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Developer:
Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: GBA
Release Date: November 3, 2003

by Eric Arevalo




The game that took Japanese gamers by storm, Fire Emblem from developer Intelligent Systems and publisher Nintendo is finally released for the GBA in America. Intelligent Systems is also the same company that has given us the successful Advance Wars games as well as the much loved N64 game Paper Mario. When one plays through this exciting game it is easy to see why Fire Emblem has enjoyed 10 years of success in Japan. Fire Emblem combines both strategy and roleplaying elements into a very remarkable package. Gamers will be pleased with the impressive story, nice visuals and intense gameplay.


Dragons and man existed in peace for many generations. Eventually man hungered for control of the world and fought the dragons in a dreadful and dark time known as The Scouring. Dragons then vanished across the land and man spread itself throughout the world. A millenia has passed since those dark days and there are whisperings of danger in the wind. The game begins when you are found injured upon the Sacae plains and nursed back to health by a young woman named Lyn. Lyn's greatest desire is to become a great swordfighter and avenge the death of her parents by bandits over a year ago.


You join her on this quest as a tactician, the one who controls and commands her as well as all the other characters in the game. You make the decisions that will determine success or defeat in the turn based battles in the game. In the course of the game you are presented with a story that will leave you anticipating what is coming up next. Often you will find it difficult to put down your GBA because you just want to keep playing for just one more hour. The storyline is full of so many suspenseful and unique twists such as powerful leaders being posioned, villages being attacked, a secret cult calling itself The Black Fang, all graving power and seeking to gain it at all costs. There are those that may even want to bring the legacy of the past to the present. You must journey with Lyn, and later Eliwood, Hector and others, the valiant heroes that must step forward and vanquish those that would destroy the peace of the realm of Elibe.


Gameplay is very engaging in Fire Emblem. The game is divided into chapters, with each chapter being played on a single map with specific objectives for completing it. The way the story flows through these chapters is almost like reading a great novel with each chapter in this game accelerating the action, the suspense and the mystery. One chapter may have you dealing with bandits that are attacking a village while another may involve defeating assasins that have been sent to kill you. For Lyn, the young woman we spoke of earlier is the heir of a mighty kingdom and there are those who would do anything to take her place. Gameplay is exciting in this turn-based strategy/RPG game. You control many different kinds of units, all with unique abilities, from knights that wield powerful swords, spell casters that unleash deadly lightning and blazing fireballs, to archers and many others.


What makes this game stand out so much along with the story and gameplay is the life that has been given to each of the characters you meet in the game. They will become more than simple units that you control on the game map. The game includes some unique dialogue for all its characters and you will see yourself caring, laughing and rooting for many of the characters as you see them engaged in conversation. From Florina that is afraid to be near men, to Sain, a knight that loves beautiful women and does his best to impress them, to an irritating cleric, Serra, that some can't stand to be around with. Each character is given a brilliant personality that is wonderful to see and something that is not often found in some games and very welcome here!


Each turn your characters have a limited amount of movement points which you can use to move forward on the map or attack an enemy that is within your reach. As your units fight battles their experience will allow them to raise their stats, such as attack strength, defense and other areas. Battle is interesting based on what weapons you use. A sword will be better at attacking those enemies that have axes, and those that have axes can better defeat those that have lances, and lances can do more damage to those enemies with swords. On maps you not only battle your enemies but can visit villages and merchants that will reveal information you may need about the surrounding area, offer a special item or where you can buy weapons, armor and items that can replenish your health. There will also be times when you will be able to recruit certain units in battle by talking with them and convincing them to join you instead of attacking you. What I especially liked seeing is the excellent tutorial in the game that explains the main gameplay mechanics which allows you to easily get into the game. There are so many unique features such as these scattered throughout this game that speaks so well of developer Intelligent Systems.


Fire Emblem has some stunning and very detailed visuals. Complements to developer Intelligent Systems for the beautiful character portraits and backgrounds that appear when the characters are engaged in conversation. Game and battle map areas are also nicely done and battles often feature some dazzling unit animations and spell effects. During certain key points in the game there will also be some impressive static cutscenes that help move the single player campaign along that are crafted very well. Fire Emblem clearly demonstrates that a well-developed and engaging story can help a game immensely. It is the masterful story, beautiful character portraits and backgrounds, wonderful character personalities along with the exciting gameplay that makes this game truly shine like so few can when blending roleplaying as well as strategy elements into one game. I enjoyed Fire Emblem more than I thought I would and I hope that other installments in the Fire Emblem series are released here in the future. Fire Emblem is one of the better GBA games released this year and one that you will surely want to have this holiday season, sporting an impressive story, stunning visuals and intense gameplay!


Final Grade: 95%


   
Just RPG Award of Excellence!



Official Fire Emblem Website




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