Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
|Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance|
North American cover art
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, known in Japan as Fire Emblem: Sōen no Kiseki (ファイアーエムブレム 蒼炎の軌跡 Faiā Emuburemu: Sōen no Saseki?, lit. "Trail of the Blue Flame") is a tactical role-playing video game developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo GameCube video game console. The game was released on April 20, 2005 in Japan, October 17, 2005 in North America, November 4, 2005 in Europe and December 1, 2005 in Australia. It is the ninth Fire Emblem series title, and the third Fire Emblem series title to be released in North America and Europe. It was the first Fire Emblem series title to feature voice acting as well as being the first title to be rendered in a three-dimensional, cel-shaded manner. It is also the first Fire Emblem game to be released for a home console in North America, Australia and Europe.
The story is set on the fictional continent of Tellius and is totally unrelated to any of the previous Fire Emblem installments. It introduces a new system for battle preparation as well as a new set of races collectively called "laguz" (humanoid shapeshifters). A sequel to Path of Radiance, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, was released for the Wii in 2007.
Path of Radiance averaged 86% on Game Rankings, which makes it the third highest rated Fire Emblem game. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the game's main character, Ike, appears as a playable character.
The game retains the fundamental gameplay mechanics of the Fire Emblem series, such as the weapon triangle and grid-based battlefields. However, there are some changes to the gameplay, such as the way in which the group prepares and units support each other.
Path of Radiance allows the player to change a unit's class once he or she reaches a certain level. Unlike previous localized titles, a unit automatically promotes upon reaching level 21. Players can also use the Master Seal item to immediately promote any unit at any point between levels 10 to 20. The laguz cannot promote. Path of Radiance introduces some new classes while omitting some that were present in earlier Fire Emblem installments. There have also been changes to which weapons some classes can wield.
The skill system, which was introduced in Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu, has different mechanics in this game. Each character has a capacity gauge that allows for mastery of skills. By using a skill scroll, the character learns the corresponding skill and a certain amount of slots are taken up in the capacity gauge. The space of the capacity gauge varies between classes and characters. Almost any unit can learn any skill with a few exceptions. Skills vary in how useful they are and what they do. Most give the unit an advantage in battle; Ike's Aether, for example, allows him to deal extra damage while recovering some health points when it is triggered.
The support system remains the same in how the support conversations affect each unit and how statistical boosts are determined. However, instead of the support level being determined by the number of turns units are adjacent in a battle, it is now determined by the number of battles two units have been in together. Furthermore, the support conversations take place at the base instead of in the battlefield. An option to re-read the support conversations as an extra feature is not available in this game as it was in previous Fire Emblem games. However, there is a section on the unit information screen that shows the specific statistical gains from support conversations; this wasn't available in the previous Fire Emblem games.
Another unique feature to Path of Radiance is Fixed mode, which is an alternative method for unit growth that is available after completing the game once. Random mode—the method used in all other titles in the series, as well as in the first play-through of Path of Radiance—gives units a set percentage chance to increase a given stat upon level up. This chance is termed a "growth rate." Due to the "chance nature" of this system, a unit that levels up may gain many stat increases or none at all. In Fixed mode, units instead earn experience towards a stat increase as they earn standard experience. This "stat experience" is kept per stat, and if enough has been accumulated, that stat will increase the next time the unit gains a level and "stat experience" will return to zero; otherwise, it will carry over to the next level. Units earn stat experience based on their individual growth rates, which can be modified by what items a unit has equipped and the class of the enemy that it is attacking.
