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Fire Emblem
  opened by paleface at 07:37:04 11/16/03  
  last modified by paleface at 12:27:18 03/05/24  
  paleface [sys=GBA; cat=Strategy; reg=NA]
Lively dialogue, compelling character, a sweeping story, neat graphical effects, lovely music, and simple yet flexible strategic battles make this game really easy to get into and hard to put down.
Nintendo's production values are, of course, top notch, and everything looks and sounds great, but even so the dialogue has been the star for me thus far. There's nothing like having a strong female lead who knows how to hold her own in conversation against a bunch of cocky men. And of course you've got the Don Juan, the strict by-the-book guy, the mysterious wanderer, the innocent trainee, and so on with somewhat broad strokes, at least in the beginning, but the snappy lines really make it sing. This is the kind of stuff that would sound forced or corny if it were in one of those fancy new speechifying games but here, as just speech bubbles, it works marvelously.
Even after five battles or so I'm still in sort of tutorial mode as the game illustrates various functions and tactics, and it does this pretty well. The simple interface lets you do a lot with a little, and once you pump the options up the little people really zip around the battlefield. It's neat, too, how the view zooms in to a close up (with great animation) when two units are battling it out.
Well, that's about it so far. I didn't mean to play this much (man, it's late) but couldn't stop. And knowing that there are dozens and dozens of hours of game and story remaining... well, if it's all this good, it'll be an awesome trip.
Now we can just hope that Nintendo starts bringing over more games from the Fire Emblem series. This is top stuff, and I don't think it will take a genius at Nintendo to realize that they will all sell like hotcakes.
  paleface 07:49:35 11/16/03
Err, blue "arrow." Darn hitting Enter too early...
  paleface 07:25:07 12/06/03
I have yet to see any demonstration of group battle tactics from the AI--you get the feeling that aside from occasional brief scripted moves, the AI units are pretty much turned loose to operate independently. The developers save the battles from utter predictability by throwing in a lot of mid-battle plot twists, surprise attacks, fog of war, and so forth.
They also make up for it by making the individual units almost absolutely ruthless. They will sometimes retreat when almost dead, and once in a while take advantage of a nearby fort for defense, but by and large they almost always go for the weakest unit within striking distance--even if it means throwing themselves right in the middle of your little army. You very quickly learn not to leave your support units within reach of the enemy, because they *will* get torched immediately.
Another thing they do is make some really nasty unique units. The enemy leader in each battle often has monumental amounts of armor and/or striking power, and once you finally beard him in his den, where he more than likely sat without moving for the duration of the battle, you may find yourself with all your units dancing around him just out of striking distance, and going in and getting mauled one at a time.
Coupled with character perma-death (well, they still show up for story bits, but they can't fight again) this makes for some fast, nerve-wracking battles. One false step and that character you've carefully raised from a n00b to a veteran killing machine may be completely wiped out forever and ever. The game autosaves if you turn it off, but you can restart a battle from the beginning if you can't bear living with the loss. I'd like to have the strength of will to burn through without restarting a chapter even if I lose dear characters in battle... but I've already found myself restarting once. Dear me!
On another note, as you can tell from the text bubbles in the screenshots, the dialog in this game is quite well written, the characters often express themselves in peppy little ways that just bring a smile to your face. The story gets quite interesting, too, with your crew in the middle of big complicated power struggles for control of the civilized world, essentially.
  paleface 03:54:41 12/07/03
Another interesting aspect of the game is that it throws way more playable characters at you than you can really use in a single play-through--throughout the game you can recruit more and more characters to your side, though some take a little cleverness to figure out how to recruit. You'll soon have far more characters available than you can take in to battle, and since battles are limited, there's no way you'll ever level them all up into effective fighting units. So you're force to choose which characters will be your "main" characters, essentially.
What this means is that you can replay the game with an entirely different party, maybe even three times over (wait, a FAQ says there are over 40 characters, and so far it doesn't let me take much more than 10 into any one battle... so that's four times over with different parties, although of course some of the characters only come along later in the game). Besides this I hear there are unlockable harder modes. This game could certainly keep you digging for a good long time.
  paleface 01:54:37 12/09/03
Download added: quips_001.jpg (14169 bytes)
  "Mr. Smooth."
I can resist no longer, I am just going to post amusing lines from the script, and there's nothing you can do about it.
  paleface 00:00:03 01/11/04
Finally got to the end and the game was good all the way through, although I have to admit that the script got a little heavier and less cute as the plot thickened. Once you finish the first play-through you can play again from the point of view of the main character's best friend, with a slightly different view of the plot, battle order, and much tougher opponents (or so I'm told). Spending another 40 hours levelling up characters in pretty much the same story I just played isn't likely to be on my agenda any time soon. I just hope they bring more of these over.

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