On the field of battle, there are ultimately two outcomes: victory and death. Despite the fantastical setting, no series understands this better than Fire Emblem, where your slain comrades are beyond the power of any salve or spell to save. When you lose a loyal soldier—and you will—there won’t be anyone to blame but yourself.
Besides the inevitable (but disappointing) transition to 3D, there are two minor tweaks to the formula: the ability to push lighter units out of harm’s way, and the ability to earn bonus experience by completing a chapter quickly (eliminating the tedium of dispatching every enemy to level up).
Aside from some anime-styled cutscenes, the story is primarily handled through nearly immobile talking heads and huge amounts of text. To summarize: as the blue-haired mercenary leader Ike, you’re charged with defending the sole surviving princess of a wrongly invaded nation. Soon enough you encounter the half-beast laguz, capable of becoming fearsome beasts in combat. (As in any good fantasy, real-world issues such as racism are treated within the context of the setting.) I found the concept of several diverse cultures uniting together out of necessity to be deeply redolent of the Suikoden series, which is high praise coming from me.
Still, any SRPG ultimately stands or falls based on the gameplay, an area in which Path of Radiance remains strong. This Emblem is one you’d be proud to wear.
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance is a rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence.
(**** out of *****)