Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
|Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn|
|Genre(s)||Tactical role-playing game|
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn[a] is a tactical role-playing game developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo for the Wii home console. It is the tenth entry in the Fire Emblem series,[b] and acts as a direct sequel to the 2005 GameCube title Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. It released in 2007 in Japan and North America, and 2008 in Europe and Australia.
Radiant Dawn's plot begins in war-torn Daein with the main character Micaiah and her allies rebelling against the oppressive Begnion army. The story is divided into four parts, and changes perspective between different factions within the continent of Tellius. The gameplay is similar to Path of Radiance and previous Fire Emblem titles, with units moving across a grid-based map in turn-based battles, and characters unrelated to the core plot being subject to permanent death if defeated.
Radiant Dawn began development in 2005 for the Wii after the success of Path of Radiance. Continuing the trend of developing for home consoles after a period on portable devices, it was intended to release close to the Wii hardware's release so as to boost sales for both game and hardware. Radiant Dawn has been positively received by critics, many of whom criticised only the game's high difficulty.
Radiant Dawn retains the gameplay mechanics of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, with turn-based battles taking place on a square-based grid. Most of the Path of Radiance cast returns, including all of its playable characters (except Largo), as well as figures new to Tellius. Data from a completed Path of Radiance save file can be transferred to Radiant Dawn via a Nintendo GameCube memory card, which can lead to characters obtaining statistical gains. Support conversations from Path of Radiance can also be accessed and viewed using this method. In Radiant Dawn, the "support" system has been altered so that a unit can support any other unit, although units can only have one support relationship each. A secondary support known as a "bond" is also available, which is active by default or obtained when two units have attained an "A" support level in Path of Radiance.
Radiant Dawn's multifaceted plot and lack of a permanent main character leads to the player controlling different factions in the game. In the later stages of the game, the player's units will battle against a previously playable set of enemy units; despite the "permanent death" feature common to the Fire Emblem series, some partner units and previously playable enemy units defeated in battle will still be playable later in the game. Radiant Dawn introduced new features relating to unit development, such as double promotion for beorcs, which grants the unit a special skill dependent on the unit's class. New features have also been added to the laguz units, including a maximum level increased to 40, the ability to fight untransformed, and the presence of the wolf laguz.
There are also modifications to combat, including an elevation advantage which grants units at a greater altitude with more power and accuracy. Radiant Dawn introduces the highest level of weaponry, known as "SS", which requires a unit to have used a particular weapon type many times. In previous Fire Emblem games, archers could not attack adjacent units, but the crossbow, as well as a few other bows, allows such units to attack both adjacent and distant units. Dark magic, omitted from Path of Radiance but present in earlier games, was reintroduced to form a second magical trinity (akin to the rock-paper-scissors system) alongside the one in Path of Radiance.
Radiant Dawn is divided into four parts, each of which begins with a prologue chapter that introduces the situation, followed by a series of chapters that is resolved with an "Endgame" chapter.
Three years after the Mad King's War, detailed in Path of Radiance, Daein, the war's instigator and eventual loser, and the victorious nation Crimea are still in the process of rebuilding. Although Crimea is ruled by Queen Elincia, Daein lacks a proper successor and is instead ruled by the occupation forces of the Begnion Empire. The Daein people are oppressed by the corrupt Begnion senate and imperial soldiers. A group of Daein rebels named the Dawn Brigade, headed by Micaiah (a young woman with a small degree of clairvoyance) and Sothe, act as vigilantes to provide some measure of hope against the oppressors. After being driven from the capital, the Dawn Brigade flees into the northern desert. There they encounter the heron prince Rafiel (who was long presumed dead) and the wolf laguz queen Nailah, whose people have not been seen in Tellius for millennia. Soon after, the Dawn Brigade locates and allies with the late King Ashnard's orphan son Pelleas, his scheming and ruthless adviser Izuka, and the former general (and antagonist in Path of Radiance) of Daein known as the Black Knight. The group launches a guerrilla war against the occupation army, liberating former soldiers of Daein from prison camps and gaining the loyalty of the people. Micaiah's efforts become legendary during these campaigns, with the people of Daein dubbing her the "Silver-Haired Maiden." Word of the plight of the Daein people eventually reaches Empress Sanaki of Begnion. She orders an emissary be sent to Daein to reign in the occupation army. The senate disavows and scapegoats occupation leader General Jarod, who is overthrown and killed by the liberation army in an assault on the capital. Unbeknownst to them all, Izuka tricks Pelleas into signing a contract known as a blood pact with the head of the Begnion senate, Lekain, which will kill increasingly large numbers of Daein citizens when triggered.
