The Definitive 50 GameCube Games: #24 Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

The series so far: The Definitive 50 GameCube Games.

The Fire Emblem series had been chugging along nicely in Japan since the Famicom era, but it wasn’t until the breakout popularity of Roy and Marth in Super Smash Bros. Melee that Nintendo finally began localizing the series for western markets.

Fire Emblem games began showing up on the GameBoy Advance in 2003, but it wasn’t until 2005 that the west finally got its first console Fire Emblem game with Path of Radiance.

Path of Radiance puts you in command of the Greil Mercenaries, swords for hire who quickly find themselves on the run from the invading nation of Daein, and on a quest to restore order to the continent of Tellius.

For leader Ike, the mission is personal. He’s also out for revenge against the Black Knight, a ruthless Daein general who murdered his father.

The game weaves a tale of political intrigue fused with racial tension. There are more than just humans (or beorc as the game calls them) in the fight, as the often maligned laguz, a race of humanoids capable of transformation to beast form, are also in the hunt. Ultimately, old biases will need to be dropped in order for the forces of good to come together and defeat the common Daein enemy.

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance plays much like a standard turn-based strategy RPG, unsurprising since the series popularized the genre and has helped shape it since its earliest days.

There’s a rock-paper-scissors style weapons triangle to keep in mind when sending fighters to attack, units to level and manage, and magic to cast.

Famously, the Fire Emblem series is hard on players, and Path of Radiance is no exception. Characters can die in battle, and you won’t get them back, ever. If you let too many, or the most powerful ones perish, you’ll find yourself unable to overcome harsher challenges later on. There’s a delicate line to walk, letting certain characters go when you want to progress, and restarting levels when you just can’t afford the loss.

Path of Radiance was such a success on the GameCube, that even warranted a direct sequel for the Wii, called Radiant Dawn. It stands as another fine entries in the historic Fire Emblem series.