How to beat The Black Knight: Give Ike a damn Hammer. Wait two turns. Even without a hammer, he's still a fairly easy boss, especially when compared to Deghinsea, Sephiran, and Ashera. The hardest part of that fight is keeping him alive long enough for your other characters to get the Wishblade from Levail. No doubt as payback to the insanity of the first duel in Path of Radiance. It's entirely luck-based.
If she can avoid being shot down by bows on the way across the map, Elincia can charge straight up to Ludveck and use her just-obtained Infinity +1 Sword to carve him up in one round. (On easy and normal mode, at least.) Haar can also slaughter him with a Hammer.
Arc Fatigue: Part III is by far the longest part, and it's also where some of the most controversial moments are seen. Eventually between all of the switching perspectives, long chapters, and the story constantly on the move at a break-neck pace, Part III can really burn a player out.
Awesome Music: Some of the best music in the Fire Emblem franchise comes from this game.
"The Devoted", the Greil Mercenaries' battle theme in Radiant Dawn. Few times such a short song is this intense. The loop only lasts 40 seconds, but every single one of them is awesome! It returns in Fire Emblem Fates, unedited, as Ike's battle theme.
The rest of the Battle Themes are also awesome, we have:
Makalovagain. In the same vein, there's also this game's version of Astrid. In Path of Radiance, her base was very solid, as she's a very lovable character. Come RD however, there's been some bases that thinks that this is a completely different Astrid based on not only her going down in tier list, but also how she seems to crank up her Horrible Judge of Character trait by fawning over the aforementioned Makalov, thereby an inversion of Rescued from the Scrappy Heap. There's also a camp that disagreed that fawning over Makalov is a bad thing at all, citing that this is Astrid's way to express the freedom from her past of being a Sheltered Aristocrat, while she could've picked a better man, she's still acting on free will and that's the most important and consistent thing about her since the previous game, this particular game giving an emphasis on the fight for personal freedom also helps her case. (They will still agree on her objective badness as a unit, though)
Geoffrey is, for better or worse, a standard Knight in Shining Armor. Just how he's seen in the fanbase varies wildly on whether that is a good thing. Notably, he is the only character that can be in a relationship with Elincia at the end of the game. Whether he is a perfect match that complements her empathetic and emotional nature nicely or is a boring stiff that exists to shut off potential ship tease with characters like Ike or Tibarn is up for contention. His eventual relationship with Elincia might also seem egregious for being a breach in the chain-of-command, considering how seriously he takes knighthood. Finally, there is the near execution of his sister, which he accepts with resignation, was it symbolic of his dedication to knighthood or a wasted opportunity to give conflict to Geoffrey which would make him more human? His availability and use is also up for contention. In both games, he has very poor availability but this is somewhat balanced by having the Paragon skill which helps him level him up quite quickly.
Stat-wise: Edward. He's either one of the best characters in the game for having some of the best growths in one of the best classes, or one of the worst for coming in with very weak base stats (especially lack of defense) and requiring significant investment to really shine on the harder difficulties. His usefulness generally depends on what difficulty you're playing; Part 1 on Hard Mode really isn't kind to Magikarp Power characters, while Edward will get off the ground really fast on Easy. He also tends to generally appeal to more casual players who'll play on the lower difficulties and spend more time/resources raising such characters, rather than to the more hardcore players playing for efficiency and lower turn counts, that will brush them aside without them offering significantly greater reward at the end than the competition.
Strictly from a gameplay standpoint (she's fairly well-liked as a character), Ilyana in this game. Due to showing up fairly early in the Dawn Brigade's scenario and then joining Ike's group early in Part 3, she has the most availability of any unit in the game, and is also the only one who can reach SS-rank in Thunder Magic, allowing her to use Rexbolt. Given that one of the toughest bosses in the endgame is a dragon and is therefore weak to thunder magic, that makes her pretty awesome. That said, she'll probably still be slightly weaker than Soren when she first joins Ike's group even if you use her liberally in Part 1... and given that the Dawn Brigade's chapters in Part 3 allow you to field every unit available to them, giving experience to a unit that won't be available to them in Part 3 will leave them at a severe disadvantage. Which means it might be wiser to just bench her whenever possible during part 1. Which... means she'll still be a first-tier unit at a point where your strongest units are nearing third tier, and is therefore horrible.
Micaiah. She's either seen as the worst "Lord" in the series, or one of the most best/interesting "Lords" in the series. Not helping is the debate over if she is a Replacement Scrappy for Ike or a fitting character who complements him. To elaborate, the 'Replacement' aspect of Micaiah stems from being a Contrasting Sequel Main Character placed in the position of starting a plot which must necessarily continue or resolve threads from an existent plot.
Ike himself could be seen as one this time around, since those who loved him would hate Micaiah and vice-versa. And often for the same reasons. The Ike supporters would hate on Micaiah for being bland while those who support Micaiah hate Ike for being a one-man Spotlight-Stealing Squad.
Deghinsea is a full-strength dragon Laguz, absolutely huge and intimidating and with stats to match. He also has a map-based AOE attack, something rare in the series. As mentioned below, his status as this is the main reason why he's not considered The Scrappy.
Sephiran is not nearly as tough, but still has a few tricks, such as summoning Spirits to absorb attacks directed at him, as well as having an awesomely tragic boss theme, several great boss conversations, and another AOE attack (magical this time).