Word of Pelleas' ascension reaches Crimea, and Queen Elincia's recognition of Pelleas as Daein's rightful ruler outrages the Crimean nobility. Fear that Crimea's hated enemy is rebuilding creates discontent throughout all levels of Crimean society. A Crimean noble named Ludveck takes advantage of the tension to organize a rebellion in order to claim Crimea for himself. Alerted to Ludveck's plan, the Crimean Royal Knights attack and capture Ludveck's castle. However, this is a diversion, and Ludveck's troops lay siege Elincia's castle, but they are repelled and Ludveck is captured. He attempts to force Elincia to release him by holding her friend Lucia hostage, but she is rescued by Ike and the Greil Mercenaries. Ike reveals to Elincia that one of Crimea's nobles, Count Bastian, purposely left the country in order to draw out the rebels. Bastian paid the Greil Mercenaries to ensure that the rebels were defeated and that the Queen emerged victorious. Before Ike leaves, Elincia reveals the Black Knight's return in Daein. Ike is shocked by this revelation, as he supposedly defeated the enigmatic knight (who killed Ike's father in the past) during the Mad King's War.
When Ike returns to his headquarters, he is hired by the Laguz Alliance, consisting of the hawk nation of Phoenicis, the raven nation of Kilvas, and the beast nation of Gallia. Their representative, Ranulf, explains that Rafiel has revealed that the Begnion senate was responsible for assassinating the previous apostle of Begnion and framing the heron clans for it, resulting in their near annihilation. This has led to the newly formed Laguz Alliance declaring war on Begnion. The situation quickly escalates, threatening to become a world war that will awaken the god of chaos Yune, who will supposedly destroy the world if unleashed. Begnion coerces Daein into preparing to join the war on their side with the blood pact and uses another blood pact to force Kilvas to betray the Laguz Alliance. The Alliance makes major gains in the early months of the conflict, aided a great deal by the tactical ingenuity of Ike and his mercenaries. As the Alliance prepares to march south into Begnion's heartland, the Begnion central army arrives to block the way. The central army is better equipped than the previous enemies of the Alliance and is led by the highly capable General Zelgius. Zelgius and his army hold back an attempted river crossing by the Alliance, and Zelgius defeats Skirmir (the hot-headed commander of the beast laguz) in single combat, severely wounding him. While this is occurring, Begnion launches an invasion of Phoenicis and razes its capital to the ground, severely weakening the capabilities of the hawk laguz. Seeing the weakened state of the Alliance, the Begnion senate orders Daein to enter the war and crush the Laguz Alliance. Seeing no other choice, Pelleas orders Micaiah (who, along with the population of Daein, know nothing of the blood pact) to lead the Daein army south into Begnion. Micaiah attempts to trap the Alliance between her forces and the central army, but a lack of concern for her soldiers on the part of the Begnion senate deprives her of accurate information on the size of the laguz forces. Ike is able to lead the Alliance to safety. Zelgius, openly loyal to Empress Sanaki in the decades long political Senate-Empress power struggle, allows the Alliance to escape, hinting to Ike that the Empress does not support the war. In response to this, the senators have Sanaki's prime minister and father figure Sephiran arrested. The Empress flees the capital of Begnion soon afterward with her royal guard. Now in control of the country, the senate orders Zelgius (who is an ardent supporter of Sephiran) to pursue and destroy the retreating Laguz Alliance, and sends one of their number, Senator Valtome, to enforce order in the army. The Alliance falls back to the borders of Gallia, the homeland of the beast nation. Ike is able to lead the Alliance through a perilous volcanic cave network and thereby elude the central army. Undeterred, the senate decides to invade Gallia by marching through the neutral nation of Crimea. Begnion demands that Elincia provide them with supplies, but the Queen refuses due to her alliance with Gallia (signed at the end of Path of Radiance) and because the earlier rebellion destroyed much of the kingdom's crops. Valtome, infuriated by the denial, orders the central army to take what it needs from the Crimeans, whom he views as subjects of Begnion. Begnion begins raiding Crimean villages