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Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon review
The Emblem's Fire has finally been extinguished.

The good:

It's a version of Marth's tale available outside of Japan.

The bad:

Painfully tedious.
A poor step in the graphical department.
Poorly implemented gimmicks.
Lifeless story.
No support conversations.
Gaiden Chapters destroy the series ideaology.

Summary:

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, or FEDS as I've been calling it for the last year or so, is the eleventh game in a series of tactical RPGs, wherein you take the role of a young warrior, most likely the prince of his/her nation (with a mercenary here and there, but no Ike isn't in this game) and also most likely possessing blue hair, though we do make exceptions for a couple of redheads and the odd silver-haired maiden here and there. You band together a ragtag group of soldiers from whoever you find possessing a face who won't just try and kill you- and possibly even some of the people who WILL try and kill you, poaching soldiers from the enemy is commonplace in this series. Eventually, you will invariably end a war between two or more countries, and in most ieterations proceed onwards to destroy some form of cult, with a climactic battle against a supernatural being.

This eleventh game, however, is a remake of the series first game, Dragon of Darkness and the Blade of Light. This game, like the five after it, only ever came out in Japan, baffling us all when Marth and Roy hit Smash Bros. However, after many years and two Smash Bros games with this tiara wearing man dominating the tier lists, Intelligent Systems have seen fit to remake Marth's first game (Fire Emblem 3, Mystery of the Emblem, was a direct sequel, with 2 being a spinoff that no-one speaks of) for the Nintendo DS and release it around the world.

And oh dear God, I wish they hadn't bothered.

You may be wondering if the game can be this bad, but it is. It is painfully tedious, especially in the later chapters. One false move, even on normal, can spell the end of several hours' playtime. The sprites move painfully slowly, and even with enemy movement skipped (I advise against skipping the enemy turns in their entirety if you actually play this game, as with leaving battles in you can actually see what went wrong if people died and a reset is in order), you will spend more time waiting for enemies to get to you than you will playing the damn game.

And speaking of battles, the graphical style taken in Shadow Dragon is abominable. With prior installments in the series, I enjoyed the pixellated sprites used, even spending time creating portraits of my own, using the pre-existing ones as bases. In this game, I see no such enjoyment. I see another step by the gaming industry towards "realism"- gritty browns and dark greens for all the family. Now, forgive me for saying this, but I'm fairly sure there's some bright colours in real life as well, making me wonder what the world is trying to say with all this dark green and brown.

Sadly, it is not just the new graphics that suffer in this game- it's attempts at spicing up the gameplay have failed miserably as well. The most prominent of these failed features is reclassing. It seems like a good idea at first, allowing people to be switched around at will, except it is not done at will, merely by arbitrary groupings decided based on the unit's original class. The character per class limit is actually sensible, keeping your army in more or less the same shape as it began in. However, my main issue is the lack of logic in it. You can completely cast aside a character's backstory as a brave and mighty knight and make them a meek, mild spellcaster. Now, if it let me do something as silly as make Lena, the game's early joining and very timid Cleric, into a fearless Berserker or General for no other reason than the sheer hilarity of it, I wouldn't protest, since it would clearly be trying to be illogical. However, the introduction of groupings suggests that Intelligent Systems is trying to be logical about something that is quite frankly illogical, makes me wonder exactly what the makers of this game were thinking.

However, I must apologise, as I have slightly mislead you by alluding to a "character's backstory". There is no such thing in this game; even Marth is horribly bland, and he alone of the playable cast talks for the majority of the game. I don't mind having characters hurled at me like crap at the fan, but could you at least do something with them other than having them tag along? You aren't exactly giving me characters that I grow attached to; even Sacred Stones and Radiant Dawn, for all their story faults, had good likeable characters that had me lunging for the reset button if they croaked. I felt no such thing here, only an obligation to preserve that hard-earned exp.