And finally, the Final BossAshera, who is often considered one of the best final bosses in the series from a gameplay standpoint, if not the best. Unlike many earlier final bosses, it's more than just having the main Lord wail away with their legendary weapon. Ike has to deal the final blow, but first you have to destroy the barriers surrounding the boss with the rest of your army, which requires making use of teamwork and skill combinations. The boss also has many different attacks, ranging from single-character snipes to AEO, both physical and magical. Ashera is one of the few final bosses in the series whose fight feels like a natural extension of Fire Emblem gameplay.
Best Level Ever: The final Endgame; Rebirth, is an incredibly fun experience, with you taking the best of your army to scale the daunting Tower of Guidance and go through some of the most challenging, fun and dramatic moments in the entire series. In addition, all of the entries on Best Boss Ever are face in this one incredibly long level. It certainly ends the Tellius duology on a high note.
Breakout Character: Even though these games didn't sell all that well, Ike qualifies handily for this trope on multiple levels. In the West, he is greatly loved for being Rated M for Manly alongside other extremely popular Lords like Sigurd and Hector, and he is a very strong contender for "most popular Lord in the franchise" since Marth's games aren't held in nearly as high a regard outside Japan. And even in the east where the older games are better received than the newer ones, Ike still managed to claim first place in a series-wide Famitsu popularity poll◊, beating out even Marth, the series' original hero and previous fan favorite. He also has the Super Smash Bros. franchise to thank for this, as Ike frequently ranks very high in popularity polls and is a much loved fighter, with only Captain Falcon beating him in sheer craziness.
Breather Boss: Hetzel, who only uses staves in the first part of 4F.
Several of the big reveals in relation to the previous game are controversial, particularly Sephiran and Ashera being antagonists, the Dark Goddess taking the heroes' side, and the Begnion Senate being responsible for everything bad in both games. Depending on who you ask, these are clever deconstructive twists on Path of Radiance and new shake-ups to the oft-stock Fire Emblem plots or Shocking Swerves that retroactively diminish it and have long since become derivative cliches of their own.
The split parties mechanic has led to divide on whether this works for adding a scope to the game that no other game in the series has ever been able to perform by seeing from many different perspectives of the war, or if all it does is just muddle the gameplay and story with its frequent shifting between parties, causing many characters to be either a Tier-Induced Scrappy, They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character, or a combination of the two with much less customization provided.
Izuka, Ashnard's demented chief scholar and a Beorc Mad Scientist, is no less evil than his master. In his brief cameo in Path of Radiance, he appears onscreen just long enough for it to be revealed that he is the developer of the Feral Ones, Laguz who are forcibly mode-locked into their beast forms and driven insane to be used as Cannon Fodder. In his base at Gritnea Tower it is revealed he has a basement devoted to storing the corpses of his experiments' victims. Izuka takes on a much greater role in the second game, where he has been hired by Lekain to bend Daein to Begnion's whims. He takes on the role of strategist to Daein's weak-willed Prince Pelleas, where it is demonstrated that he would gladly sacrifice good strategy for pointless destruction. He injects the innocent Muarim with the Feral One drug, which would have annihilated his mind if not for Rafiel's intervention. When Begnion offers to make peace with Daein, Izuka springs his trap, telling Pelleas to sign a "peace treaty" that is actually a Blood Pact, mystically binding Pelleas and thus all of Daein into virtual slavery to Begnion. Finally, it is revealed that he's tested his drug on the Beorc, his own race, too, including turning Elincia's noble Uncle Renning into the Tragic Monster known as General Bertram.
Vice-Minister Lekain, Duke of Gaddos, is a high-ranking politician of the Theocracy of Begnion and senior-most member of the country's corrupt senate who is driven by his insatiable desire for more power and hatred for the Laguz. When Begnion's Empress Misaha emancipated the country's Laguz slaves and planned to reveal that the royal lineage of Begnion was Branded, Lekain had her poisoned, then, pinning the crime on the peaceful Heron Laguz, whipped his countrymen into a genocidal frenzy, reducing the Herons' population from thousands to four in a single night. He then conspired for Misaha's young granddaughter Sanaki and a young senator by the name of Sephiran to be elevated to the positions of Empress and Prime Minister respectively, the only positions higher than his own, while he held the real power from the shadows. After Daein lost the war to Crimea, Lekain had the defeated nation annexed by Begnion, and gave Duke Numida and General Jarod free reign to do what they pleased with it. When Daein declared independence, Lekain tricked its new king, Pelleas, into making a Blood Pact with him, a mystical document that conscripts one nation in service to another under penalty of its citizens dropping dead one by one. Using this magic Lekain enslaves Pelleas and the Daein army to act as his accomplices in a war which Lekain plans to use to wipe the Laguz species off the face of the Earth.
Shipping Ike with Marth is pretty popular due to both characters appearing in Super Smash Bros. and, in some cases, due to the whole debate on Ike's sexuality and due to Marth himself being viewed as a "twink" despite having a canon wife. Ike/Lucina also exists as a heterosexual equivalent.
Going outside of the Fire Emblem universe, Ike is also shipped with his Smash-mate Solid Snake quite a bit. Just like Ike, Snake is a Rated M for Manly character with a very similar ambiguous sexuality and Ho Yay situation. Come SSB4, and some people started shipping Ike with Cloud, as both are fairly similar characters with lots of appeal to fangirls.
