Nintendo’s cult classic Fire Emblem series is known by gamers the world over for its ability to inspire both pleasure and frustration in shockingly equal amounts. Seldom-used word combinations like “punishingly addictive” or “enjoyably frustrating” are employed freely by anyone and everyone that’s ever given the franchise a spin. Suffice it to say that the new DS remake, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, looks to continue this irritatingly fine tradition.
For newbies, the first thing that you absolutely must know when diving into a Fire Emblem game for the first time is that if your characters die, they’re finished. There is no magical return-to-life spell, no ability to revive after the battle is over and no second chances. They’re gone, baby, gone. This can lead to a lot of resetting if you’re a perfectionist and even if you’re not there’ll probably be some profanity involved when that guy you didn’t see ends up offing your favorite hero.
But hold on, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. FE: SD follows the story of Prince Marth, known primarily to North American gamers from his appearance in the Super Smash Bros. series. Marth has been exiled from his kingdom following a hostile takeover and he’s none too happy about it. Rallying around a small group of supporters, Marth battles his way across the world.
Throw in a cast of colorful enemies, an ancient power-crazed wizard and an almost-omnipotent-dragon-god-thing and you’ve got the makings of a fantasy epic. It’s a little contrived but the point of the story is to get you from one armed conflict to the next and in that endeavor it succeeds, even admirably at times.
But nobody that knows Fire Emblem games plays them for the story; they play them for the challenge. In this, FE: SD does not disappoint. Hell, the hardest selectable difficulty setting has 5 sub-settings to determine just how ridiculously, eye-clawingly-infuriating you want your game session to be.
Also, with all of the hidden characters, bonus levels and the absolutely staggering variety with which you can build your army, FE: SD packs a lot of replay value for such a tiny package. Go pick up Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon today, and discover what being aggravatingly entertained really feels like.