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Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance [Gamecube]


Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance - Difficult (Hard) Mode

Swords. Magic. Spears. Each are destructive tools once utilized by human forebears. Yes, ever since their evolution out of the slime pools, they quickly harnessed these weapons to decimate each other across their small planet.


In modern times, humans continue such rituals in fictional lands of digital fantasy. From the plains of Rohan in Middle Earth on The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age to the volcanic foothills of Molag Amur in Morrowind, there is no shortage of death in role playing video games.


In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, players are provided just that; a phantasmal setting of mutual destruction in a unique turn-based strategy setting.


The Challenge? Complete the story line on ★★★ Difficulty (Hard Mode).


Is this a worthy Challenge? Let's find out.


Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance - Difficult (Hard) Mode


Gameplay


Formally defined as a "fantasy tactical role-playing game," Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance should appease any open-minded chess enthusiast. The player is left contemplating and re-contemplating most turns while considering the variety of ways to kill the enemy. Diligent planning combined with confidence and courage is required.


Players direct the notorious Greil Mercenaries. Often underestimated and more often belittled, these hired warriors become so successful that they almost save the world.


From the game's outset, the player is provided a chess queen: Titania, the Paladin. This esteemed red haired horse master wields a destructive axe that produces many widows. A humble role model to everyone, Titania is an indispensable asset to the Greil Mercenaries outfit. The enemy understands her immense value as well and often try to eliminate her first. Never successful.



As leaders change with time, someone must empower new leaders to succeed. Titania is wise in her duty based on her selective directness and attention to orders. The main character, Lord Ike, would have remained a mere Ranger without her loyalty.


Humans are rarely bestowed the title of Lord. Thus, in attempt to liberate the world of Tellius, Lord Rigor shall harness His divinity to guide Lord Ike's sword hand. Lord Rigor is a generous Demigod.


Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance - Difficult (Hard) Mode

Much like Final Fantasy 1's turn-based combat system, players alternate with the enemy in wounding each other. By default, for each attack sequence in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, a dramatic cut-scene Animation highlights each character's unique weapons, abilities, climactic critical hits and subsequent deaths. Although this is an appealing feature that is initially entertaining, it adds unnecessary time to the already long Chapter battles. This Animation setting was ultimately disabled to show grid-only combat management.


Speaking of time and death, Lord Rigor would have preferred to witness His character's deaths with a cut-scene. Alas, Nintendo implemented no such feature:


Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance - Difficult (Hard) Mode

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance's extensive dialogues creates a rare emotional attachment to characters. Game Overs only occur when Lord Ike perishes or when the battle objective is not completed. In turn, all other characters are prone to permanent death in which certain characters with unique abilities must be cherished and protected.


For example, Lord Rigor made the grave mistake to put Rhys the Priest and Tanith the Falcon Knight in harm's way. Tanith's Reinforcement was an invaluable tool to combat similar enemy reinforcements. Moreover, with Rhys' death, the Greil Mercenaries were forced to spend hard earned payments on hundreds of vulnerary potions in order to heal mid-combat. In comparison, average soldiers such as Brom or Tauroneo aren't necessarily unique units and should instead guard the front lines before anyone else.


Many warriors lost their lives in the pursuit to vanquish evil from Tellius. May the below compilation of their deaths honor their sacrifices:



Herein lies the unique Challenging nature of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance - strike a balance between life and death or face shameful consequences.


Upon Boyd the Fighter's early death, Titania advised Lord Ike as such:


Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance - Difficult (Hard) Mode


★★★ Difficulty (Hard Mode)


Modeled after Titania's prowess, forming a squad of cavalry units became Lord Rigor's primary character development focus on Hard Mode. Oscar, Kieran and Geoffrey each earned their rightful Paladin rank alongside Titania.


Lord Rigor's deadly calvary unit eliminated hundreds of enemies. Wielding axes, spears and bows, these horseback warriors softened up countless enemy battalions as allies on foot closed in. The entertaining friendly rivalry between Oscar and Kieran spurred the team to even further greatness.



In addition to the cavalry, the laguz were next in line to rip apart any remaining enemy scraps. These prideful human hybrids transform into four legged feline flesh grinders. Lethe, Mordecai and Muarim were much more useful than their counterparts Janaff and Ulki of the bird tribe. Muarim is of admirable inspiration for committing himself to the cause despite his kin being slaughtered in the desert by Lord Ike.


On larger outdoor maps, Lord Rigor typically divided His calvary and laguz forces into two such as on Chapter 24: "Battle Reunion." Horse-backed spears and sharp claws swiftly ended countless enemy lives. During other times of unique strategy, all units were required to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a defensive shield wall! Alongside the stalwart generals, Brom and Tauroneo, the Greil Mercenaries could halt any enemy offensive and successfully protect less armored allies.