Critical Dissonance: While both games were well received (Radiance a bit more so) and Ike is one of the most popular Lords in the series (if not the most popular), they sold very poorly in their native Japan.
Demonic Spider: Tiger Laguz in Radiant Dawn. They have very high HP with high defense, they hit very hard, and are very accurate with their blows, on top of having tremendous movement. You additionally tend to fight them with the Dawn Brigade, whose units are especially frail on defense, and while you don't have the crutch characters around in the chapters you fight them. It'll take some very cautious and strategic planning to ensure you don't lose any units to these beasts.
Snipers and Warriors who wield a Crossbow-type weapon. Crossbows are an unusual type of weapon, that have an extremely high might value, but completely ignore the unit's strength in damage calculation. The result is that they tend to be much weaker weapons in practice, especially as these units have very high strength values to begin with and will thus be hitting a lot harder with standard weapons. However, these weapons become extremely dangerous against non-dragon flying units, even more so than standard Bows. To explain, some classes have a weakness to a specific type of weapon, which will have their might tripled in damage calculation when they come into play. Since these weapons have extremely high might values at base, they end up becoming insanely powerful against fliers (the weakest version, the Bowgun, has a might of 24, so against fliers its might becomes 72, which will deal massive damage regardless of strength values), and will deal massive damage if not outright killing. These additionally strike from a range of 1 and 2 (so you can't attack such units without a counterattack), they're extremely accurate (so even the fastest units have a high chance of getting plonked by one), and they're common throughout the game. They're a priority target that one must be aware of at all times when they have a flying unit in play, and they're a major reason on why Haar is so useful (as since he's a dragonrider, he's a flying unit who won't have to limit his movement in fear of them).
The 3-13 Archer. He's just a random Archer who (instead of just waiting to die like everyone else) jumps off his ballista to fight Laguz, causing him to become a wall that prevents the Laguz that spawn there from reaching the playable units. While he typically dies, it's always a Heroic Sacrifice, and in situations where he doesn't jump down and do that, he can actually pick-off most units that spawn there. Due to this, he's often brought up as an example of the best NPC's in the series, and has quite the fandom because of this.
Septimus, a minor boss of no importance, is immensely popular for his memetic line about Laguz wanting to eat him.
Haar wasn't this in the previous game, but in this game, he's definitely this trope, for being a badass riding a giant badass dragon, while being an even bigger Game-Breaker than Ike, and while being available in more chapters than almost every other unit in the game. The Eyepatch of Power and rugged looks help too.
Among the Dawn Brigade, there's Nolan; while still a bit of a Flat Character like the rest of the new DB characters, he does get a bit more characterization than the rest of the DB that isn't named Micaiah, and has the most intriguing back story of the lot. Most significantly, though, he's the one character among the DB who isn't a Crutch Character that's actually unquestionably useful; coming in unpromoted but with high enough base stats to make him instantly useful, while having really strong growths (especially in speed) to keep him very useful throughout the game, and getting Tarvos, an exclusive axe that's one of the best weapons in the game. He's also the one DB unit considered superior to his Greil Mercenary counterpart, and is the only DB unit besides Jill that's fully viable for the end game on an optimal playthrough. The result is Nolan being quite well-liked, while his compatriots are either divisive, forgotten, or outright scrappies.
Laguz Royals, Ike, and most tier 3 characters. To specify, there are now 60 levels to grow up, and each 20 levels, you go up a "tier" (which the game calls a "class change"), and get preset stat bonuses (contrasting normal level ups, where it's random). In the other games, there were only two tiers. Now there are three, and even though most of your units come in tier 2 anyway, their stats become so ridiculous that many people consider the Endgame the easiest part of the game.
By extension, the mastery skills that fully promoted characters receive definitely qualify. The vast majority of them are basically critical hits with additional effects ranging from status ailments to HP absorption. Considering how powerful your units should be by the point at which most of them are fully promoted, the activation of a mastery skill is more or less an instant kill. What's more is that the activation rates of these skills are based on stats, and if you have a third tier unit, the stat that the skill runs on should be well into the 30s. In other words, your units will be performing instant kills almost every other turn by the time Part IV rolls around (many times even before then).
Notably inverted with the Whisper's mastery skill, Bane. This skill always leaves the target with 1 HP. That sounds pretty good, but in practice, it often activates when the target would normally be killed. That would be handy for helping weak units gain levels, but by the point you have access to Whispers, bringing along any unit who's not at the absolute least at the higher end of second tier is not a question of if they'll get killed, but when.
Haar. Lightning Bruiser, excellent mobility, plenty of availability, weak to only an uncommon type of Magic that's very weak and inaccurate to boot, masters the best weapon type in the game, is essentially a flying tank that takes Scratch Damage at most from nearly everything... it's safe to say that Haar is one of, if not the, best units in the game. Such is his influence as a Game-Breaker that among FE fansites, when drafting tier lists for any game in the franchise (and even other games), it's not uncommon to refer to the absolute top tier as the "Haar Tier".
Titania acts as a Game Breaker in both games, but for her Radiant Dawn self, she is the highest level of the Greil Mercenaries, and is only five levels from promoting into third tier. Add in her excellent stats, access to axes, and can support with fellow Lightning Bruiser Ike, and you'll see why she's called Critania.
The Marksman class can also shoot at three spaces away from an enemy without losing accuracy like a normal Longbow would. Adding the Double Bow, which allows them to 1-2 range (something that has always been the bane of Archers in this series), makes them quite formidable.
