Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance is the ninth game in the Fire Emblem franchise and the third game in the series to be released outside of Japan. It is also the first console entry in the series since the release of Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 for the Super Famicom. It was released in North America on October 17, 2005 on the Nintendo GameCube. The game would later receive a direct sequel on the Wii in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn.
Path of Radiance is also the very first game in the series created with polygonal graphics, and the first non-Satellaview release to feature voice acting. The game supports 480p progressive scan and Dolby Pro Logic II audio.
The story of Path of Radiance takes place in a world known as Tellius. In this world, there are two primary races; the beorc, or humans, and laguz, or humanoids with animal traits capable of transforming into animals. The game focuses on Ike, the beorc son of Greil, a mercenary and leader of the Greil Mercenaries; a company that operates within the beorc nation of Crimea.
Shortly after Ike has been inducted as a full member of the mercenary company, they receive bad news. Daein, a neighboring beorc nation led by King Ashnard, has invaded Crimea. When members of the company are sent out to learn more, they stumble across Princess Elincia, who as it turns out is the lone surviving member of the Crimean royal family. With the forces of Daein closing in, Greil makes the decision to abandon the mercenary fort and mobilize everyone, including Ike and Mist, Ike’s younger sister, in order to escort Elincia to safety within the borders of the laguz nation of Gallia.
On the way, as the mercenaries stop to rest for the night, Greil encounters the Black Knight, one of Daein’s most powerful generals and an apparent former pupil Greil’s. Ike arrives on the scene just in time to watch as Greil and the Black Knight fight each other, but Greil, who refuses to wield the sword the Black Knight grants him, is slain. The Black Knight then leaves, with Ike unable to do anything but bring his dying father back to the camp.
Following Greil’s death, Ike inherits command of the Greil Mercenaries despite his youth and inexperience. He takes Elincia to Gallia as promised, but rather than remain in hiding, they instead decide to travel to Begnion, the largest beorc nation on Tellius and to which Crimea was once part of, in the hopes that they might help drive Daein from Crimea’s borders.
Thus begins a long journey, as Ike leads the mercenaries back up through Crimea, where with the help of some laguz they are able to arrange for a ship captained by Nasir to take them around the continent to Begnion. While out at sea, they stop a group of pirates (in actuality, Daein soldiers in disguise being assisted by the crow laguz of Kilvas) from boarding a Begnion vessel, which to their luck happens to be carrying Apostle Sanaki, the leader of the Begnion Empire.
Sanaki agrees to help Ike and Elincia in their request, in return for some aid of their own. She needs help in exposing a laguz slavery ring that’s still operating within circles of the Begnion senate. At around the same time, Reyson, the heron laguz prince of Serenes, a forest kingdom that was destroyed twenty years prior in a fit of rage by the people of Begnion, is tricked by Naesala, the ruler of Kilvas, into becoming the slave of Duke Oliver Tanas, a Begnion senator.
Ike takes the mercenaries out to Oliver’s estate, where they discover Reyson being held captive. Caught red-handed, Oliver flees into the ruins of Serenes, and the mercenaries give chase. Within the forest, they encounter Leanne, a heron laguz princess and Reyson’s long-lost sister, who had slept in the forest ever since the night of the Serenes Massacre. Together, Ike’s forces and the laguz fend off Oliver’s attempt to capture Leanne for his own. Following this, Reyson and Leanne use the power of a heron galdr, or magical song, to restore life to the forest; Ike and Mist immediately recognize the melody as the lullaby their mother used to sing to them when they were children.
For outing the existence of the laguz slavery, Ike is granted a lordship in order to officially lead the now Begnion-backed army intent on freeing Crimea. To get there, however, they must pass through Daein. Along the way, Nasir steals an old bronze medallion that belonged to Mist.
In Daein, Ike and Mist learn several truths that startle them. Their parents, Greil and Elena, were in fact originally from Daein. Further, Greil’s real identity was that of General Gawain, one of Daein’s Four Riders; the elite generals of the Daein military. Following the Serenes Massacre, the Daein forces had captured another member of the royal Serenes house. Ashnard desired the medallion, known as Lehran’s Medallion, and kept the heron princess hostage so that she would reveal the secret to releasing the dark god confined within.
Ike and Mist’s mother, Elena, served as a priestess at the temple in which the princess was being held. After befriending the laguz, Elena was granted possession of the medallion; she was also taught the melody of the Song of Release to go along with it. Elena then fled with Gawain to Gallia, where Gawain changed his name. The two settled down, and Elena gave birth to Ike and Mist.
