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Written by  :  Infernos (34369)
Written on  :  Jan 30, 2014
Platform  :  NES
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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Far from the "black sheep" of the series

The Good

As its name suggests, Fire Emblem: Gaiden is a side story to the original game. It takes place on a different location but a few characters, such as the Pegasus Sisters make return appearances. Compared to the first game, Gaiden gives the player a lot more freedom to move around the game world as here you're not just taken from one battle to another, you actually get to visit towns, villages and fortresses - walk around and talk with NPCs, unlike in the original where visiting a town meant positioning the main character on a house icon.

There's an open-ended class change system for the villagers. You have the option of changing these villagers into one of five classes - mages, cavaliers, mercenaries, archers or soldiers. This brings nice customizability to the table. Also, class changes are done at certain statues in shrines so you don't need to find special items. Furthermore, weapons don't break in Gaiden and that's a good thing in a game like this. You see in the first game on the Famicom it was a rather tedious process trying to get all of your troops ready for the next map, as it took a long time, sometime even longer than the actual battles.

The magic system in Gaiden is fairly unique for the series, and more akin to traditional RPGs. Units learn a fixed set of spells as they gain levels, rather than needing to acquire particular limited-use items to cast each spell. Also, magic spells drain the HP of the spellcaster so you need to take that in consideration when deciding on the tactics.

Story telling wise it's presented in an interesting manner, there's two main characters, fighting in separate armies and scenarios until the game's end. The first chapter focuses on one group, while the second focuses on the other group. However, by Chapter 3, you get to control both groups, and you advance to the next chapter once both groups have reached their final destination. The groups exist independently, but fortunately items can be swapped between the two groups by talking to a specific NPCs in certain villages. The surprising thing (for a Fire Emblem game) is that Gaiden is rather generous with revivals - 6 in total (3 for each side).

The Bad

The game is on the grindy side as you will have to grind at certain areas (mostly caves and graveyards) a fair bit otherwise the opposition will demolish your units sooner or later. At first the need for grinding isn't that apparent as the 1st chapter is easily doable without any grinding whatsoever but later on - no way. So there's going to be some enemy types you'll certainly won't want to see anymore (zombies, skeletons and gargoyles) as you'll be fighting them over and over again. However, if you find the game too tough there is a hidden easy mode where EXP is doubled.

Graphically it looks pretty much identical to the first game so for a 1992 Famicom title it certainly doesn't shine in the graphics department. Especially if you keep in mind that another Tactical RPG - Enix's excellent but unknown gem Just Breed would be released later the same year and featuring much better visuals.

The Bottom Line

Although most of the features introduced in Gaiden vanished in the next game, some would eventually reappear in later games, such as Sacred Stones and Awakening. Nevertheless Fire Emblem Gaiden introduced new concepts and played around with unique ideas so give the oddball amongst the series a try (there's an okay English fan translation available if you're interested).