Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon Cover
Platform Nintendo DS
Genre Old School Tactical Remake
MtAMinutes to Action 6
Score 8  Clock score of 8Gameplay: 7
Fun Factor: 9
Gfx/Sound: 8
Story: 6
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Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is a turn-based role-playing strategy game for the Nintendo DS. It is the eleventh game in the popular Fire Emblem series, but is actually a remake of the original Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragons and the Blade of Light which was released in 1990 only in Japan. Turns out this is really the second remake of the first game, but still the first time gamers outside of Japan have experienced it.

So that's a lot of history just on one story, but you might be wondering what Fire Emblem is in the first place. The series has always pretty much played the same way all these years as a turn-based strategy game. A set of heroes takes on a band of bad guys on a grid-based map. You move all your guys at once and then the bad guys go. There's a twist in Fire Emble though, every character on your team has a name and profile, and if they're killed during battle, they're gone for good. That means you either don't get too attached to your characters, or you reload a level a lot.

All right, let's get into the first hour of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select New Game and the first hour of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon begins. First things first, select the difficulty, normal or hard. I'll go with normal. The prologue begins... "Long ago, Medeus, king of the dragonkin, conquered the continent of Archanea." There's no animations in the background, just static images of heroes and dragons.

01 - Some guy with a mythical blade appeared and defeated the nasty dragon, but a century later the Shadow Dragon returned. Once again, the blade is used to defend the country.

02 - Oh, Marth! He's the son of the descendant of the dragon killer. I recognize Marth from the Super Smash Bros. series.

Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon Marth

03 - Prologue 1 starts. Marth is greeted by a soldier and is told to visit his sister. On the top screen we have the portraits of the people talking, on the bottom is the level. Marth is just a little sprite on the bottom screen.

04 - I get control of Marth, clicking him reveals where he can move to. Blue squares are where he can walk, and the red is probably his non-movable but attackable square.

05 - The game wants me to use the stylus to move, no way. Some of Gra's soldiers attack! But we were allies!

06 - I approach one of the axemen and select attack. Two weapons to choose from, either the rapier or iron sword. The rapier has a 28 next to it and the sword a 40. What is that, attack power?

07 - I attack with the iron sword and on the top screen the two get into a very sweet looking battle. Marth pulls off some elegant moves to thoroughly defeat his enemy. Then the other one attacks Marth and gets whooped. Play with fire and you get burned.

08 - Marth levels up against a lancemen. His HP, skill, speed, and luck all increase.

Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon World Map

10 - I kill the guy sitting on the throne and then seize it, ending the level. Elice, Marth's sister approaches. So their father was defeated by a sworn ally, the Gra. Backstabber.

11 - Elice tells Marth to run off and he does, the second level begins. Frey and Abel approach, Marth seems to know them. I now have control of three guys, but there are seven baddies scattered across the level.

12 - The game informs me that if an ally's HP is reduced to zero, that guy is gone. For good. Harsh!

14 - Next mini tutorial is the weapon triangle: swords beat axes, axes beat lances, and lances beat swords. Frey and Abel ride on horses, they look so cool in battle.

15 - Only the character that defeats the enemy gets any experience. Good thing to note.

17 - The enemies have two archers left, and the "boss." The archers can attack two squares away, but not one. They can shoot diagonal though, as I just found out. Marth levels up again on an archer.

Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon Marth Pegasus

18 - Okay, I lied before about not getting experience if you don't kill the bad guy, you get a very small amount, looks like 10 exp. What's curious though is that it seems you always need 100 exp to level up. I always kind of liked that system.

20 - Even though the sword-wielding Marth was at a disadvantage against the lance-toting bad guy, Marth easily defeats him anyway. We seize the gate, beating the level and triggering a meet-up with Jagen. Man, Marth looks really young.

21 - Some guy named Cain runs up... Cain and Abel? Is this Nintendo getting risky with Bible references?

23 - Everyone but Marth is riding a horse. Can't someone get the prince a horse?? Cain sadly informs Marth that his father is dead. Cain is suspicious though (for more than the name), he's wearing red, like the Gra soldiers. I'm thinking he's going to be a traitor.

25 - The next battle starts, it's in and around a village, but really zoomed out. The houses are the size of each character!

26 - Cain is pretty awesome, he just took out a guy in one hit! Meanwhile, Marth was visiting his peoples' homes to gather information.

Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon Map

28 - One of the villagers tells me to not give such strong characters like Jagen all the kills, they'll just hog the experience then. Frey and Abel both level up!

31 - All these guys on horseback are so powerful, they usually get to attack twice in one turn. One of the villagers helpfully tells Marth that the number next to a weapon is its durability. Every time you use it, the durability goes down.