The premiere Marksman of the Tellius series, Shinon, counts as this, with his high Strength, Speed, Skill, and Avoid ensuring that he'll be doubling everything, never getting hit by anything, and critically-hitting a lot of the time, as well as activating his Mastery Skill Deadeye often, which, if it doesn't kill the target, immediately puts them to sleep, which tends to be overkill, as it also triples the damage dealt by the attack. A far cry from his status as a Crutch Character in Path of Radiance, as well as his being affected by Can't Catch Up.
Goddamned Boss: Sephiran's oddly low HP (50) for a late-game boss is to lull you into a false sense of security. Thanks to Mantle, he's healing 40 of that every turn, so essentially the only way to subdue him is to gang up everyone and take him out in one turn. You also need Nihil on those who will attack him if you don't want him to Corona-bomb someone to death. However, he's got another dirty trick that is almost literally cheating: Those magic spirit mooks always standing adjacent to him? They have an unadvertised Guard skill that will start directing attacks away from Sephiran when his HP is low. You have to remove all four of them before you can finish the job. Do this too slowly, and he'll use Rewarp to move somewhere else. Rude and rather lame, but it makes sense in context; he's a Death Seeker. Another thing is up to this point, almost every enemy has very low amounts of luck; they might feel overpowered, but their hit and dodge aren't as good as advertised, and they won't get the critical hits with regular weapons that your units will. Sephiran has plenty of luck.
It's Hard, So It Sucks!: The GameSpot reviewer said that the game was insanely hard, even on Easy Mode, which contributed to the badly-received low score. Up until then, every Fire Emblem was made easier for international release. This one wasn't, except for including some new weapons, and making promotion and forging weapons less of a hassle. It really didn't help that the Japanese Normal, Hard, and Maniac modes were renamed Easy, Normal, and Hard in the localization. It's quite likely that many reviewers avoided playing Easy out of pride, not realising they were jumping straight into the Japanese Hard. (The English Hard was actually a Harder Than Hard mode in the Japanese version, which explains why it's so brutal compared to the HM of earlier games.)
LGBT Fanbase: Due to Ike's extremely close friendships with males and lack of defined opposite-sex marriage partners like other Fire Emblem protagonists, as well as the large number of attractive men of different types, these games are among the most popular in the series with yaoi and general LGBT fans in a similar vein to Voltron: Legendary Defender. It doesn't hurt that its 3DS successors, which brought back the marriage mechanic from Genealogy of the Holy War, handled the topic of same-sex relationships very questionably, as opposed to the Tellius games downplaying the aspect of romance in general (leaving much to the player's imagination).
Sephiran, real name Lehran, was once a great hero who helped to defeat the goddess Yune. Centuries of observing Laguz oppression, culminating in the murder of Sephiran's descendant and the horrific Serenes Forest Massacre forever broke Sephiran's faith in the world, leading to him to attempt to awaken the goddess Ashera to judge it. As a member of the Beginon senate, Sephiran manipulates all the events of Path of Radiance, having tricked Ashnard into starting his war to awaken the goddess and manipulates everyone further in Radiant Dawn, culminating in the awakening of the goddess to deliver the judgement he feels the world deserves.
The Black Knight, true identity Zelgius, is a bold commander who leads Daein's armies while manipulating them as well. Having suffered persecution as a Branded, the Black Knight is Sephiran's right hand man ho also guides Ike to become stronger so he may have the match with him he never got to have with Ike's father Greil, the Black Knight's own mentor. After Daein's fall, he manipulates both Beginon's armies and all others to Sephiran's plan, intending on facing Ike in one final duel and even being honored as Ike's final teacher once the battle is done.
"The 3-13 Archer," a particular friendly archer in Chapter 3-13 of Radiant Dawn, is especially distinguished for Memetic Badass status in spite of want for a name. By an incredible quirk of Artificial Brilliance, the 3-13 Archer has cemented himself in the hearts and minds of Fire Emblem players everywhere.
Ike himself. He's generally held as one of the manliest and most powerful Nintendo characters of all, rivaling Captain Falcon in this respect but with slightly more canon justification. A series of polls on GameFAQs' Super Smash Bros. board was dedicated to determining whether Ike truly could solo other Smash and Nintendo characters in canon — surprisingly, he was voted to lose against Falcon himself, without the Chuck Norris-like memes usually associated with the Captain.
No Mii integration, 0/10. Explanation The infamous review of Radiant Dawn listed under 8.8 criticized the game for, among other things, not having motion controls or Mii support. In a story-driven turn-based strategy game. Yeah.
Misaimed Fandom: Particularly in this game and in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U, Ike is portrayed by many of his fans as a testosterone-poisoned brutal macho musclehead, akin to a PG-13 take on Guts. While Ike is definitely a supreme hunkand a supreme badass (allegedly the most powerful FE hero of all), as well as one who doesn't care much for the royals and their formalities, this goes against the point of his character; Ike is a very compassionate and level-headed leader who shows a sensitive side in many of his supportsnote which leads to much of his Ho Yay with Soren and Ranulf, which in itself is highly confusing to that sect of fans and not at all a cynical grizzled brute.
Moe: Mist, Ilyana, Astrid, Amy, Micaiah, and Sanaki. A lot of people think this of Rhys as well.
