I tend to forget Nintendo is a Japanese company. With all the popular franchises like Kirby, Zelda, Metroid, Ninja Gaiden, and Mario having been ported to the US, we miss the hidden jewels like Fire Emblem that have never made their way here. But now Nintendo has released US versions of two Fire Emblem games for Game Boy Advance. And they're good.
Fire Emblem hasn't changed a lot since the early days. The original 1990 NES game is a mix of RPG and turn based strategy. You read some story, then enter into a tactical battle where you move your little guys on the map to attack their guys, then read some more story. The fighting is entirely algorithmic; your choice is in how you manoeuvre. What's appealing is that you have enough units to really feel like you're managing a battle, while still having few enough that they have individual identity. It's surprisingly complex, and the entire franchise looks good.
It's too bad Nintendo took so long to bring these games to the US. But between the popularity of Final Fantasy-style RPGs and Advance Wars-style strategy games it's now clear there's a market here. Normally I find these kinds of games boring, too much reading and not enough playing. But on a handheld it has a nice rhythm.
  2005-07-31 19:13 Z