2010/07/15 [DS]   
Fire Emblem: Shin Monshou no Nazo Hikari to Kage no Eiyuu
The next entry in the Fire Emblem series is a remake of the new content in Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, also known as Fire Emblem 3 for SNES. The English translation of this title is Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem - Heroes of Shadow and Light. However I doubt the official English name will be so wordy. Most of the details about the game are now official, so let's get started.
The original SNES title contains 21 original chapters, which is a bit slim for a main Fire Emblem entry. Thankfully, Nintendo is adding a new story for "My Unit", a character you create and customize to your liking, including class, appearance, and background. Your personalized unit will star in the tutorial prologue, fight alongside Marth in the main story, and engage in their own side chapters throughout the game. In addition, 4 trial maps from the SNES Satellaview releases will be included. This should push the number of chapters to an acceptable level, somewhere between 30-35.
Your personalized unit will be able to talk to others in your army during intermission, although it's not clear if there are any rewards for doing so. There will be over 300 conversations available throughout the main story. This is akin to the Base Conversations of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn. Much like FE: Shadow Dragon, the interpersonal character guide will return, plotting out how every person is related in the Fire Emblem story. There will be characters added to the game from Shadow Dragon, the Satellaview maps, in addition to completely new characters to the series.
The reclassing system will return, where you can change a characters class and alter their base stats and growth rates. Hopefully it's a bit more balanced than it was in FE:SD. Gaiden chapters featuring your personalized unit will be available provided you meet certain requirements, which probably don't involve killing off more than half your army this time around, like you had to in FE: Shadow Dragon. I'm sure the developers have heard the sentiment of disgruntled fans who didn't like the lack of character development, personality-erasing reclassing, and having to kill off most of your army to access the side chapters, and it looks like the developers are working hard to address those complaints.
Wi-Fi returns with a couple new features. You'll be able to download new maps from Nintendo, both multiplayer skirmishes and single player chapters. The DLC single player maps will include new story content, not just trial maps with no plot development. You can trade characters with other players, although I'm not sure what the details on this are. The online store will be returning, which is one of the things I really disliked about FE: Shadow Dragon. You can go online and buy very rare items and ruin the games balance and difficulty, and you have to wait for a specific time of the month to buy the item you want.
Keeping with Nintendo's philosophy of catering to a wide range of player skill levels, there are now two difficulty altering settings available. New to the series are the addition of Casual and Classic modes. In Casual mode, if a unit reaches 0 HP, they will not die permanently, while Classic mode is the typical Fire Emblem permadeath feature. There are four difficulty settings, Normal, Hard, Maniac, and Lunatic. The two difficulty mechanics are independent of one another, so you can play Casual mode on Lunatic difficulty if you choose.
I have not heard anything about a score or ranking system, so I'm guessing there isn't one. That means this games challenges are not legitimate because you can boss/arena abuse, use the online store, etc. and ruin the games difficulty. I appreciate the extra difficulty modes, but they are pointless when you can spend infinite turns on a chapter farming XP and weapon skill, or going online and buying rare, powerful items that are only available once a month. And who knows how wi-fi unit swapping will upset the balance of the game? We're far removed from the legitimate rank based challenges of older Fire Emblem titles.
Graphically, the game looks a lot like the Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. It uses the same sprites and character art. Whether you like it or not, it seems like it's here to stay on the DS.
As you may already know, Fire Emblem and Advance Wars set the gold standard for tactical turn based strategy user interfaces. They are always extremely responsive and packed with useful features and management tools. I've seen quite a few tactical level games botch the UI and make the game a drag to play. Not so here. Expect the same polished quality that Intelligent Systems has been delivering for decades.
Import gamers may be unhappy to learn that the game may be 'DSi Enhanced', which means it will be region encoded if you try to play it on a DSi system. You'll be fine if you play it on a regular DS or DS Lite, however.
Overall this looks like another solid Fire Emblem title, difficulty issues not withstanding. It should please fans who were soured on Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, and the new casual mode should bring in more sales, appeal, and fans of the series. Look forward to import impressions
once I've spent some time with the game.