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Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon – Review

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon – Review

After delighting us on Wii, Nintendo’s strategic RPG series lands on DS with the remake of the first, unforgettable episode.

In the West Marth, the protagonist of Shadow Dragon, is known more as one of the fighters available in Super Smash Bros. Melee (Game Cube) than as the heroic prince involved in the events of the very first Fire Emblem, Nintendo strategy and Intelligent System produced for the NES (indeed, Famicom) the beauty of eighteen years ago. The series, in fact, has always been rather niche both before and after its debut outside Japan, which took place years ago with the second episode produced for Game Boy Advance (the first was in fact beautifully skipped, due to the narrative links to the events of the prequel on NES). Since then, however, even those who do not understand the Japanese have had the opportunity to fully enjoy the exceptional quality of these strategic RPGs, confirmed over the last few years by the versions also produced for Game Cube and Wii.

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From the first episode that inspired this remake of water under the bridges, it has passed, and the series has undergone small but substantial changes, over the course of twenty years, which brought it to the levels of excellence for which it is now famous, confirmed in this Nintendo DS version. The plot has remained the same: the protagonist takes on the role of Marth, a fleeing prince intent on winning the war to regain his kingdom, who will have to deal with supernatural threats and powerful armies by relying on his small army, assembled almost by chance. during his wanderings. The story develops through textual dialogues between the artwork of the various characters, and maintains a good pace that pushes the player to progress in a campaign that offers rather interesting characters and unpredictable twists. While the narrative has remained the same, albeit updated to today’s standards in both lyrics and pace, the game has instead undergone some changes both from the original and from the tried and tested and rather static formula of the latest editions. The excellent system of “Chinese morra” is back, which connects units and their weapons, establishing the general direction of the clashes: swords have an advantage over axes, axes break spears, spears are more powerful than swords; in this trinity the variables of the spells cast by the magicians, of the archers or of the flying units such as the knights of the Pegasus or dragons are installed. In short, the player must field the most suitable units for the occasion by carefully evaluating their movements on the map during his turn, in order to prevent and counter the enemy’s turn. The mechanism is incredibly elementary and yet, after all these years, it continues to work excellently and despite its simplicity it allows the execution of multiple tactics: and from a strategic point of view Fire Emblem is still the series that does not forgive mistakes, which can cost the life of our units which, once deceased, will remain only a memory for the rest of the game, unless you want to reload the game. This typical feature of the series has always been praised for the inherent challenge of keeping all the characters alive until the end, but also heavily criticized for the frustration of having to start over long missions just to avoid repeating that stupid positioning error made to the boss. on duty. Well, Shadow Dragon alleviates this problem by proposing, for the first time, save-points scattered throughout the mission maps. On the other hand, however, he will not infrequently have to sacrifice a member of the army in order, for example, to be able to escape from enemy troops: that character will inevitably die. To balance this questionable choice, Shadow Dragon allows you to even change the classes of the various units through a simple menu between one mission and another: an overabundance of knights in your army? Do you need more wizards for the next mission? No problem: choose one of your knights and turn him into a wizard, keeping the same level and the same stats. The change can take place at any time without limits of any kind, and if we add to this the possibility of evolving the classes of some characters, it is clear how much an already excellent and tested mechanism has been perfected and refreshed.

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The passage of hardware involved a painstaking work on the part of Intelligent System to update the now obsolete cosmetics of the portable series, whose strength was mainly the splendid animations of the sprites during the clashes: these have maintained the same very high quality and excellent fluidity, while sprites have undergone a slight transformation, being now rendered and, therefore, slightly more realistic. Accustomed to the cartoonish style of the series, this choice initially leaves a little dumbfounded but it only takes a few minutes to get used to and appreciate its apparent three-dimensionality. The backgrounds of the various fights are also well-kept, and also the large maps, much more detailed and varied than in the past. The dual screen of the Nintendo DS also made it possible to position the field of action on the lower part, where it is possible to control the troops and navigate the menus with both the touch-screen and the D-Pad, while the upper screen shows the map. geographical area of ​​the area where the mission is set or the pages with the statistics relating to the selected unit. In reality, the use of the main feature of the Nintendo DS is limited to these simple – and almost obvious – details; separate speech instead for online-gaming, for example, which in Fire Emblem is quite nice and allows you to clash online with the customized teams of other players: a very simple and basic but undoubtedly welcome mode. The package could not fail to include the canonical, excellent soundtrack: from the classic initial tune of the series, introduced by a long fanfare that already excites the passionate player of the series, to the music that is the background to the clashes or the most dramatic narrative sequences , all the musical repertoire of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon it is well cared for, although certainly not unforgettable.

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Shadow Dragon adds nothing new to the saga, but retains the canonical, rock-solid gameplay that has distinguished it for more than a decade. The simple features of the touch-screen and the double screen are perfectly integrated into a classic mechanics that does not feel the weight of the years, and that will be able to charm, also thanks to a fantasy adventure without enormous pretensions and an excellent technical sector, all lovers of genus. Fans of the series will find it essential, all those who do not appreciate turn-based strategy will not change their mind.