Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance is a tactical role-playing game developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo GameCube video game console. The game was released on April 20, 2005 in Japan, October 17, 2005 in North America, November 15, 2005 in Europe and December 1, 2005 in Australia. It is the ninth Fire Emblem title, and the third Fire Emblem title to be released in North America.
Path of Radiance was the first Fire Emblem title to feature characters having voices and the first to feature 3D graphics for its character models, maps, and battle screens. It is also the first Fire Emblem game to be released for a home console in North America, Australia, and Europe. Its gameplay introduced a new system for battle preparation and a new set of races, collectively known as laguz.
Path of Radiance is set on the fictional continent of Tellius. The continent is divided into seven nations that are either governed by beorc, the game's terminology for humans, or laguz, a race of shape-shifters capable of taking on the forms of animals.
- Crimea - A beorc kingdom that is home to the Greil Mercenaries. At the start of the game, it is invaded by Daein. It was ruled by King Ramon until his death at the hands of King Ashnard. He is succeeded by his daughter, Elincia.
- Daein - A beorc kingdom that had become antagonistic ever since King Ashnard ascended the throne.
- Begnion - A beorc theocracy worshiping the goddess Ashera. Its figurehead is Apostle Sanaki.
- Gallia - Home to the beast laguz, it recently improved relations with Crimea. Its ruler is King Caineghis.
- Phoenicis - Home to the hawk laguz, its ruler is King Tibarn.
- Kilvas - Home to the raven laguz, who are considered more cunning and dishonorable than the Hawks. Foreigners are not welcome unless they pay well. Its ruler is King Naesala.
- Goldoa - Home of the dragon laguz, it isolates itself from the rest of Tellius. Its ruler is Dheginsea.
- Serenes Forest - A forest located in northwestern Begnion, home to the heron laguz. However, it was burnt down 20 years before the events of the game and the herons were wiped out, save for its king Lorazieh, Prince Reyson and Rafiel, Princess Leanne and Lillia.
The protagonist, Ike, the son of Greil, begins the game as the newest member of his father's mercenary company, the Greil Mercenaries. The company operates within the borders of Crimea, a nation of humans (referred to as "beorc") that shares its southern border with Gallia, a nation of Beast laguz, or humanoids capable of transforming into animals. As a member of the Greil Mercenaries, Ike embarks on missions to aid locals seeking help to drive away bandits.
The lives of Ike and his fellow mercenaries change when the neighboring beorc nation, Daein, invades Crimea. After the Crimean capital falls to the invasion, Ike comes across an unconscious woman in a forest that turns out to be the Crimean princess, Elincia Ridell Crimea, whose party had fallen while escorting her escape to the allied nation of Gallia. Faced with the ruthless Daein assault, Greil leads the mercenaries out of Crimea and towards Gallia, but is mortally wounded by a Daein general known only as the Black Knight. These events mark the beginning of a long journey that will take Ike, Elincia, and the mercenaries across the continent and back in an effort to defeat Daein and restore Crimea's royalty to the throne.
Over the course of the game, Ike and his companions must overcome long-held racial tensions between the beorc and laguz in order to form an alliance against their true enemy, Ashnard, King of Daein. In particular, Ike manages to reestablish relations between the beorc nation of Begnion and the few remaining members of the heron laguz clan, which was annihilated in an act of genocide known as the Serenes Massacre. With this accomplishment, Ike is given command of a patchwork army that he leads into Daein and finally back to Crimea, where he confronts the Black Knight and ultimately King Ashnard himself.
See main article: List of characters in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
See main article: Chapters (Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance)
The Fire Emblem
In Path of Radiance, the Fire Emblem takes the form of a simple bronze medallion also known as Lehran's Medallion. It holds the soul of an evil god, and can disrupt the level of chaotic energy in most any that take direct hold of it, driving its claimant violently berserk. For example, when Greil took hold of the medallion, it caused him to go berserk and kill everyone in sight, including his wife, Elena. It was only when she took the medallion from his hand in her final moments that Greil regained his sanity. Only a person with a high level of spiritual balance is capable of holding the medallion without losing his or her mind. Ike's mother, Elena, and his younger sister, Mist, are two such people.
The medallion once belonged to the Heron clans that dwelt in the Serenes Forest within Begnion. They were charged with protecting the medallion so that the evil god would not be released. However, the Serenes Massacre forced Lillia, a member of the Heron royal family, to flee with the medallion, only to be captured by Ashnard's forces. Lillia was ordered to free the dark god, but she could not. She befriended Elena and gave the medallion to her. Mist eventually inherited it from her mother.
In the final chapter of the "Difficult" difficulty (and "Maniac" in the Japanese version), Ashnard uses the medallion after his initial defeat to gain godlike power. Despite this strength growth, he is still defeated by Ike and the party.