An interesting quirk of this is that Sanaki's "moe appeal" is in-universe, and gets invoked by Lekain as he explains just how Sanaki was used as a tool by the Senate. It ultimately ends up bordering on deconstruction, since her moe appeal has, without her even realizing it, made her life and the lives of many others hell:
Lekain: In an unprecedented move by the senators, we elevated Sephiran to prime minister, keeping him serving as close to you as possible. This plan, radical as it was, proved far more effective than we dared dream. A young, handsome prime minister and an adorable moppet of an apostle brought the people's support to incredible new heights. Apparently, the common citizenry is gullible enough to blindly follow any leaderwho is sufficiently attractive. Enamored as they were, no one ever seemed to care whether or not you could hear the voice of the goddess. With the new apostle and prime minister, the political landscape became unrecognizable. Even in the face of overtly unreasonable legislation, the two of you would stand on the balcony... a smile and a wave later, the people would cheer and go on with their happy lives.
In fact, because the Serenes Massacre is what caused Sephiran to cross the Despair Event Horizon, Lekain is pretty much indirectly responsible for everything.
Ashnard crossed it when he abandoned his lover, took his son hostage in order to lure in the boy's uncle, whom he turned into a mount, and then abandoned his son after that.
Valtome does it twice, starting by ordering his men into the Kauku Caves (almost certain death) purely to "retrieve corpses" in 3-8. In 3-10, in case there was any doubt, ordering his soldiers (a hell of a lot of men) to attack the unarmed Queen Elincia, who has just managed to avert a major battle between Begnion and the Laguz Alliance.
Naesala seems to cross, and is indeed considered to have crossed In-Universe, when he has all fighting-age males in Phoenicis executed. But it's a subversion; Naesala was under a Blood Pact, and we all know what that entails.
Some of the voiceovers in the scenes in Radiant Dawn's English version. Especially Deghinsea's. There was what was intended to be a very serious scene showcasing Lehran's plight, but Deghinsea's voice actor decided to play Large Ham and whatever was intended to be serious in the scene vanished in thin air.
Deghinsea: Hold, hold I say!
The voice acting on the whole is rather bad: With the emotion levels going up and down at random points (pretty much every cutscene Tibarn is in sounds forehead-slappingly stupid due to the unnecessarily large levels of ham andDull Surprise the actor injects into the performance). Only a few scenes, like the ending of Path of Radiance, manage to nail it and carry any sort of emotional weight.
Ilyana's death. "I'm dying...on an empty stomach."
Ike's memory scene has the child Ike shout in his deep adult voice. It doesn't help that his expression is completely blank.
Narm Charm: Sigrun is retelling the day of Sanaki's coronation when she was just a small child. Tanith adds that she tripped 5 times over her cape, and Sigrun says that isn't appropriate right now as Sanaki is asking them if her not being the true apostle changes their opinion of her. While this may get a laugh, it's still touching because it's Tanith and Sanaki.
Newer Than They Think: Path of Radiance was the first Fire Emblem game to make Wyvern Lords wield Lances and Axes (instead of Swords), and Radiant Dawn was the first Fire Emblem game to make the Wyvern Rider's weapon an Axe rather than a Lance. The class has been associated with axes every time it has appeared in the series since.
Older Than They Think: Nephenee is often mistaken for the first playable character in the Soldier class, which was exclusive to enemies and other non-playable units in the GBA games. The series had previously had playable soldiers in Fire Emblem Gaiden, such as Lukas, who joins in the beginning of that game.
Scrappy Mechanic: The Skill Capacity system in Radiant Dawn is very poorly implemented, mostly because Shove and Canto were changed from innate abilities to unremovable Skills that took up capacity, and because the Mastery Skills earned by third-tier units on promotion, which understandably have a high capacity, are also unremovable and in most cases, have a capacity equal to the amount that the unit was supposed to gain in the first place! As a result, almost every unit has far less potential for Skill customization than their ostensible Capacity suggests; the only real exceptions are Laguz and units who join with a really good Skill already equipped (e.g. Nolan and Nihil, Nephenee and Wrath), because automatically held Skills don't take up capacity.
Biorhythm could be a pain in Path of Radiance, but Radiant Dawn took it one step further and had it change every turn! This meant if your Leonardo or Mia were performing wonderfully at the beginning of a chapter, they could suddenly start failing badly near the end. This made a lot of players mad.
The Laguz's transformation meters. It makes non-royal Laguz units so much less flexible, and requires players to be so much more cautious with their placement at the end of turns to ensure they don't untransform while being assaulted on the enemy phase. The result is that even with items to mitigate the transformation meter, Laguz perform a lot worse than equivalent Beorc units, and require really overpowering stats or abilities to be useful. Even with OP stats, Laguz will often get overlooked by players for inferior Beorc units so they don't have to deal with the meters.
Slow-Paced Beginning: For some (especially those who dislike Micaiah), Radiant Dawn doesn't really pick up until the Black Knight himself joins your party at the end of Part I, and the game doesn't let up from there.
Soren is the most obvious example, although admittedly he loses some of his stoicism in the scenes that make him the most Woobie-like. Except for his B Support with Ike back in Path of Radiance.
