I was just about to start this thread.
(long post ahead, but I have "convieniently" split it into sections
Warning to everyone:
DO NOT USE MARCUS
You won't get him until after the tutorial (chapter 11), but DO NOT USE HIM! When you first get him, he will be the best, slaughtering enemies left and right, but will only get 3 xp in the process when others could have gotten 70. Just about every other character in the game will bypass him when leveled. So, DO NOT USE MARCUS.
There is a use for him, take away his weapons and he makes a good meatshield, most damage he will take is 2-3, and he will only get one xp for being hit.
That out of the way, I must answer the next question anyone who has played SSBM will ask:
No, Marth and Roy are NOT in this game. The guy on the cover is Roy's Father
All right, the two main issues addressed, I can talk about the gameplay itself now
About durability: Every weapon has durability, and will eventually "break" I hear there is a repair staff much later on, but that can only be used three times
About death: If a character dies, they are gone for good (exception: tutorial, see below). No phoenix downs. No magical life spells. Nothing, except the "restart chapter" function, which can be used without guilt since every event is autosaved, so if someone dies the chapter should be started over. If any of the lords die (Eliwood, Lyn, Hector) then it's game over. If anyone else dies, if they are significant to the plot they will simply become mortally wounded and retreat, never seeing action again but will still take part in cutscenes, or they will die their death. Whether you choose to leave them behind or not is up to you, but I can't find myself leaving anyone
behind, even Marcus.
About the tutorial: The first ten chapters (tutorial) is Lyn's story. Chapter 11 is the beginning of Eliwood's story, where you pretty much start fresh, although you will re-recruit just about everyone from Lyn's story by Chapter 16. That being said, anyone who dies in Lyn's story will come back in Eliwood's story normally, however it is best not to leave them behind, as those characters will miss out on a lot of experience.
About Florinia: Florinia of the Pegesaus knight seems pretty weak when you first get her, but from what I hear, it's well worth the wait when she gets to a really high level and stuff. Give her death blows for exp, it will pay off. She makes a good anti-mage as well.
About Leveling: There are no random encounters. Later, only a certain amount of characters can be brought into battle (usually around 10-13 range), so it's best to concentrate on 15 or so, and bench the rest. The only exception to this is the arena, but unlike FFTA, when training the enemy usually has an equal or higher chance of wining. I wouldn't know, I haven't tried the arena yet.
About Support: Note that support does not start until Eliwood's route or later. Fire Emblem has extremely good character support, and that comes from its support. Support is when two characters pretty much talk to each other during battle, whether it's about plot events, personal affairs, love, and even breakfast. Support also gives battle bonuses, like additional strength and such. There are three levels in support, C B and A, but each character can only have a total of five support convos, so one A and two Cs or five Cs or whatever. Sometimes when two characters get an A convo, they will get a *special ending* together. Could be marriage, could be really close friends, depends on the pairing. To get support, the two characters must stand next to each other for a certain number of turns and a "support" function will pop up.
As for where I
am in the game, I'm only on chapter 19
. There's 30 or so chapters I believe.
I'll type up more later... mostly on the actual gameplay for anyone wondering whether to get the game or not or something.