Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is a sequel to the popular GameCube title, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance that was released back in 2005. Radiant Dawn begins its story three years after the Mad King's War and the events in Path of Radiance. The game starts players off in the country of Daein, where we join our heroes Micaiah and Sothe as they attempt to fight for their country's freedom from their cruel Begnion oppressors. The Dawn Brigade, as they call themselves, travel through Daein battling unforgiving Begnion forces in an attempt to reclaim Daein, and place their own king on the throne.
There are four different ways players can set up the control scheme for this game. The default, and probably easiest way, is to hold the Wii remote horizontally like a NES controller. The 1 and 2 buttons become your A (select) and B (cancel) buttons, and the D-pad controls your movement. If the default control setting doesn't float your boat, there is also a control scheme that allows the player to hold the Wii remote vertically, and in addition to that you can also choose to play with a classic or GameCube controller.
Radiant Dawn's formula for progressing through the game has not changed from the previous installments. There is a bunch of story and character interaction, and then a battle. It just wouldn't be a Fire Emblem game without bandits, and sure enough the first battle has bandits attacking an innocent town. The village people ask for help, and the Dawn Brigade comes to the rescue. Those that have played Path of Radiance should remember the spunky, red-headed, tutorial help character Anna. She's back and whenever something new might come along she is right there ready to teach you about it. Anna's helpful tutorials will help any player new to Fire Emblem catch onto the mechanics and strategy of the game in no time.
The main meat of any Fire Emblem game is the battles which require a lot of strategy and careful planning. From the careful selection of weapons and items, to the individual characters you choose for each battle, everything must be carefully planned out or there can be severe consequences. Players must make sure they strategize carefully in battle for if one of their teammates dies, that character is gone forever for the rest of the game.
The same races, classes, moves and abilities for the characters return from Path of Radiance as well. The human characters, or Beorc, able to wield weapons like swords, axes, spears and tomes to fight, and the Laguz, ultra powerful and able to transform into several types of animals, they use their teeth and claws in battle.
Overall the visuals in this game are quite pleasing, but it does not look any different from the visuals found in Path of Radiance back on the GameCube. The overhead camera angle and the grid layout on the battlefield stay true to the Fire Emblem formula, and a short battle cut-scene is shown when two characters attack each other just like in Path of Radiance. Sadly, just like the GameCube version, full fledged cinematic cut-scenes are not as frequent as some would prefer, but when they do show up they are amazingly well done, and exciting to watch.
Music in this game does a good job of setting the mood for each scenario. When things are going badly, the music is intense and dark sounding, when things are calm so is the music. Overall the music is quite pleasing to the ears, but it doesn't overshadow the game itself. Voice acting shows up mainly in the form of the narrator that speaks at the end of each chapter, and within the cut scenes, and all of the voice work, on the whole, is splendidly done. At times it can be tiresome to listen to the narrator go on and on, but if one so chooses the player can skip through his speeches.
Fire Emblem fans should know that each game provides a very in-depth story full of political intrigue, character interaction, and sometimes even a slight love story. Newcomers to the series should beware though, that the majority of the story is told strictly through text, the bulk of which is done through dialogue between characters. Additionally, after each chapter the game gives players the option to read additional dialogue, which may seem superfluous, but actually pays off for those who read through them in the form of helpful items or even new characters. However, if you despise reading, you might want to steer clear of this one.
All in all, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is a very pleasing and fun sequel to Path of Radiance. Fans should be happy to see old favorite characters return, and characters that were only cute children in Path of Radiance have grown up into strong adults in Radiant Dawn. The learning curve is not very steep, and newcomers to the series shouldn't have any problems grasping the gameplay, especially if they listen to Anna. This game is definitely a must buy, especially for those that have played and enjoyed Path of Radiance. Those that haven't, and are not concerned with knowing the back story, there are pages of info players can access about previous characters and key terms, so no one is left behind. The only slightly disappointing thing about Radiant Dawn is that it does not provide anything new in terms of gameplay, controls or graphics that Path of Radiance didn't already supply. Other then that, no complaints, it's a great game with plenty of hours of gameplay to keep one occupied.
Final Verdict - 9/10
Refined Fire Emblem gameplay blended with all the elements fans expect: intriguing story and characters, endless text screens of dialogue, intesne strategy battles, lackluster visuals (except for the FMVs), and an epic soundtrack. Those looking for something new, howvever, will find Radiant Dawn merely lives up to being a sequel that outdoes the predecessor, but in no way innovates the series.