So I have owned Shadow Dragon for a while but have just recently gotten into it after playing & enjoying Warriors so much & wanting to get to know the original Fire Emblem characters a little better. I bought it despite the Gamefather employee warning me not to since apparently this game has a bad/unlovable reputation in the fandom. Honestly, I have been enjoying it even though it differs from the other Fire Emblem games I have played (FE13-15).
The characters don't necessarily have a lot of lines but their weapon ranks & capabilities characterize them for me in a strictly gameplay way. Because of this, I found myself not missing support conversations as much as I thought I would. Another change that took me by surprise was the weapon forging limitation, but it actually had me thinking more deeply about it than in other games. I have felt strapped for cash in this one though & that may be because I forgot to use the Arena the few times I've seen it... Hopefully this doesn't make the second half of the game too hard!
Although the maps tend to visually look similar to one another (mostly forests, seas, & castles), I have enjoyed the variation in shape. A major annoyance I have with maps, however, is that Marth recruits most folks & can open treasure chests without keys, so I often find myself spending 4-5 turns pre-Seize finishing all of these tasks, slowly moving him around the map. This has kept him out of combat quite a bit which I hope doesn't screw me up down the line. He's probably level 10/11 now & I am up to Chapter 11.
Prologue IV - I am playing on Normal Mode & did not bat an eye when executing Gordin. He's got a great & quirky personality in the anime, but his stats were pretty miserable compared to my other units at the time. Fast forward to now where I don't use Draug either anymore, I'm not sure if it was the best decision, but Draug definitely served his purpose when I used him before I ultimately replaced him with Jeorge.
The in-map save points threw me off at first but now I am extremely thankful for them for two reasons: sometimes recruiting is an inexact science in this game. In previous Fire Emblem games I have played, recruiting is extremely simple & rarely feels dangerous. But in Shadow Dragon (here's looking at you, Jake), it can be a life-saver to have a save file from just before an attempt. The other reason is because it's a DS game so it does occasionally freeze on my n3DS, womp womp. :/
I have not played any of the Paralogue chapters because I have not had any deaths besides Gordin. It is a little strange that you need to kill off units to recruit the whole roster, but I'm not that concerned with full recruitment in the first place so it doesn't bother me too much. I know some people get really upset over this though! (Why?)
Chapter 8 - I loved making a moving wall of units in this map & watching Roger fall in love with Caeda. Maps like this make me glad I run with 4 Cavaliers!
Chapter 9 - Okay, this map sucked & is the reason I am so annoyed with Marth's low-move & treasure-box capabilities. It doesn't feel worth it to me to bring a Thief into a map & I hate using Master Keys when Marth has the Fire Emblem. I found myself wishing he could be Rescued or Paired Up for the temporary increased movement quite often during this chapter.
Chapter 10 - I was pleasantly surprised to see that blocking the castle exit with Marth caused Minerva to speak to him instead of outright attacking him like I expected. Usually I get the feeling enemies are sort of dumb when it comes to recruitment if you don't initiate, but this one was programmed well, especially since I'm pretty sure I would have accidentally killed her with the Killing Edge if she attacked me, oops!
Chapter 11 - Currently up to this map now... I have a save file that is a few moves before Caeda approaching Jake but I just can't get her to evade the attack. She wasn't level 10+ when I got the Master Seal last chapter to promote to higher move so I may start it over after reclassing her. Is Jake really worth the effort, though?
Overall, I really am liking the cast of this game. It's great to see all "the originals" like Cain/Abel, Jagen, Ogma, etc. of different archetypes. I love having a huge amount of units to choose from since in games like Fates, even though you get a handful of units, there are obvious stand-outs that actually reduce the overall variety of who you will use, outside of arbitrary challenge modes. Also, reclassing is actually a blessing for some characters but I don't use it too often. I always check a unit's reclass capabilities, but like I mentioned this a semi-blind run so I'm not looking at growth rates or anything like that.
Due to the lack of pair-up & support conversations, I also feel more comfortable replacing units in Shadow Dragon. I don't feel as if replacing a previous unit with a better version of their class messes up the investment I have made in finding a perfect partner for them, giving me more variety in units & even making me feel like I am making better strategic decisions in the long-run.
Marth - He's basically my treasure-opener, Seizer, & special swords units. He carries Rapier, Wyrmslayer, Killing Edge, & Levin Sword +4Mt. I'm bummed by his low move & would have promoted him with the Master Seal if I could. I am guessing it's a story-specific promotion instead? I like his character overall. He seems like a scared little kid to me so it makes sense that he's not doing the heavy lifting for my team.
Frey - One of the demigods on my team. He is carrier of Ridersbane & is daringly handsome to boot!
Abel - Another demigod. Abel got blessed by the RNG gods with 14 speed at level 11. I couldn't be happier with this guy.
Caeda - I know Caeda is amazing but I have so much trouble getting her into battle that it's been hard for me to see her full potential. She's one of my favorite units in Warriors so I love using her in Shadow Dragon, but she is still finding her rhythm on my team. She is excellent for killing tankier units thanks to forged Wing Spears & I gave her the HP boost for those fights, but usually only Armored units are by themselves (& not Cavaliers) so she really struggles with surviving the Enemy Phase. I'm going to start focusing on her a little more because I feel her falling behind yet she is one of a kind. I hope mages become a larger threat down the line because that would really help her stand out...
