aka Fire Emblem outside of Japan.
The Fire Emblem series since its debut on the NES, well Famicom since it was in Japan, has been a hallmark of Nintendo and America is finally getting a taste of it. Even though Fire Emblem was a hallmark game it came over on these shores since the game was considered to strategic. Like Advance Wars (if you don’t know the first "Wars" game was Famicom Wars), this series is getting its debut on the Game Boy Advance.
You’re probably wondering what this game is like and what the big deal is. Fire Emblem is a strategy RPG by definition. However, it doesn’t play like Final Fantasy Tactics Advance or Ogre Tactics. Imagine Advance Wars with a fantasy RPG twist and you’ve got Fire Emblem. The story involves a character named Lin, who’s destiny happens to be ruler of a country. After she nurses the player back to health Lin chooses to enlist you as her military advisor. Nintendo doesn’t let the story sit on the sidelines, but we wont reveal any more since we don’t want to spoil it for you. We will say there are some points that will surprise you and other points that will make you play through the game to see the next part.
As Lin’s military advisor you’ll have complete control of the party throughout the game. This means you get to position the units, choose their attacks or spells and equip them. The battles work on a large rocks, paper, scissors system. For instance swords are strong against axes and weak against spears. Spears happen to be weak against axes and strong against swords. While the system does work you’ll be spending time reequipping your characters so they’ll have the advantage over the other troops. The actual battles are very similar to Advance Wars with more options. Besides from the standard fight, magic and move Fire Emblem provides more options for your characters. You can steal from enemies, use items and even locate shops. These commands provide more possible strategies throughout the game. Also like Advance Wars terrain plays an important role. Different terrain leads to increases in attack or defense. The terrain advantages work out well because you can hide ranged warriors and mages in terrain that increases their defense and move melee troops to the positions where they have the most advantage attacking.
The only minor gripe is the character building system. America just got Final Fantasy Tactics, which has a wide variety of options for character building. Fire Emblem features more classes than Tactics, but leveling up is the age old experience system. Spells are obtained by buying them at stores and Fire Emblem only has more classes because there are class upgrades. Gamers that expect a strategy like Final Fantasy Tactics may be disappointed in this aspect of the game.
Graphically, Fire Emblem seems a little dated. Fire Emblem: Sword of Fire is actually the seventh game in the series and the uses the same engine from the sixth game. Since the game didn’t receive any graphical overhaul other games like Sword of Mana and the recent Final Fantasy Tactics overshadow this game. Still the attack effects and spell effects are cool. The backgrounds are OK looking, but the overworld map looks like a first generation GBA game. Music wise the game has a wider selection of tunes compared to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, which is important since you’ll be playing this game for a long time. None of them are amazing, but they fit the job of background music quite nicely.
Finally, American players will get a chance to experience the Fire Emblem series. Fans of Advance Wars and Final Fantasy Tactics will like this game. While it may not be as deep in its leveling up system as other strategy RPGS, the game features thirty chapters and 50 hours of gameplay. Tack on side quests and you’ve got an epic game. What Fire Emblem lacks in presentation it makes up for in gameplay.
This game suffers from the "must understand a lot of Japanese to play the game" syndrome. Don’t bother importing it since it has a definite release date. If you really like this game and understand Japanese consider Fire Emblem 6, which is also for the GBA.
This game kicks off Nintendo’s "GBA epic releases" and is going to be released on Nov, 3 2003.
+ Pros: Long lasting gameplay, epic story, challenging battles
– Cons: Dated graphics and presentation, lack of depth for character development
Overall: From the Game Boy Advance’s release date it has been a system for people that love tactical games. Luckily, Fire Emblem fits this demographic. It’s not a game that is going to change anyone’s mind about strategy games, but is one that every strategy game fan will love.
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