After making his promise that there shall be no great war, Dheginsea is not only forced to hide Lehran from the world and persecute the branded, but also sit idle as the Laguz are forced into slavery, since the Dragons interfering would cause said war. Then Ashnard has an affair with his daughter, uses their child to draw out and kill his eldest, and then warps a brigade of red dragons into Feral Ones. Dheg still remains neutral. Then a great war happens anyway, and his only remaining child Kurthnaga joins the war. He still remains neutral. By the end of Radiant Dawn, Dheg has lost a child, had the other two turn against him, the majority of his people killed, discoved that everything he did to prevent war was completely unnecessary in the first place, and his hundreds of years of neutrality torn down before his eyes, and all he could do to validate his actions was to continue to uphold his promise, even in the face of Armageddon and the objections of everyone around him.
If nothing else, Dheginsea is statistically fearsome: 100 HP, outrageous stats (six of them maxed out), a skill (Mantle) that stops your skills, renders him immune to non-blessed weapons, and heals him for 30 HP every turn; and to top it off, a mastery skill (Ire) that just plain kills you, period. The good news is, by this point, you've had a chance to get three copies of Nihil, which you can simply slap on your three strongest units to even the odds. The bad news is, you're still having to fend off his countrymen in the meantime, and they are no slouches. Another strike against Dheginsea is that (like all the rest of the enemies) he will never retaliate against Kurthnaga or Ena. Not that this helps you anyway, since those two are lucky to damage him at all.
Ike in Chapter 3-13. He'll be as strong as you levelled him up to at that point, which is going to be at max level with many high capped stats unless you went out of your way to not use Ike in the prior chapters, while he wields the Ragnell. You additionally have to play the very underpowered Dawn Brigade in this chapter, none of which will likely be able to survive a single round against Ike, let alone deal substantial damage to him, as they'll probably be a bit past level 10 in tier 2 at best without careful investment. Fortunately for the player, Ike doesn't move until the final two rounds, and the player doesn't ever have to combat him to win the map (the objective is to survive for 12 turns). However, defeating Ike is an Instant-Win Condition, so those speedrunning or otherwise concerned about their final turn count will have to beat him. Beating Ike will usually come down to using your Master Crown to promote one of your DB units to tier three beforehand and getting lucky with a mastery skill, and/or exploiting Ike's low resistance to put him to sleep with a Sleep Staff from Laura so you can take safe accurate shots at him (which you'll only get if you recruited Aran back in 1-3 and kept both him and Laura alive up to this chapter).
Chapter 3-6; you play the Dawn Brigade for the first time after Part 1, in a mission where you'll have to kill a ton of Laguz (up to 50 on hard mode), in Fog of War. You also won't have Crutch Characters anymore to carry you through like the end of Part 1 (the Black Knight does come, but not until late into the chapter and the swamp you fight in makes him nigh-immobile), while your DB units are underlevelled and can be easily killed in two hits from the accurate Tiger Laguz. Your saving graces are being able to finally take the Wildheart skill off of Volug at this point (who'll be the only unit who will reliably be able to take more than two hits from the Tigers), Sothe with a Beastkiller (which will allow him to one-round kill the Laguz, though he won't be able to take a hit), and Nolan, Edward, Leonardo, and Jill getting some very powerful weapons (especially Nolan with Tarvos, which grants a defense boost that can make him the only other unit besides Volug who can take more than two Tiger hits). Adding to these difficulties, depending on how the player feels about Laguz, this level can become quite the moral dilemma (as it should for some of your characters; Jill for example had an entire character arc in the previous game where she overcame her prejudice against Laguz and now she must kill dozens of them indiscriminately, not that the game dwells on this), and one of the few times you feel like you're playing for the more villainous team. So, have a heaping helping of guilt along with your overly-difficult level, players.
Chapter 4-3 if you don't specifically prepare for it; it's a standard rout mission, but you fight in a large map that's entirely desert, which severely limits the mobility of all units besides mages, thieves, fliers, and transformed Laguz, while also making armor and horse units nigh-immobile. In part 4, you additionally have all your units split between three armies, which outside of a handful of mandatory units on each army, you choose which unit goes to which army (and you can't modify your decisions once you make them). So if you don't have prior knowledge of this chapter, you could very well choose to not have fliers and Laguz on the Silver Army while putting your best armor and horse units in it, leaving you crippled for this map. You do get Naesala, a Laguz royal, here regardless, alongside another very powerful Laguz in Skrimir, who can both potentially solo the map. But with just those two, while very doable, it'll take a very long time to clear this chapter.
One of the conditions to recruiting the final secret character in Radiant Dawn, Lehran. Ike has to fight the Black Knight in 3-7, and both must survive the encounter. Essentially, Ike needs to be very strong to even stand any chance of surviving, but not too strong. You also need to give Ike a ranged sword, because the Black Knight's Eclipse skill can activate in melee, and if it does, Ike is 100% doomed.
Getting the secret epilogue conversation involving Soren in Radiant Dawn requires a lot of set-up even if you know the Guide Dang It! steps. You need to have him fight Micaiah in 3-7 and Pelleas in 3-E, both of whom are right at the end of a large map and surrounded by tons of very strong units, including multiple boss-tier characters. The best way to do it requires having the foresight to give Callil's Meteor tome in Part 2 to Haar, who joins Ike's group in Part 3, so that Soren can use it to hit both from a distance. Even then, Soren needs to get pretty deep into enemy lines in 3-E, which, seeing as he's a Squishy Wizard, is a daunting prospect in itself. (Also, Nolan and Edward are on the best path for him to take, and both are That One Boss if you trained them.)