Now, a key feature to the development of the characters of recent Fire Emblem games (except Radiant Dawn, but we won't go into that now) are support conversations, little conversations between the playable characters that let us find out more about them. These are, sadly, absent from Shadow Dragon- quite a shame, as a good set of supports might have silenced some of my complaints about the characters being lifeless.

A final note, based on another recurring feature of the Fire Emblem series; "Gaiden" chapters, or sidequests. In days gone past, the requirements for unlocking a Gaiden would be to either complete the associated chapter within a set amount of turns or simply for the character(s) relevant to the sidequest to still be alive after the associated chapter. These days of rewarding skill with wealth, experience and further allies are long gone. Now, the requirements for Gaiden chapters are simply to have less than 15 allies total by the associated chapter- madness. It's almost as if Intelligent Systems have decided that they will reward poor playing with bonuses- though in the system's defence, there are so many characters that killing them all off could be seen as a challenge in itself. However, the series' tradition of permanent death has long encouraged strategy, something that promoting ritualistic slaughter of your allies flies straight in the face of.

To summarise; should you get this? Well, if you don't trust my opinion, then go right ahead, it's your money. However, I would HEAVILY recommend against buying it. Borrow it if you can, get it secondhand if possible, but do not pay full price; it isn't worth it, and the promise of more remakes if Shadow Dragon sells well is basically Intelligent Systems saying "look, this game sucks but we'll do something else if you buy it anyway". Do not do it. I only gave it 0.5 because to do less is an insult to what is otherwise a good series.

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1 thumbs!
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InsanityS Feb 23, 09
Say it ain't so.

You know, I saw on Serenes Forest the unlock requirements for the gaiden chapters and thought how *bleep*ed up they were. Looks like IS decided to screw up many aspects of the series.

Nice to read your view on the game, especially given your history with the series. Might have been nice to go a little more into detail about the main gameplay mechanics though, like choosing weapons to attack, permanent death, what stats affect what and stuff, for those people who aren't all too famaliar with FE.
0 thumbs!
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Razentsu Feb 23, 09
While I disagree with your final score, you make some good points. The story-telling is atrocious, the characters are horrendously underdeveloped, and the objective for every chapter is to seize the throne or castle. I also thought the environments were bland, and there are like, only two memorable tracks in the game, "Together We Ride" and the Fire Emblem Theme Song. I didn't mind the new graphics, but I felt that the game had lost a lot of personality with it's new direction.

I agree with many of your negative points, but I still really enjoyed the game.
-1 thumbs!
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NeOsX Feb 24, 09
I honestly agree with the fact that the story-telling was pretty lame, and also the fact that support conversations were nowhere to be found bugged me greatly, but i don't think it deserves such score as a 0.5/5... a 3/5 is more accurate. Yes it may lack the deepness of other fire emblem games, but you have to remember that it is a "portable" game, radiant dawn is where the story-telling excels and character bonding belongs... also with the addition of wifi, now you are able to test your strategic skills around anyone around the world! also the online shop is quite useful if you're in need of armory while playing the game. This fire emblem may lack the "soul" that others had, but remember that it is just a "remake" of the very first one ever made! This is where the series began, and if there was to be another fire emblem in the future it would surely be better than this one. My score for this game would be a full 3/5, no more, no less...

PS: Fire Emblem games are supposed to be tedious... without the pressure and the challenge of the game, the series would be so incredibly boring, I honestly think it has a fair balance of dificulty.
1 thumbs!
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The Deathwind Feb 25, 09
@NeOsX

1. "but you have to remember that it is a "portable" game, radiant dawn is where the story-telling excels and character bonding belongs..."

Incorrect. I found Blazing Sword (the one with Eliwood, Lyn and Hector before anyone at all asks me), a GBA game, to have far better storytelling and character bonding than both this and Radiant Dawn.

2. "also with the addition of wifi, now you are able to test your strategic skills around anyone around the world!"

Or how well you can use an AR. Not selling me.

