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Fire Emblem 3DS: A new spark for the classic strategy series

It's not Advance Wars, but it's the next best thing...

Assuming you don't count Shadow Dragon and *clears throat* Hikari to Kage no Eiyuu, there hasn't been a 'proper' Fire Emblem since Radiant Dawn, which came out over here in 2008.

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We're long overdue a return to the world of deceptively cute military fantasy battling, then - and after the relatively simple strategising of Shadow Dragon, we're hopeful it will be a bigger, more expansive game on 3DS.

So yes, this is an all-original Fire Emblem, and the first to truly shake up the traditional turn-based squabbling since... well, forever. In terms of looks alone, the game has taken the bold decision to discard the series' distinctive art style and character designs in favour of a more contemporary anime aesthetic. On one hand it's a shame, but on the other, you're not going to mistake this for the other games.

However, that's not the only element to be snazzied up. The overworld and battle visuals have both had a thorough going-over with the Lemon Pledge (other brands of household cleaner are available) and the result is a game that's finally crawled out of the '90s.

Fittingly for a 3DS game, all trace of two-dimensional sprites has been eliminated wherever possible, replaced with slightly pixelly super-deformed units on the battle map, and by gorgeous, surprisingly well-animated character models for the close-range skirmishes.

Thanks to the characteristic predominance of blue and red squares, it's unmistakably Fire Emblem, but in a certain light it recalls a more modern tactical RPG like Disgaea - until the lovely 3D mini-brawls break out, at least. Of course, this isn't the first three-dimensional Fire Emblem, but it is the best-looking by far.

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Visuals aside, this will be the first in the series to feature team-up attacks, which let two or more neighbouring friendly units beat up an enemy simultaneously. It's the sort of seemingly minor change that ends up having a massive effect on the flow of battle. Likewise, the 3DS game marks the welcome return of the freely-explorable world map, from which you can buy supplies or engage in battles.

If you'd told us a few weeks ago that Fire Emblem was receiving such massive changes, we would have used our next turn to squarely box your ears. But while we've barely seen any of it, this is the most excited we've been about the series for an age. All that remains now is to see how the fans react. Eep!

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