Why It’s Hard To Play Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon

Fire EmblemSo a few weeks ago after watching the Fire Emblem anime, I had a desire to start playing Shadow Dragon and actually seeing ALL of Marth’s story. I was really pumped up to play it, so of course I started over and chose a difficulty level…

…And then in a matter of minutes, I stopped playing.

Granted, my days of playing video games obsessively is long gone (unless it’s something crazy addicting), but even so, I generally seem to play a good hour or two of a Fire Emblem game. Well, not for Shadow Dragon. Shadow Dragon unfortunately happens to fall into the trap of being a dated game after Awakening. I think that’s why it’s hard to play Shadow Dragon now.

That excuse could fly now, but I had this game when it came out in 2008. And I managed to beat the entire game in one go…once. Why is this bad? I’ve replayed every other FE game more than once. Uh-oh. What’s going on here? Guess I better share.

1. It Is a remake

This has been the general excuse for why playing Shadow Dragon is more of a chore than anything else, and sure, it can work…except because of that reason, you’d at least hope it’s in a state where it can be played over and over again. But aside from the main storyline, there’s nothing else to do. There’s no supports, I barely touched the online component, and so there’s little drive to keep playing again (unless to play the higher difficulty levels). Aside from the upgraded graphics and bringing the weapons triangle (that wasn’t introduced until Genealogy), there’s nothing that represents a step up from prior FE games. Speaking of prior FE games…

2. It came after Radiant Dawn

Radiant Dawn definitely has its fair share of issues (hell I apparently even ranted on it way back when), but once I got used to the difficulty curve and accepted the story as is, I had a ton of fun with it. This is mostly because it had some large scale maps and the use of skills. Skills is not available in Shadow Dragon. You would think it wouldn’t be too much of a problem since all the handheld FE games didn’t have skills (well, Sacred Stones to an extent, but not really), but I guess I couldn’t get used to it.

(On another note, I wonder if Shadow Dragon forced me to replay Radiant Dawn lol)

3. Bare bones Fire Emblem

Well, I already touched on this already, but there was no supports in this game. Let’s just say after getting used to having characters talk to each other, and the slap in the face the support system in Radiant Dawn was, I probably couldn’t accept that fact. But this mostly made the characters, who didn’t have much depth in the first place, feel stale. And of course, while the maps were ok, they definitely lacked the scale that Radiant Dawn had. And along with the story (which is pretty dated nowadays), Shadow Dragon just feels…lacking.

4. Then I just had to go play its Sequel

This is what really kills Shadow Dragon for me. I originally thought of Shadow Dragon as a decent, ok FE game that finally allowed us to play as Marth after he made his debut in Melee. After playing Shin Monsho No Nazo, I now instead see Shadow Dragon as a lazy, ok FE game that finally allowed us to play as Marth after he made his debut in Melee. Unlike this game, FE12 actually represented an upgrade in every conceivable way, with a stronger story, more conversations, sound, etc. When I finished that game, I literally felt refreshed, which is probably the opposite of how I felt playing Shadow Dragon. I think it’s obvious Intelligent Systems realized where they fell short in Shadow Dragon, and made sure to not let the same thing happen to FE12. That only makes the only FE DS game to make it to the West just look weak in comparison.

…Anyways, I think that’s about all I can come up with.

FE Marth

So…what about you guys?

Yep, now you get to tell me if you’ve had problems playing Shadow Dragon. Or make suggestions on how to play Shadow Dragon, to get us to recover and deal with its content…

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About Walters

Fire Emblem fan. Well, almost, since he's only played FE7-FE13. Needs professional help. Now is on Twitter (@FE4vsFE5).

7 thoughts on “Why It’s Hard To Play Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon

  1. You’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one, friend. I dunno if I’ve mentioned this elsewhere before (maybe in my blog, maybe in a comment or something…hmm, maybe on obelion13′s blog) but FE11 as a remake struck me as wanting for several reasons, mainly the ones you describe here. Additionally:

    1: FE11 is also very linear. While there were branching paths in previous FE games, like 6, there’s none of that here, and if you’ve played through it once, you’ve essentially seen everything, with some exceptions like conversations. Not much replay value.

    2: Poor graphics and art. The FE11 sprites have nowhere near as much charm as the GBA ones, and while graphics have never been a strong point of the FE series (the peglegs of the FE13 sprites always annoyed me, personally), FE11 doesn’t have fitting art to make up for it. Shirow Masamune is an excellent artist, but his areas of expertise (mechs and naked women) were wasted on a medieval game like Fire Emblem. The artists for the GBA games along with the Tellius games were much better. Even the No More Heroes guy they got for FE13 was a better choice, since that game at least has fanservice to make use of his ass-drawing abilities.

