There is little doubt that Fire Emblem is one of my favorite game series of all times. However, when it came to the console versions, I was very slow in completing even the Path of Radiance. For some reason, it was hard to find time to sit and play Fire Emblem on a console when it consumed so much time and mental energy. It has been more than five years since its release, but I did finally sit and finish Path of Radiance.

I initially resisted this installment of the series because it departed rather notably from the GameBoy Advance iterations to which I had become accustomed. However, the changes were largely irrelevant to the actual game play, so a little learning brought be back up to speed. Interestingly enough, these deviations from the North American versions were actually closer to the original Japanese games.

After adapting to the changes, it is easy to get swept up in Path of Radiance because of the characters. The main protagonist, Ike, is young and idealistic and for once in the history of gaming, is not a complete idiot. The rest of the characters are part of Ike’s mercenary band or later join his army. Like Fire Emblems before, there are familiar character archetypes that don’t disappoint. My favorites have always been the knight and the mage.

Like other Fire emblem games, these characters become embroiled in a war with a deeper, darker evil lurking somewhere in the shadows. This time, however, the main characters are not the nobles whose kingdom is under attack, but the band of mercenaries protecting the noble whose king is under attack. The story is robust and massive as befits the Fire Emblem series, and is bolstered by the improved abilities of the console over portable systems.

The story takes place between game levels that are just as massive and beautifully rendered in 3D. With the better graphics, it becomes easier to manage troops over expansive level maps and helps in assessing the status of the battlefield.

The troops in Path of Radiance are slightly different than those in previous iterations of the series as the classes more closely resemble the classes in the older Japanese versions. However, the slight retooling is easy to learn and some of the new units are quite useful. The units still use the same weapons triangle for swords, lances and axes, but the magic users now have wind, fire and thunder magic although still in a triangle. In addition to the changes in weapons usage, units now have skills that can have an incredible impact in combat. Some units are self healing, others deal more damage and many have other outstanding abilities. Also, there is the ability to give “bonus experience” to your units in between battles, which is a very good way to keep the slow-growing, ever-useful healers alive.

As with every other Fire Emblem game, I kept every single character alive till the end. It’s hard and often frustrating, but it feels like a real accomplishment. In all, I loved the Path of Radiance, even though it took me forever to finish. Now, I’ll be moving on to Radiant Dawn and possibly be playing the Sacred Stones again.