Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
Marth picks up his sword and fights for his country in this promising Famicom remake.
Nintendo recently announced Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, a DS remake of an 18-year old Famicom video game that never appeared in the U.S. Much like its predecessor, it features turn-based combat, as you lead your group of soldiers into battle against enemy forces. However, this is more than a simple port. Developer Intelligent Systems took the original, enhanced the graphics and added numerous features that should make it one of 2009's coolest strategy games.
If you play the Super Smash Bros. games, then you're familiar with Marth, the sword-wielding prince that is more than capable of beating up Mario and Princess Peach. Although he has a loyal following, western gamers never got a good look at his origins, something Nintendo hopes to change with Shadow Dragon. As the game's star, he leads a band of his loyal subjects into battle against Medeus (the king of the dragonkin) and the sorcerer Gharnef in an effort to save the continent of Archanea.
To do this, you select a group of units (each with varying abilities) and attempt to dominate the game's maps by overwhelming the opposition with stylus driven controls. As previously mentioned, Shadow Dragon is a turn-based affair, so you'll need to think several moves ahead in order to be successful. This includes effectively utilizing your soldiers in combat as well as studying the terrain. If enemies need to pass through a valley to engage your troops, for example, you should attack them, one by one, as soon as they appear. You must take heed, however, because if one of your units goes down, he/she/or it is lost forever.
Thankfully, the game comes with a helpful tutorial that teaches you the finer points of combat, as well as six difficulty modes. But those are not Shadow Dragon's only additions. There's also four exclusive prologue chapters that should add depth to the story.
In addition, Fire Emblem comes with robust online features. Not only can you test your skills against another player via Wi-Fi Connection (and communicate with them using the DS microphone), but you can also trade units. If you cannot beat a certain stage, you can hop online and download a more powerful unit and vice versa. Even better, this unit is always there for you to reclaim. Finally, the game comes with an armory, so you can purchase new equipment. Items change every day, so it's a good idea to check it frequently.
As with most remakes, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems considerably improved the game's graphics. Now, instead of crude 8-bit designs, you get attractive 16-bit backdrops and hand-drawn characters.
Although it doesn't have a release date (Nintendo says early 2009), Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is already one of our must have games. Leveling up our units, engaging other players in chess like battles and purchasing new weapons sounds like lots of fun, and we look forward to informing you whether Marth's newest adventure was worth the wait.