Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is a 2008 DS remake of the original, Japan-only Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Ken released for the Famicom in 1990. Shadow Dragon is the eleventh game in the series. It features an upgraded feature set on par with the latest installments of the series, as well as DS-specific functionality including touch screen controls and Wi-Fi multiplayer. The game also contains five extra chapters not found in the original game, as well as a tutorial section to help new players.
As in the original game, the remake's storyline focuses on Prince Marth of Altea, descendent of the warrior Anri who defeated the evil Medeus. When Gra, a close ally of Altea betrays the Altean army and allies with the nation of Dolhr, Marth is forced to become an exile in the neighboring nation of Talys, and his sister Elice is taken hostage after their father is killed battling the evil pontifex Gharnef. After living in Talys for several years, Marth grows into a resilient young man, and with the help of his allies, he embarks on a quest to reclaim his family's sacred sword Falchion, rescue Elice, and free Altea from the clutches of Gharnef.
The gameplay of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is similar to previous games in the series. The player controls a group of unique characters of different classes in a turn based format on a grid-based map, fighting enemies to gain experience and level up to the usual maximum level cap of 20. Once most characters reach level 10 they can promote with a Master Seal into an upgraded class, which often can wield more weapons and have higher stats. The lone exception to this rule is the protagonist Marth, who cannot promote or change classes. Instead, he has a level cap of 30. The game retains the series's signature concept that if a character dies, they are gone forever. This means that the player must be cautious or risk losing units that they've spent hours powering up and getting to know.
Following Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Shadow Dragon is the second game in the series to allow hard saves during battle. However, unlike Radiant Dawn, which allows the player to save the game at any point during battle without any limit to the number of times the game can be saved, Shadow Dragon's mid-battle saves are much more limited. Maps now feature squares that contain save points. Should the player save the game using one of these points, a hard save will be created, but the save point will disappear, preventing further use.
The weapon triangle, a gameplay concept that wasn't included in the original Famicom game, has been added to the remake as part of the effort to modernize its game mechanics. It is, in essence, a rock-paper-scissors relationship that acts as an attack modifier during combat. Swords beat Axes, Axes beat Lances and Lances beat Swords, which means that the wielder of the better weapon gets a bonus to hit and damage while the character with the lesser weapon has a penalty to the same statistics.
However, Shadow Dragon removes some of the more complex mechanics of the more recent games in the series such as skills, biorhythm and third-tier promotions, as well as the original game's Rescue feature that allowed one unit to remove another unit from the battlefield. In place of these mechanics is a new "Reclass" feature, which allows the player to freely switch characters between classes while outside of battle, with some limitations. Reclassed characters receive stat adjustments and adjusted level growth paths that fit their new classes. There is no limit to the number of times a character can be reclassed, and characters can be returned to their original class if desired. For example, the cavalier Abel can be switched to a Myrmidon, which increases his speed and skill at the cost of defense and his ability to use lances. However, some characters such as Marth cannot be reclassed, and characters can only be changed to another class of the same class tier.
Using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, the player can battle online and wirelessly with a team of five characters created from a save file. Unlike the multiplayer of the older GBA games, the battle takes place on a small map with the objective to either hold the castle in the middle of the map or defeat all the enemy characters. Voice chat is available when playing against friends.
Another online features is the online shop, which sells rare items on specific days of the month which can be used in the game. Also, players can "lend" units to their friends over Wi-Fi, which their friends can use to help them through the game. When the lent unit is returned to its owner, the experience earned in the friend's game carries over.
Promotional character art for Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon was created by Masamune Shirow, the famed manga artist and creator of Ghost in the Shell, Dominion: Tank Police and Appleseed. A limited edition laser cel featuring his artwork was offered as a bonus to those that preordered the game through Gamestop in North America.