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Path of Radiance - Plot Analysis

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In this thread I discuss the plot of Path of Radiance chapter by chapter. I analyse the plot, the characters and the events. I may compare them to other Fire Emblem games. I criticize and praise accordingly.

Boring foreword and rambling incoming. Feel free to skip to the Prologue.

Spoiler

In the last year, I played FE9 quite a lot. Maniac Mode intrigued me and I beat it 6-7 times. I don't mind the slow animations, since I like preparing my team and spending time on the field. Besides, if you plan ahead and utilize our team properly, you can breeze through most of the game despite the enemies high density and bulk. The difficulty mode did got some negative criticism in Let's Plays. I think this has to do with the nature of Let's Plays. You are supposed to play fast and entertaining, which is difficult with FE9.

 

Sometimes I didn't skip the story and found myself being intrigued with the games plot. I was playing and reading the stories of other FE games and followed the dicussion of them. Not only the new ones like Fates and Awakening, but the older ones as well. They were heavily criticized and a general consent was, that Fire Emblem games simply don't have well thought out and intriguing stories. Gameplay is first. I wasn't pleased with that answer. Fire Emblem differs itself from other strategy RPGs like Advance Wars because it stories have a set of remarkable characters that go through the heroes journey with all ups and downs. The setting and lore is distinguished with every game. But even Path of Radiance, while getting praise, is said to have a cliche-ridden straight forward typical story and is seemingly unimpressive because of it.

I want to disprove this with this gamelog. I want to carve out the following:

1. Showing that Path of Radiance follows the classic Heroes Journey, but has numerous modifications that change it for the better.

2. Identifying those modifications. If Path of Radiance's plot is so good, then why and which changes were responsible for it?

3. Comparing those changes with other Fire Emblem games to argue why and how they could improve them.

 

Of course, this won't be a one-sided playthrough of pure praise. Path of Radiance is in no way a flawless game and has the same flaws as the other games in the series. Nonsensical writing and dialogue, contradictions, convenient story-telling, overreliance of a sequel that wasn't even written yet. The latter one is crucial. FE10 is a completely different game the way it uses it's plot (and is heavily criticised because of it). And yet, they already had many things in mind when writing FE9. FE10 influenced the plot of FE9 inevitable. Let's just count the retcons.

 

I made my plot analysis in one month. I had the fortune of having a discussion partner that complemented my work by pointing out mistakes and elaborating on things I overlooked. It also prevented me from getting too cocky. Instead, I had to defend my critic and praise at any time. I will try to integrate the meaning and content of his posts in my own posts, without it looking too weird. So this thread is actually a translation of my playthrough in the german Fire Emblem fanpage FESoS.

 

Finally, I point out the obvious that english isnt my native. I hope that I get my grammar and syntax together, but if it ends up being unreadable and nonsensical, feel free to point it out.

 

Prologue

The videosequence and the short dialogue surprise me. I didn't remember at all, how quite, peaceful and unspectacular FE9 begins. Compare this with FE10, which tries to make the most conflictual story of all games. It shows Ike and Greil training, Ike dreaming and finally Ike beats Boyd and his father tutorial-style. Past FEs began with a view of the world map, introducing us to the political escalating tensions of each single fraction or nation. Later games foreshadow their plot with ominous and interactive dreamsequences. But in FE9, nothing gets explained, specified and foreshadowed, with the exception of a very vague dream. Instead, we are introduced to four characters. Three of them have an important role in the story.

 

Greil is similary to former fathers of FE-Lords like Cornelius, Byron, Cuan, Eliwood, Elbert/Uther and Fado. He too exists just for a short time to remember his kid, how to be a hero. Only to politely resign permamentely to give his child his chance to prove himself. Awakening fancies himself with a negative father model, but sadly it doesnt carve it out either politically or morally (wasted opportunity). Fates is quite daring with this approach through Ganon. Though both games offer the traditional good parent through Emmeryn and Mikoto, who fulfill the same role as the past male fathers.

But Greil has something, that is everyone else lacking (excluding Garon): Presence, which lasts more than one chapter. If the prologue is so unspectaular, then because the games takes it time. And while the other fathers were merely has-beens with no role in the actual conflict, Greils deeds will only be explained over the course of the story. He is well-known force like a king or lord, but a mysterious commoner with existing, yet unknown relationships to other chessplayers like Zelgius, Caineghis, Lillia and Ashnard.

 

Mist is the anime-typical little sister who is there to activate her Onii-chans protective instinct. She does is four time in the prologue, for crying out loud. She brightens up the remaining military group with her childlike innocence and purity while giving us diabetes. Surprisingly enough she is the first little sister type in the Fire Emblem series. They keep this trend up with Lissa, Elise and Sakura and will probably never stop from doing so. Past female companions were princesses and not inferiour to the lord like Nyna or Guinevere. Or they were independent lords as well, like Lyn or Eirika. The usually useless little sister will be dosed with plot relevancy in Mist's case, as she can wield the Fire Emblem. It also helps that the Greil mercenaries are some sort of family, which is why it isn't too strange if she is chatting with Ike, just before the battle begins.

 

Boyd is naturally the irrelevant character and has to serve as a punching bag for Ike. Fighters in the FE series are defined by how much their muscles have replaced their braines. Accidentaly I thought that the game mentions how Boyd forgot his axe by his first mission. Instead they talk about how he broke it full of ethusiasm. Well, both things require an amount of stupidity. My mistake was made because the negligent handling of ones axe is a frequent running gag in the series. Lex can fail to get a Brave Axe in one event, if he does't wield one. The game aknowledges it accordingly. Othin has to visit his own house to get his personal axe. Bartre can duel with Karla, but the duel is called off if he/the player forgets to equip him with an axe. Vaike forgets his axe as well. Miriel appears one turn later and wields it. But Boyd is more moderate and is less an idiot than a hothead. This shows in the first chapters with his family, but later on in supports with strangers as well. And him being mentaly challenged is understandable, giving the tough situations he has to face in his supports. How do I become friend with a laguz without unintentionally insulting him? How is seeing a peaceful farmer someone like me, a murdering mercenary? Which complicated feelings do I hold for my substitute parent? What do I have to do, to get in Mist's pants?


Then there is Ike. He is one, if not the most popular lord. There are many reasons for that, but the most important and probably most disappointing reason is, that he is unique. Former and later lords are defined by their nobility. They inherit their kingdom and have to protect and reclaim it. Under them are knights and mercenaries. Not only because of faithfulness and acknowledgement of the lords moral fiber, but because the lords have the status. Their allies are nobilty as well, who only join because the lords themselves are the commander. At the end of the game, they have defeated the tyrant and are rewarded with the throne. Not only because they conquered their country (that alone would be unmorally), but as legitimate heirs.They have shown their moral highground through the course of the game.

But Ike is almost a nobody. He is the son of someone that is supposed to be important, but we don't know yet what's up with Greil. Despite Ikes potential and moral fiber he won't be praised by his companions as much as with other lords. He won't get picked on and teased by everyone as well. Unlike the other lords, he isn't really dependant of his heritage and he doesnt get raised to be a regent, who has to act accordingly. Ike's choice of live includes much more freedom. His father would allow him to lead a peaceful live and over the course of the game Ike does get some opportunities to escape from battle. This gives him a few more oppurtunities to show character growth than other lords, who can't quit at all. Ike's ambition to train, fight and act is a bit more authentic, because it is the result of his own choices and less than the result of some romanticized obligation of some peer. It is Elincia who bears this burden, not Ike. Ike is more pragmatic and frugal, especially if compared to the blood and glory seeking Hector and Ephraim. After all those dutiful, predestinated protagonists Ike stands out with a certain down-to-earthness attitude (his affinity!), who rises from self-made-man to godslayer. He is probably the result of the line of rebellic lords (Sigurd->Hector->Ephraim), who were always contrasted with the classical lord. But only Ike wipes all rules and etiquette aside and was never forced to place his status and his obligation before himself - Even Hector and Ephraim had to do so, if most begrudgingly.
Nowadays fans don't remember his role in FE9 as much. But only through that game he could get the status of the cool badass with a giant sword and somersault attacks, who differentiates himself in Smash from Marth.

Finally, I mention the tutorial. Starting with FE6, the game starts with mini-chapters, in which only a boss and 1-2 lackeys are to beat. FE9 continues this trend and not only Awakening and Fates use those tutorials, 11, 12 and 15 even include new chapters in their remakes. In those chapters you just learn how to attack an enemy and that waiting and healing can be an option as well. Awakening and Fates get some points in my book, as those absurd disputes (one or two own units and one to three enemies hardly make up for a real chapter) are designed creatively and aren't real conflicts anyway, but forboding and dreams. As much as those chapters are a waste of time, some of them show plausible mentor-student relationships (Ike-Greil, Chris-Jagen, Ronin-Xander).