The game retains the fundamental gameplay mechanics of the Fire Emblem series, such as the weapon triangle and grid-based battlefields. However, there are some changes to the gameplay, such as the way in which the group prepares and units support each other, as well as a change to the magic system.
At the start, the original Japanese version of the game provides "Normal" and "Hard" modes, with the third mode, "Maniac", being unlocked after completing the Normal mode. In English-language releases, the three modes were renamed to "Easy", "Normal", and "Hard". The easiest of the modes assumes the player has never played a Fire Emblem game before and includes in-depth in-game tutorials, whereas the other modes only include them as a reference. In the hardest mode, enemies are stronger and more numerous, and certain features, like saving during battles, have been disabled. In addition, both EXP gain and bonus EXP have been toned down significantly.
Path of Radiance introduces the laguz changelings—humanoid creatures that transform into powerful animals when their transformation gauge is full. The bar within the transformation gauge increases each turn; the laguz spend roughly an equal amount of time in each form, though the humanoid form can be completely bypassed if the laguz is equipped with either a Demi Band or a Laguz Band—the former of which decreases the user's battle statistics. When in animal form, laguz use the natural weapons of their species—claws for beasts, beaks for birds, and breath attacks for dragons. The natural weapons of a laguz will never break with use, unlike normal beorc weaponry, but laguz do not use beorc weapons and are thus unable to attack when not in animal form. There are three species of laguz—beasts, birds, and dragons. These species are further divided into three classes each, although not all of them are playable. Beast laguz are divided into Cats, Tigers, and lions; birds into ravens, hawks, and Herons; and dragons are divided into red, white, and black dragons. Each laguz species has an elemental weakness: fire for beasts, wind for birds, and thunder for dragons. Birds can fly in either form, but also have the weakness to bows associated with flying units.
In Path of Radiance, most units that can promote to a higher-tier class will do so automatically upon reaching level twenty-one. Players can also use the Master Seal item to immediately promote any unit currently between levels ten and twenty. Ike and Volke are exceptions, in that their promotions are based on story events, with Ike's promotion occurring automatically. Laguz characters cannot promote, but instead have a level cap of thirty for their classes.
Path of Radiance introduces some new classes while omitting some that were present in earlier Fire Emblem installments. There have also been changes to which weapons some classes can wield. Ex: Paladins have the option of using bows, where in previous games they could not.
Path of Radiance is the first Fire Emblem game to feature a "Base screen" along with the "Battle Preparations" screen. Before the Base screen appears, Soren provides information on the previous battle, including the weapons and the distribution of Bonus Experience and skills. Furthermore, players can engage in Support conversations and the new "Info" conversations, chapter-specific conversations rated on a scale of one to three stars. One star denotes conversations that provide story background, two stars mark conversations that provide hints on how to proceed in the coming battle, and three stars indicate that the conversation may yield a special ability, item, or new playable character.
A battle mechanic introduced in Path of Radiance, Biorhythm is a universal modifier that affects all allied and enemy units on the battlefield. A character's current biorhythm state is charted with a sine wave graph visible in a unit's status screen. The biorhythm advances on a turn by turn basis, rising and falling as the battle proceeds. When a character's biorhythm is high, they gain a bonus to their Hit and Avoid chances, but incur a penalty when their biorhythm is low.
The skill system, which was introduced in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, has different mechanics in this game. Each character has a capacity gauge that allows for mastery of skills. By using a skill scroll, the character learns the corresponding skill and a certain amount of slots are taken up in the capacity gauge, usually determined by how useful the skill is. The space of the capacity gauge varies between classes and characters. Barring a few exceptions, any unit can learn any skill. Most skills give the unit an advantage in battle; Ike's Aether, for example, allows Ike to deal damage as if his opponent has half their real defense, while healing him for half the damage he would deal. Skills can be unassigned from characters to provide room for new skills, but doing so causes the unassigned skill to vanish.
Path of Radiance introduced a new feature called Bonus Experience. At the end of every chapter, Bonus Experience is awarded based on certain factors such as number of enemies remaining and turns taken to complete the chapter. It can be freely distributed to units between battles through the Base menu. Just as in the previous Fire Emblem installments, one hundred Experience Points are required to level up.
Another unique feature to Path of Radiance is Fixed mode, which is an alternative method for unit growth that is available after completing the game once. Random mode—the method used in all other titles in the series, as well as in the first playthrough of Path of Radiance—gives units a set percentage chance to increase a given stat upon level up. This chance is termed a "growth rate." Due to the "chance nature" of this system, a unit that levels up may gain many stat increases or none at all. In Fixed mode, units instead earn experience towards a stat increase as they earn standard experience. This "stat experience" is kept per stat, and if enough has been accumulated, that stat will increase the next time the unit gains a level and "stat experience" will return to zero; otherwise, it will carry over to the next level. Units earn stat experience based on their individual growth rates, which can be modified by the items a unit has equipped and the class of the enemy that it is attacking.