However, this peace was broken several years later. On a day when Greil took hold of the medallion, he lost his mind and went on a killing spree. He was only stopped when Elena stepped in front of her husband and allowed herself to be impaled by his sword so that she could take the medallion away. When Greil returned to his senses and saw what he had done, he damaged the tendons in his sword arm so that he would never be able to wield such a weapon again. When it was discovered that Mist had the internal spiritual balance required to hold the medallion safely, as Elena had, Greil forbade everyone but her from holding it. He then took his family north to Crimea, where he founded the Greil Mercenaries.
With the truth fully known, Ike leads the army back into Crimea, where they confront Ashnard in the capital of Melior. With his defeat, Ashnard is killed, and the medallion is returned to the herons for safekeeping. It is also revealed that the reason Nasir stole the medallion was to help his granddaughter Ena, who had joined the Daein forces to remain close to her lover, Rajaion; a dragon laguz that had been twisted through Daein experimentation into a feral monster and Ashnard’s personal mount.
With the conflict over, Elincia ascends to her rightful place as the new queen of Crimea, and the beorc and laguz work together to restore the nation to its former glory.
One of the most prominent themes of Path of Radiance’s storyline is that of racism. The relationship between beorc and laguz has several layers of complexity. For example, the royal family of Crimea is allied with the laguz royalty of Gallia, but the peasantry of both nations are largely distrustful of each other. The people of Daein are raised in their schools to believe that laguz are vile and should be killed, while the dragon nation of Goldoa, on the other hand, maintains a strict policy of isolationism and under normal circumstances refuses to allow anyone that is not of their kind within their nation’s borders.
The protagonist Ike was raised far removed from these racial tensions, and at the start of the game knows very little about laguz at all. It is in part his unconditional willingness to learn and accept laguz for who they are that allows him to not only rally the cause of multiple laguz tribes to his aid, but to also help mend the wider rift between the beorc and laguz.
As in other games in the Fire Emblem series, Path of Radiance is a turn-based strategy RPG in which the player must complete a series of missions by moving units around a grid-based map and defeat enemies in order to complete objectives. Many of the standard classes return, including fighters, cavaliers, pegasus knights, and mages, among others. However, an all-new unit type introduced in the game come in the form of the laguz.
Laguz units have a special meter associated with them that governs when they are able to transform. The meter either fills or depletes by a specific amount each turn. When the meter is filled to maximum, the laguz will take their animal form, and when it empties, they will revert to their humanoid form. When in animal form, their movement increases, and they’re able to attack and defend themselves. However, in humanoid form, they move with a much more limited range, and are unable to fight. To circumvent this, the player may acquire and use laguz stones, temporary, one-use items that will instantly fill a laguz character’s meter and instantly transform them. Some laguz, such as the laguz royalty, also come with special equipment that allows them to stay in their animal forms indefinitely at the cost of a stat reduction.
In combat, the effectiveness of each laguz is governed by its type. Members of the beast laguz tribe, made up of lions, tigers, and large cats, are agile and strong, but are susceptible to fire attacks. The members of the dragon laguz are slow, but incredibly powerful. However, they are weak against thunder magic. Members of the hawk and crow tribes are both capable of flight, with the hawks being the stronger and the crows being the more agile. However, both are weak against wind magic, and they also share the standard Fire Emblem flying unit’s weakness against archers.
The members of the heron clan are also capable of flight, but are not capable of combat and are very fragile. They can, however, use their galdrar to grant adjacent units that have already acted a second action before the turn is up, similar in nature to bards and dancers of previous Fire Emblem titles.
Leveling Up and Changing Classes
In Path of Radiance, characters will level up when they receive a hundred experience points. When beorc units of a lower-tier class gain enough experience to reach the equivalent of Level 21, they will automatically promote to the next class. This promotion can be triggered early by using special seal items on characters that are Level 10 at minimum. However, certain characters such as Ike do not promote in the standard way; instead, their promotions are story events and cannot be triggered in any other fashion.
When a cavalier unit is promoted to the paladin class, the player is given the choice to select the character’s new secondary weapon type. They may choose any of the three weapon types outside of their default weapon. (i.e.: Astrid, who begins as a mounted archer, may choose between swords, axes, or lances.) Similarly, mages that are promoted to sages may choose between gaining the ability to use daggers or healing staves.
Laguz units cannot change classes.
As in earlier games, Path of Radiance features support conversations and relationships. However, this game only requires that units participate in a certain number of battles together for these conversations to become available, rather than force the units to end a specific number of turns adjacent to each other. Further, the conversations themselves take place from the Camp screen between battles, rather than during battle.
The player will eventually gain access to a special weapon forge between battles. At the expense of gold, the player can create weapons with unique properties by selecting the weapon type, the material it’s made from, and then adjust the stats accordingly. Such weapons can be used by any unit with the weapon level necessary to wield the weapon class in question.