for supplies, drawing the Crimean Royal Knights into a skirmish. As the Laguz Alliance and the central army prepare to fight a battle on Crimean soil, Elincia arrives and places herself in between the two opposing armies. She demands that both sides leave Crimean territory, as it is a land of peace. Zelgius leads the central army off of the field of battle, an action that enrages Valtome. He orders his soldiers to kill Elincia, an action prevented by the Royal Knights and Greil Mercenaries. Back in the central army camp, Valtome orders Zelgius to be executed for his disloyalty. This is stopped by the arrival of Empress Sanaki and her royal guard. The soldiers of the central army turn on Valtome, who flees with all of the men loyal to the senate. Soon after, the Crimeans, the Empress' men, and the Laguz Alliance members sign a treaty and make a pact to defeat the Begnion senate. Civil war breaks out across the Begnion Empire as the forces of the Empress and Senate begin to clash.
Unwilling to abandon her supporters within the Empire, the Empress demands that the Alliance march on the Begnion capital. However, as the now massive army prepares to depart, a messenger arrives from Daein demanding the surrender of the Empress to their custody on behalf of the senate. Realizing that they cannot advance with the threat of Daein to their north, the Alliance invades Daein. Micaiah and her army defend the border as long as possible, but are greatly outnumbered and are defeated. Suffering from battlefield fatigue, she returns to the capital to recover. While there she learns from King Pelleas of the true reason why they are fighting and resolves to fight on while the King researches a way to break the blood pact. The Daein army adopts increasingly unorthodox tactics, and through this are able to fight against the numerically superior Alliance. Their unshakable belief in Micaiah keeps the morale of the Daein soldiers high. In one engagement, Micaiah forces the Alliance to march down a narrow canyon road. She then employs boulders and burning oil to decimate the central army and Royal Knights. When she returns to the capital, Pelleas reveals that the only way to end the blood pact is to kill the signers, and he orders his own death; Micaiah can either do the deed herself, order one of their generals to do it, or refuse outright. Knowing that Daein remains heavily outnumbered, Ike orders the Alliance to assault a major Daein fort in an attempt to finish off the battered nation. The storming of the fort is ended by the arrival of Nailah and Prince Kurthnaga of the dragon laguz nation of Goldoa, who have learned of Daein's plight and sided with them. The next day a massive battle ensues, and the chaos begins to awaken Yune; Micaiah is forced to prematurely awaken her with the galdr of release. Yune's awakening also awakens the goddess of order Ashera.
As punishment for bringing the world into chaos, Ashera subsequently petrifies Tellius; only the most powerful warriors and human-laguz half-breeds survive. She decides that humankind is unworthy of survival and must be eradicated, and recruits the Begnion senate to this end. Guided by Yune through Micaiah, who sides with humanity, Ike, Micaiah, and King Tibarn of Phoenicis lead three groups in a campaign through Begnion to the Tower of Guidance (a massive structure in Begnion's capital) where Ashera lies. Micaiah and her fellow Daeins seek to use the petrification of the world as a means to destroy the blood pact without harming Daein. Each of them run into the Disciples of Order, formerly regular men and women who have been empowered by Ashera to stop the protagonists. In separate engagements they confront various senators and Izuka, who reveals that Pelleas was not Ashnard's son, but an unwitting dupe used to place Daein further under Begnion's thumb. Ike also learns that the Black Knight's true identity is that of the Begnion general Zelgius. In an encounter with Senator Lekain, Empress Sanaki asks him why she has been declared a false apostle by the senate. Lekain responds that Sanaki lacks the clairvoyance and foresight traditionally associated with the royal line of Begnion as the trait only effects the eldest child, and that her (previously unknown) older sister was killed years previously. This revelation is outwardly refuted by the Empress, but she inwardly develops a degree of doubt in herself. All three armies eventual convene at the base of the Tower of Guidance. Fifteen heroes are then picked to be Yune's champions against Ashera.
