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Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (GameCube) artwork

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (GameCube) review

"Imagine how difficult Ike's very own journey would become should he lose his dear sister Mist in the thick of a heated battle. It's a feeling that becomes negligible with a reset, but without it, it adds to the gameplay as a whole, thanks to the excellent character development that makes every actor in this grand play lovable."

There are some who would call each person's life story a road. With the passing of time, each person's path becomes forked with all of the possibilities that would and could happen.

For Ike though, his road is pretty damn clear. The sapphire-haired hero of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance isn't here to save the princess, or prevent the end of the world, even if he does accomplish that eventually. Ike's goal is quite clear: he wants vengeance. Only a couple of chapters into this 30-part story, Ike's father, the legendary mercenary Greil, is slain by the dubious BLACK KNIGHT. It's in this situation that the leadership of Greil's mercenary camp shifts from the late master to Ike, who is inexperienced and unsure of himself.

He'll have plenty of chances to earn that experience though, since he'll be taking part in some of the most thought-provoking battles the Gamecube can offer. Each battle is a giant grid masked as a lush forest, winding mountain path, quaint village, dilapidated castle, or any other number of detailed, strategic locales. Like in most strategy RPGs, you'll move your characters on a grid space within their range, and attack with all of your might! However, unlike most strategy RPGs, your characters have only one life to lay on the line for you. Should Ike fall in battle, it's game over, but if any of your other characters bite the dust, your penalties are breaking Ike's heart as he loses one of his dearest allies, and of course the fact that you can never use them again. Ever. There are no reviving spells. There are no Phoenix Downs. Death is a very real and permanent entity in Path of Radiance, and it's one of the driving forces of not only its deep characterization but its strategic and smart gameplay. Of course, for the perfectionist in all of us, it's simply a matter of resetting the game should you lose a character in battle.

I highly suggest you do not.

Call me a masochist, but the game becomes even more enjoyable when you lose a character but still keep going. Each death adds to Ike's pain and makes the seriousness of each character's loss more real. Imagine how difficult the game would become without the powerful arm of the secretive swordmaster Zihark or the powerful spells of the solemn sorcerer Soren. Imagine how difficult Ike's very own journey would become should he lose his dear sister Mist in the thick of a heated battle. It's a feeling that becomes negligible with a reset, but without it, it adds to the gameplay as a whole, thanks to the excellent character development that makes every actor in this grand play lovable. Take Ranulf for example. He's part of the laguz tribe, a group of shunned beast-like people who can transform into various animals. However, he quickly makes good friends with Ike, and if you didn't know any better, you'd go so far as to say they're brothers. His interaction with Ike feels so natural and so real, Ranulf really does feel like an older sibling to him. It's powerful stuff.

It would mean nothing though if the game wasn't any fun to play. With deep strategy and combat that starts off with a simple rock-paper-scissors system--but quickly expands and grows to something much more complicated and intense--the fun factor leaves little room for worry. Each character can even change classes upon reaching level 20, restarting them at level 1 with the same stats they had before--plus a slight boost. They even get access to new weapons... And considering how each character generally begins with one specialization, the ability to take on a second means the customization aspect will keep you coming back to Path of Radiance time and time again.

Furthering the customization, before battle you can even create your own customized weapons for your characters to use. It adds yet another layer to the already excellent characterization involved. So while Ike may call his painful story of death and vengeance a path of tragedy, gamers lucky enough to experience this excellent entry in the Fire Emblem series will see it for what it truly is--a golden Path of Radiance.

espiga's avatar
Staff review by Kyle Stepp (September 07, 2007)

Espiga likes big butts, and cannot lie.

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