Path of Radiance introduces the laguz changelings—humanoid creatures that transform into powerful animals when their transformation gauge is full. The bar within the transformation gauge increases each turn; the laguz spend roughly an equal amount of time in each form, though the humanoid form can be completely bypassed if the laguz is equipped with a special item. There are three species of laguz which are further divided into three classes each, although not all of them are playable. Beast laguz are divided into cats, tigers, and lions; birds into ravens, hawks, and herons; and dragons are divided into red, white, and black dragons. When in animal form, laguz use the natural weapons of their species—claws for beasts, beaks for birds, and breath attacks for dragons. The natural weapons of a laguz will never break with use, unlike normal weaponry, but laguz do not use manmade weapons and are thus unable to attack when not in animal form. Each laguz species has an elemental weakness: fire for beasts, wind for birds, and thunder for dragons. Birds can fly in either form, but also have the weakness to bows associated with flying units when in animal form.
Path of Radiance introduces partner units who will aid the player's units in battle. The partner unit phase follows the player phase and is before the enemy and other phases. While partner units cannot be directly controlled by the player, there are options for Ike to give general instructions to them which include roaming, targeting certain locations, halting or avoiding enemies altogether. Some partner units that survive in battle may later become playable units. Tanith has the special ability to call a maximum of six reinforcements to a battle, who appear as partner units from Begnion's Holy Guard.
Path of Radiance is the first Fire Emblem game to feature a Base screen along with the "Battle Preparations" screen. Before the Base screen appears, Soren provides information on the previous battle, including the weapons and the distribution of bonus experience and skills. Players can engage in support conversations and "Info" conversations, chapter-specific conversations rated on a scale of one to three stars. One star denotes conversations that provide story background; two stars mark conversations that provide hints on how to proceed in the coming battle, and three stars indicate that the conversation may yield a special ability or new playable character.
Bonus experience was introduced in this game. At the end of every chapter, bonus experience is awarded based on certain factors such as number of enemies remaining and turns taken to complete the chapter. It can be distributed to units at the Base screen.
The weapon forging system, introduced in this game, allows players to create improved versions of some of the weapons available in shops. Players can forge one weapon during every visit to the Base screen. To forge a weapon, the player first chooses a base weapon to modify. More choices become available as the player progresses through the game. The player can then increase or decrease several statistics of the weapon, such as strength and weight. The further away from the statistics of the base weapon, the higher the cost. Making no changes to the base statistics results in the same price as the base weapon. After statistics are adjusted, the player can choose a new color for the weapon and give it a unique name; these features have no effect on price.
In Tellius, the Fire Emblem takes the form of a simple bronze medallion also known as Lehran's Medallion. It allegedly holds the soul of an evil god whose energies disrupt the level of chaotic energy in a person. When Greil touched the medallion, it caused him to go berserk and kill everyone in sight, including his wife, Elena. It was only when she took the medallion from his hand in her final moments that Greil regained his sanity. Only a person with a high level of balance is capable of holding the medallion without going mad. Ike's mother, Elena, and his younger sister, Mist, are two such people.
The medallion once belonged to the heron laguz clan that dwelt in the Serenes Forest within Begnion. They were charged with protecting the medallion so that the evil god would not be released. However, the Serenes Massacre forced Lillia, a member of the heron royal family, to flee with the medallion, only to be captured by Ashnard's forces. Lillia was ordered to free the dark god, but she could not. She befriended Elena and gave the medallion to her. Mist eventually inherited it from her mother. Over the course of the story, Ashnard repossesses the medallion. In the final chapter of the "Difficult" difficulty (and "Maniac" in the Japanese version), he uses the medallion after his initial defeat to gain godlike power, but is still defeated by Ike and the party.
Path of Radiance is set on the fictional continent of Tellius, which is divided into seven nations that are governed by either beorc or laguz. They are:
- Crimea: A beorc kingdom that is home to the Greil Mercenaries. At the start of the game, it is invaded by Daein.
- Daein: A beorc kingdom that had become antagonistic ever since King Ashnard ascended the throne.
- Begnion: A beorc theocracy worshiping the goddess Ashera. The figurehead and empress is Apostle Sanaki.
- Gallia: Home to the beast laguz; it had recently improved relations with Crimea. Ruled by King Caineghis.