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Interesting project you have going on. I would recommended to keep FE10 comparisons for it's own section. PoR does start out quieter than other FE games, reminds me of Blazing Blade where it begins on a peaceful note.

Edited by Jingle Bells

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Chapter 1

Even though the plot is still not beginning, it is the first classical chapter. The targets are bandits and they are destroying a village in the first turn, like in many games. The "throne" has to be seized, which strikes me as a less fitting victory condition. I would find routing to be more appropriate. Then again, some bandits have to survive to inform their leader, who is taking his revenge in the next chapter.

Different from the other games we aren't playing a lord saving his own countrymen with the help of his knights. Instead, we control some mercenaries who drive off bandits for payment. Other FE-games underline with those save-the-village-missions the heroism of the lords. Or they are gaiden/filler chapters and we have to save NPCs or new recruits. But in this case we not only point at the goodness of the Greil Mercenaries (they do protect innocent just people from bad bandits), but at their political neutrality and pragamtism as well. I'm anticipating Soren and Shinon's stance now, but want to point out that Ike and his squad have a more realistic view and moral greyness than the do-gooder and self-righteous lords of some of the other games.

In past games we got more way more units at the beginning. Marth and Sigurd already got all of their knights and subordinates. But over the course of the series the units are less likely to come at once in a whole group. Instead, they join later, even if they are introduced sooner. Maybe this was to not overstrain new players if they had to control 7 units in the first chapter. FE9 only gives 5 of the 10 Greil Mercenaries at an early rate. They also change and sit out between the chapters. Mist and Rolf join not until chapter 9, Gatrie and Shinon not until chapter 13/18 for the final time. Greil is so special and powerful, the player doesn't even get the right to control him.

The main reason for this non-linear increase of units is connected with the diverse strenght of the units. Unlike other FE-games, we don't have the Jeigan and all the other units, who are between level 1 and 4. We have with Greil a unit that is implied to be overpowered (hacking reveals his level to be 10 and promoted), Titania serves as the experienced Jeigan, but Shinon and Gatrie are highly above the rest of the team as well. Ike, Boyd, Soren and Rhys are fairly new. Rolf and Mist are theoreticaly on the same level as Ike in the beginning, but by the time they get recruited, they appear to be even on an even lower level. The difference in level are comparable to the life- and battle experience. Greil, Titania and Shinon instruct the newcomers and not the other way around. All of this makes the Greil Merenaries to a more multifaceted group than the other armys, in which everyone is equal in level and experience (with the exception of the Jeigan). If the shepherds argue, everyone is equal, comparable with a struggle between Ike and Boyd. But if Shinon lectures Ike, we don't have something comparable in other FEs.

Since FE9 they try to replace the classical small army with a sworn in group (Dawn Brigade, Chris Platoon, The Shepherds), but because those never met all criteria (more than one chapter to introduce and present each character, different ages/level/times of recruitment), they aren't as remarkable and successfull.

Back to the chapter. Ike gets support. He isn't the commander in the strictest sense, but the game is acting as if. The leader is Titania, Ike is her subordinate, as well as Boyd and Oscar. The chapter even is designed the way that Titania should regulate everything, while Ike, Boyd and Oscar have to act way more carefully. Titania is even nice enough to mention this and it is neat, that each ones role is in accordance with the gameplay. Titania is the babysitter and Ike and Boyd are the pupils. Oscar is slightly more robust and experienced, but not to the point of him being able to overtake Titania. Even the bandits point this out in the next chapter: They blame the "redhaired demoness" and denote the other three as her underlings. Even if one soloes the map with Ike on easy mode, the story tells us that Titania did most of the work.

I don't have much to say about Oscar. Just like Ike he bypasses being polarized by having a calm, composed and boring personality. If we are looking for eccentricity, we won't find it in either his supports or in the gameplay (he has no skills and average stats and growth). Abel-like characters can entertain with their stoic, stiff attitude, but with their seriousness and disciplin as well. Especially with a fitting Kain. But with Oscar the authors played either very safely or they weren't even trying at all.

Titania

The first female Jeigan (Evayle begs to differ), though her sex plays no role at all. Her gender slightly, since she plays part of the mother of the mercenaries. Since FE7 Jeigans aren't able to die anymore (though they can't be used after they retreat), as it would be to difficult to let the protagonist run through the story without a mentor, aide, critic, parent replacement and strategist. Though they had civil strategist like Merlinus or August before FE7. Regardless, Titania shares these duties with Soren. She is the idealistic, honorable if slightly naive part to contrast Soren's pragmatism and cynism. The way this is shown is sometimes clumsy, but still effective. This is because Titania isn't always right, but not always wrong either. She suggest to help Crimea with their fight with Daein, though later it shows that fleeing and asking for help in Begnion was the smarter move. She is against the recruitment of Volke, though he proves to be useful. She also insist of Ike fighting the black Knight on his own, which is questionable as well. None of her support partners is external, they are all members of the mercenary group and the supports only deal with them and their role in the group.

At this point I'd like to mention the speed rate of the supports. The speed rate can implicate the characters affinity to each other. Different characters find quicker friendship with others than other ones. This is shown in other games through different growth rates and starting points in their support system. The big difference is, that supports in FE9 are dependent of the number of chapters and not of a number of support points obtained. The latter can seem more plausible, especially in Awakening was the focus on the pair-up mechanics. Those who paired up and used more actions while paired up, supported each other quicker. But FE9 builds the supports strictly by chapters, without minding how much the supporting units work together in a single chapter.

But the fixed points of time have an important effect: Supports can be unlocked in accordance to the plot. Ike's and Titanias A-Support reveals her love to Greil. It can only be unlocked in chapter 27 onwards. Ideally this support adds to the atmosphere of the chapter, since it deals with Greil and revenging his death by confronting the Black night. The chapter not only concludes this part of the plot, but Titanias character as well. Another example would be the Jill-Lethe A Support. This one can't be unlocked until Jills father died, because it deals with his death and leads to Jill and Lethe forging and streghthening their friendship. Generally some supports have variants. Makalov speaks with Astrid about his sister in two ways, it depends if she lives or if she had died. Older games did had fixed supports like in FE4 or Pent's and Louise's three talk opportunities at certain points of the game. But normaly it is impossible in other games to have those kind of supports, because supports can be maximized within a span of few chapters (and it is wanted to unlock children early). That way, their supports aren't allowed to have important or plotrelevant topics. The supports of those game can't relate to the plot. That's why they have no other choice but to be inconsequential, random and why they never mention current or past events. So that they could be plausible at any time and to not potentially spoil or contradict the current point of the story.

In short: abolish the current terrible support system. Bring back the support system of FE9, because that way supports can complement the plot.

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I like the support systems of PoR/ GBA and the 3ds games for it's own reasons. I appreciate the older games for having character progression in the supports that do not get reset at the end. But at the same time I'm annoyed of how limiting the system is. There only 5-6 conversations be unlocked per game. Still feel that I'm missing out on understanding the extended cast of the game. The 3ds games work at this best with characters in different situations. Xander is in different settings, as a brother, role model, and a prince. But suffers in stretching gimmicky into most supports. If only there was a balance between the two. 

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I don't mind being able to support everyone in one playthrough. Removing the limits would break the support-boni gameplaywise, though. I find it more important that supports can be dependent of the progress of the story. E.g. Xander is unable to grow as a character, because in his supports he judges his father in chapter 26 the same as in chapter 7. If his supports could be only be unlocked with story progress, then he could have conservations that reflect his growing doubts and internal struggle.

And even in Awakening/Fates you only unlock a small part of all supports. It's not like you grind supports, unless you use DLC. But in that case you may just read them in the internet. In both cases you don't progress in the game.

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Chapter 2

Those who read the gamescript notice how it varies, depending if units died or lived. If Titania dies, she notes in chapter 3 that Shinon, Gatrie and Ike have to do all the work, as she is wounded. Never thought about the possibility of Titania dying in chapter 2. This means that the plot includes other characters and is letting them talk and being involved. This effort in the writing can be worthwhile, as it makes the characters more relevant. One could think that with every FE-game we have more budget and save space to make their units more detailed, but it is either not the case or all the effort dedicates itself to the wrong places. Like all the attractions in My Castle to let the characters swim, dress and cook.

This chapter continues the fighting of the bandits. They want to take revenge for the events of chapter 1. The execution is quite contrived. They kidnap Mist and Rolf and... write a letter.

Okay, you can't really met the mercenaries face-to-face, but I have trouble imaging that toothless barbarian writing something. An ambush would be more exciting.