Within the tower, the champions defeat the Senator leader Lekain and destroy the blood pacts binding Daein and Kilvas. King Dheginsea of Goldoa also sides with Ashera and is killed by the champions. As they advance further into the tower, Micaiah begins to see visions of two men talking in the shadows over many years. In one chamber of the tower, Ike and Zelgius duel for one last time, with Ike emerging victorious. Zelgius dies content that he has met a swordsman superior to himself.
At the entrance to Ashera's chambers, the group encounters Sanaki's trusted adviser Sephiran, who bars the way to Ashera. Sephiran is revealed to be Lehran, a heron laguz of legend who in ages past aided Ashera in defeating Yune and sealed her within the Fire Emblem medallion. Lehran lost his powers when he mated with the first Empress of Begnion, but was through this act able to pass on his galdr and gift of clairvoyance to the females of his bloodline, the empresses of Begnion. Lehran freely admits during the ensuing confrontation that he was the cause of most of the major events of the past few years. He inspired the Mad King Ashnard of Daein to start a war, encouraged conflict between Begnion and the Laguz Alliance, and allowed the atrocities of the Daein Liberation War to take place in an attempt to cause the end of the world by creating enough chaos to release the dark god. He did not foresee, however, the lengths to which heroes would go to save Tellius. Defeated in the ensuing battle, Lehran agrees to assist the champions in defeating Ashera if he is spared. In the final chamber, Yune pleads with Ashera to allow the world to go on. Ashera refuses, however, and engages the champions in battle. Ashera proves unable to be killed by mortal weapons, so Micaiah and Yune channel their collective energies into Ike's sword, allowing him to kill Ashera. After a tearful goodbye with Ike and Micaiah, Yune departs from the mortal world.
In the aftermath of the conflict, the people of Tellius are freed from their petrification. With the Senate defeated, the treaty signed by the Alliance comes into effect, Begnion and Crimean withdraw from Daein, formally ending the war. Lehran quietly slips away into obscurity. Micaiah reveals that she is Sanaki's older sister, and that her clairvoyance is derived from their shared bloodline with Lehran. Sanaki asks Micaiah to stay in Begnion, but Micaiah desires to remain with her own people in Daein. She assumes the throne of Daein with either Pelleas' or the people's approval and ushers in a golden age of prosperity for her kingdom. Tellius begins to recover from a generation of warfare, and many of the heroes of Radiant Dawn and Path of Radiance settle down.
Hundreds of years later, Yune and Ashera combine to again become the goddess Ashunera, creator of Tellius. Lehran informs the newly risen goddess that, while three centuries (twelve since Ashunera was last whole) have passed since the Wars of the Radiant Dawn, the nations of Tellius are once again preparing to go to war.
By 2005, when Radiant Dawn's predecessor Path of Radiance was released, the Fire Emblem series had successfully established itself overseas first with the release of Fire Emblem for the Game Boy Advance and then Path of Radiance for the GameCube. The developers at Intelligent Systems wanted to continue the story of Path of Radiance on home consoles, but they decided not to release on the Gamecube as it was becoming a redundant system. Instead, as they had seen the Fire Emblem series' ability to sell hardware, they chose to develop the next title for the then-in-development Wii. Development began in May 2005, the same time the Wii was first announced under its codename "Revolution". The reason development began so early was because they wanted to release Radiant Dawn as close as possible to the console's release, so it would boost both hardware and software sales: this was the first time in the series' history the developers had attempted anything like that. They also decided to make it a Wii exclusive rather than making versions for both Wii and Gamecube, as the new graphics meant the game could not run on Gamecube. This in turn coincided with the decision to keep the series on home consoles rather than developing for the new portable Nintendo DS after its absence from them between the releases of Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Thracia 776. The Wii's motion controls options were not implemented into the gameplay as it felt unnecessary to the design. Wi-Fi compatibility had been considered, with features such as downloadable battle maps and units, although difficulties relating to balance and difficulty prevented the idea from developing.