3. "This fire emblem may lack the "soul" that others had, but remember that it is just a "remake" of the very first one ever made!"

I judge remakes by the standards of the year that they were released, not the year of the original.

4. "This is where the series began, and if there was to be another fire emblem in the future it would surely be better than this one"

I said the same thing about Radiant Dawn in it's down areas, and then I got Shadow Dragon. This is not selling me.

5. "PS: Fire Emblem games are supposed to be tedious... without the pressure and the challenge of the game, the series would be so incredibly boring, I honestly think it has a fair balance of dificulty."

I once again bring up Blazing Sword, which is challenging while not tedious. Sacred Stoness was a breather game, Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn are console FEs and so have never really worked for me. =\
-1 thumbs!
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Duncan Idaho Nov 12, 09
I have to agree with deathwind Neosx he has reason, inteligent systems has experience alreday with handheld consoles since FE6 to FE8 3 fire emblem games, fire emblem 9 and 10 gave more prestige to the series but Fire emblem Shadow dragon just fails, defeating the very basic concept of all series that also makes it difrent from civilization and age of empires to name a few, for those who ask so the diference is?: Fire Emblem= Each unit is unique Age of empires or Civilization= tons of mindless soldiers if you lose one you always can recruit 5 more..., SD= worst FE ever...
0 thumbs!
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mmstarforcemasters Jan 1, 10
personally i dont agree with your review. i thought this game had good story telling and was a good game which i would rate a 4.5
-1 thumbs!
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FRWL Jun 27, 10
Wow, this is such a shitty fanboy review. You either compare everything to the gameboy advance games or express your own opinion on the game. First, you fail to mention anything about its multiplayer options, which is the first game in the series to have. It implements online options very well, but you seem to be hell-bent on making this game look terrible instead of writing up an unbiased review.
You criticize the game’s art style, but you only talk about the game’s in-game sprites and maps, which you criticize in the first place because it’s not sprite-based and you can’t create your own sprites from the bases. Correct me if I’m wrong, but people don’t play games so they can use the sprites to create their own sprites, they play the game to be entertained. The sprites in the game fulfill that: the battle sprites are smooth and the face sprites are detailed and beautiful.
Now you go on to criticize the game’s gameplay, which is the best part of the game along with its art style. You do not talk about ANYTHING gameplay-related except “class changing sucks”. Your class-changing example is also laughable, as it’s not possible to make Lena either of those two classes. This specific example makes me question if you even played the game before you reviewed it. Not to mention class changing is also completely optional, so you basing your entire gameplay paragraph is ridiculous.
Yes, you’re right that the character’s backstories and lack of conversations are disappointing, but then you go on to compare this to the gameboy advance games like you did the graphic style. This is not a plot-heavy game like the gameboy advance ones were, it is a gameplay-influenced Fire Emblem. The biggest pros about this game is the art style (which you completely base on your opinion) and the gameplay (which all you mentioned is a completely optional part) but you insist on making this game sound like shit because it’s not like your precious gameboy advance games.
You now talk about the gaiden chapters. But wait, what’s this? You again compare it to the gameboy advance games. The gaiden chapters in this game make you take risks and force you to think about how you are going to form your team. Even then, they are called “side stories” for a reason, they are optional. Just because it does not follow the standard Fire Emblem route of making the gaiden chapters extremely easy to access does not necessarily mean it’s a bad thing.
So what can we sum up from your review? How about you are extremely influenced by the gameboy advance games and anything that is not similar to them sucks. This is not a game for extreme Fire Emblem fanboys, which is who your review is directed to, but to casual players who enjoy nice, smooth graphics and diverse and challenging, but not punishing, gameplay.
1 thumbs!
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The Deathwind Jun 27, 10
1. I compare FEDS to FE7/8 etc because I like to think that over time a series would do this marvelous thing called "progress", and for remakes of previous games to bring themselves up to today's standards. FEDS has done neither.