But they wanted to create a situation where Ike is in trouble because the decisive act in this chapter is his decision to ignore Titanias order, to refuse to wait and to act arbitrary. This is to show his character strengths and flaws, being stubborn and heroic. It's plausible, what annoys me is how Rhys, Oscar and even the hotheaded Boyd first hold Ike off, just to join him anyways. I'm buying that Boyd joins Ike and Rhys may just be too weakwilled to defyy Ike. But Oscar does little to calm Ike, even though it would correspond with his nature and character. He has the role of a big brother and is an experienced mercenary. He even was trained as a knight. Does he not recall to remain calm, diligent and listening to his superior? The game should have one or two lines indicating that he doesn't agree with Ike. He only catches up with them when it is already too late to backtrack.

Even the gameplay shows us that Ike was making a fatal decision. The bandits are the majority and would have killed the mercenaries. It is a hopeless situation which only strenghthens Titanias entrance. I have said it numerous times: If Gameplay and plot complement each other, they are creating a narrativ method and effect which is unique for a video game. Other media like books or movies can create this in a similar way, but not the same. If a videogames let you face a minority against a mayority with higher stats, you may feel scared and overwhelmed. A book would describe the high number of enemies and elaborate on the feelings of hopelessness. A movie would show the large number of enemies, maybe with a certain camera angle. If reinforcement arrive in the videogame, it can create similar feelings like the arrival of the Rohirrim in The Lord of the Rings. Well, if it is done right, it's nothing to exciting in this chapter.

After the routing of all bandits one remaining plays a hostage scenario with Rolf. It is passable, but executed clumsy in one or two places. After the mercenaries surrendered, he announces to kill Rolf. Doesn't he expect that they will take their weapons afterwards? Does he think that they will let themselves be killed one after the other? Wouldn't it be more plausible in his position to negotiate and flee? Sadly, most of Fire Emblem enemys are stupid and evil, just to make it clear that our own units are good and heroic. Sometimes I'm hoping for more reasonable villains with more vision, because otherwise I feel insulted in my intellicence. And since I'm occupying myself extensive with a childrens videogame, it is clear how demaning my intelligence is.

Anyways, Shinon saves the day. Gatrie is there as well, but all he does is making dumb comments. He is slow in his armor, is sweating and couldn't catch up. It foreshadows his class gameplaywise.

The next conversation is in chapter 3, but here it is more fitting.

Ike is ashamed of himself, which is authentic and understandable. He is young and stubborn. Leaders, successfull people, they are defined by how they are willing to take risk, trust they instincts, question everything and push their beliefs through everything. If Ike would be faithful and well-behaved, he would never become a leader. He needs a number of mentors who scold him if necessary. Only then he can triumph over them.

The scene annoys me slightly, because not only Ike, but Rhys, Boyd and Oscar as well are all willing to take the blame on their own. This is an anime-thing which is refering to the exaggerate apologizing of the Japanese, I guess. Personally I would blame Oscar, since he should have been the one in charge and with the responsibility over the others.

Regardless, Greil punishes Ike by grounding him. Maybe he even forbade him the use of the Nintendo Switch. Aren't there more plausible punishments like cleaning the stable or the house? But there are no bad consequences for Ike. The punishment is canceled before it even began. Ike is needed for the next mission.

Rhys

They may emphasize a bit too much that he is sickly, but it cements his role as a priest, both story- and gameplaywise. On top of that, Rhys has a passive nature which makes him one of those characters who are't polarizing and annoying. But they aren't memorable either. Male healers (even young ones) existed way before FE9, which is why I can't even bring sexism into place and ask if he is unmanly and how important that question would be. His supports with Titania and Rolf are fitting, but with the other two the authors trap themselves by using Rhys fragility to higlight the eccentricity of his partners. Mia and Kieran distress him in a idiotical way with their rough natures, just for the sake of comedy. And in the support with Ulki Rhys is suddenly a child with the wish to fly. Ulki is just baffled, probably as much as we are over Rhys behaviour in this support.

 

 

Chapter 3

The mission in this chapter is a similar one as in chapter 1. we get two new units.

Gatrie

A failed character. Well, gameplaywise his class and availability is cleverly combined: Knights are usually only in the early game useful. So they make Gatrie available only then. When he returns, he is less useful, but the player can notice this easier, because the contrast of chapter 7 and 13 is immense. Would he be obtainable in chapter 8-12, he would only lose slowly in usefulness, which is easier to muss. In the end, only those people will use him again, who want to use him despite his shortcomings. Everyone else knows he isnt needed and they won't be disappointed.

His character serves as a contrast with Shinon and he is a womanizer. This isn't bad per se and one can make something out of it, but it isn't done. Gatrie can't catch up with Shinon, he is unable to counter Shinons cynism and pragmatism. It is an one-sided relationhip in which Gatrie never has the upper hand or gives Shinon clear moments of insight and letting him rethink his behaviour. Sadly, this is his best support. All the other three support begin and end the same way: Gatrie makes a fool out of himself trying to impress them and they ignore him and refuse to give him attention. Let's compare this with Sain from FE7. Rebecca falls for him out of naivity initially, scolds him and give him a second chance. Fiora doesn't know how to handle him, Serra sees through his behaviour and plays him for a fool herself. Priscilla refers to their difference in social status and the love ends tragic-melancholic. Sains supports are bad, but they are diversified, the ladys are threating him different, the result is always different. Gatrie lacks this. In the plot, he occasionally asks Shinon something for exposition purpose. Leaving the mercenaries when they are in a crisis is fitting for Shinon, but Gatrie seems almost callous. He doesn't have much motivation (at one point he mentions that he feels unchallenged). He wants to protect Elincia, because she is a beauty, then he leaves her and is working for Astrid, because she is a beauty. He isn't leaving the mercenaries on his own, but because Shinon does. But they part each other as well, so it's not like Shinon means Gatrie more than the rest of the mercenaries. What a mess.

Speaking of Shinon, I'm dealing with him in chapter 6, because we aren't shown all of his aspects yet. At the moment he is similar to Titania and Greil. xperienced, strict and rebuking Ike for his mistake in chapter 2.

Back to the chapter. The side mission is to rescue Marcia. It is well meant and getting rewarded with her recruitment later on is nice for the gamer, but the implementation has its flaws. Marcia can die in the very first turn, if all of the three enemies hit her. Not probable, but possible. I'm not 100% sure if you can prevent this with some tactics, but the casual gamer can get frustrated easily without doing anything wrong. Furthermore, rescuing her is contrived. The pirates happen to threaten her just the exact moment the mercenaries arrive. Marcia plans to kill them all, which is an incredible overestimation. The pirates even make some good points about how her brother cheated them. Her main target is the boss, but she backs off and fights other pirates. The big question is why she simply doesn't flee. Normally, persons are cornered, but she is on a pegasus and can simply fly away. In fact, she just does that when Ike talks with her. But then why doesn't she flee in the first place? Why does she need Ike to tell her that? The short answer is: Because of gameplay. We are supposed to be introduced to talking with an NPC. The situation is just badly contrived.

The victory condition is a bosskill, even though routing would be more appropriate. I suspect that they want to introduce the player to the different victory conditions even in this early point of the game. That's why in the first three chapters we had three different victory conditions. Playing with the victory condition in mind an change the style of playing tremendously. Players may understand to ignore the main force of the army in the next chapter, because all what matters is defeating the boss. In the following chapters with Daein the victory condition change everytime as well.

Nasir appears in the village. It's not important, it could be a random NPC. So why is he there? The boring reason is, because he is a ship captain. He fits in the port and maybe we trust him more when we meet him again. I had a speculation that he is there as a spy. He could be searching for Gawain or the Fire Emblem. At the end of the chapter the villagers thank Titania and point out how special Greil is. If even simple villagers know Greil, then it is possible that Nasir figures out who Greil is and informs Ena and thus Ashnard. Ashnard may start the war with Crimea at this time, just because he is told the location of the Fire Emblem. But this is just wild speculation. It is more likely that Ashnard planned the war over years. His army meets the Greil mercenaries more by accident.

At the end of the chapter Shinon and Gatrie complain about their work, which foreshadowes their separation. Ironicaly, the work won't be boring anymore starting with the next chapter, when Daein arrives. Is either one of them dead, Titania explains to Ike that the surviving one mourns the death of the other one. Another small detail that improves the script.

Chapter 3 is similar to chapter 1. The game get's away with it, because it ends the bandit arc, before it gets too monotonic. They also introduce two new units and remove the three old ones, which shakes things up. And Ike not only saves a village/port, but a single individual. Ike does the same thing in every chapter, but it varies: He risks his life for strangers who pay him (villagers), he saves his relative and friend (Mist, Rolf) and he rescues a stranger without demanding payment(Marcia). It shows his naivety and unexperience, but it is realistic. Every task demands more of him and we see him grow with his tasks. This makes him more approachable than other lords.