The generic support conversations in Radiant Dawn were not very well liked after four straight games of interesting, detailed ones. A fan project was started to create support conversations in the vein of those seen in previous games. Link here.
The losses of the mercenary and hero classes were also met with complaining, although Ike basically counts as one in all but name, especially in this game.
Every single new character in Radiant Dawn lacks any kind of Character Development due to the removal of support conversations, and a lot of them had the potential to be interesting.
Special mention goes to Stefan. He offers Ike some sword lessons (that actually grant one of the only 4 Occult skills in Path of Radiance), is descended from one of Ashera's 3 heroes, and is clearly less jovial than he lets on. However, he adds nothing except for some special conversations and a Vague Katti. While this fits his obscurity and secrecy, he yields nothing despite becoming the king of a Branded nation.
A not insignificant number of fans wish Micaiah had been the protagonist for the entirety of Radiant Dawn, and that Ike's overshadowing her in both screen time and usefulness was a mistake. While Ike being a major character in the story is fine, the third chapter focuses on him so much to the point where you only play as Micaiah around three times before she gets possessed by Yune and almost completely drops off as a character in favor of Yune.
Mist takes a complete backseat in the story with no relevance in the story despite being a semi important character in the previous game, and having connections to the larger story thanks to her ability to hold the Fire Emblem without it corrupting her. She also is not given any real development during the Time Skip between games, staying an infantry healer for no reason.
Soren never learns the truth about his heritage as a Dragon branded, being the son of Ashnard and Ameldha and the grandson of Dheginsea, therefore a Prince of both Daein and Begnion and ends the story either by himself or following Ike if they receive an A support. You have to wonder why he has such a Heroic Lineage if nothing ever comes of it and only the player is made aware of it. Instead it's just thrown away and Soren remains a Satellite Character to Ike.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The Branded, their place in the world, and their relationship to the Gods are not examined nearly as much as they could have been. Furthermore, a conversation between Stefan and Yune reveals a major twist about the Branded that never gets brought up or discussed beyond the conversation, namely that the Branded were not originally seen as an unholy mistake until after Ashera had Yune sealed, meaning a large chunk of the world's hatred was formed on a lie. Yet it doesn't go anywhere.
In the first game, there's an offhand mention that the reason that the Beorc oppress the Laguz is that, once upon a time, the Laguz oppressed the Beorc. Both when this happened and the nature of this oppression are never revealed.
Nothing is done with the fact that all three of Ashera's champions have Branded descendants. In particular, Lehran and Dheginsea both have interesting stories about how their bloodlines became mixed that play a significant role in the current state of the world, but nothing of the sort is revealed about Soan; no explanation is given for how his bloodline was mixed into the beorc population or how that event affected the larger history of Tellius.
Tier-Induced Scrappy: The game has one of the largest playable rosters in the entire Fire Emblem series, so it's only natural there are some who really just fail to meet any sort of good viability.
Kurthnaga, who suffers a really bad case of Overrated and Underleveled; after you see him blow up a castle and a huge deal is made about him transforming, he comes in right before the endgame way underlevelled with terrible base stats (including a 20 speed stat when transformed, while everything at that point is around 30). He's additionally a mandatory unit to bring along into the endgame, where he'll be useless unless you pour an extreme amount of bonus experience into him (while not having the potential to make it remotely worth it), and his Black Tide skill (which raises the defenses of adjacent units by 5) isn't very useful, unlike the similarly mandatory, yet combat-ineffective, Ena (whose Blood Tide skill gives adjacent units an extremely useful strength boost of 5 and a skill boost of 5 that helps a lot against the final boss). The only niche use of Kurthnaga is exploiting Dheginsea's inability to attack him, which even then, you'll need to get his strength up by at least 5 levels before he can even scratch Dheg for pitiful damage.
Sothe. While he can benefit from having stat bonuses from the first game, he's this game's equivalent to a Jagen, despite his decent growths, and has by far the worst third tier class (terrible stat caps including a measly 28 strength cap, being restricted to knives, which are the weakest weapons in the game), and having a mastery skill that just leaves opponents at 1 HP with no additional effects while all other mastery skills do such egregiously high damage that they may as well outright kill. The biggest sticking point with such players, though, is the fact Sothe is a forced unit throughout much of the game, and is mandatory to bring along into the endgame, where his class limitations make him nigh-useless; the last one is especially bothersome to fans of Volke, who is an objectively superior knife-wielder to Sothe (his base strength is greater than Sothe's maximum strength with comparable speed, while his mastery skill is a guaranteed death blow with the same activation rate), which means to bring Volke along into the endgame would mean having two knife-wielders among your limited units (while there's also only one SS knife in the game). Sothe isn't without his defenders, however, who will point out how indispensable Sothe is in Part 1 and the DB's Part 3 missions (i.e. the hardest parts of the game), and that by the time he loses his usefulness, it doesn't really matter when you have so many other overpowered units to pick up the slack.
Leonardo. He's an early-game archer with awful base stats and poor growths in strength and speed, which are the most vital stats to make any archer good since they fill something of a niche role in combat. What doesn't help is that he has to compete with Shinon and Rolf, the former being the best outright archer and a contender for the most broken archer in the series, and the latter being a Magikarp Power who has the potential to be as good, if not better, than Shinon if lucky. While Leonardo does get a unique bow in the western version of the game, since he is a new unit, he cannot benefit from the extra stats previously playable units can receive.
