I bought Gaiden when it came out on the E-Shop, because I have at least played or seen the stories for all of the other games, counting remakes.
It's sure hard. I mean, you can get through chapters 1-3 somehow without hardcore grinding, but once you get to chapter 4, especially for Alm's side, you gotta train.
And the worst part is there isn't a easy place to grind for Alm's side. Celica's side has the Mummy army that respawns whenever you leave and re-enter the Lost Forest, so it is as easy as can be. Her side's Sister/Cleric also has Physics. She also has the 3 Pegasus Sisters and the Pegasus Knights in this game are really strong. When they promote, they get +7 defense and +14 HP! Woah...
But anyways, it's really difficult. It already gets difficult on the 2nd or 3rd stage of the game with a Mercenary that can double-strike all of your units.
But the map system is actually even more interesting than Sacred Stones and Awakening.
For one thing, after a certain chapter, you get to control two parties on the map! They each have their own armies and own maps.
Another thing is that enemies spawn from certain places and move towards you. And if they reach your area, they enter a battle where they get to move first.
Also, cities and castles actually allow you to move around, RPG-style!
There are quite a number of other different things, but they aren't that bad, just different.
For instance, bows can attack 1-3 range. Bow Knights have 1-5 range.
Unless the bow is a weapon equipped, there is no attack bonus against flying units.
Magic uses HP.
Units don't need weapons to fight. They all have a set item with infinite uses. You can get items and weapons and by equipping one, gives you different abilities or modifies your strength in battle. For instance, one of the most useful is the Angel Ring, which heals 5HP per turn, sets Luck=40, and DOUBLES your stat growths. Not the rates, but the actual stat increases themselves.
So anyways, I'm stuck grinding in Alm's route. If I don't level up, moving forward is only going to get myself massacred by the enemies.