A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon contains serious themes. Though its animated violence is mild, there is much talk of war, death, and revenge. What's more, if one of the player's characters perishes, he will remain dead for the rest of the game and other characters will mourn him. That said, the story focuses on the honor, nobility, courage, and selflessness of the main characters, who often sacrifice much -- including their own lives -- do to what is right. Parents should also be aware that the language used is surprisingly baroque for a handheld role-playing game. As such, a fifth or sixth grade reading level will be required to appreciate much of the text dialogue. This game supports wireless voice chat in an online multiplayer setting. Common Sense Media does not recommend online play for children under twelve years of age.
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What's it about?
Fire Emblem, a series of strategy games that combine strong role-playing elements with lush narrative and deceptively deep strategy, is among Nintendo's most loved and critically acclaimed franchises that don't star an instantly recognizable mascot like Mario or Donkey Kong. Sadly, gamers residing in the Western Hemisphere have never had the opportunity to play the legendary game that began the series, Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ry? to Hikari no Tsurugi for the Nintendo Entertainment System, which was released only in Japan.
FIRE EMBLEM: SHADOW DRAGON is set to remedy that, to a degree. It's a remake of the 20-year-old classic that lets Westerners finally experience the story that started it all while enjoying updated graphics, dialogue, game play, and missions. Players familiar with the series will find Shadow Dragon's chess-like strategy, simple but appealing visuals, and compelling storytelling to be very similar to what they've experienced in other modern entries in the franchise, while Fire Emblem newbies are welcomed aboard via a lengthy and accessible tutorial that plays out in the form of a five-mission prologue. Bonus: A two-player wireless mode for gamers with separate GameCards adds a multiplayer element unavailable in previous Fire Emblem titles.
Is it any good?
A couple of things most people don't expect in their handheld games are beautiful writing and a memorable story, but that's exactly what Shadow Dragon delivers. The plot, which concerns a crusading prince who in his youth was exiled from his homeland by an invading army that decimated the kingdom's royal family, is nothing new, but its eloquent characters, many of whom often burst with genuine passion as they sacrifice themselves or mourn their comrades, effectively turn this trite tale into something a player can legitimately care about -- all the more so since these personalities could die on the battlefield at any moment and become forever lost.
On the flipside, the one thing players have come to expect of the Fire Emblem games is bar-setting turn-based strategy, and in this regard Shadow Dragon is at least on par with its predecessors. The chess-like tactics involved in managing multiple unit types with varying attacks and movement abilities require a keen mind to master, and countless variables -- such as weapon capabilities, changing odds of landing a hit, and the series' trademark weapon triangle (think rock, paper, scissors) -- provide eager strategists with plenty to chew on before each move. Battles combine with the game's sympathetic personalities to make for an extremely challenging but marvellously satisfying game of tactical role-playing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Parents can talk about the way in which a game's tone changes once the player knows his or her characters are mortal. Do you approach battles with a greater degree of caution? Does the fear of death alter the sort of strategies you employ? If one of your favorite characters perishes, do you feel inclined to restart the mission with an aim to see him through safely, or do you continue on without him? You can also discuss the game's flowery language. Does the game's rather old-fashioned mode of speech lend an atmosphere of authenticity to the game's medieval-ish narrative?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.