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Fire Emblem DS announced for US

Shadow Dragon in first half of 2009.

Nintendo plans to release Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon in the US during the first half of 2009, the platform holder said during its DSi jamboree yesterday. Nintendo UK has told Eurogamer there's no word on a release here yet.

Shadow Dragon is a DS remake of the original NES Fire Emblem, and is the first game in the series to incorporate online play (complete with voice chat), along with the usual local wireless play.

The original NES release didn't include various elements that have become standard in Intelligent Systems' long-running turn-based strategy RPG series, but the DS version will make use of things like the weapon triangle, which determines the damage done or blocked by any given character, so fans should be as comfortable as ever.

We're also told to expect new scenarios and six difficulty levels (thanks Joystiq), and in addition to the two-player online match-ups there's also an option to loan out your characters to other players via Wi-Fi. When they return to your game, they will keep the experience they've obtained doing battle for your pals.

Fans of the series will find that an exciting prospect, as Fire Emblem is one of the few RPGs we know of that puts secondary characters out of action permanently if they lose all their hitpoints in battle. Since you can only save your game at the end of a scenario, there's a lot of pausing and restarting (and swearing).

Fans will probably also know that Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is already out in Japan, and indeed has been for just over two months, but this English-language release is probably the best jump-on point, as the loquacious antics of the chivalrous cast are always a highlight.

Check out our review of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn for Nintendo Wii to see what we thought of the last instalment to make it all the way West.