Online is just another thing for the hackers to ruin with their hacked units, so I'd hardly call that a plus. And yes, I am "hell-bent on making this game look terrible" because in my opinion, it is.

2. Good job taking single minor sentences of paragraphs as my entire point- while I do indeed vastly prefer the GBA graphic style, the fact that they are easier to work with outside of the game is just an added personal thing for me.

3. Nice contextualisation of my reclassing example- I am highly aware that it is impossible, hence "Now, if it let me", which pretty well implies that the game does not let me do this. Maybe you should actually read reviews before suggesting the reviewer should play the game?

I only go on about reclassing because that was the big new thing Intelligent Systems tried, and it failed in my eyes.

4. It being a gameplay-based Fire Emblem means nothing if the gameplay is also mediocre at best. If the player is not having fun- and I was not- then gameplay is mediocre. And for the record, if a game is not like a GBA FE game but is an improvement on them- which I will again state that this is not- then I will not complain. However, it is not to the standard that the GBA games are, so I complain. Again, you'll have to forgive me for wanting to see a series of games I enjoy making this lovely thing called "progress".

5. I again compare to the GBA games as they are the baseline for at least the handheld FEs that I would like to think Intelligent Systems would improve upon and, again, "progress" from. I admit that ruthlessly killing off ninety percent of the characters to get extra chapters works well here because there are no characters here, only piles of stats, and as such there is no real attachment to them. However, the ideaology of the series is strategy, and surely a better strategist should be rewarded for not allowing casualties? Yes, the standard requirements for Gaidens are a bit on the easy side (except maybe HHM FE7 with the turn requirements), but just butchering a large majority of the cast is not the way forward. More varied and difficult gaiden requirements that promote actual strategy and not senseless sacrifices, however, are.

6. We can sum up that the game feels like a step backwards from the GBA games. Yes, I -am- influenced by the GBA games, but I will happily accept FE games that are different to them as long as they are different and [i]better[/i[]. This is not a better game in my opinion.

"Nice, smooth graphics"; not present, in my opinion- far too dull.

"diverse and challenging, but not punishing, gameplay"; challenging, yes. This is the only point I will give the game. Not punishing... not so much for the casual gamer you try and sell the game to. One mistake can cost hours, there is no way around this outside of not watching animations and skipping the enemy phases. Which loses a lot of the graphics you seem to enjoy so much.
0 thumbs!
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FRWL Jun 27, 10
A couple of hackers does not ruin a game's multiplayer. A great example of that is any Call of Duty game, or Pokemon. You also only talked about the online competitive portion. There's more than that; wireless competition, a store with unique items depending on the time of month, and unit borrowing.

Funny, because your personal sprite-editing statement takes up half of your graphics paragraph. The other half is also purely opinion-based, not to mention, wrong. Maybe you should play the game in full before you criticize it for having nothing but the colors of brown and dark green.

You still failed to mention anything about it's gameplay other than it's class-changing option. Keep in mind this is still optional, so you still have no sensible reason to focus the entire gameplay portion review on it. Even if it's the only new addition of the game, you don't focus your entire gameplay review on just that. You review the entire game. Not just new additions.

You have merit that this game isn't as good as the gameboy advance games, that doesn't justify your low score for it. It brings new items to the table, but you completely ignore the positive ones (online/wifi multiplayer, which, keep in mind, is the first for a Fire Emblem game, touch screen controls) and focus on ones in which you think “lack logic”. You wouldn’t give every Final Fantasy game after 6 a one out of ten because it’s not as good as 6, would you?

Again, you would not rate every Final Fantasy game after 6 a 1 out of 10 because it doesn’t live up to 6. Actually, you probably would, considering this review. This is a strategy game, not a plot-heavy one. The gaiden chapters (which, keep in mind, are also optional) force you to think out your team before you go charging into the battlefield. You are probably only going to be using around 10-13 units anyway, so eliminating extra units does not negatively affect the game. If every unit were crucial to the success of beating the game, then yeah, I would have a problem with it. But the fact is, it is not.