    3: The method of gaining Gaiden chapters is very strange. Most FE players conserve their units religiously, and being forced to sacrifice your guys, even if you don’t use them, can feel irritating to long-time FE players.

    Those are a few of my personal reasons for not being that into FE11. :o

    • 2. I guess I’m on my own and saying that the art for Shadow Dragon was ok. Then again, I’m not all too picky about artists (unless it’s truly awful)

      3. Weird…the only time I remember having to sacrifice a unit was in the prologue. Can’t remember if that was the case later in the game. That’s surprising to me.

      Yeah, I think the main issue with FE11 was your first one. Unless you play the higher difficulty levels, it’s the same thing.

      • I wouldn’t say you’re on your own, it’s not as if Shirow’s work for FE11 was terrible and unwatchable. It’s just that it’s not his best and he’s not really suited to it, which I think a lot of people could discern.

        In reference to sacrificing units, in FE11 you can only reach the Gaiden chapters (and thus several of the characters) if your army was below a certain size in most cases, necessitating killing your units off.

  2. I understand people’s sentiments and boredom factor when it comes to FE: Shadow Dragon, but I honestly don’t think it’s as bad as most people make it out to be. People are going to complain about whatever series of a game they don’t like. As far as I know, none of the Fire Emblems have ever been pressed out of this as exceptions. I’m sure of some of the FE fans got a hold of the only-released-in-Japan FE titles, they’d scream about it being “outdated” as well, in comparison to, say, Awakening or the Tellius series. Not all of them back then had a ‘skills’ system, even those hidden from the player stats, so all classes for the most part–with the exception of their unique growth rates for the characters–were same-ish across the board. From my research (since I’m doing quite a bit of it for an FE fan-based game I’m developing) I don’t think they started true skill distribution and class optimization until Geneaology of the Holy War. I think basically prior to that, classes were pretty ‘normalized’.

    With the regards to it being a remake? Uh…most of the old Japanese FEs up until I believe Holy War or possibly Binding Blade had a no support system, and no availability of marrying other characters, or manipulating storyline actively. Holy War was the first to really have a “relationship system” OR a “weapon triangle” (so be thankful Shadow Dragon at least impliments SOME of the newer FE systems, so that’s not so lazy on the part of the developers.) So, in reality, I think if the developers went back and re-released a few of the old FE games, there’d be similar complaints unless they did a complete reboot and refurbishment (then I’m sure there’d be some hardcore fans which would bitch because they did that, as they did with DMC and Mario and Kid Icarus and every other game that comes to my mind when they “remade it to something new and original.”) I’m sure the online component probably has something to it, but to say that it gives little drive to keep playing again simply because it bares the “bare essential” to an FE game is slightly…IMO…biased. I think the point of the game was practically storyline and difficulty. Granted, that won’t do much for those seeking alikeness to other well-know FE games in Western countries, but despite that…I thought it was a breath of fresh air, and something that required MORE strategy, because you don’t have the game-breaking elements to make it super easy.

    Why do I say this? …Because the number of times my partner espouses how much of a cake-walk Awakening is after the first couple of chapters, if you’re not playing on the brutal Lunatic mode. I’ve yet to play it, but I KNOW how easy it is to make FE games complete pleasure strolls because, especially in the Tellius series, you can exchange skills, develop skills, get bonuses in combat with supporting, etc, etc… There’s strategy to that, but the thing is…that complaint of no skills is like new gamers complaining about old school Mario (I mean NES and SNES Super Mario Bros. 1 & 2) because he doesn’t have a Boot power or Hammer Bros. suit, or the Maple Leaf for the Raccoon suit. All he had was ‘shrooms, Stars and Fire Flowers…that was it! And you could only get THOSE if you hit the right blocks and retained your Big Mario form. It required player skill to get the advantages, that DID NOT last forever. So yeah, maybe I sound a bit like the old woman in the rocking chair, shaking her cane at the youngins’ to “get off her yard” after a thorough “talking to,” but after hearing all the complaints about certain FE series, all it starts to sound like is whining and wingeing and excuses not to meet the game’s challenges, however stupid and asinine they may be.

