Part 2: Chapter 1, Part 1: Ram WoodsMusic: Alm Battle Map 1
Upon leaving the village, we are presented with the world map, but without any real time to examine it just yet. Alm automatically moves forward until encountering the first enemy group on the map, and a battle immediately begins.
The first battle is exceedingly simple. We have five units, the enemy has five units, and the entire battle map fits on just the one screen.
Pressing the A button with a unit selected brings up a brief summary of the unit. Alm, as the main character, starts off as the strongest unit. Unlike as with every other unit, the game ends if Alm runs out of health. Fire Emblem veterans may notice a curiosity - Alm uses a sword as a weapon, but doesn't currently have any items. That's because Gaiden gives every unit a "default" weapon (equivalent of an Iron weapon in other games) to use when nothing else is equipped.
Pressing the A button again brings up a more detailed stats page for the unit, along with a character portrait, if available. Now seems like a good time for a combat primer:
Critical hits do triple damage, and there are some other modifiers not shown here that I'll explain as we come across them. Damage is subtracted from a unit's HP, and if the HP falls to or below zero the unit is 'dead' and removed from the battle.
Power: Increases physical attack damage Skill: Increases physical attack accuracy and critical hit rate Speed: Increases number of attacks and decreases enemy physical and magic attack accuracy Luck: Increases critical hit rate and decreases enemy magic accuracy Defense: Decreases enemy physical attack damage M. Def: Decreases enemy magic attack damage Physical Attack Damage: Attacker's Power + Weapon Might - Defender's Defense Physical Attack Accuracy: Attacker's Skill + Weapon Accuracy Physical Attack Avoid: Defender's Speed + Defender's Terrain Bonus - Defender's Weapon Weight Magical Attack Damage: Attacker's Power + Spell Might - Defender's M. Def Magical Attack Accuracy: Spell Accuracy Magical Attack Avoid: Defender's Luck + Defender's Speed Critical Hit Rate: (Attacker's Skill + Attacker's Luck)/2 + Weapon Critical (rounded down) Double Attack Criteria: (Attacker's Speed - Attacker's Weapon Weight) > (Defender's Speed - Defender's Weapon Weight)
Alm has a pretty good power and a high HP total so he should be able to dish out damage pretty well and survive a few hits as well. Let's test out that theory.
Alm has 5 movement points which means he can generally move that many tiles on the battle map. Special tiles like the forests require two movement points to enter, but also give a unit standing in the forest a bonus to avoiding physical attacks. That leaves Alm with just enough movement points to reach this first enemy.
Ending a unit's movement in attack range of an enemy gives the player the option to initiate an attack, or just end the unit's turn without attacking. We obviously want the first option here. But first, let's take a closer look at the enemy.
All of the enemies are Thieves, and you can tell immediately from the stats comparison that they're no match for Alm. Their weapon of choice is an Axe, but mechanically it doesn't really matter - all of the "default" melee weapons used when no items are equipped have zero Might, 90% Accuracy, and zero Weight/Crit Rate. Future Fire Emblem games would add a "weapon triangle" where swords perform better against axes, for example, but no such thing has been invented yet for Gaiden.
Choosing the fight option shows a cursor to select which enemy to attack, in the case that multiple options are available. Future Fire Emblem games would also provide a "preview" of how the selected attack would turn out, but here we have to work out the math ahead of time. Here, Alm should get in two attacks of 8 damage each, receiving just 1 damage in return. Alm also will have a 7% chance of a critical hit for 24 damage on each of his attacks.
Music: Combat - Player Initiated
The battle plays out in animated form, with the two units exchanging blows against a black background. The appearance will likely be familiar to anyone who saw the same animations in Fire Emblem 1, though with a bit more color. Alm gains 5 XP for himself and a bit less for the rest of the group - 100 XP is required to advance to the next level. Gaining a level gives a character a fixed % chance of increasing each of their stats, with the percentages - growth rates - being character-specific values.
Alm is a bit exposed now, but only two of the remaining Thieves can reach him, and they'll each only do the same single point of damage. The first battle really isn't meant to challenge the player. With that said, we don't want him monopolizing all the experience, either, so let's take a look at the rest of our army.
Luka is our next-best unit right now after Alm. He starts off at a higher level with the same Power and Defense as Alm, but is behind on everything else. As a Soldier class, he uses Lances instead of Swords.
Cliff starts off as our worst unit, about on the same level as the Thieves. He does have an unusually high Luck and Magic Defense, though. Villagers are a bit like unmolded clay, and will get to change to a real class after reaching Level 3.
Robin isn't much better than Cliff, but his higher Speed will make him much more useful in the early stages of the game. Gray has some better stats but starts out at Level 5, which means he won't have as much room for growth as the game progresses.
No one else can reach the enemy this turn, so they all just move forward and await the enemy turn.
Pressing the A button with the cursor not over any units brings up the battle menu. We need to "End Turn" to move the battle forward, but let's look at the other options first.
The Roster shows everyone in Alm's army and their current experience level. Selecting a unit from this list will then select them on the battle map, while also allowing the player to see which units have not yet acted on this turn. Not really necessary here, but can be handy in some of the larger battles later in the game.