Thankfully, the plot begins with the next chapter. FE9 is already stretching it with the bandit chapters. It ends them before they become boring.

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Chapter 4
 
The game continues having different lines in the script, depending if someone died. A the beginning of this chapter, Shinon comments on Ike. Soren gives advice depending on the difficulty and if Rhys is dead, he will not find Elincia (instad Titania will find her). They may also lament on units that died in this chapter. I'm not going to list every variation and to point out how it effects the game. It declines over the course of the game anyways.
 
In this chapter the plot starts. Soren is introduced and we are engaged in a little combat with Daein. It is surprisingly trivial and inconsequential. The Daein soldiers attack for an insignificant reason and the mercenaries are merely defending themselves. The soldiers are a bigger threat than the bandits prior. Even in numbers. But Ike is joined with Greils three best mercenaries und we have Rhys and Soren in the back as well. So it is reasonable that his group comes out as the winning one. Titania mentions casually how Ike has the command for the first time. So if me move the cursor over the map, we are playing as Ike. This is often unexplained in Fire Emblem. Sometimes there are special strategist who are assigned this role. But Sorens reports at the end of every chapter (later on) confirm that everything what happens in the chapter was Ikes command. E.g. Jill doesn't attack her father because she wants it, but because Ike gave her the order. No unit is independent. This doesn't make sense at all. Like how can Ike order units around that may be miles away in the heat of the battle. But we have to accept it, since it serves the gameplay and we don't have a SRPG without it.
 
I'm not to fond of him, mainly because of his overhyped popularity. Some fans went overboard and praise his character too much. They even overrate his use in combat, which triggers me especially. Female users exaggerate his boylove with Ike and male outsiders identified with him. But all of this is just my subjective bias, le't see how he is the game.
 
His most important support lays out way too thick. He has no parents, his foster mother doesn't love him, his mentor is using him, he is unable to communicate as a child, he is branded, he has nor friends, Ike will betray him, nobody loves him. There is a small gap between reasonable pity and insufferable self-pity. A part of his life isn't as terrible as he makes it out to be. Ike, Greil, Titania, Mist, Rhys, Oscar, Boyd and Rolf give him support, comfort and a place to stay and work for years. There are much poorer people in both our world and Tellius. And for having such a cruel childhood he developed quite well and is healthy enough. Sorens character would have improved from less melodrama. He has another support as well, which isn't as detailed. It tells us that he is branded and different in his aging. But even this issue is provided with a solution: Stefan invites Soren to his village, whenever he faces a new period of life. So even the curse of slower aging isn't one in this setting.
 
But again, if I ignore my bias and look at the game, then I notice how this chapter shows Soren in another way. He acts natural and is threated by everyone normaly. He acts and speaks factual, level-headed and unobtrusive. Two of his comments are cruel, but it's nothing too outraging. He isn't annoying me. Maybe his character is first ruined in FE10, but perhaps Soren is simple a decently written character. He serves well as a counterpart to Titania and is an intriguing adviser for Ike with his own view points. The writers give him many great lines throughout the game as well. His backstory is a little contrived and melodramatic, but they aren't shoving it down our throats outside of his Ike-support. I guess it was small minority of fans that warped his image. He is one of the most polarized characters in the franchise, so it is inevitable that he loved and hated.
 
 
Back to the plot. We still aren't introduced to a omnipotent narrator, who is describing the events with the help of a world map. In this chapter this is Sorens job and he does it to Ike, Geil and the others. He informs them about the open war. Then Greil is doing something, that Mr. Plinkett pointed out recently (23:10 to 24:24): Greil doesn't make a decision or is thinking about it off-screen. Instead, he is asking for opinions. Something similar happens in chapter 5, in which he is asking everyone. In this case, it is only Soren and Titania. Titania answers ethical, Soren pragmatic. Both are right or wrong per se. The "right" answer isn't clear yet, as they don't know how Crimea is fairing against Daein. They don't know how Daein would treat mercenaries of Crimea either. Greil doesn't make a decision and orders everyone to obtain more information.
 
In other games we are usually told the decision how the protagonists act after the disaster happened. The negotiations were off-screen or we just see how the leader is maing his decision. This is why in comparison, this briefing seems increcible legitimate and Greil seems more incredible than any other leader in the franchise. He isn't but it seems that way because they showed us the briefing and his way of decision-making, rather than just tell us what he decided to do.
We also find Elincia, but how they deal with her is discussed in the next chapter, so I delay her for today.
Edited by Aircalipoor

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What I find strange about Soren is that only in the beginning of the game he is quite abrasive. The more the game continues, he mellows out, I'm not really sure what caused that changed.

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I don't have that impression. He is this throughout the game. He is harsh to Elincia in chapter 13:

Quote

Soren
It is a complicated matter. You see, the envoy is essentially an extension of the empress herself. Both Crimea and Daein were once part of Begnion. Both nations have only
recently splintered from the theocracy. I can't fathom why the empress would extend the courtesy of an envoy to a nation she must consider somewhat beneath her. She must be planning something.

Nasir
"Beneath her"? That is somewhat harsh, don't you think?

Soren
Harsh, perhaps, but it's true. Clothing it in sweet words will not hide its bitterness, will it?

He is suspicious of Nair in chapter 18. He objects to Ike and Elincia about helping Daein in chapter 20:

Quote

Soren
You want to aid the people of our enemy? That is time and energy we cannot afford.

Ike
Soren. Take a portion of our supplies and distribute it among the locals.

Soren
What? Are you serious?

Ike
Our opponent is the Daein army. We've no quarrel with these people.

Soren
Ike, I know you feel for these people, but this is war! We don't have--

Ike
I don't know what it will accomplish, Soren. But, moving on without lifting a finger is something I cannot do.

Titania
I understand. I'd rather regret something I had done than regret taking no action at all.

Elincia
I would like to help, too. Perhaps I can aid the injured.

Soren
...Idiocy...

He keeps his harshness in chapter 21:

Quote

Elincia
What? What happened to the Crimean people? Surely only the soldiers were imprisoned or killed...

Soren
...You truly have no idea how to rule a nation. Do you know what happens to a country that loses a war? Everything is destroyed. Homes, land, crops...everything. And the citizens... They're not even treated as human. Crimeans, especially those near the capital where Daein's presence is strongest, are treated worse than sub-hum...than laguz.

Elincia
That's... Why would they...That's horrible...

Soren
The people understand this, which is why they pay for protection in the form of taxes. For the royals and nobles who are charged with protecting the people, there is no greater sin than to be defeated in war.
It is the ultimate betrayal of the people's trust.

In chapter 21, he is immediately suspicous of Begnion:

Quote

Soren
So... If these reinforcements are responsible for defeating King Daein, what do you think will happen? That achievement, the very victory itself, will belong to the Begnion Empire. Not to Crimea. If that happens, Crimea will be rebuilt however Begnion sees fit, and Princess Elincia will be a mere figurehead. And then, the deeds of an unknown mercenary company will be expertly covered up. We'll receive some paltry sum of money and be swept under a rug somewhere. Mark my words.

And he doesn't understand Ikes and Titanias reasoning in chapter 27:

Quote

Ike
The one I seek is behind these doors. Don't follow me. I'm going in alone.

Soren
Ike! Wait! I'm going with--

Titania
No, Soren. We have to let Ike go alone. The Black Knight is his. Defeating him is a crucial step that Ike must take in order to truly get over the death of his father.

Soren
Idiocy! I'll hear no more of this naive nonsense! What if something happens to him? What then?

Titania
I think Ike has gained the composure to keep calm and judge whether or not he can match an opponent. If, in fact, he can't...it means he's reached his full potential, and that's all there is to him. We just have to accept that. But I believe in Ike. I trust him. His life is not his alone any longer. I don't believe he's so irresponsible as to leave his companions behind by choosing to engage in a contest he cannot win. Please, Soren, you must feel the same way. Don't you?

Soren
...I don't like it. Sometimes, bravery and good judgment aren't enough.

 

Maybe he appears to be more harsh in the early game, because they are in a much worse situation. He wants to abandon Elincia, which is rather cruel. Him starting a fight with Lethe and Mordecai in chapter 8 is completely unnecessary and he risks his life needlessly.

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I guess that pointless fight with Lethe and Mordecai changed how I saw Soren in PoR. But you are going to get to that point later.

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One of the things I consider good writing is when a character acts appropriately according to their prior experience and knowledge, and I believe many of those quotes establish that Soren hasn't developed well at all. To the point where Ike, a renowned master of social etiquette, calls him out on his choice of words.

