Review by whsie
The Breakout for the FE Series
Introduction: Fire Emblem 4 is the what its title says- the 4th Fire emblem game. It's usually considered by the hardcore and general players as the best game of the series. Everything else should be noted in this review.
Gameplay is one of the areas that this game innovated and improved from before. The most noticeable innovation is the combat system where you now have the paper-scissor-rock system for swords, axes, and lances. Likewise, in magic, you have a similar system for fire, wind, and thunder. Overall, all of this played out nicely and easily. The only minor complaint on the combat system is maybe the magic system, which was later improved upon in FE6 which Light/Dark>Anigma because the elemental system is extremely hard to memorize. The only reason I memorized the magic system was because there was a whole chapter devoted to wind magic and you had to realize that fire was the magic to counterattack wind with or else you're pretty much dead.
Next, you also have another innovation- the support or relationship system that would also later be adapted in a different way in FE6 (skipped by FE5). In this game, you can pair characters up that would later "produce" a male and female for more gameplay. This is a significant factor in the review because it gives this game unprecedented replayability. After your first playthrough, you would want to pair characters B and C instead of A and C like you did the first time. With different pairings, the children will inherit different growth rates, skills, and weapons. Basically, this whole pairing system gives a lot of variations to the conversations and characters.
With the combat system and relationship system aside, there is also the playability of the game to consider. As a whole, it's very playable because the story compels you to continue playing and you'll often find yourself enjoying the minor strategies required. This game's strategy wouldn't completely satisfy real hardcores, but at the same time, it's perfectly playable for newcomers and the general video game audience. To further describe the strategy, there is a "smart" way of doing it, but the game isn't annoying (as in hard enough) to force you to take that route like FE5 does. For me, that leaves a bit of a decision making on my part and makes me feel I'M leading the army, not the game. To describe it further, the game is not completely linear. To sum it up, in terms of difficulty and playability, it achieves a solid balance for the hardcores and the general audience (think of the Zelda series). As a result, this game would most likely intrigue newcomers to play other games or even become hardcores. Most importantly, the difficulty is controlled to a point that you won't be completely frustrated to the point of the dumping the game (of course, the story helps to persuade you to continue).
While the points above are the main components for the gameplay, there is minor thing worth adding. This (from my knowledge) is the only Fire Emblem game that plays like a war combat game. War combat game as in you literally send your army to conquer other castles and countries. This made the game feel grander and also gave it a different experience. This is one of the reason the other Fire Emblem games paled in comparison, for you feel like you have this squat team (even though they tried to make it feel like an army) assaulting or destroying armies in the others Fire emblem games. To further elaborate, in other FE games, you have your 16 characters or so go in a castle and conquer the throne. In this game alone, you can choose however many units you want to send on your campaign (or keep however many) to conquer castles. Once your conquered this castle, you move on to the next.
Overall as a whole, the gameplay is innovated in this game and also gave a whole new experience that was to never be adapted again by the other games of the series. While there were minuscule flaws like the ever confusing magic system, the pluses light years outweigh the minuses.
The story is without a doubt the strongest point of the game. In matter of fact, its plot is the grandest and best of all the Fire Emblem games. Obviously, I can't go into too much details of the story, but there is a major plot twist that rivals a lot of other games known for plot twists (KOTOR, Jade's Empire just to name a few). In addition, the depth of the story is amazing. You'll be getting background information about all the main protagonists and antagonists. More importantly, these information aren't just random information to make this game more complete. These are actual essential information that affects the whole scheme. I'll admit that when I first played it, the side information didn't seem like much and I didn't take much notice, but when I played it a second time, everything made sense and kind of wraps everything in a full circle.
While this story is amazing, I must mention two minor flaws. 1. The beginning is a slightly slow. If you were just testing this game, you might be pulled away soon because the story seems rather simple until first climax happens (about 1/4 through the game) and from there, everything skyrockets into another dimension. And 2. To mix into the RPG element a bit, the characters don't have enough development. Yes, I know, I mentioned that the game is incredibly deep and is fully knotted in a full circle, but that doesn't mean the development of the characters are any good. What I'm trying to aim at is the development between the characters in the story. As I mentioned before, characters can fall in love and then have conversations that adds depth to the story, BUT the development and how they got to the affair is rather grey. For example (not much of a spoiler), the main character of the story will see a beautiful girl once and then become smittened by her. About 10 minutes later into the game, the girl comes back and also declares her love after they met just ONCE. Not to take anything away, but that isn't much of a development between the two. You'll notice multiple instances where it's somewhat (mostly a bit better) than the instance I gave. Ironically, the best character development award is given to the ANTAGONIST, which is rather interesting.
Now, while there are the 2 immediate flaws that I mentioned, the story is just so grand (mentioned in gameplay review) and the story is just so good that every minor flaw will be in the back of your brain when you're finished.
For a SNES game, I must say the graphics are extremely good. I'll admit that I don't know the exact "limit" of the SNES system, but I could tell SNES pushes it decently because the graphics in this game seem like it came from a whole another console when you compare it to FE3 on the SNES. To top that off, you usually could distinguish the characters in the animations because if your character has blue hair and a silver sword, it'll show it. It'll be different from a person who is wearing a red shirt (even if it's the same class) and a steel sword. First of all, the shirt is red and the sword is not silver. A Steel sword is something more between gold and brown. As for the faces, everything is drawn nicely. I'll say that the later FE5 faces look more mature and artistic overall, but this isn't anything that is going to totally depress you.
And here we go again, another innovation- the music! The music in this game would later be adapted by many later Fire Emblem games and it is definitely worthy of it too. For one chapter, you essentially have a heroic music playing throughout and you'll feel all revved up when go through the chapter.
The play time will greatly vary depending mainly on how you deal with the rather slow chapters. I can safety say that after the first climax, you'll start speeding through this game. When I say speeding through the game, I mean it as in you can't stop playing. After the first climax where things got interesting, I played nonstop with 4 hours a sleep a day. With each day, I completed a chapter. NOTE: This game is unique in that each chapter is GIGANTIC that it easily holds between 2-3 chapters in a normal Fire Emblem game. Since there are 12 total chapters, that's around around 30 chapters for a typical Fire Emblem game. Since I don't know how long each of you play, I'll just say 50+ hours because for the 1st time, it most likely will take that long. Replayability was already addressed in the gameplay section when I mentioned the relationship system where you can get different kids with different skills, weapons, and growth rates. In case you've forgotten, the replayability is amazing and one of the best, if not the best in the series.
Just play it. Simple as that. You won't regret it.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu (JP, 05/14/96)
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