune in even greater detail, aiding in building the medieval setting of Shadow Dragon.

The battle animations vary based on your unit and the weapons they are using. Magic based units will cast their spells with flare from a distance or up close. There are a variety of different magical attacks but the basic attacks are Fire, Blizzard, and Thunder. Characters that base their attacks using missile weapons can shoot from a distance and the shots will pan to the direction you’re attacking from, and as you shoot the missile it will fly across the screen at your intended target. Melee attacks get you up close and personal and the attacking animations will have your unit strike at close range. Overall, the battle animations are simple but they do a great job at depicting the actions and provide a decent visual experience.

The maps where you do battle are nicely detailed with cobbled bridges, different shades of water to show depth, faded and trampled grasslands, and even flags blowing in the wind on top of castle parapets. The maps graphics are not the best I have seen in tactical RPG’s, but I really appreciate the details put into the map environments. Overall, the graphics and animations are what I expected and they did a great job at creating the right atmosphere for the game. The artistic detail put into the characters is the main highlight and the detail in the backgrounds was pretty solid too.

Sound

The music in Shadow Dragon is not very extensive but what is available does an excellent job in creating a fantasy and medieval atmosphere that is needed for this game. That being said, the music is lacking in variety and can become monotonous if you keep the sound on the whole time. The sound effects of the game are focused on the attack animations and change up based on the weapon used and if there is a critical strike made when attacking. At that end of the day the music and sound effects are a feature that is somewhat lacking in the game and is in need of some work; however the lack of great sound and music does not affect the game as a whole.

Gameplay

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is a turn based tactical role playing game that takes place in a fantasy world in turmoil. The Shadow Dragon has returned and has allied with Gharnef, a powerful sorcerer. Through this powerful alliance the duo has conquered many kingdoms forcing the hand of King Cornelius of Altea into battle to combat the forces of Gharnef and the Shadow Dragon. Marth, the son of King Cornelius, is left at home with his mother and sister when an unsuspecting force marches on Altea, forcing Marth to flee his homeland so that he can one day return home to liberate it from its conquerors.

The game is divided into chapters where in each chapter you get a piece of the storyline and a specific battle to complete. As you progress through the chapters you will eventually be able to perform battle preparations where you select your units to send into battle, position your troops on the battle map, equip your units, assign a new class to units and promote your units. After you have the battle preparations completed, the battle begins.

Each battle map is broken down into a large grid much like a chess board where your units and enemies units are set up as chess pieces. Take control of your units and tactically move them into position to combat the enemy forces. Sounds like a fairly simple concept right? It is one thing to move your units to attack the enemy, but you have to keep in mind that the enemy is going to be trying to defeat you on the battlefield as well. With other tactical RPG’s, when your units are defeated on the battlefield they can be revived or they return after you have completed the battle. With Fire Emblem you do not have this safety net. When your unit is defeated on the battlefield they are gone forever. This aspect brings a different angle to the game where you have to be aware of your unit’s status and to have a healthy balance of support units and offensive units.

The strategy you choose is completely up to you. You can rush in and take out as many units as you can while hoping you live to tell the tale or you can lure out the enemy units out one at a time and defeat them as a group. Your tactical prowess and imagination will become your main tool as you progress through the story. To formulate your strategy though you should know a bit about the types of units you have at your disposal.

There are over sixteen different unit types and a good chunk of those units that can be promoted to a more powerful unit type. You literally have an army of units to pick and choose from to form your battle strategy. I split the units up into four groups: Infantry, Mounted, Support and Special or Elite Units.

Infantry units consist of Knights, Archers, Mercenaries, Myrmidons, Fighters, Hunters and Pirates. Each of these units has their own strengths and weaknesses that will aid you in forming your strategy. For example, Knights have incredibly strong armour and are ideal for the front lines, where as Archers can attack from a distance and should follow your Knights into the fray to offer some offensive support. Pirates can cross over water which allows them to sneak through the wetlands to flank your enemy while your main forces move in from a different front.

Mounted units include Pegasus Knights and Cavaliers. Yes, there are only two units available to you that are mounted, but I find that the mounted units are very important to a great strategy. Pegasus Knights can go anywhere on the map and move very quickly into the battle providing a quick strike if needed. The same can be said for Cavaliers where they provide a quick strike into battle, but they are limited by terrain. The mounted units are by far my favorite because they allow you to move in quickly and if you find yourself in some trouble they can also move away quickly to recuperate.

Support units are your spell casters which consist of Dark Mages, Mages, and Curates/Clerics. Dark Mages and Mages are pretty much the same unit except that Dark Mages have higher defence than their regular mage counterparts. Mages provide great offensive support from a distance and are excellent at defeating units with high physical defence. Your Curates and Clerics are your healers and are crucial in keeping your other units alive. Without any unit to heal you can be rest assured that your army will fall apart and you won’t have any units to work with later on in the game.

Special or Elite units consist of Thieves, Manaketes, Ballisticians and Freelancers. Thieves are useful as they can open chests and pick open locked doors allowing your army to gain access to areas otherwise unavailable to them. Manaketes are an interesting unit, which at first glance they look like a hunched over old man with wings. However, if you attain a Firestone or Divinestone and equip them with it they can turn into a Fire Dragon or Divine Dragon. Dragons are very powerful and difficult to defeat which results in a unit that can turn the tide of any battle. Ballisticians are a tough unit that provide extreme offensive power from long distances and are very useful when assaulting a castle, or city. Finally, you have your freelancers which are very powerful in their own right. They have the power to mimic the powers of any adjacent friendly unit for a set amount of time and can provide you with added healing and offensive power on a whim.

The majority of these units, upon reaching level 10, can be promoted to a more powerful unit which is similar to the previous unit but with upgraded stats. Keep in mind that you will need a Master Seal to use promote them, but it is more than worth it. Now that you know the basics of how the game works and have a rough idea of how your units work you can jump into single player mode, or for the first time you can play wirelessly against other players via DS Wireless Play or Nintendo Wifi.

In DS Wireless Play you go head to head against a friend where you select your units from your Chapter Saves and battle each other, with the winner receiving special card(s) to enhance their units abilities. Another feature that goes along with DS Wireless Play is the ability to loan out units, or borrow units from other players. This feature can come in handy when you are trying to complete a battle and just don’t have the right units to succeed. Remember that your borrowed units do not receive any experience from battles they participate in.

Along with head to head battles and the ability to loan/borrow units using the Nintendo Wifi connection, you also have voice chat during battles and online shopping. The chat option is great to have, allowing you to chat with your existing friends or make some new ones. The chat option can be switched on or off depending on your comfort level. The Shop Online function allows you access to an online armory where you can choose to buy or sell items. The inventory changes on a daily basis so be sure to check everyday for certain powerful and special items that you may looking for.

The gameplay of the Fire Emblem series has always been what makes the game great and Nintendo continues to keep the gameplay fun and enjoyable. The added online functionality brings a whole new level to the handheld title which will delight online gamers, especially with voice chat support. I really enjoyed the gameplay and look forward to a few more online matches against my friends.


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