Meg. She's supposed to be the Dawn Brigade's tank since their units really aren't very durable (with the exception of Aran), but she comes in very under-leveled with poor growths in strength and defense, and despite attempting to fill the niche of a "speedy armor unit", her speed cap is lower than Gatrie's (a character with far better Strength and Defense, who also gets bonus stats if you transfer save data). What really hurts her though is her movement, as she's simply unable to get to anyone to actually fight, and by the time you get to the defense missions of Part 3, she will have fallen behind so badly that unless you dump experience onto her, she simply won't be able to compete. Not helping is that as a new unit, she can't get any bonus stats from the first game.
Fiona. She's the Dawn Brigade's first and only Cavalier unit and comes in late in Part 1 with hilariously bad base stats that would be fitting for a level 1 unit, but has actually pretty good growths in Speed and Defense, with her non-magical growths being solid as well. The main issue however is that at the point you get her, Part 1 is already almost over, meaning the enemies can double and kill her in one round while the remaining maps of Part 1 either restrict her movement (eliminating her main advantage of being a mounted unit) or don't allow you to use her at all. When you go back to the Dawn Brigade in Part 3, the first mission there also heavily restricts her movement, so it's impossible without an extreme amount of coddling and resources to make Fiona remotely usable. Part of this stems from her starting at a level 8, meaning she starts off at a level potentially near your character level, but with such a high level and low bases, she becomes unusable in the long run.
Lyre and Kyza, two Laguz units who join the Greil Mercenaries in Part 3. Like the above three DB characters, they come in with horrendously terrible base stats (Lyre especially, who can't even deal any damage to many enemies in her starting map) without having the growths to make up for it. Lyre is additionally a Cat Laguz, which are the Laguz with the worst stats and have the worst transformation meters (as they deplete the fastest during transformation). Meanwhile Kyza just lacks anything to make him a strong Tiger Laguz, and doesn't have the Strength, Speed, or Defense to make him stand out compared to the other Tiger Laguz. What really hurts them though, is that they join the same chapter as Ranulf, who has the Strength and Defense of a Tiger, and the Speed and Skill of a Cat, and is the best non Laguz Royalty, Lion, or Dragon in the game.
Uncanny Valley: The eyes in some of the female characters' portraits are drawn in a very dull complexion with almost no pupils, to the point that they look like marbles or amber. If the eye color happens to be something bright on top of that like red or yellow, this can make said characters seem eerily similar to Killer Robots with Mind-Control Eyes. Elincia, Marcia, Jill, Astrid, Micaiah, and Calill's daughter Amy are particularly noticeable examples.
While Radiant Dawn is a Contested Sequel, it became more well-loved over time in the same way (and for the same reasons as) its predecessor, thanks to Fire Emblem Awakening reviving the franchise, and Super Smash Bros., Fire Emblem Fates and Fire Emblem Heroes giving Ike and his companions more exposure to new fans. The complex story and interesting gameplay elements make it one of the more interesting games in the series for those who play it, and it's often seen as having one of the better stories in the series, due to following elements from the previous game.
On a character example, Micaiah was originally seen a Replacement Scrappy for Ike, and many disliked her for being what they saw as a Hypocrite who stole the spotlight from other characters. After the releases of Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates and the inclusion of the Avatar feature, Micaiah became much more positively received by many people who played Radiant Dawn, as many found her to be one of the most unique protagonists in the series, and enjoyed the difference in views she brought to the story. Helping was that many saw Micaiah was relatively wasted in the story thanks to Ike so she became more popular for being someone fans wanted to see more of. The fact that Micaiah was one of two Lords not put into Fire Emblem Heroes during the first year of its release, also made her much more popular, and when she did come out, she was one of the best units in the game, helping her go from one of the least liked Lords, to one of the most popular. Case in point, in Choose Your Legends 1, Micaiah, who was not even in the game yet, was in the top ten, then went up a rank for the second year, and jumped all the way to number one for the third year, beating popular characters like Azura, Tharja, Camilla, and Female Robin.
What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: Radiant Dawn was rated E10+ by the ESRB despite its dark themes and slightly stronger language than the T-rated Path of Radiance (the word "damn" is used several times, while its predecessor only used "damned" once).
The Woobie: Among others, Tormod, Muarim, and Ena definitely count. Pelleas and Naesala too. In fact, anyone who's had to deal with the horrific threat of a Blood Pact counts.
The Black Knight's survival is changed to make more sense. Originally, it was stated that the Black Knight survived his final battle with Ike because his warp-powder malfucioned, causing Ike to fight his "spirit" instead. In the localization, his survival is written to be because he realized Grail had lost the use of his sword arm, meaning his victory against him was hollow, something Ike actually tells him at the start of their fight. Upon learning of this, the Black Knight threw the fight so Ike could become stronger and face him at his full power. This was widely accepted as better since it actually made sense and fit perfectly with both the first games story, and worked with the Black Knight's character.
The localization team was probably aware of how controversial the Blood Pact was, because they re-wrote several scenes to make its rules and effects more clear, as well as making Sothe and Micaiah more proactive in destroying it. In the Japanese version: the Blood Pact's curse had faded on its own before the party fights Lekain, making many of their efforts for nothing, and Naesala's curse arbitrarily isn't broken by Lekain's death, with no reason given other than "my case is different". In the localization, the heroes have to actually destroy the contract itself to be rid of it, thus making it much clearer how the Blood Pact works.