Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Genre: RPG, Strategy, Tactical
ESRB Rating: Everyone (10+)
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Moving the Fire Emblem franchise -- a decades-old series of strategy games featuring simplistic controls which have never really evolved past what they were on the original, rectangular Nintendo Entertainment System gamepad -- to the Wii, a system designed to blow people's socks off with its innovative, infrared and motion sensitive controls, might seem a little strange. But keep in mind that Nintendo's goal has always been to deliver fun games, regardless of how one might interact with them, and Radiant Dawn is just as entertaining as any of its legendary predecessors.
On the surface, this direct sequel to the GameCube's Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (the two games share a virtually identical look and feel) is just another turn-based strategy game in the same vein as Advance Wars or Final Fantasy Tactics -- chess-like experiences in which you shuffle units with varying skills and movement abilities around a gridded environment.
But dig a little deeper and you'll find a decidedly deep and mature tactical experience with plenty of uncommon features, not the least of which is permanent death. Every unit at your command has his or her own back-story and compelling ongoing drama. That is, until he or she dies. If it's a primary protagonist who perishes, it's game over. But if any of the secondary characters bites the dust the game continues and he or she is gone forever, their story cut prematurely short as a result of your shortcomings as a commander.
The consequences are twofold. First, if you've grown attached to the recently deceased, you'll feel terribly guilty, and wonder just what their fictional lives would have been like had you not walked them chest first into an enemy's lance. Second, if the dead characters were among your more powerful units, you'll find you sorely miss them in future battles.
And that's why you'll likely find yourself replaying some chapters with an aim to make it through with all your beloved characters intact. But warned: do this sparingly, for as with all Fire Emblem games, Radiant Dawn is best enjoyed as it was designed to be played, with unpredictable, melancholy death lurking around every corner. And should you lose that favored knight, don't be surprised should an unlikely hero emerge in your party in the form of a heretofore little-used thief or bandit.
Perma-death, as some call it, is a great narrative device and an interesting game mechanic that's highly underused in the games insustry. And this feature, combined with the franchise's trademark multifaceted strategy, is more than enough of a reason to give Radiant Dawn a shot. Long-time fans of the Fire Emblem franchise already know what levels of coolness to expect, and newcomers will understand just a few short hours into this epic, 40-hour-plus quest. It's the best game of tactics available for the Wii.