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@Baldrick: Character growth and developement can improve a character indeed. I only point out that it isn't required and we can have static, well written characters that don't change throughout the course of the story. It's not that most characters grow. Limiting the good ones solely to Jill, Lethe, Ike and Elincia is strict. But don't get me wrong: I don't think Soren is an amazing character. He is on of the more fleshed out out of the bunch, though. I wanted to acknowledge that.

 

 

 

Chapter 5
 
Last chapter ended by picking up Elincia. Soren had one of his two harsh remarks I mentioned. His first remark refers to the war and how the mercenaries should involve themselves in it. He was against helping their country and pressed to be on Daeins good side. This decision would be of very importance for the future of the mercenaries. By contrast, in the second situation the question was raised how do deal with an unconscious stranger in need. This decision seemlingly isn't important for the mercenaries, it ony seems to inflict one life. Sorens nature is solidified as it is shown that his views are shown both in larger and smaller matters. And he has views and a system of values at all, which isn't naturally for a video game character.
I also forgot to mention the fact that Shinon steals from the dead. This was because she scene was short and had little to do with the rest of the chapter. I'm no expert about ethical behaviour in war, regardless: I don't understand why the others, even the pragmatic Soren, demonize this. I find this very reasonable. The residues would rot or the enemy is reclaiming then. The own ressources are scarcely. In gameplay we are able to steal enemy units and some of them drop items. Are we supposed to throw every droppable item away because it isn't honorable? We can also loot treasure. In chapter 19, Ike uses war funds and why shouldn't he do it? The only point that can make sense is that they have no time to waste and Shinon should hurry. But stealing something doesn't take long at all. The scene is supposed to show Shinons ruthlessness and pragmatism, instead the other mercenaries act idioticaly. They are probably to be seem noble and good, but the writers fail to show this reasonable.
 
Anyways, Elincia is saved and she happens to be the scecret princess of Crimea. How convenient. I would have prefered it if Elincia looked for the mercenaries on purpose. The whole plot is only working because of this random coincidence.
 
Elincia matches the role of former princesses which are deprived of their power, like Nyna and Guinevere. Strangely enough, she also has the role of a lord. Ike doesn't match that role at all, he hasn' lost anything yet. It is Elincia who has lost her kingdom and who builds an army over the course of the game to reclaim it. And at the end of the game she ascends to the throne, lik many other lords. It's a bit like having the likes of Ogma, Dieck or Gerik as the main characters and in the focus in the story, while Marth, Roy and Ephraim are secondary characters. FE9 moves the focus. The main characters aren't the noble regents who bemoan their fate and dwell on how to rule their country. Instead, the focus is on the common man and common folk and about how they react on the wars that the noble ones created. This new perspective adds to the game, as the contact with Ike to the common folk, villagers, merchants and soldiers is more direct and open than with a lord. The latter has to keep his distance, lives in another world and is masking his behaviour and feelings through etiquette. He can't relate to problems of his people. Delegating the lord to a secondary character still enables the game to show his view points and political intrigue, but we get a much better sight at the common world. FE9 is better than the usual FE-game, because it shows more and better the different views and ways of life. This is shown with the Greil merenaries. They aren't similar in their moral at all. It is shown in the politial intrigue, like when Elincia is confronting Caineghis or Sanaki or the meeting of the Laguz Kings. The game contains those different views and ways of live through his variegated cast. Support and base conversation strenghten them, but chapter intros and outros do the same. They let poor people confront rich people, cultured met illbred and persons of different nations and races are placed together.
 
Regardless, the nobles keep Elinicias identity as a secret in the fear of a inheritance battle. Reasonable? Would the nobles or Renning do this? And Elincias goal is to flee to Gallia. But why exactly? To seek asylum or to ask for reinforcements? And why isn't she chosing Begnion instead? Isn't it a stronger ally? And are the Greil mercenaries doing the clever thing by protecting her? Or would they be rewarded by delivering her to Daein? I'm not asking these questions to have them answered, but to showcase that the game has managed to build a passable political world. In that world there is more than one political possibilty. Every action would have snowballed and create different situations, that effect every character, said characters environment, his nation and other nations.
 
The Daein soldiers tracked Elincia down. It isn't mentioned how. Were there survivors in chapter 4? Has Ena sick skills? Greil is asking again for the opinion of others and this time every ingle member of the group is asked. We get all the opinions, the more and less reasonable ones.
 
“The blame for this war rests on Daein. If we ally ourselves with them,the company’s reputation will surely suffer. Conversely, if we deliver Princess Crimea safely, our stock will rise in the eyes of our primary employers. Our road is clear.”
“There’s nothing to think about. We must deliver the princess to Daein immediately.We are mercenaries. Our actions are dictated only by self-interest. If we want to ensure our future, we need Daein in our debt. They will win this war, after all, and nothing else serves us better.”
“Soren’s a pompous, superior whelp, but he’s got the right idea. Besides, the destination’s Gallia, so it’s a moot question. I don’t care how much we get paid; there’s no way under the sun I’m going to stinking beast country.”
“Princess Elincia…She does possess a certain regal beauty… There’s a lot to be said for that, you know. However I do prefer country girls…A bit cuter, and not quite so standoffish…Oh! Forget I said that.Whatever you decide is good for me, Commander. Yep, uh-huh, yep…”
“I agree with Captain Titania. If we turn the princess over to the Daein army, we’re essentially giving them permission to kill her.”
“I’m in favor of helping her. That’s what heroes are supposed to do.”
“I believe…that none of this hinges on whether she’s a princess or not. Refusing to aid someone in need is not something we should ever do. That’s what I think.”
“That’s right! Let’s help her!”
“Please! We have to help her!”
“I agree with Titania. I say we help her and take her to Gallia.”
 
The point of this dicussion is diminished by the fact that Daein wouldn't give them the chance anyways. Still, every character gets the oppurtunity to raise their voice, pointing out their opinion and showing their relationship to the group. Respect is a thing, everyone listens, they listen to everyone. They convey us their different ethical, racist and political view points and just like in chapter 4, Greil just seems competent and exemplary. In other games, those scenes would be cut and Greil wouldn't ask, he would simply make a decision.
 
I didn't comment on the Daein military in chapter 4 and I have trouble doing so. They are reckless and one-dimensional, almost comically evil. It sort of makes sense if you are part of an aggressive war of conquest, but there isn't much to tell us that way. We can't question the moral and virtues of the enemy and compare them to the heros. Later on there are a few moments and opportunities to humanize the enemy commanders, like in chapter 11 and 20. But overall, I have trouble taking the people of Daein in FE10 seriously, the way they are shown here. You can explain it, but only by going out of your way. Maybe Ashnard taugt his commanders and raised them accordingly to his designs. And after the war ended, most of them were dead or were keeping low profile. Probably we only met the common soldiers and folk in FE10, it is the only explanation why they aren't as one-dimensional evil as in FE9.
 
The chapter is the first defend mission and the first of having fog of war. There are only two fog of war chapters in this game, strangely enough. The chapter does it job. You can put all units in a corner or you can make an effort, if you want the item drop of the boss and EXP. There is even an easy way to go through this chapter by abusing the bad AI. Basically you lure archers first and then retreat your fragile units from their range. The archers won't move if other enemy units are behind them. And those can't reach because the archers are in the way. Over the course of the series, they fix those AI issues. There are still and probably always are ways to abuse the AI, but I give Awakening and Fates praise that they fixed some of the larger issues.
 
At the end of the chapter Greil is organizing their departure. Titania, Shinon and Gatrie secure the road. Mist, Rolf and Elincia are packing supplies. Greil and Rhys secure some documents and burn the rest of their library. Especially a small detail like the last one let me forget for a second that the Grieil mercenaries aren't a real mercenary group. I'm so immersed in the world of Tellius that it convinces me. It' not like FE9 is realistically, it's more like that it tries and does some serious efforts to be so. In many moments there are small, seemlingly trivial details about the medieval and military life. It can be about Shinon plundering a corpese or Greil burning documents. In such moments I take FE9 seriously. Something I didn't do for a second in, say, Fates.

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Elincia and Ike's relationship reminds me of Celica and Saber's but inverted. I wonder if IS took any ideas from PoR there? Also I don't see the Greil Mercenaries entirely being commoners. Ike and Mist are the children of one of Daein's greatest generals, Ike inherent the leadership of the group. Titania is a world renowned former Crimea knight. And Soren is the son of Ashnard and grandson Dheginsea (that is explained in Radiant Dawn). Other than those five, I considered the rest of the group as commoners.

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While this is true, no one of them takes advantage of this at any time. They either don't know about their heritage or don't care. It is the opposite: Ike takes off his peerage, Mist leads a peaceful live, Titania works as a mercenary and Soren joins Ike or does whatever. He isn't joining either Daein or Goldoa to take the throne.