Barst - I love Barst. His character design is great & I love his Jesus-like ability to walk on water. He's been rocking Hand Axes from the beginning & is finally starting to have more reliable hit rates. He also has gotten some RNG blessings in his Defense stats so he serves as an excellent wall with 8 defense at level 6. I love this man, yes homo.
Lena - WOW! I just promoted her to give her a Fire +4Mt forge, bringing her another level of versatility. Lena has been able to Heal/Mend my army without fail & 99% of the reason I promoted her was for the extra move!
Hardin - My demigod tank at 12 Strength, 11 Speed, & 10 Defense at level 11. Is there anything Hardin can't do?
Wolf - I chose Wolf over Sedgar despite the lower Sword rank because I had enough Swords on my team & because Wolf had higher Speed & higher Luck. Also, Wolf is just kind of pretty & I'm into it? He's a little frail but has not disappointed me yet. I'm just about to get him C-rank Bows so Silver Bows will become an option that I think will put him over the edge. He also carries my Master Keys due to his high mobility but reduced focus on tanking hits, unlike my other mounts.
Wendell - Not much to say except he has been a reliable Tome-user who can double most units at 12 Speed at level 4! He reliably kills Armored units for me, but also is a great back-up healer. I also love having an older man in the army since Fire Emblem usually gives you 30+ teenagers to save the world with.
Jeorge - Jeorge showed up with a Silver Bow so I pretty much immediately benched Draug for this 7-move unit. His Defense is not awful at 8 at level 2 so he isn't the fragile Sniper the class tends to be. Only using one weapon type also gives him the capability to hold a Door Key & Vulnerary in case of disaster.
Minerva - The newest titan on my team. Minerva showed up able to use 1-2 range Axes & Lances, as well as a monster of a personal weapon. Mix that with 10 move, an eternally angry facial expression, & 12 Defense at level 1 (ONE!) & I am sold.
May Be Benched Soon
Cain - Okay, so it's not that Cain isn't good, but he is starting to fall behind. It more so has to do with how long it took for him to be able to use Javelins than actual stats, but his Strength & Defense are not bad for level 7. But he is level 7, while my other Cavaliers have all broken 10. I may shake him soon if a good replacement shows up...
Jagen - I know people talk shit about Jagen units but they do have their purpose, like it or not! Almost immediately, I reclassed him to a Dracoknight & have never regretted it. I randomly changed him into a Sniper one map that had a lot of Bow users in it but that never really caught on. His stats are just around where my Cavaliers are (except Cain) so I'm guessing he is in the last phase of his usefulness, since Jagens tend to grow much slower than other units. But no worries, I just got Minerva who came with A-rank Axes & Jagen hasn't even passed E yet... Granted, I've only really used him for chip damage but his high defense of 11 at level 3 has saved my ass more than once. If you hate using Jagens, stop killing things with them & put them in doorways instead!
Merric - Now that Lena can sling spells & heal allies, I think Merric is on his way out. I was keeping him around for Excalibur, but I run with two bow users already & Wendell can use B tomes now. Actually, writing this out made me realize I don't need him anymore... Sorry Merric!
Bantu - I am still trying to figure out Manaketes in this game. On one hand, he's a fucking dragon, which is awesome. On the other hand, all of my units can reliably have 1-2 range (except Wolf/Jeorge) so he feels more situational than the rest. With the sheer amount of Javelins I have been facing, it's been hard for him to find his purpose, but I would really like to.
Benched or Dead
Gordin - RIP :'(
Draug - Early on, I reclassed Draug to be a Hunter & found some use with him for a bit. He had crazy high Speed in the beginning of the game & with a forged Iron Bow +2Mt, he was able to wreck some units. Unfortunately for him, enemy flyers didn't start making regular appearances until I already had recruited Wolf & Jeorge so he's been benched.
Wrys - Only used him until I got Lena, best girl.
Ogma - Maybe got 1-2 kills early on but now that Marth can use C-rank swords, my personal capacity for terrible-move Sword-using foot units is filled at 1/1.
Cord - Just as Cord got to D-rank axes for more versatility, I recruited Minerva & he's virtually useless to me now. It was fun why he lasted since he doubled pretty much everything with a Iron Axe +4Mt up until now. Luckily I get to keep the forged weapon; sorry bud!
Navarre - Just like Ogma having great sword-capabilities, so did Navarre & I actually used him longer but his low move compared to the rest of the team just made me feel like I needed to babysit him to get him in the action. I'm a little disappointed by this since he was one of the characters in Warriors that intrigued me, but he just doesn't measure up. (I keep him equipped in my reserves though, just in case...)
Julian - I'd rather just give a high move unit door keys & let Marth open all the chests... He's too fragile to rely on for me.
Sedgar - Reclassed to Hero because of the D-rank Swords & his stats looked good, but I never actually found a use for him.
Maria - I know she is plot-relevant, I just don't see her catching up any time soon...
I'm guessing I'm about between a third or a halfway through the game now so I wanted to get this all down & share with the subreddit in case anyone else was considering trying Shadow Dragon. People call it "bare bones Fire Emblem," which it is, but it is so much more than that. It really plays like a unit & resource management game, where even small decisions have an impact on your capabilities for chapters to come. If you have been hesitant to try it, be forewarned that it is addicting once you start, especially as you unlock more & more units to experiment with. I hope this post can inspire other Warriors-lovers to give it a go! Let me know if my team is looking like yours did during your playthroughs!