32 - Oh snaps, the bad guys have mages, can't wait to tear their cloth armor apart.

34 - All the baddies are gone except for two mages. So like archers, mages can attack two squares away, but they can also attack one square away! Wow, they also just did a ton of damage!

36 - Marth takes out the final mage in one critical hit.

38 - We decide to take refuge in the hopefully friendly country of Talys. But first, we need to cross the river. To get to the boat, we need to "cut through a prison." That sounds like an awful idea.

Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon Cutscene

41 - Some cutscenes kick off as we make our way towards the prison. A ruffian tells Gordin that the prince is coming, and that he'll set up an ambush. Since Gordin is named, I'm sure I'll be able to recruit him.

43 - I found an iron bow off a dead archer, now if only I had an archer... (Gordin is one)

44 - Even though Marth was within range of Gordin, he didn't attack. On my next turn, I walk up next to him and talk. Yep, he's joining up, and if I had a bow to use, he could equip it. Well, look at this one.

46 - Holy crap, as I make my way through the prison, 13 HUGE bad guys show up at the beginning of the level. There's no way I could fight them all!

47 - The game tells me I must leave a decoy behind disguised as Marth... wow, that's kind of sad.

48 - Marth says there must be a way to do it without sacrificing anyone. Is there though? All ten of the reamining knights have 35 HP, Marth has 21. No way we could fight. I'll leave Jagen behind. His attack is too strong for his own good, he'd just steal kills from everyone else.

Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon Dolhr Marth

50 - First though I trade Jagen's Silver Lance to Frey, it's too good to leave to the dead.

52 - Jagen takes off to the south and the bad guys fall for the decoy. Good bye, new friend.

56 - Tearing through the rest of the level now with my horsed heroes. Man, they're so overpowering. I can't even imagine how awesome Jagen would have been.

57 - Two pegasus knights appear across the water! They fly across the water at me, dang you!

58 - Haha! Gordin shoots down a pegasus knight in one shot with his bow and arrow.

59 - I receive a steel bow from the main village and immediately trade it to Gordin, who takes down the other pegasus knight. Just the boss left.

60 - Marth crits the boss to take him out, and that's the end of the fourth stage and the first hour of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. We do get one last cutscene of Jagen, swearing his fealty to Marth before he's probably (not - knowing Nintendo) killed by all the soldiers.

Time for some scores out of 10.

Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon Start

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 6

Gameplay: 7
Maybe if you've never played any Fire Emblem or Advance Wars games before you'll be enamored by Shadow Dragon's gameplay, but it doesn't seem like a lot has changed over the years, maybe even since the series began. The first hour showed me quickly that I didn't really miss anything gameplay wise by skipping the console editions of Fire Emblem. That doesn't mean it's bad though, it's tried and true and there are very few holes in the system.

Fun Factor: 9
Classic, unchanging gameplay can be fun when it's a game like Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. Even though I was just playing a "tutorial," I could tell that this game had stories to tell and bad guys to destroy. Sometimes the conversations can get a bit wordy but they have been pretty brisk so far. It's also neat finally getting to see Marth's story. Ever since I first played as him back in Super Smash Bros. Melee back in 2001, I've been curious exactly who the heck this guy is, it only took over seven years but we finally get to see him in action. Even though he looks like he's 14 years old, it's a treat.

Graphics and Sound: 8
The Fire Emblem series is always strongest on a portable system, and Shadow Dragon simply excels on the dual screen DS. Map on the bottom, stats and battle on the top screen works really well and seems to keep the game's pace moving more quickly. I like it. The one-on-one battles also look amazing. The animations have always looked good, but they look even better on the DS for whatever reason, maybe it's just my imagination though. The map screen still looks kind of bland but if you compare it to the original NES's look, you'll realize how little and far the graphics have improved. That might be a confusing statement so I included a screenshot of the original below.

Story: 6
I've never been a big fan of the Fire Emblem stories, they're typically melodramatic, wannabe historical pieces that are a little too drenched in chivalry. It's hard to rag on Shadow Dragon too much though because it's actually a bit light on story in its first hour. Sure, they have the long intro where they throw a bunch of country names that you don't care about at this point at you, but Marth is introduced quickly and then things get going. The tutorial levels fit in well with the story and it seems pretty seamless.

Overall: 8
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is the latest entry into this classic Nintendo series. The first hour displays that while the series hasn't changed that much over the last few years, it's still a fun system to play and it seems this is a worthwhile remake. Shadow Dragon was actually released late last year in Europe and two weeks ago in North America. Definitely give this game a try if you're a Fire Emblem veteran and want to see where the story began, or if your DS is longing for a little tactical, thinking man action.

Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon Original Nes