FIRE EMBLEM 6 : FUUIN NO TSURUGI / Nintendo / GBA
I'm approaching Fire Emblem 6 at what would be an odd (and unfair) angle for other games, comparing it to the two games that followed it on the GBA. However, since this is a site catering to English-speaking gamers, more likely than not it's readers are going to have experienced one or both of those games before coming back to play Fuuin No Tsurugi, as despite being the first GBA release for the series it was also the only one of the GBA trilogy not released to the English-speaking portions of the gaming market.
The game stars Roy, one of the two Super Smash Brothers Melee characters that (supposedly) generated enough Western interest to merit translating and releasing installments of the Fire Emblem series in English. Roy was, in fact, included in SSBM solely to promote the release of his game in Japan, which occurred roughly concurrently with the release of SSBM there. Like Ephraim in Fire Emblem 7, Roy is an effete fencer in a world of hardcore badasses, a little goody-two-shoes Noble Lordling with virtually no subtlety of character to him, and he is just about as boring as his dad (Ephraim and Roy even use almost identical character portraits and battle sprites). I suppose this could be offered as an explanation for why the only games translated to English markets were the ones that didn't include the characters that generated the interest in the first place - that, and that this game is significantly less polished than the ones that followed it.
The structure and game engine are basically the same as in the two that followed it. There are about thirty or so maps, including five or six "hidden maps" which contain the super weapons needed to achieve the "best ending". The game is slightly more difficult than the two that followed it. As with all the games in the series, when characters die they are dead for good, and there is no "grace period" in this one as there is in some of the other games - you are subject to this harsh rule from the first map. Until you get enough characters to trade people out, which is around the fourth or fifth map, there is no between-level intermission in which to trade items and such, you are shuttled directly from plot sequence to battle map. Shops and arenas still appear on certain maps, but between levels you now have constant access to a shop that sells the most basic weapons and magic.
You really get a glut of characters in this game - multiple representatives of each class, and probably more than you need, though with the higher difficulty you might welcome this if you are not squeamish about letting people get killed here and there. I didn't find the maps to be significantly tougher strategically, and while the common enemies tend to be stronger and dodge attacks more often I didn't feel that was ramped up to an unreasonable level. What brings the challenge in this game is that the level bosses are jacked up to an almost ridiculous degree. Super defense, constant dodging of attacks and ridiculous strength on their counterattacks, and every single one seems to have a range weapon of some sort. Plus they are always parked on a throne or something which regenerates their HP between turns. I freely admit I only played to map 8x in this game, and I quit because of the boss. The map itself was basically a piece of cake, but the bosses Evade and Defense stats were cranked up to such a ridiculous level it was a virtual impossibility to kill him without sitting there for a week monotonously switching characters out and crossing my fingers for a lucky series of hits. There's a fine line where gaming goes from "a good challenge" to "fodder for obsessive-compulsive disorder" and I feel this game crosses it. I'm sure there's a stack of crazy Asian kids who love level-grinding, and an almost equal amount of nerdy Westerners who emulate crazy Asian kids who will happily do the same, but if you run with that sort of crowd you would really be better served over at GameFAQs. As for myself, I like to go outside, enjoy other aspects of life, etc. I do not find any pleasure in being hunched over a Gameboy or computer for hours on end contending with ridiculous odds just for the sake of doing so.
The graphics are the same story as the other games in this little GBA trilogy - simple and basic, some nice character portraits, and some surprisingly detailed and fluid battle animations. The music was largely recycled into Fire Emblem 7 from this game, so if you've played that one you've heard most of this one's soundtrack, but apparently the sound designer was just coming to grips with the GBA sound system at this point and the music here sounds like low-quality MIDI renditions of the FE7 tunes. That said, it's not all bad - there are some songs unique to this game, particularly some of the battle themes, that I actually thought were among the best that I've heard from the series thus far. On the whole, though, the soundtrack is nothing to load onto your MP3 player.
If you want to play the game in English, the translation patch can be found here