Ike inheriting the leadership is an interesting detail, though. I expect the mercenaries to be less hierarchic, but Greil does seem to be the law. Still, he isn't leading it because of being a former general and being married to a noble one(IIRC). He was abandonging this life and took on a new identity. His underlings recognize him because of his skill, not his heritage. That's why Shinon and Gatrie left.

In short, they are practically commoners.

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Chapter 6

For the first time we are introduced to a narrator in conjunction with the worldmap. I suspect that those intros are meant for those who took the game aside for a period of time, because this one just summarizes the events of chapter 4 and 5. At least it mentions Gallia, the current goal for our heroes. It also indroduces the laguz. We only heard one single time of them in chapter 5. Shinon makes a sidenote and says something about a "stinking beast country", which is a mystery for us. Now we are introduced by the laguz through illustrations, but they are only shown in animal form. The impression that Shinon gives us is right for now, only later it is revealed that laguz have more similarities to humans.

The laguz are the topic of the fleeing Greil mercenaries as well. One may assume that Ike has heard of them in his past 17 years, but he asks what laguz are in place of the player. Shinon and Soren explain it in their typical way. I'm dealing with the laguz and racism later, for now I'm dealing with Shinon for good. There are still many things about him unresolved, like his supports, base conversation and appearance in chapter 18. But at this point of time we would have forgotten about his current role in this group, so I'm going ahead.

Shinon

He is far off being a one-dimensional static character. We perceive him quite differently with every chapter. He saves the day in chapter 2, he is justified in critizing Ike in chapter 3 and 4. But onwards chapter 4 he is increasingly destructive and more dubios as well. They want to tell us this by his plundering of a corpse, but his racism is prominent too. All of it peaks in him leaving the merenaries for good, despite them being in a state of emergency. If one doesn't consider this as a betrayal, then maybe they do it in chapter 18, when he has joined the enemy and is willingly to kill his old friends. I recommend reading the battle-conversations. They characterize every member and show they different relationship to Shinon. It ranges from disgust to respect.

One may reason his low number of supports with his state as a loner. They aren't exactly great either. His best one is with Rolf, but only because it is revealed in their A-support, that he only partly decided to be cynic and opportune. He blames the ugly world for making him ugly and despite of that he doesn't give in completely surrendering to it. In Rolf he sees an innocent and more honorable way of life, comporaring to his own life. Together with Janaff, he shows an exemplary confrontation of two racists. Unsurprisingly for us, they surprisingly overcome some of their prejudices. He is genuinly interested in Janaff. He isn't seen to be that open to laguz in FE10. In that game, he has cemented his role in the group as the grumpy but harmlessly crabber. In his support with Janaff and a base conversation he also reveals his envy to Ike. It explains a lot of his behaviour, but doesn't go anywhere otherwise. His support with Gatrie is more comical. Gatrie seems more than a loyal dog than on equal terms with Shinon. He is unable to challenge Shinon. And Shinon can't really question Gatrie's character, since Gatrie doesn't have one. Though he has to serve as the devils advocate in a plump way to contrast the obviously pure and rightful Ike, Shinon does it in an effective way, proving why he is a fairly popular character without becoming an overly complex one. He plays an important role for the Greil mercenaries, as they arent just a homelike family, but professional mercenaries as well. Death is part of the job and Shinon reminds us that it isn't rosy at all.

Back to the plot: Dain is on the move, which is why Greil has to improvise and asks Soren for advice. Greil, Shinon and Gatrie distract the enemy. A good scene, if only because Titania, Oscar and Shinon have the oppurtunity to comment on this in this hectic situation, rather than Greil just making a decision without anyone asking and commenting on it.

Subsequently, the rest of the group is facing another part of the enemy army. The strategy is to split up again. The fighters distract, Elincia and the two children flee. Irritatingly enough, Elincia is supposed to flee over a bridge. But the only shown bridges are occupied by soldiers. And the mission is not so much about distracting, rather than fleeing as well. I suppose that Elincia and the children were taking another route and only Ike and his team crossed the bridges to strike through the enemies forces.

Chapter 4-8 offer some new victory conditions. They underline the main goal of these chapters, to flee to Gallia. We have two defense chapters and one with the object to flee. Even the boss kill and routing chapters show that the mercenaries are rather defending themselves, than attacking on they own like in chapter 13.

Chapters with escape as the objective are rare. FE5 introduces them in a radical way: All units who don't escape before the lord does, are left behind. They never went that strict anymore after that, but it created a new problem: If only the lord has to flee, then why going through the trouble of making all the other units flee? Giving proper rewards is difficult as well. In comparison, by saving villages or NPCs they can give us items, gold and so on, but how should our own units thank us if we were going through the trouble of letting them flee?

FE9 uses a new way of rewarding, the bonus exp. This tries to make fast and skilled play more attractive. The bexp can also be considered compensation, because we get less combat experience. Perfectionists or greedy players obtain the incentive to beat as much enemies as possible, but have to do it through an easy and efficient way. The turn limit exists to prevent slow players from getting the full bexp. Rewards like rescuing or sparing certain units give the player more possible ways of playing the game and challenge them to survey and revaluate their own playstyle. Though I'm only prasing that we are rewarded by bexp. I'm not praising bexp in itself, as it isn't a great reward.

Incidentally, this chapter and the following one are difficult, because ressources are scanty and limited. Chapter 3 and 4 enabled us to trade all items in the battle preparation. Now, Shinon and Gatries items aren't in reach. Having free room for weapon and item slots can be tight as well. Item drops may force one to discard one item. At the same time, weapon start to break if not used wisely. As annoying as it is, the more liberating and rewarded we feel after we have access to the base.

Petrine appearde in this chapter and the last, but I will discuss her in the next chapter, which will be her finale one for now.

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Also I don't see the Greil Mercenaries entirely being commoners. Ike and Mist are the children of one of Daein's greatest generals, Ike inherent the leadership of the group. Titania is a world renowned former Crimea knight. And Soren is the son of Ashnard and grandson Dheginsea (that is explained in Radiant Dawn). Other than those five, I considered the rest of the group as commoners.

Does being noble by birth matter if you don't know that you're noble by birth? Ike, Mist, and Soren didn't.

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Chapter 7

In this chapter the meeting of many different people is crucial. Now, this is painfully obvious, every plot is based of this premise. The issue I have with the characters clashing together is that they met together at the same time without intervals and agreements. I start with the fight between the mercenaries and the Daein soldiers. Ike and Co. are in front of a fortress and decide to go on, rather than waiting or searching for Greil. The rest of the chapter wouldn't happen, but in the next moment they inevitable do search for Greil and risk getting caught by Daein soldiers. Titania sees a shadow and the group enters the fortress. They get cornered immediately and the battle begins. They can't avoid the battle, which is even weirder by how it is shown: Ike and Co. stand at the exit first, then two soldiers push them in the corner. They start the battle from this point.

Eventually Greil enters. He scolds Ike, even though it was Titanias fault. He is challenging Petrine to a duel elsewhere, because they can't enjoy themself in a crowded place. I fail to see how this room is cramped. There is enough space where Petrine is and the soldiers can just get out of the way. Regardless, Petrine goes along with it, we can't have them both here in this room.

After the fight, Ike and Co. join Greil. Titania is already with him, I don't recall seeing her going ahead. Petrine ends the duel and calls her soldiers. Those soldiers enter from all four entrances. Were they there the whole time? How couldn't Ike saw them on his way to Greil?

But this isn't the only army with good timing. The laguz forces enter just now. They meowl a bit and all enemy units move, with the exception of Petrines unit. But she leaves the battle field as well, because just at this moment the Black Knigt enters. He stares at Greil which is all it takes to let Greil know that they duel later in the forest. Or something like that. It is never specified, how Greil and the Black Knight found each other later on. Greil only recognizes him over the course of the duel, so it's not like he could know it now.

After the duel the Black Knight escapes just before killing or hurting Ike. Because just in the nick of time Caineghis is approaching them. Of all those amateurs, he is the one truly master of timing. He enters late enough to let Greil be killed, but soon enough to save Ike and not let us know what the medaillon truly is. His timing is so legendary, even his underlings use it and show up in the next chapter just in the nick of time as well.

My finickiness doesn't diminish the quality of this chapter. It is very good, it's just that too much happens at once and the string of events is too convenient. The group has to have a skirmish, Greil and Petrine have to duel themselves, the laguz have to be introduced and Greil has to have his fatal duel with the Black Knight. And of course we cant have Ike being killed, so someone like Caineghis has to be there as well (just not before Greil dies).