All opportunities must be taken to proactively train allied units safely on Hard Mode. From attacking inanimate doors for increased weapon levels to killing innocent priests for a few experience points, it simply must be done. Indeed, morality cannot be a concern in this steadfast endeavor.


On Chapter 22, "Solo," Lord Rigor exemplified this relentlessness by sending all of the holy brothers to their heaven in the below compilation video:



This video features Amon Amarth's track "Where is Your God?" whose lyrics portrays the priest's futility:


Amon Amarth: Twilight of the Thundergod - Where Is Your God?

If Rhys the Priest had still been alive, perhaps he may have dissuaded Soren's unholy hellfire from lighting the priests ablaze... unlikely, though.


Lord Rigor prioritized training characters with the highest speed attributes regardless of unit classes. For example, Oscar the Paladin could usually hit enemies with two consecutive hits compared to Titania's single strike. The same comparison can be made for Lethe the Cat to Mordecai the Lion.

The math is simple. Attacking twice equates to double the damage and should be prioritized over brute strength attributes. To compound this important logistic, the Brave Weapons that become available in the final Chapters can potentially yield four consecutive hits!


Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance - Difficult (Hard) Mode

The various Chapter victory conditions in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance are fairly straight-forward. Formal Chapter objectives of "Seize" or "Rout" generally requires the Greil Mercenaries to defeat all enemies. Easy enough with deadly Calvary and Laguz units on standby.


Alas, Lord Rigor experienced Game Overs on Hard Mode due to several unforeseen events. The antagonist, the fearsome Black Knight, continually appeared mid-combat to unexpectedly smite the Greil Mercenaries into oblivion. Such was the unlucky fate of Nephenee the Soldier and Rhys the Priest on Chapter 11: "Blood Runs Red." With selfless bravery, Nephenee sacrificed her life to block the Black Knight's grid path while her allies retreated. Betrayed by the local townsfolk, blood indeed ran red that day!


Under normal Chapter circumstances, the player is familiar with adjusting to enemy reinforcements but the Black Knight's appearance is unfairly different. Forced to retreat for the majority of the game, Lord Ike and company were consistently unable to stop the Black Knight's onslaught. With blessed armor and weaponry, little to no damage can ever be inflicted upon this enemy.



At first, this logistic is trivial and ultimately avoidable. However, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance takes a negative turn towards an even more unfair path… On the final Chapter of the game, this same type of invincibility is again bestowed upon the final boss, Ashnard. Even with his father's legendary sword, Ragnell, Lord Ike is the only character with the ability to harm Ashnard; let alone inflict a killing blow. All other character's attacks offer "no damage."


Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance - Difficult (Hard) Mode

Reaching Ashnard in the final Chapter takes nearly an hour. After painstakingly cleaving through enemies and keeping allied units alive, Ashnard mercilessly decimates everyone until Lord Ike or Princess Elincia are defeated. Any semblance of immersive role play ends here. Nintendo made a grave mistake to end Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance in such an unfair manner.


Although the final Chapter objective states "Defeat Boss," perhaps it is possible that Ashnard has a hidden weakness beyond simply using the Ragnell sword. Or, perhaps, Lord Ike was simply too weak to stand against Ashnard on Hard Mode. Always a possibility. Regardless, being denied the utilization of allies contradicts the dozens of hours previously invested in those units. If the solution was to invest all bonus experience into Lord Ike in preparation for Ashnard, the story's immersion is even further tarnished.


Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance - Difficult (Hard) Mode

Thus, the history books of Tellius shall be written by Mad King Ashnard of the kingdom of Daein. Lord Ike and his Greil Mercenaries won't be mentioned. Nor will the Kingdom of Crimea's vain attempt to restore its freedom. No, instead, history will tell that Ashnard, the great ruler of the continent of Tellius, united the land and remade the world in his own image.


As the Human, Napoleon Bonaparte, once stated:


What is history but a fable agreed upon?



Conclusion


Is this a worthy Challenge? No.


Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance garnered much promise after over 40+ hours of Hard Mode gameplay. Leading up until the final Chapter, directing the growth of a mercenary war-band offered a rewarding Challenge fit only for the bravest of leaders. Unfortunately, all of this effort was for naught.


Players should never be put in a position to internet research a video game's solution. True Rigor must derive from an innate ingenuity to overcome rigorous hardships. Otherwise, the accomplishment is undermined and artificial.


This Path of Radiance is of faint enlightenment and has inevitably darkened.

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