Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is a reinvention of the original NES title that has been running for over 20 years! Revamped with intuitive touch controls and improved graphics, Shadow Dragon is poised to bring gamers back to the beginning of the legendary Fire Emblem series.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon hasn’t been available state side until now making Shadow Dragon a hot commonity if you are a Fire Emblem fan. The gameplay is 100% classic Fire Emblem, grid based strategy role-playing games from the beginning of the genre. Fire Emblem veterans will feel right as home as you blaze through each chapter with tactical wit. For those of you who are new to the Fire Emblem series, then you are in for a fun "thinking" styled of role-playing with lots of tactics and unforgiving combat. If you fit into the newbie classification then Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is the best place to start, where it all started for the series.
The formula hasn’t been totally left alone. Intelligent Systems took some liberties by introducing a few new changes into the old classic. Fire off the have included a weapon triangle, a rock-paper-scissors type deal that wasn’t in the original. This shouldn’t be a deal breaker for that looking for a tactical turn-based game, but for purists it’s now how the game was originally released. Hardcore Fire Emblem gamers might question the point system that is tacked on to this new sword-axe-lance measuring battle stick. In my books the battle system doesn’t have to be a solid state logic and this new system works fine within the confines of Fire Emblem’s battle system.
Another new addition is the ability to re-class your characters. This is a take-it or leave-it feature gives the ability to change up each characters class in the game gives the player too much freedom, and yes that can be a bad thing. In stead of learning how to deal which each character and make the best out of their unique talents on the battlefield you can simply manufacture a horde of super-soldiers in your play style. The balance of having a fun chess-like tactical battle seems to less of an impact when this ability is at your disposal. I’m sure the original game had every battle carefully balanced and worked out and its shame Intelligent changed this feature to make it seem more modern.
It doesn’t end here, Fire Emblem adds another new ability and this one is to merge weapons. In Shadow Dragon your weapons wear down with use. This causes you to look for keep an eye on their structural status while you purchase new weapons as you go. I am fan of this gameplay feature because it adds a nice realistic touch to the warfare. In Shadow Dragon you can now merge two similar weapons into one restoring its usage. This definitely makes weapon management a whole lot easier, and depending on your purist look at Fire Emblem, changing any aspect of the original could be a bad point. For weapon merging I say WIN.
Lastly for changes, we have an innovation in the combination of Wi-Fi. You can log onto an online shop and purchase new weapons daily. This is great way to find some unique stuff that isn’t so loosely given up in the normal adventure. You can also connect online for some multiplayer, either with a friend code or with a stranger. There are a few modes that are entertaining where you have to capture a castle and hold it while being attacked. Offensive, defensive strategies, you’ll be tested online. The addition of Wi-Fi adds a tone of replay ability to mix and can keep you on that DS for hours on end.
Turning back time isn’t always a good thing because a lot of Fire Emblem die-hards will notice what is missing from the original, all the new innovations that have shaped the series over the years. One pin-pointed area which I missed was having conversations during the battle when two characters are placed beside each other. This doesn’t affect the landscape of the battles; it is more of a little touch that makes Fire Emblem more personal and interesting. A few conversations have been added, don’t get me wrong, but these little tidbits are nothing like the later releases.
Even with Shadow Dragon’s downsides this is one hefty role-playing game that can be replayed a dozen times with new results. Playing through without saving botched missions is the best way to go as you learn to live with your battlefield decisions. Playing the general isn’t always easy and like Intelligent other games and previous Fire Emblem games, you will need to have half a brain sitting on your shoulders. The structure is still behind the main hero, if he/she dies then its game over, the goal is to keep him alive and win each battle, in this case Marth. As you balance all your pieces of the chess-like action you find lot of options to approach the enemy. For tactical fans Shadow Dragon offers a lot of options and strategies to be explored.
Shadow Dragon could be a little frustrating if you’re not used to the unforgiving gameplay in Fire Emblem. You might have a few scenarios you’ll want to replay just to get it right, depending on your dedication to the Fire Emblem craft. Tactical newbie’s be prepared to do a lot of pre-planning, on the go strategizing as you cautiously advance through each level. Making things easier on are save points that are scattered through larger battles, so you can mark your progress. Fire Emblem’s battles are usually on the long side, so expect to a have a small chunk of time set aside when booting up the game. I doesn’t help that it’s highly addictive, this is one of those games that will keep you up at night because you just can’t put it done. One more battle, one more round, I’ll try that again...
Graphically Shadow Dragon has been upgraded from the original, but they still show their age. The out of battle animations are the best moments to be had and everything is just on par. This isn’t bad compared to other similar styled role-playing games, then add Shadow Dragon’s birthday into the mix and it is all good. The best compliment that I could give is that everything runs smooth, the animations are dated, but they too are smooth. For the sound, it is fairly solid in the game with some great battle marches thrusting out of the little speakers on the DS. Along side the musical tracks are some good sound effects that have a lot more care then other Gameboy versions of Fire Emblem.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is a must for all Fire Emblem collectors. Die-hard tactical fans might be a little bored with the old school nature of the game, and who can blame them.... given there are so many solid Fire Emblem games to pick from. First timers you might be loving the Dragon a little more. This is an entertaining, tactical role-playing game that will test your wit on the battlefield. The story might not be much, but the gameplay is solid. Shadow Dragon is one of those memorable titles that don’t have the complete package; it’s more of just enough to warrant a purchase. If you are fan of tactical games and aren’t bias to the new-school of Fire Emblem take a look at Shadow Dragon and enjoy your time with Marth.
Gameplay:7.5, Graphics: 7, Sound: 6.5, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 7 Final: 7.0 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 03.23.09