Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance Remains the Franchise’s Best 18 Years Later

We like Ike.

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Fire Emblem Path of Radiance

Fire Emblem is Nintendo’s underdog series, going from a niche RPG franchise to a heavy-hitting headliner. Because of its history, however, some of the older Fire Emblem titles tend to get passed over, especially when new fans don’t have a good way to go back and experience them. That’s never been more true than with Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, the most ambitious Fire Emblem game ever made, that sadly still remains trapped on the GameCube. Path of Radiance weaves a narrative filled with weighty themes like prejudice and acceptance, and it helped push the franchise’s gameplay forward with some smart design choices.

Path of Radiance has the unique honor of being the only game with a main character who isn’t a lord or royalty, and there’s no twist that proves otherwise. Ike is the son of Greil, the legendary leader of a band of mercenaries in the country of Crimea. When Crimea is invaded by its militaristic neighbor, Daein, the Greil Mercenaries find themselves thrust into the middle of war and Ike unceremoniously gets the mantle of leadership laid on his young shoulders.

Despite making the jump to 3D, Path of Radiance still used gorgeous hand-drawn character art.


Ike is easily one of the most fascinating protagonists from not just Fire Emblem, but all of Nintendo’s extensive portfolio. His humble upbringing has bestowed a sense of honesty and straightforwardness, something that comes into play as he starts having to deal with maneuvering nobles and senators.

The world that Path of Radiance takes place in, Telius, is inhabited by two sets of beings: the human-like Beorc and the Laguz, who can shapeshift into beast forms. These two civilizations co-existed in the ancient past, but years of conflict have built a deep prejudice between the two, with Beorce persecuting Laguz at every turn. Path of Radiance has you enter this turbulent era from Ike’s perspective, someone that has never had any cause or reason to persecute others, and has no inherent ill will toward Beorc or Laguz.

Path of Radiance doesn’t shy away from diving deep into this topic, and even while it weaves the typical Fire Emblem story of war and conflict, it never forgets its message of acceptance. You’ll have multiple party members that do hold these prejudices, but you can slowly see Ike’s influence affect them, helping to break the shell that society has built around them.

Path of Radiance also features the series’ most iconic villain, the imposing Darth Vader-like Black Knight.


While Path of Radiance’s narrative ambitions are where it succeeds the most, it also delivered quite a few innovations for the franchise’s tried and true gameplay. First and foremost, this was the first game to make the leap from 2D to 3D, and that involved significantly more detail in battles and environments during combat.

The most unique mechanic in Path of Radiance is the Laguz themselves, who have a human-like form but can transform into their ultra-powerful beast forms for a limited time. This brings an interesting dynamic to both using Laguz and fighting them, that you don’t find in other Fire Emblem games.

This entry also made a few strides with pre-battle preparation, giving you a base where you can purchase equipment, watch support conversations, and talk to a few NPCs. Later games like Awakening would bring even more innovation to pre-battle options and support conversations, but the foundation of those ideas started with Path of Radiance.

Laguz units bring an interesting dimension to strategy, essentially working as glass cannons.


While everything in Path of Radiance still holds up, it’s tantalizing to imagine what Nintendo could do with a remake that makes full use of future innovations. Path of Radiance has phenomenal characters that could be further expanded on with a more robust support system, and even the pairing system of Awakening and Fates. The world of Tellius is already rich with lore, but letting players explore locations, like in Three Houses or Engage, could make it even more compelling and vibrant. Part of what fans have loved about recent Fire Emblem games is the charming world and characters, and Path of Radiance has that in droves.

Fire Emblem games attract attention on name alone these days, and Nintendo has shown a penchant for returning to classic games with titles like Advance Wars Re-Boot Camp and Metroid Prime Remastered. Let’s just hope one of Fire Emblem’s defining moments is on the slate somewhere.

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