- Phoenicis: Home to the hawk laguz; its king is Tibarn.
- Kilvas: Home to the raven laguz; they are considered more cunning and dishonorable than the hawks. Their king is Naesala.
- Goldoa: Home of the dragon laguz; it isolates itself from the rest of Tellius. Their king is the legendary Dheginsea.
The storyline of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance is completely unrelated to any of the previous titles in the series. The protagonist, Ike, the son of Greil, begins the game as the newest member of his father's mercenary company, the Greil Mercenaries. The company operates within the borders of Crimea, a nation of non-shapeshifting humans (referred to as "beorc") that shares its southern border with Gallia, a nation of beast laguz, or humanoids capable of transforming into animals. A few chapters into the game, a neighboring beorc nation, Daein, invades Crimea. Soon after, Ike comes across an unconscious woman in a forest that turns out to be the Crimean princess, Elincia Ridell Crimea. Faced with the ruthless Daein assault, Greil leads the mercenaries out of Crimea and towards Gallia, but is killed by a Daein general known only as the Black Knight. After Ike and his little sister Mist grieve for their father's death, Ike swears revenge. These events mark the beginning of a long journey that will take Ike, Elincia, and the mercenaries across the continent and back in an effort to defeat Daein and restore Crimea's royalty to the throne.
Over the course of the game, Ike and his companions must overcome long-held racial tensions between the beorc and laguz in order to form an alliance against their true enemy, Ashnard, king of Daein. In particular, Ike manages to reestablish relations between the beorc nation of Begnion and the few remaining members of the heron laguz clan, which was annihilated in an act of genocide known as the Serenes Massacre. With this accomplishment, Ike is given command of a patchwork army that he leads into Daein and finally back to Crimea, where he confronts the Black Knight and ultimately King Ashnard himself.
Path of Radiance is the first Fire Emblem title to feature three-dimensional graphics on the battlefield, replacing two-dimensional sprite animations and landscapes with fully rendered 3-D models. It is also the first game in the series to make use of full motion video and voice acting to present cinematic sequences at key points in the game. The FMV sequences were animated by Production I.G.
The Fire Emblem series' veteran music composer Yuka Tsujiyoko was actively involved in providing the musical score. Path of Radiance is a Fire Emblem game to feature a theme song with vocals, "Life Returns", which is sung in the fictional language of the heron tribe.
Releases outside of Japan omit the extremely hard "Maniac" mode, replacing it with an "Easy" mode that is of lower difficulty than "Normal" mode. In the localized versions, the Swordmaster, Berserker, and Sniper unit classes receive a 15 percent boost to their critical rate (the chance to triple the damage of an attack), similar to those present in Fire Emblem and Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. Path of Radiance also features voice acting. In the Japanese version, there was voiced narration for all of the overworld map scenes and the ending cinema scenes. However, the narration was mostly omitted in the English version, leaving only the ending cinema narration.
Path of Radiance received mostly positive reviews after its release. GameRankings, a review aggregator website, rated the game at 85.72%.
Path of Radiance was praised for its deep story, excellent cut-scenes, and orchestrated music. IGN's Peer Schneider described the CG sequences as "gorgeously animated" and the game's music as "great." However, it was criticized for outdated in-game graphics and extended periods of dialog. GameSpot's Greg Kasavin commented that the graphics "sacrifice some of the series' old charm." The lack of innovation in gameplay and presentation was bemoaned, as well as the opinion that the game would not appeal to new fans.
Eurogamer cited the gameplay as "single-minded", stating that some gameplay elements lack complexity compared to games of a similar genre such as Final Fantasy Tactics. Reviewers also mentioned the occasional burden of ensuring units' safety as a result of permanent death, and the frustration when losing a unit. Despite this, the game was praised for retaining the charm that made the previous installments popular. Path of Radiance sold over 156,000 units in Japan as of December 31, 2006.
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