As with the previous game, the CGI cutscenes were created by Digital Frontier. The staff numbers, including those working on the cutscenes, went from around one hundred for Path of Radiance to around 200 for Radiant Dawn: half the staff worked on the game itself, while the other half worked on the cutscenes. For the cutscenes, Digital Frontier were asked to show a more epic scope rather than just focusing on the characters, a trend from Path of Radiance the developers felt was wrong. All of the character movements in cutscenes were mapped using motion capture, with between 100 and 150 animations per character to implement.
The scenario was a continuation of the narrative of Path of Radiance, even though that game was not given an intentional cliffhanger ending. So the story would be comprehensible for people who had not played Path of Radiance, the story was split up into four segments divided between the game's various factions. The team initially thought of a three-part structure, then settled on the current format. Their aim from the beginning was to create a large-scale, intricate world for players to enjoy. It was the first time the developers had incorporated such a structure into a Fire Emblem game. The dialogue for characters was made slightly rougher based on feedback from Path of Radiance, where character dialogue remained calm and cultured even in battle situations. The total number of characters increased by approximately 1.5 times compared to Path of Radiance. So players could keep track of how characters interacted with each other, the team introduced a character relationship flow chart. The game's Japanese subtitle made reference to both a key character and the way Telleus came to be. They also wanted to continue to portray the themes of conflict explored in Path of Radiance. The game's thematic color, expressed in its artwork and presentation, was red, as opposed to the use of blue in Path of Radiance. Senri Kita, the character designer for Path of Radiance, returned in that capacity for Radiant Dawn.
Radiant Dawn holds a score of 78/100 on the review aggregator Metacritic, indicating generally favorable reviews. GameSpot's Lark Anderson noted that, although players can save mid-battle, the difficulty "will easily overwhelm even experienced tacticians." Eurogamer's Keza MacDonald appreciated the depth and refinement of the game, but proceeded to note a lack of accessibility due to greater complication and difficulty as Radiant Dawn progresses. Some reviewers were also critical of the developers' choice not to use the Wii's motion controls, although RPGamer's Bryan Boulette commented that "the game thankfully delivers a traditional experience that isn't changed just for the sake of changing it." In general, critics praised the gameplay system recognized in previous Fire Emblem games, but noted that the game felt too similar to its GameCube predecessor, with ONM's Chandra Nair commenting that Radiant Dawn has "refused to move forward." Hyper's Yuri Spadeface commends the game for its "deep strategy and for being hard". However, he criticises it for being "unforgiving", noting that it features "permanent death and is not really a Wii game".
Reviewers praised refinements of gameplay aspects present in Path of Radiance, such as the weapon forging system, which ONM thought was simpler to control in Radiant Dawn. Despite this, other changes, such as those to the support system, were not as welcome, with GameSpot commenting that support conversations "have been reduced to mere battlefield chatter." 1UP's Michael Donahoe praised the game's length and range of characters, but stated that the laguz "still aren't very useful." Although Fire Emblem games have been praised for their plot and characterisation in the past, GameSpot described the story as "laughable" and the game's villains as clichéd and "one-dimensional." Conversely, RPGamer lauded the alterations in perspective by use of different protagonists, which Boulette felt "makes the overall story feel so much broader and more expansive in scope."
The game's presentation received a mixed response, with IGN's Mark Bozon lauding the use of FMV and accompanying voice acting, although he commented that these were too infrequent, and that voice acting should have been used for the entirety of the game. The game's music received a positive response, with GameSpy crediting the work of series composer Yuka Tsujiyoko as "Remarkably good." However, multiple reviewers noted that the game's visuals were very similar to its predecessor's, with GameSpot rating them as "little to no improvement graphically" from Path of Radiance. GameSpy noted that the game's visuals "aren't mindblowing," but welcomed Radiant Dawn's interface and camera, stating that "A strategy game should often focus on function before form, but Radiant Dawn nails both."
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