 

A lot of characters are introduced and they have a more or less huge impact on the story.

Mia

Being a mercenary, she is being placed in this chapter fairly neatly. The situation is chaotic and hectic, but she manages to inform Ike about his father and her decision to join him within a few lines, which fits her temper. FE10 tells us that she is the only one staying with the mercenaries. Sadly, this game doesn't point this out. We are getting fewer briefings from now on and instead we are proceeding as usual: New units introduce themselves with a few lines and maybe get one or two scenes, otherwise they are quite and only talk in supports. All the mercenaries mourn the death of Greil in the next chapter in their own special ways, but Mia is nowhere to be seen and doesn't say anything. After all, we can't assume she recruited and lived, if we are using the standard FE logic. Her last resort are her supports, but this just gives me the first opportunity to adress one of FE9s issue: It's an unfinished game. Let's compare the the number of supports of the first 16 units.

Ike: 7 Titania: 4 Oscar: 4 Boyd: 4 Rhys: 5 Shinon: 3 Gatrie: 4 Soren: 2 Mia: 3 Ilyana: 5 Marcia: 4 Mist: 5 Rolf: 5 Lethe: 4 Mordecai: 5 Volke: 1

Volke, Soren and Shinon have only 1-3 conversations. They have the excuse being unsocial. All the others have 4-5 (Ike has 7). Mia only has 3, even though she is open-minded and social. And only two of her supports include characters that arrive early in the game. Until chapter 26, Mia only has 2 support partners.
 

Quote

 

Supports

A whole slew of supports were cut from the game:

Stefan/Tauroneo, Sothe/Volke, Astrid/Tanith, Tanith/Volke, Ranulf/Tauroneo, Lucia/Titania, Marcia/Mia, Mist/Tormod, Mist/Volke, Muarim/Stefan, Nephenee/Mia, Oscar/Astrid, Reyson/Ulki, Kieran/Lethe, Gatrie/Bastian, Geoffrey/Kieran, Geoffrey/Bastian, Haar/Sothe, Haar/Ulki, Ike/Zihark, Janaff/Reyson, Janaff/Sothe, Shinon/Mist, Devdan/Makalov, Elincia/Jill, Elincia/Lucia, Elincia/Muarim, Elincia/Nephenee, Elincia/Tauroneo, Boyd/Devdan, Calill/Shinon, Brom/Geoffrey, Brom/Makalov

 

Mia already lacks in support in quantity. And her actual support only show her one-dimensional character with her gimmick to train and compete with everyone else. I can't call her support with Rhys anything else than stupid. In the support with Ilyana it's only about Ilyanas gimmick and only the one with Largo shows a spark of potential. Mia takes a stand against society and wants to prove with her way of life that women are capable of fighting. The spark isn't igniting, because there are more than enough combat women in FE. In the minority, sure, but still. The bandits in the earlier chapter feared Titania. They aren' refering to her gender on one single line, instead it is her combat ability. Petrine fits just fine in the male dominant military. No one is judging her gender, just her authority or lack of thereof. Her subordinates fear her not for her being woman, but for her being a ruthless commmander. Greil, Ashnard and the Black Knight aren't looking down on her because of her gender, but because she is inferiour to them combat wise. The very reality that woman are physically weaker, is loosend in the world of fiction, video games and Fire Emblem. Often it is even abrogated and some female units are stronger than male ones in base stats, growth rates, but plot wise as well. That's why it isn't convincing when Mia is adressing those issues and tries to sell it as a motive. If Largos opionion is the mayority, then why weren't Greil, Ike or Rhys commenting on this? Instead, we took her combat ability for granted. It's something we always knew in the FE-games.

Petrine

SRPGs have a difficult time integrating an antagonist over a long span in the game, at least in comparison with RPGs. This is because the plot and characters are mostly shown in battles, while we can explore cities, dungeons and the world map in RPGs for more cut-scenes etc. If FE does it, their villains become quickly become boring and unthreatening, because on one side they have to appear frequently to make an impression, but on the other side they aren't allowed to win. How many people know the names of the bosses in chapter 4-7? Those antagonists die in the very same chapter they are introduced to us. That's why FE uses more significant commanders, who aren't at the top, like Kempf or Narshen. They are in control of the whole area the heroes are busy for a couple of chapters and all the bosses are their underlings. If they show themself, they flee though extern circumstances. We can't defeat them on our own after all. Our allies or mentors do it instead. And if we are finally confronting them in the late midgame or endgame, our strenght and experience is demonstrated. Petrine and Co. are the link between the normal bosses and the real antagonists of the game. They appear to be weak in front of the latter ones, which only undermines those dangerousness. She also serves as the point of view of the antagonists to let us realize how Daein is going forward with their conquest and hunt for Ike. She is acompanied by Ena, who has her own substory in the later part of the game. Though Petrine doesn't have much of a personality and she is forced to play the part of the fearless cruel commander, she get's some sort of backstory. She is branded, which leaves her motivation and willingness to serve Ashnard up for interpretation.

Some additions of my discussion partner: She has a comicaly evil side as well. She is known for taking her bad mood out of her underlings, is apathetically regarding civil casualties, leans to a violant temper and is a racist. This is exemplary for a skilled, though mentally instabil upstart. But it forces her to be one-dimensional as well.

Greil

The mysterious mentor- and father figure keeps getting more mysterious with each chapter and his involvement in the plot only gets solved near the end of the game. As I mentionend, the game doesn't explain how and when Greil and the Black Knight arranged their date. It also doesn't explain how much of Zelgius intentions (getting the Fire Emblem) Greil could realize and if he knew he would die or not. After all, he was near Cainegis, who could have protected him. I assume that Zelgius made an ultimatum somehow. Greil was deep in thought already when Ranulf talked with them. Caineghis mentions later than Greil and Elena were followed, so Greil could reasonable concluded that the Black Knight was one of the hunters. I guess that Greils only goal was to distract Zelgius so that Ike and Mist could reach Gallia. Otherwise, Zelgius may have attacked the fortress and would be near Mist and the Fire Emblem. It's also possible that Greil assumed that he could win the duel.

His last advice to Ike (living peacefully in Gallia) is curious. It's reasonable to not hunt the Black Knight, as it would bring him near the medaillon. But wouldn't Gallia be the next target of Daein? Did Greil trusted the Laguz King to defy Daein? Maybe his final order was his final test for his son. His son has to go his own way, become a leader who doesn't take orders from everyone (considering advice of others is fine). Ike has to defy his father, to win where he failed. And if he is going to search for the Black Knight, at the very least he should keep his fathers advice in mind and be careful about it.

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And to the ever growing list of coincidences, I find it strange that Petrine doesn't know who Greil is. Surly she must have heard of the former Four Riders, or she never gotten the memo. I  always wonder why Mia never has a conversation with Lucia? She is the sword-master in white she is looking for a rival. Maybe  that idea got lost on the cutting board? Although I'm sure that Lucia will stomp on her.

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Gawain fled Daein and had token a new identity. It is understandable that she doesn't know him. Zelgius obviously knows his face.

 

I also suspect that Mia's search for Lucia  was a sidestory that would have gotten it's conclusion late in the game or in FE10. As the list shows, she is missing supports with Marcia and Nephenee as well. So much was cut.

Edited by Aircalipoor

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45 minutes ago, Aircalipoor said:

Gawain fled Daein and had token a new identity. It is understandable that she doesn't know him. Zelgius obviously knows his face.

I also suspect that Mia's search for Lucia  was a sidestory that would have gotten it's conclusion late in the game or in FE10. As the list shows, she is missing supports with Marcia and Nephenee as well. So much was cut.

 

There is a similar case in Zihark x Ike where the epilogue dialogue was changed, hinting on a rivalry (the text remained in the script):

Spoiler

Crimea's an interesting place, but
I've decided to travel to Daein.
...We never did have our match, did we?
Of course, I'm no longer in the same
class as you...
I'll be training hard for the
next time we meet!

That seems to be hinted in RD oddly enough when you let them both fight each other.

I'm confused how they decided to cut some support but keep others.
To take your Mia example: The one with Ilyana is so pointless why not use hers with Ike or Marcia instead who are actual characters to build on Mia's personality? Especially Marcia seems like someone who can relate to her.
There is also the relative imbalance between Supports for each character. Post Mordecai nobody has 5 supports and gravitate around 3, with some of the later ones having only 2. But then Largo who joins just before Elincia has 4? That seems odd.

Edited by The Priest

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Since you mention Ziharks epilogue now: The way he phrases this doesn't say that he is a citizen of Daein. Yet he is in FE10. I suspect that this is a retcon. Maybe it's different in the japanese version.

