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Fire Emblem

Video Game Reviews

Ratings are based on a five-point scale, in homage to the the late, great Next Generation Magazine.

Intelligent Systems
Gameboy Advance

Rating: * * *
Fire Emblem - video game reviews
Fire Emblem screen shots - click for closeup

February 28, 2005

Intelligent Systems' Fire Emblem series has enjoyed a following in Japan for a number of years, appearing on the NES, Super NES, and Gameboy platforms. Now, the American arrival has been making waves on the Advance, giving the portable system another quality strategy game. That's always a good thing.

This is actually the seventh Fire Emblem, but knowing that isn't important, unless you're trying to impress other nerds with your trivia (of course, you could also smuggle them alcohol, but that's another topic). If you're familiar with Advance Wars, then you know pretty much everything you need to know. This is a turn-based strategy game that also involves moving military units around forest, hills, bridges, and towns.

Giving the strategy genre a fantasy-RPG twist is novel enough for console games to still stand out. The story, which plows ahead at a steady clip, involves a girl who discovers that she is a long-lost princess who must reclaim her rightful place before villanous upstarts steal the throne from an ailing king. Usually, this is when I start groaning, as these games just start piling on the same fairy tale routines; it's as lifeless and outmoded as a mullet man in a biker bar.

What do I have to do to get someone to write a decent script? If you're going to make your game dependant on story, than shouldn't you put, oh, I don't know, ten minutes into the writing? There once was a whole thriving genre of computer adventures with witty scripts. I'm not expecting Hemmingway, but seriously, enough with this. Boring!

The real game (the part that involves, you know, playing) is solid fun, thanks to Intelligent Systems' longstanding experience. These people know how to make a game that's challenging. If you want a Gameboy game that will kill a lot of time, it's this one.

That said, I have to major beefs with Fire Emblem that I've never been able to overcome. First, if you lose a character in battle, you can never get them back. They're gone for good. Usually, in an RPG, dead fighters can be revived; not here. Needless to say, that's a pretty lousy kick in the shins.

Second problem, you can't create your own maps. Now, granted, I'm likely in the minority on this one, but the custom maps feature is the best thing about Advance Wars 2; it makes the game a multiplayer classics. This game is largely a single-player exercise, but so what? There should be the option to play against other friends and create your own maps. That ought to be framed in a plaque and hung on the wall.

How much that affects things for you is your business. If you can still slosh your way through Fire Emblem and keep a smile on your face, more power to you. Knock yerself out, kids.

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