Fire Emblem (Game Boy Advance) Review

By Adam Riley 17.08.2004

Review for Fire Emblem on Game Boy Advance

Nintendo's line-up of RPGs is larger than you might realise. Since the company has decided that many of its better titles still are not suitable for Western audiences we have so far missed out on greats such as the Mother series and Fire Emblem. Thankfully now, though, the latest in the great SRPG franchise that is Fire Emblem has groped its way across the oceans to land on our rainy shores. But can Intelligent Systems bring us a game to out-do Final Fantasy Tactics? Read on to find out...

In this, the seventh version of Fire Emblem, you encounter yet another deep storyline that will suck you in right from the start and not let you go until you see the final credits roll. You take on the roll of a tactician and from there on in you meet up with various different characters in what starts out as a minor adventure and gradually turns into an epic battle against the hordes of evil that litter the land.

Along the way you come across various plot twists and scenes that will make you feel like you are actually part of the story. Being in control of the action as this tactician-in-training brings a feeling of emotion to the game and any deviousness or comic moments have a direct influence on you and can leave you quite flabbergasted at the fact that the script dialogue has engrossed you so much that if you land in a situation where you lose a character, then you find that you actually feel strangely emotional...

As soon as you switch on the GBA you are treated to a single droplet of water landing in a larger pool that results in undulating wave spreading across the screen. This is followed by a swirling ball of fire crashing onto the screen and a sharp blade cutting through it to fashion the title, Fire Emblem. Immediately you know class is likely to emanate throughout...and you would not be wrong to assume that. Simply leaving the title screen alone leads to an overview of the various character classes found within, complete with traditional script text and a small demonstration of their special moves. Everything has an air of professionalism that is not found that often in Third Party Game Boy products.

Screenshot for Fire Emblem on Game Boy Advance

That is not the be all and end all, though, as entering the options screen drags you through into the main arena where your little characters are all animated wondrously, the in-game talking takes place in the form of well-formed, hand-drawn larger characters that slide on-screen, an old-fashioned cartographic image residing in the background that your team traverse whilst narrative appears over it, and fight sequences bring about impressive effects of the magical or simply weapon-based nature. Worried that the characters during battling are too small? Never fear, it is not a problem as the action is zoomed out so you can see the entire field, leading to actual increased help when planning strategies. Masterful!

Rather than just focusing on the soundtrack, it must be noted here that the sound effects play a large role as well. The little trotting noises that comes from the horseback characters, the swish of swords and the clink they make as metal crashes against metal, as well as the twang of arrows being rained down on an unsuspecting enemy all add to the atmosphere that is so expertly built up during play. They fit in so well and complement the music to a high degree.

Some of the tunes in Fire Emblem are so emotive and mournful that they could easily bring a tear to the eye of the more emotional gamer (no, not me...*ahem*), others are motivational, uplifting and even jolly, The range of music found within is without a doubt in the upper echelons of the GBA range, but who would have doubted Intelligent Systems, the team that brought us the chirpy tunes of Mario Kart: Super Circuit and the awesomely gruesome sounds from Metroid Fusion. As ever, hook your system up to some external speakers or just a pair of earphones and let yourself become one with this immerse adventure!

Screenshot for Fire Emblem on Game Boy Advance

Taking on the role of a trainee tactician right from the start leads perfectly into you being the person in control of all the on-going action and forming the ultimate troupe of fighting legends. However, it is nowhere near as simple as acquiring people, battling and eventually conquering the bane of the land. If only! You see there is a heap of skill required to be utilised throughout the adventure and without diligent planning you will find that your party depletes so rapidly that blades of grass could knock you down!

You can even use certain characters to head off to villages to pick up tips, enrol new members and go shopping for new items and equipment. This latter is especially important as you continue on and must abide by the rock-paper-scissors law of weapons, where swords beat axes, axes overcome lances and lances, surprise surprise, devastate sword-wielders! Remember, also, to check an enemy's stats as sometimes a weaker weapon will not matter if their strength and counter-attack are decidedly poor. Or sometime you can avoid some battles, as the main task may be to protect a character or seize a fortress. There are many options in this superbly produced title and all of them will delight RPG fans and newcomers alike...

Screenshot for Fire Emblem on Game Boy Advance

Does the idea of spending over one hundred hours on an SRPG scare you to the very soul? It is a little freaky, I have to admit and Intelligent Systems clearly understands this as well, which is why to coax gamers into the series it has dragged this figure down to a much friendlier thirty-fifty hours (depending on your skill level and how many of the side-quests you undertake). There are many optional side stories that you can partake in, should you feel either the need to break from the main story or simply have to complete everything found in the game, like myself.

Thankfully, as there are indeed many battles to deal with, the nature of fighting is fast and does not drag you down to the level where you tire of the game entirely. Therefore you will take great pleasure in making your way through the engaging storyline, intriguing side-quests and those longer, more intricate battles that crop up from time-to-time. With more than a modicum of concentration you will find that your progress will be smooth and almost unhindered as you make your way to the finish line, which is just what you want, rather than reaching a point and realising you cannot progress any further because you missed out on certain items/tasks/whatever earlier on. A perfect balance...that is rounded off with a nice little four-player battling option. Tasty!

Screenshot for Fire Emblem on Game Boy Advance

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Brilliant, amazing, superb! But as good as Final Fantasy Tactics Advance? Not quite. Intelligent Systems shows newcomers to the genre that the SRPG is not just a geeky, stats-filled bore-a-thon but can be a finely crafted piece of art that is both interesting and fun. However, in doing this, the game has lost the slight edge that would have put it ahead of FFTA. Stop reading, go buy!

Also known as

Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken

Developer

Intelligent Systems

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Strategy

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (13 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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