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Chapter 8

The plot continues with Greils death or rather with the mourning of his mercenaries. It is another opportunity to get in touch with the other members. I was surprised by Boyd, since I'm used of him being an oaf. Instead he is showing his anger towards Shinon and Gatrie. He explains then to Ike why he keeps following him and even accepts him as the leader. Shinon only left after the succession was finished. Maybe this isn't a decision, but an inheritance. He wouldn't have a chance to voice his doubts. But maybe Shinon is just using his jealousness of Ike as an excuse. He has many reasons to leave them. He hates Gallia and doesn't trust the laguz. He doesn't want to make himself an enemy of Daein. Elincia isn't able to pay them. Gatrie has as much reasons as he has a well developed character. Maybe he doesn't trust Ike yet. His faithfullness to Shinon may be a deciding factor, but they are splitting up later anyways. While I don't miss his character, his lack of presence is noticable in the gameplay. The next map is a defense map. Three spots have to be proctected and Gatrie would be quite valuable. The chapter succeeds showing us that Shinon and Gatries absence is weakening the group a lot.

But there are good news as well. The title isn't called Despair and Hope for nothing. The former may refer to the forlornness of the group, since Greil is dead, Shinon and Gatrie left and Daein is besieging their fort. The latter may refer to the laguz that come to the rescue and grant them asylum. Or that Ike is the new leader. Or it means that he is now able to use best feature of Path of Radiance. The base.

Base

The base isn't an entirely new feature. There was always some sort of preparation menu to let your unit swap their items. The games added new elements with each title. We could visit weapon and item shops or store and sort items. FE4 used castles which can be visited. They include the itemshop, the church to promote, the arena and the fortune-teller (to rate the love points). Other features like the tactic rankings or predictions were introduced and disappeared.

  • The base in FE9 includes the merchants, who join the mercenaries. The item and weapon merchants resemble the past merchants (though the female one has a couple of humorous scenes with Ike and Soren). A new addition are the twins. I don't get the point of having them. One is responsible for selling items, but every merchant was able to sell your items. The other one makes forges, but I find it more believable if the weapon merchant Guston does it. He looks more like a rough, tough smith than the lean, thin twin. I guess the merchant group would be too small, so they added them.

  • Skills have their comeback from the jugdrall games. Skills are more of a gameplay thing, but they can characterize our units as well. Tempest and Clarity mirror their temper. Provoke and Shadow indicate their appearancce. Elite refers to a noble heritage. Insight and Viligance refer to specific characteristics. Stefan has his master skill already unlocked, which underlines his experience and inhuman skills.

  • Bonus experience is shared here. As much as I appreciate them as being a reward, I question the usage of it, as every unit can gain as much levels as possible. There isn't a hint of a story reason for this. Even with stat boosters we have the explanation that they enforce it's user, which (sometimes) makes sense.

  • Supports are unlocked here, rather than in the battle. This takes the location of support conservation to a more suitable place. People are rather talking here than on the battle field in the heat of the battle. Some past support conservations were just silly in that regard, like Neimi and Amelia having a picknic.

But other FE games have this stuff as well, so why the excitement? Because of the final option, the base conversations. Being different from support conversations, they give life in the multifaceted ways to the world of FE9. Ike confronts old and new allies, civilists, soldiers, merchants, servants, new recruts, mercenaries, humans, laguz, discusses with them their daily routine, regardless if it is in the base, in the country, in town or in some specific nation. The base can be in a palast, a fortress, a ship, a tent. Topics can be current threats or something peculiar of the following chapter or they can be a matter of ethnic, culture or politics. Sometimes they offer rewards through new units, weapons, items or skills. All of this shapes the world of Tellius and conveys us the consequences of battles and war, since they are shown directly and from more than one perspective. The perspective can be of a culprit, a victim, one who makes decisions, one who follows then. The heroes journey, that changes Ike and his group and let's them grow is expanded through them and is more comprehensible.

Later games have a base, but the conversations don't refer to a specific chapter. Instead they are generic and have the problem that they are not allowed to refer to actual or future plot points. So like the support conservations, they have to be trivial.

If I could give every Fire Emblem game just one feature, it would be the base conversations of FE9.

 

The actual chapter is straightforward and leaves little for discussion. The reinforements are used quite cleverly. They show that the mercenaries are overwhelmed. They even appear at the end of last turn, when they are not possible to fight. The mercenaries are cornered, as they are weakend from fleeing the whole time. They are also three members short and Ike is new with being the commander.

Once again, the laguz save them. Then a confusing scene follows, that I disregard as a waste of time. Lethe is a bit too hostile to the mercenaries she is supposed to help. This invokes Soren to provoke them, which gives Mordecai the idea to kill him. Ike barely manages to save the day. Sorens insult is uncalled for. It contradicts his character as a withdrawn, objective and cool-heaed strategist. The laguz saved his group twice. Maybe they want to give us a hint that he feels discriminated by the laguz (being branded). He calls out Lethe hypocrisy. But provoking his rescuers and insulting them is stupid. Mordecais attempt to kill Soren is contrary to his character as well. He is the idealistic one, compared to Lethe and all about settling the bad relationship with human and laguz (unlike Lethe). Not only is he gentle and only fight if he needs to, he is ordered by his king save the mercenaries. Ike explains Sorens outburst by being tired and frustrated. I don't get why they have to make such a dramatic near death conflict out of this. Maybe the chapter would be too boring or they want to point out that humans and laguz aren't on good terms.

Thankfully, my discussion partner called me out on it and gave plenty of input.
 

Quote

- Until now we only met the well-adjusted Ranulf. Otherwise Shinon and Petrine are racists and we heard of the laguz being discriminated. Now we met the first hostile laguz, Lethe. She despises Beorcs and judges all beorcs, just because Ike made a slip of the tongue. Laguz are not only victims, but filled with bitterness. Mordeai contrasting Lethe just shows that laguz have different views as well. It is proof that laguz hate beorc.

- Offhand it is mentioned for the first time, that laguz were once slaved by beorc. It is a rather elegant way to throw in some lore, which is picked up later on in Begnion.

- We learn something else: Soren is a racist. He doesn't make a secret out of it and it won't be the last time. And Soren is used insulting others with a witty remark. It's his normal behaviour. Besides, Lethe was starting it.

- Mordecai getting "wild" shows the laguz tendency to let their pugnaciousness overtake them. They can't deal well with anger, which is pointed out in FE10. Even someone like Mordeai can become a raving beast. He is a warrior of Gallia after all. That's how beast-laguz just work. It isn't out of character at all. It is also possible that Soren being branded influences and triggers Mordecai.

- Finally, Ike has the opportunity to show of his leader skills. Soren is carried away by seeing his best friend being attacked (one thing that angers Soren) and Ike has to show his friend that he has authority. We also see one of Ikes qualities, him seeing beyond race. He rebukes Sorens provocation and offers his apology to Lethe. It is the reasonable thing in this situation.

 

Ilyana

She has a similar role like Mia had in the last chapter. They aren't important characters, they make some remarks (Mia informs Ike about his fathers whereabouts, Ilyana tells Ike of the reinforcements) and they are part of some group (Mia goes with the mercenaries, Ilyana is part of the merchant group). And Ilyana is a character that is defined by a gimmick as well. Contrary to her frail appearance she is insatiable and always hungry. There is never an explanation or resolution for this. It is just there to make the reactions of her support partners hilarious. I only like the support with Zihark, if only because he seems the only one to call her out of her scheme. He is rasing the question, how dependant Ilyana truly is and how much of her sickness is just an act to egotistically exploit her allies. But since her illness is never explained and just there to be humorous, nothing comes out of it. At least she has a melancholic grace and that's usually all that matters to get a bunch of fans.

Edited by Aircalipoor

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I feel like this chapter demonstrate Ike is quite sheltered compared to too other lords in the series at this point. He knows little about the continent, the countries, slang, and the people the live in it. I wonder when Greil is going to teach Ike all of this?

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I found it weird as well, that Ike is spending 17 years of his life without knowing about the laguz. Greil had to shelter him extremely. Ike likely never left their home and was just around the forest and some villages. Of course, this is used to let the player inform about the world.

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55 minutes ago, Aircalipoor said:

I found it weird as well, that Ike is spending 17 years of his life without knowing about the laguz. Greil had to shelter him extremely. Ike likely never left their home and was just around the forest and some villages. Of course, this is used to let the player inform about the world.

Ike should know what the laguz are because his father has interacted with laguz a lot. It would make sense that Greil wants to prepare Ike for the world if he's a good parent. After all, you wouldn't want your son to learn about the laguz from outside sources as there is a huge stigma in Tellius against the laguz. 

OT: Interesting thread. It's nice you're analyzing the plot chapter by chapter. I once contemplated doing the same. Although not chapter by chapter.

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