Radiant Dawn is a sequel to the Nintendo GameCube title Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, featuring the same style of cel-shaded FMV cutscenes. The game features most of the playable and non-playable characters that were present in its predecessor, as well as some original characters. The player has the opportunity to transport gameplay data from Path of Radiance when beginning Radiant Dawn. The gameplay retains the fundamental format present in all games of the Fire Emblem series, but also introduces features such as new unit classes and an elevation advantage between battling characters. Radiant Dawn's plot begins in war-torn Daein with the main character Micaiah and her allies rebelling against the oppressive Begnion army. The story is divided into four parts, and changes perspective between different factions within the continent of Tellius.
The game begins by following a group of Daein rebels named the Dawn Brigade, headed by Micaiah and Sothe. Despite being pursued by Begnion forces, they locate the apparent heir to the Daein throne, Pelleas, and later restore the monarchy and liberate Daein from Begnion. Following this, the game cuts to events in Crimea, which is still recuperating from the war. Elincia faces possible usurpation from nobles critical of her leadership. A resulting conflict ensues between the rebels and soldiers loyal to Elincia, which climaxes at the capture and attempted execution of the Queen's ally, Lucia. The rebellion is stopped by the arrival of the Greil Mercenaries, led by Path of Radiance's main protagonist Ike.
Later in the game, the corruption of the Begnion Empire becomes prevalent as Senator Lekain usurps the Empress Sanaki based on false claims that she is an imposter. Lekain uses his power to instigate a racial war between the Begnion Empire and a coalition of Laguz nations known as the Laguz Alliance. A novelty to the Fire Emblem series, this puts different protagonists of the game against each other as Daein is coerced into allying with Begnion, while the Greil Mercenaries join the Laguz Alliance. Ultimately, this conflict unleashes Yune from Lehran's Medallion while also awakening Ashera, two goddesses who represent chaos and order, respectively. As punishment for bringing the world into chaos, Ashera subsequently petrifies Tellius, leaving only the strongest soldiers active. Yune still believes that peace is possible, and thus opposes her counterpart Ashera by leading three armies towards her residence, the Tower of Guidance in Begnion. They are all attacked on their journey by Begnion soldiers augmented by Ashera's blessings. The game ends when Yune's armies reach the Tower and Ike defeats Ashera using Yune's power. In an epilogue scene accessed if certain requirements are fulfilled, Yune and Ashera combine hundreds of years later to again become the goddess Ashunera, creator of Tellius.
Radiant Dawn retains the gameplay mechanics of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, with turn-based battles taking place on a square-based grid. Most of the Path of Radiance cast returns, including all of its playable characters (except Largo), as well as figures new to Tellius. Data from a completed Path of Radiance save file can be transferred to Radiant Dawn via a Nintendo GameCube memory card, which can lead to characters obtaining statistical gains. Support conversations from Path of Radiance can also be accessed and viewed using this method. In Radiant Dawn, the "support" system has been altered so that a unit can support any other unit, although units can only have one support relationship each. A secondary support known as a "bond" is also available, which is active by default or obtained when two units have attained an "A" support level in Path of Radiance. For the first time in the series, the English-language release allows the player to save the game mid-battle, though this option is absent in the highest difficulty setting. Radiant Dawn's multifaceted plot and lack of a permanent main character leads to the player controlling different factions in the game. In the later stages of the game, the player's units will battle against a previously playable set of enemy units; despite the "permanent death" feature common to the Fire Emblem series, units defeated as enemies will still be playable later in the game. Radiant Dawn introduced new features relating to unit development, such as double promotion for beorcs, which grants the unit a special skill dependent on the unit's class. New features have also been added to the laguz units, including a maximum level increased to 40, the ability to fight untransformed, and the presence of the wolf laguz.
There are also modifications to combat, including an elevation advantage which grants units at a greater altitude with more power and accuracy. Radiant Dawn introduces the highest level of weaponry, known as "SS", which requires a unit to have used a particular weapon type many times. In previous Fire Emblem games, archers could not attack adjacent units, but the crossbow allows such units to attack both adjacent and distant units. Dark magic, omitted from Path of Radiance but present in earlier games, was reintroduced to form a second magical trinity (akin to the rock-paper-scissors system) alongside the one in Path of Radiance.
In an interview discussing the game, Nintendo of America localiser Rich Amtower discussed an emphasis on maintaining a consistent characterisation between the two games. He stated how the development team was hoping to attract players of Path of Radiance with the storyline continuation, and also newcomers to the Fire Emblem series, rating Radiant Dawn as "the perfect refinement of the Fire Emblem series.
The game received a generally positive reception from critics, although issues such as the game's difficulty were a common concern. GameSpot's Lark Anderson noted that, although players can save mid-battle, the difficulty "will easily overwhelm even experienced tacticians." Eurogamer's Keza MacDonald praised the depth and refinement of the game, but proceeded to note a lack of accessibility due to greater complication and difficulty as Radiant Dawn progresses. Some reviewers were also critical of the developers' choice not to use the Wii's motion controls, although RPGamer's Bryan Boulette commented that "the game thankfully delivers a traditional experience that isn't changed just for the sake of changing it." In general, critics acknowledged a balanced and deep gameplay system recognized in previous Fire Emblem games, but noted that the game felt too similar to its GameCube predecessor, with ONM's Chandra Nair commenting that Radiant Dawn has "refused to move forward."
Reviewers praised refinements of gameplay aspects present in Path of Radiance, such as the weapon forging system, which ONM thought was simpler to control in Radiant Dawn. Despite this, other changes, such as those to the support system, were not as welcome, with GameSpot commenting that support conversations "have been reduced to mere battlefield chatter." 1UP's Michael Donahoe praised the game's length and range of characters, but stated that the laguz "still aren't very useful." Although Fire Emblem games have been praised for their plot and characterisation in the past, GameSpot described the story as "laughable" and the game's villains as clichéd and "one-dimensional." Conversely, RPGamer lauded the alterations in perspective by use of different protagonists, which Boulette felt "makes the overall story feel so much broader and more expansive in scope."
The game's presentation received a mixed response, with IGN's Mark Bozon lauding the use of FMV and accompanying voice acting, although he commented that these were too infrequent, and that voice acting should have been used for the entirety of the game. The game's music received a positive response, with GameSpy crediting the work of series composer Yuka Tsujiyoko as "remarkably good." However, multiple reviewers noted that the game's visuals were very similar to its predecessor's, with GameSpot rating them as "little to no improvement graphically" from Path of Radiance. GameSpy noted that the game's visuals "aren't mindblowing," but welcomed Radiant Dawn's interface and camera, stating that "A strategy game should often focus on function before form, but Radiant Dawn nails both."
MACMILLAN: MISERERE. Strathclyde Motets: Data est mihi omnis potestas; Dominus dabit benignitatem; Factus est repente; O Radiant Dawn; Videns Dominus; Lux aeterna; In splendoribus sanctorum1; Bendicimus Deum caeli. O bone Jesu. Tenebrae Responsories
Mar 01, 2012; MACMILLAN MISERERE. Strathclyde Motets: Data est mihi omnis potestas; Dominus dabit benignitatem; Factus est repente; O Radiant...