This one paragraph you bring up prove this is a heavily biased review, which is not a good thing. Again, I’m going to bring up my Final Fantasy example. Reviewers do not say “Final Fantasy 13 sucks because it’s not sprite based, the story sucks ass compared to Final Fantasy 6, the 1 new attempt at spicing up gameplay sucks, blah blah blah”. They review the games based on quality and enjoyment, not based on previous entries in the series, which your review does.

Dull is not the exact opposite of smooth. The ingame graphics sacrifice details for smooth animations in battle scenes. This is the only part of the graphics you mention in your review. All you talk about are the colors and ingame sprites. Nowhere you talk about the battlefields, face portraits, or really anything else.
Your last sentence is ridiculous, considering it’s coming from a die-hard Fire Emblem player. This game is much more diverse in Its difficulty options. There are many permanent save points on the battlefield (which you fail to mention) and the option to choose from many different difficulties (also fail to mention). Saying that one wrong move can cost hours of time is laughable, considering the game ends only if Marth dies. You fail to mention this and automatically assume players are going to restart the entire chapter just because one of their characters died. Factoring all this in, this game is not as punishing as you make it out to be.

Really, you should change the title of your review to "This review is only for die-hard Fire Emblem players", because that's all I can make out of it.
0 thumbs!
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The Deathwind Jun 28, 10
So sorry for not including every last detail of the graphics of the game. You're right, there is more than dark green and brown- a dark grey for the castles, a horribly yellow colour for the desert and maybe another map I'm forgetting right now, some darker browns and a few oranges for the lava cavern sidequest and of course the usual (but duller) reds and blues of the map sprites.

I wouldn't give the FF games past FF6 an automatic 1, because unlike this game I enjoyed the FF games past FF6 (FF10 being my favourite fo the lot, for the record). You might want a better example here.

Touch screen controls never really impacted me in a good way and don't particularly feel right. I turned them off in both DS Advance Wars games and I turned them off here. Online shops... if you enjoy arbitraily handing out lategame weapons right from the beginning (and it might as well be since money is never an issue in this game), sure. Borrowing units... I never actually saw the point to borrowing other people's characters and never felt a need to try it out. So what you're basically trying to tell me is that online functions that only really serve to make the game easier and move it away from strategy and more towards LOL SMASH EVERYTHING HURF DURF are a good thing? Local WiFi I have no opinion of since I don't know anyone offline who also had the misfortune of buying this game and I've never had a chance to test it.

I would discuss quality and enjoyment of a game if I felt there was quality and enjoyment to discuss. However, as you've probably gathered, I feel that these are not present. So yeah.

Lets see... Battlefields functional, yes. Possibly a functional improvement in that everything is clearer than the GBA games, but I preferred the overall style of the GBA games. Portraits are again functional, with my issues with them being preference of the former GBA style.

Let's see... two battle saves per chapter at maximum, a step forward in challenge when compared to Radiant Dawn's battle saving whenver would be a good point to (of which there are often more than two). Difficulty levels in my experience do nothing but change the enemy stats and weaponry, not really much to discuss outside of there being six of them with just those weaponry/equipment changes.

I automatically assume restarting whenever a character dies because frankly I don't know anyone who doesn't, and it seems like a waste of effort raising characters just to let them die. Yes, you can leave your good characters to die, but if you've already cut down the majority of the cast to get the Gaidens, you haven't got a lot of replacement options (well, there's the faceless replacement characters, but they're all terrible options and if you're relying on them there's a problem).

And just for a bit of perspective here, I wrote this review back when the game came out. I've given it a few more attempts recently, and while it's better than I thought it was back when I wrote the review, it's still not that great. If I re-reviewed it now, I'd probably move it up to 1.5/5. It's functional, but there are better FE games. Hell, there are better SRPG series' I could spend my time on now.
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