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Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
Platform: GCN
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Genre: Strategy RPG
Format: Mini DVD-ROM
Release: US 10/17/05
Japan 4/20/05



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Turn-based action to the rescue!
 
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He was hit in the head... chest.
 
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You'll be spending most of your time playing battles like this.
 
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Ragus girls look so cute!
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Mike Wilson
First Look Preview
10/09/05
Mike Wilson

It has been six years since the release of Fire Emblem Thracia 776 on the SNES, which was the last Fire Emblem game to ever grace a console. Since then, the series has moved to the Game Boy Advance, but now, it's finally coming to the Gamecube. Like Advance Wars and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which are also coming to the 'Cube, Fire Emblem: The Path or Radiance is getting a graphic overhaul that will make fans of the series drool with ecstasy.

Fire Emblem: The Path of Radiance features a cast of all new characters and has no connection to the past games (which is a series tradition.) It takes place in the world of Tellius and stars a blue haired young man named Ike who is a member of a mercenary group. One day, he ends up rescuing a girl who, not surprisingly, turns out to be the Princess of the kingdom Crimea. Ike winds up becoming her bodyguard as she travels to the kingdom of Gallia to inform them that Daein, a neighboring kingdom, has been invaded. The premise of the story sounds simple, but it quickly becomes a complex tale of politics and war that spans seven kingdoms.

The game's story is told through cutscenes at the beginning and end of each chapter, breaking up the pace between battles. Instead of overhauling everything to 3D, Intelligent System made the decision to go with tradition; each scene is rendered in 2D with realistic hand-drawn backgrounds and stunning character art. However, there are a few CG cutscenes (with voice acting) littered throughout the game, which will make polygon fans happy.

The chapter-based, strategic turn-based battle system that has become a staple of the series makes its return here. If you've played a Fire Emblem game before, this one won't be unusual; from the sound effects to the break away battles, much of the system fans have come to covet remains in tact. At the start of each battle, there is a condition to complete in order to win, whether it be defending a party member, defeating all enemies, defeating a boss, or guarding an area. You'll spend the game building up a formidable army, and there are hundreds of minor characters willing to join your cause. There are two races of people: humans and Iaguz. Humans can wield weapons and use magic, as well as ride horses in battle. Iaguz, however, have the ability to morph into animals (hawks, lions, dragons, etc.) for a limited amount of time. While in animal form, they have special abilities, increased stats, and a wider range of movement, but once they have passed a certain amount of turns, they'll revert back into their standard form.

When your army confronts an enemy unit, the game cuts away to another battle screen that displays your characters attacking each other in 3D. These scenes look crisp and add variety to the battles. In a way, it's similar to watching a CG movie. Fire Emblem fans will no doubt enjoy being able to see the game's battles in 3D, but purists will be glad to know that these cutscenes can be skipped.

When you defeat enemies, you gain experience points which can be distributed amongst everyone in your party, even to those who didn't participate in battle. This is extremely helpful because you may never use all of your soldiers, but if you happen to need them, they'll be ready for action. You'll never use the same characters constantly thanks to a "biorhythm" system that works much like an emotional roller coaster. When a character's biorhythm energy is high, he'll perform well in battle, but when it's low, he won't perform as well. Every character is different; some are more bipolar than others, and some are incredibly consistent. Every character has incredible potential if used at the right time. They can also learn special skills that will allow them to steal, deal critical hits, gain stats, use other abilities when their hit points get low. Just be careful to keep your favorite soldiers alive, because once they die, they're gone for good.

If you own any of the three Fire Emblem titles for GBA, Intelligent System hasn't forgotten about you. In a recent interview with IGN, the game's localization team confirmed that you will be able to connect your Fire Emblem GBA games to unlock a special mode that will give you access to bonus maps, artwork, and extra quests, giving you the edge over your GBA-less friends. The type of extras available depends on which GBA game you're connecting, so if you happen to own them all, you'll get to experience all there is to offer!

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance looks to be the RPG that Gamecube fans have been dying for. Even though it has made the transition to 3D, it stays true to the GBA versions with its 2D cutscenes, sound effects, and the same, unbroken battle system. It's just like every other Fire Emblem game you've played, except more refined, better looking, and even more addictive. With over 30 chapters to complete, 40 hours of game play, three difficulty levels, and tons of extras to unlock, it will keep you busy for months. The game will be released on October 17th, 2005.



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