Assault and Gather are AI options to auto-move any of your units that have not yet moved this turn. Assault will move each unit towards the enemy and attack, if possible, while Gather will bunch the units together for defensive purposes. Some later maps can make these options useful when the two armies start far apart from each other, but for the most part the player will do a better job than the AI. Plus, playing Fire Emblem on auto-pilot is kind of missing the point.
The Turns option shows the name of the current map and the current turn number, as well as the maximum number of turns allowed. If we somehow took more than 40 turns to win this battle, we'd get kicked out to the world map and have to start over. Any enemies killed would, however, remain dead. I don't expect to ever encounter this particular mechanic.
The Quit option is simply a Battle Save, allowing the player to save progress and turn off the machine, and then resume from the same point later. Battle Saves aren't persistent, however - once it's loaded, it's gone. It's basically a pre-cursor to modern save states, and as such entirely obsolete now.
The Config option has a few sub-options of its own, allowing the player to turn the music and battle animations on or off, and control the speed of the text during the battle animations.
Music: Battle Map, Enemy Phase
With that said, we end the turn and allow the enemy Thieves their chance to attack.
Music: Combat - Enemy Initiated
The first Thief goes after Alm, who managed to miss one of his attacks on a 5% chance.
The second Thief misses Alm entirely, who gets in another 16 daamge of his own this time.
The other Thieves advance but can't reach anyone, so it's our turn again.
Cliff goes after one of the weakened Thieves, but since he's our only unit who can't get in two attacks, he's a bit limited in what he can do. The Villager animation is similar to Alm's.
Alm attacks one of the remaining full-health Thieves, and misses one of his attacks again.
Luka softens up another Thief. The Soldier animation is a bit different, and shows how Luka attacks with a Spear as opposed to the Swords used by the rest of the army.
Meanwhile Robin finishes off the enemy that Alm had weakened. Notice how much more XP he gains from killing an enemy.
Gray finishes off the turn with 14 damage on this Thief.
The lone full-health Thief remaining attacks Alm from the forest, which gives the Thief a large 40% bonus to its evasion. Thus Alm misses both of his counterattacks.
Cliff and Robin kick off the third turn by killing off these Thieves.
Gray steps in to bring the last healthy Thief into critical condition.
Alm gets over his accuracy issues and gets a kill of his own.
Music: Alm Battle Map 2 (Near Victory)
The background music changes a bit here, when the game determines that you've nearly won the battle (usually when only one enemy remains).
Luka has a chance to end the chapter right here, but can't hit the Thief twice in the forest.
So Cliff ends up getting the kill on the fourth turn, and the first battle is won.
Note: Quality is the sum of the 'base' five stats - Power, Skill, Speed, Luck, and Defense. No unit has a growth in M. Def or Moves, but can gain either stat via other methods.
Alm is one of the two "main" characters in the game, in that if he dies the game immediately ends. As such, he starts with the highest stats and a (relatively) high set of growth rates. As a Fighter, Alm uses Swords.
Luka is the "veteran" of our group, starting off in the Soldier class. He starts off with decent enough stats to help out the first few chapters, but lower growth rates and a particularly low Speed will hold him back later in the game. As a Soldier, Luka uses Lances.
Stat Base L1 Growth HP 28 50 Power 10 35 Skill 7 40 Speed 6 30 Luck 7 20 Defense 6 30 M. Def 4 0 Moves 5 0 Quality 36 155
Gray starts off as a higher-leveled Villager. His base stats are close to Luka's, and his growth rates are a bit worse. Like Luka, Gray will be hampered by low Speed later in the game but will have a good Power. As a Villager, Gray uses Swords.
Stat Base L2 Growth HP 22 40 Power 10 15 Skill 4 35 Speed 4 15 Luck 2 20 Defense 6 20 M. Def 2 0 Moves 4 0 Quality 26 105
Robin is the in-between Villager. He has lower base stats than either Luka or Grey, and his growth rates are focused in the two least-valuable stats - Skill and Luck. As a Villager, Robin uses Swords.
Stat Base L5 Growth HP 24 40 Power 9 30 Skill 4 20 Speed 4 10 Luck 2 10 Defense 4 20 M. Def 2 0 Moves 4 0 Quality 26 90
Cliff exists to fool the player. He's a low-level Villager with a timid personality in his single line of the script, and his primary stats are less than encouraging, despite oddly-high Luck and M. Def. But stick with him - he has even higher growth rates than Alm, including a fantastic 50% Speed growth. As a Villager, Cliff uses Swords.
Stat Base L2 Growth HP 22 30 Power 7 10 Skill 2 40 Speed 6 15 Luck 4 30 Defense 3 10 M. Def 4 0 Moves 4 0 Quality 22 105
Stat Base L1 Growth HP 20 50 Power 7 20 Skill 1 40 Speed 2 50 Luck 10 20 Defense 3 40 M. Def 8 0 Moves 4 0 Quality 23 170
We enter the Thief Woods, on the way to meet up with the rebel army.