    So, this is just my main comments about Shadow Dragon:

    It’s a Bare-Bones Remake, yes, with an OK storyline and more a basis towards possibly sacrificing units and using your BRAIN and preserverence rather than making the game too easy through clever skill arrangement and supporting. Yes, I love skills and supports, and seeing characters stories and pairings and friendships is a wonderful attribute to new-school FE games. HOWEVER, just as I still enjoy NES games which ‘lacked’ but were challenging, I enjoyed Shadow Dragon the same. Shadow Dragon is a meritable part of the series, that didn’t need flashy things such as “upgrades” or deeper characterization to be a competent strategy game (that, and in all honesty, you can kind of weave reclassing into characters to give them heightened stats…but the reclassing system isn’t as well-defined as it is in Awakening.) All I can say is is that at least HARD MODE in Shadow Dragon actually IS HARD…rather than ‘bearable’ till I can break the game.

    The characters weren’t so bad, and the story just follows EXACTLY as it has throughout the generations of Marth and the Akaenia-related serieses…so who could fault that? If it weren’t for Marth and the history made by his story, we wouldn’t have Awakening, would we? Also, there’s a bit with the other FE games for the GBA and DS prior to Awakening–they did all have skills with the exception of Shadow Dragon. They were skills not visible to the player, such as a Myrmidon’s natural 5% and 10% critical rates and the Sniper’s improved accuracy. Most of it was just more obvious in Sacred Stones.

    My suggestion when playing Shadow Dragon? Don’t play seeking fancy-dancy stuff, just as you wouldn’t expect in many NES games (since this was a REMAKE of a NES game, as well.) NES games had point-blank, straight-forward, linear storylines, and I think the super-immersive quality of games nowadays make people forget the finer aspect of gaming and where it all originated from (that is, to say, we’re now spoiled rotten because we get so much out of games now, with TONS of replay value.) Gaming back then was all about the joy of beating an extremely difficult game that required skill to master. I could pop off names of games which STILL, to this day, have incredibly linear storylines and are very popular series still, and this includes Castlevania and Metroid and The Legend of Zelda. Besides the aspects of questing and adventure in each game, none of them provide alternates in their storylines, nor very immersive ones. In Zelda, there’s never any other option BUT to save Hyrule, by taking the critical steps necessary to do it. Not every power-up or weapon is required, but you HAVE to beat the temples and boss rush to defeat Ganon (or whatever villian is on hand) and save the day, right? Well…Shadow Dragon follows the same formula. Not every character is good, or needed, and Gaiden chapters are optional… You play as Marth and his brigade, you go fight Gharnef and Medeus…end of. That’s the basics of EVERY FE game, and Shadow Dragon is part of the franchises roots. Respect that, expect that, enjoy that…just as you would a good NES game. :)

    • Actually, I ended up replaying Shadow Dragon a month or so ago and I have a new opinion on it. Which I think I wrote about but don’t feel like linking to right now so… :D But yeah, problems aside, Shadow Dragon isn’t too bad.

      My problem, however, is that I realized how lazy Intelligent Systems was when it came to work on Shadow Dragon when I played Shin Monshou no Nazo, or the only FE game to not be released in the West after FE7 came here. There’s a lot more depth and replay value (despite there being no support system) that isn’t a very good look for Shadow Dragon.

      Thanks for your comment btw. I really appreciate it.

      • I’m currently replaying Shadow Dragon on super-retarded hard mode (and it’s F**KING RIDICULOUS! D: ) I do notice, however, kind of like what ended up happening with the Tellius series I just skip a lot of the dialogue/story bits and just play for the challenge. Perhaps it’s a reflection on the game, perhaps not–I do have a tendency of skipping dialogue even in Final Fantasy games after playing them for the umpteenth time because I memorize just about EVERY line from the games…so I wouldn’t count that as anything negative against the game itself. Lolz, it’s alright, I’m sure I’ll run into the post at some stage. :) I think Shadow Dragon’s only problem is its outdated-ness, and I think the character art was a bit on the weak side (sorta cell-shaded and cartoony instead of anime-style didn’t really suit, and was too jarringly different from the remainder of the FE serieses.) But gameplay wise, it’s pretty good, to me.

        I cannot tell the laziness of Nintendo/Intelligent Systems with SD, probably because I haven’t played Shin Monshou no Nazo–which regretfully I DO want to seriously play, in the same regards as how much I’d love to play Binding Blade/Sword of Seals–the hell ever people want to call it now. With that said, Japan has a terrible problem keeping the GOOD games of certain serieses and franchises away from the hands of the Western populace (good examples are Back to the Future II for the SNES and half the original Final Fantasy series (before IX), which took years after their releases to be unveiled and placed properly in numerical order to the rest of the world.) I dunno why this is, but sometimes I think it’s Japan’s way of showing the middle finger to everyone else–rofl. I’m sure by comparison, Shin Mon is a whole lot better than SD, but I’d have to play it for myself at some stage to really see. :)

        Also, you’re super duper welcome for the comment. :D Anything for a fellow Fire Emblem fan!

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