For a list of weapons in the game see: List of weapons in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
The weapon forging system, introduced in this game, allows players to create improved versions of some of the weapons available in shops. Players can forge one weapon during every visit to the Base screen. To forge a weapon, the player first chooses a base weapon to modify. Choices of base weapon are initially limited, but more options become available as the player progresses through the game. The player can then increase or decrease several statistics of the weapon, such as strength and weight. The further away from the statistics of the base weapon, the higher the cost; making no changes to the base statistics results in the same price as the base weapon. After statistics are adjusted, the player can choose a new color for the weapon and give it a unique name. These features have no effect on price.
The support system remains the same in how the support conversations affect each unit and how statistical boosts are determined. However, instead of the support level being determined by the number of turns units are adjacent in a battle, it is now determined by the number of battles two units have been in together. Furthermore, the support conversations take place at the base in between battles instead of on the battlefield. Path of Radiance is also the first Fire Emblem to include details on the unit information screen specifying statistical gains from their current support ranks.
Changes from Japanese version
There are some notable changes in the gameplay and presentation between the Japanese and localized versions of Path of Radiance. The localized version features difficulty levels of Easy, Normal, and Hard, whereas the Japanese version has Normal, Hard, and Maniac. Also, in the localized versions, the Swordmaster, Berserker, and Sniper unit classes receive a 15% boost to their critical rate (the chance to triple the damage of an attack), similar to those present in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade and Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones.
In the Japanese version, there is voiced narration for all of the overworld map scenes and the ending cinema scenes. However, the narration during the map scenes in the localized version were left unvoiced.
Game Boy Advance Link Connection
The Game Boy Advance Fire Emblem games (Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, and Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones) could be connected with Path of Radiance via a Gamecube-Game Boy Advance link cable to unlock a selection of bonuses for their respective games.
In the Japanese version of Path of Radiance, the player could unlock character art galleries for each of the three GBA games, as well as three Trial Maps, one for each GBA title, to compliment the Trial Maps unlocked for beating Path of Radiance.
In the localized version of Path of Radiance, a connection with The Binding Blade is not supported due to that title being a Japan-only release, and thus the character gallery for The Binding Blade is omitted. The process of unlocking all three Trial Maps is also adjusted, as the map unlocked by The Binding Blade in Japan is unlocked in the localized version by linking both The Blazing Blade and The Sacred Stones with Path of Radiance.
Graphics engine and musical score
For a list of music from the game see: List of Music in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
Path of Radiance is the first Fire Emblem title to feature three-dimensional graphics on the battlefield, replacing two-dimensional sprite animations and landscapes with fully rendered 3-D models. It is also the first game in the series to make use of full motion video to present cinematic sequences at key points in the game. The FMV sequences were animated by Digital Frontier, which would later create the FMV sequences for its sequel.12
The Fire Emblem series' veteran music composer, Yuka Tsujiyoko, was actively involved in providing the musical score. Path of Radiance is the first Fire Emblem game to feature an in-game theme song with vocals, "Life Returns," which is sung in the fictional language of the heron tribe.
Though Path of Radiance received a mostly positive critical reception on release, and features a score of 85 on Metacritic, based on an aggregation of forty-two professional reviews, the game carries the distinction of being one of the lowest-selling entries in the franchise.
Path of Radiance was praised for its story, cinematic cut-scenes, and soundtrack. However, it was criticized for outdated in-game graphics and extended periods of dialogue, as well as the lack of innovation in gameplay and presentation. Eurogamer cited the gameplay as "single-minded", stating that some gameplay elements lack complexity compared to games of a similar genre such as Final Fantasy Tactics. Furthermore, they proceed to mention the occasional burden of ensuring unit's safety as a result of permanent death, and the frustration when losing a unit. Despite this, the game was praised for retaining the charm that made the previous installments popular.
- In the Nintendo DS game Trace Memory, one can find a book titled "Path of Radiance" during Chapter 2; an obvious nod to this game.
- Ike, the protagonist of Path of Radiance, has also appeared in each entry of the Super Smash Bros. series as a playable character beginning with Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
- Path of Radiance is referenced in Fire Emblem: Three Houses through the White Heron Cup, a dancing contest in which the winner is granted access to the Dancer class. In Path of Radiance and its sequel, Radiant Dawn, the Heron laguz royals, who have white wings, sing galdr that feature the same gameplay effects as those of the more traditional Dancer class.
- Internal data labels Path of Radiance as FE8, suggesting this game was originally to be the eight Fire Emblem title in the series. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones is officially the eight Fire Emblem title released, making Path of Radiance the ninth officially. It is possible Path of Radiance was in development long before The Sacred Stones was.