A Year in Games - Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS)

7:41 PM

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Just popping back in to do a little writing, something I've been doing a lot of in my English-lit classes, and not enjoying any of it. 

These might run a bit long, and likely won't follow the usual styles I use because change is nice. Plus, I'm gonna try to run these a bit longer than usual, so sit back with a mug of your favourite tea or coffee, get your red pens out to correct my numerous errors and prepare for the worst.

Most of the games on this list will be for the 3DS because that's pretty much the only thing I've been playing on this year. My 3DS game collection went from a handful of games from this time last year to probably more than double that. It's been a good year for the 3DS and I thought I'd run through the ones I played.

 Awakening is the latest entry into a long series of strategical-rpgs by Intelligent Systems (and Nintendo). In Japan, you can trace these games all the way back to the Famicom days, while here on this side of the Pacific, you'll find the earliest ones on the Game Boy Advanced.

I regretably missed the DS game. By the time I realized it even existed, no store I looked carried it. It came out during my Monster Hunter days on the PSP, and to me, no other game really existed. 

Anywho, I've been a fan of the series ever since it's GBA days here in North America. It's a great game - the strategical side of it isn't too easy, and usually isn't frustratingly difficult. The relationship system between the characters is a charming and adds a lot of personality to your characters. It's a great way of developing the characters into "people" we can get attached to, rather than just pixels and names on a screen.

Awakening takes everything I love about the series and polishes it, taking it to the next and new level. Pairing characters up has much more of an effect on the battle than just pulling people out of harms way, as it was in the previous games. The relationships, especially in the higher difficulties, are vital to your success.Everything comes together to make this one of the best games on the system.

And on to the finer details now.

Visually, the game is gorgeous. The movement screen remains generally the same as the games before it, with the little unit sprite that you move around. The battle animations are fully animated with polygons, though those 2D sprites of the GBA games were charming and pretty cool in their own right. You have a couple camera options during these scenes: wide pan, auto movement,  and "first person". It's normally on auto, which moves the camera to follow the action. Wide Pan is a wide shot, but is static, showing the full scene. First person should be simple enough to imagine as to what this one looks like. It puts you into the perspective of your unit in combat, but for a lot of the mounted characters, the camera clips into the animal. Nothing major, but I don't really recommend using this option as your primary viewing because these battle animations are pretty cool. They're fully animated and the positions of characters isn't tied to where they start, which is nice. The cut scenes, previous done with character portraits are now either done with in-game character models or, for the nicer ones, are prerendered CG animated scenes. These cut scenes are gorgeously animated - fluid animation and are absolutely gorgeous using the 3D slider (looks just as good without the 3D). On the topic of 3D, the battle animations and the nicer cut scenes are what you'd turn it on for. Movement screen doesn't really benefit all that much from it, but does give you the feeling of looking into a playset.

Game play wise, it generally plays the same as it's previous iterations. The addition of the new pairing system introduces a new element, making character relationships much more important that they used to be. Under the old system, units near each other stat boosts. With the new system, they'll have a chance of attacking with the attacking unit, meaning that your unit will do his or her attacks, and the supporting unit will also attack. It helps take out enemy units that have more HP than you can deal with a single character, and also can make raising low level characters up a lot easier if you plan it right. Supporting character gain support levels, ranging from C to A or S, which increase the bonus given and chance of attacking. Same gendered characters and some male-female pairs top off at A, while characters topping off at S have the ability to be married, giving a larger bonus, chance of support attacks and unlocking the female character's child.

Characters also now have 2-3 skills per class, with up to 5 equipped at a time. These skills range from passive or active stat boosts to attack modifying skills. For North America, skills were present in the second GBA game, Fire Emblems: The Sacred Stones, where each class had a unique skill. In Awakening, once a character learns a skill, they can equip it at anytime, meaning that you could have a Cavalier with skills from a mercenary, mage and archer if you wanted to. This opens up a huge window of opportunity for character customization. My Cordelia isn't the same as my girlfriend's, and hers isn't the same as her friends. Once you've cleared the story mission, you could try to level all your characters to the point where they become unstoppably broken to torment those who try taking them on in the Street Pass fuctionality, which I'll talk about now.

Street Pass is perhaps the coolest feature of the 3DS. In a sleep state, the 3DS sends out packets of data containing game information and your Mii avatar to passing by 3DS units, exchanging them for various purposes in games. In Awakening, Street Pass allows you to bring another player's party into your game, letting you buy most items that are carried by their characters. You'll have ability to challenge that party to battle, and hire their avatar to join your army. Challenging these parties to battles often pit you up against max stat'd characters who are near impossible to defeat, so more often than not, you'll probably be buying items off them. You'lll gain access to items you might not havbe access to yet in the story, like Silver weapons or Named weapons which have additional effects to aid you in battle.

In terms of DLC, Awakening is probably Nintendo's first forray into the realm of downloadable content. It has the good kind of DLC: challenge maps, and a variety of story and mission maps. The meatiest of these is the Xenologues is the Future Past maps, which puts you in the future from where Lucina and the other "children" come from. For post-game grinding, there's also a map they earns you massive amounts of Gold, experience points and the special Regalia weapons, which you can use to make your Street Pass party an unstoppable force.

The story of Awakening doesn't change too much from the previous games. You play as a fully customizable avatar character who, unlike many other games, is a major character in the story. Your avatar is a full character, with dialogue (no silent protagonist in this one!), relationships and a full set of support conversations. You customize the avatar's gender, appearance, voice and initial stats, but their dialogue won't change (though it does change depending on your character's gender). To get the most emotionally impactful story, I recommend you have your Avatar as female and have her marry Chrom, the main character. I won't spoil, but I think having another character married to Chrom results in a less dramatic story. Trust me!

Fire Emblem: Awakening was released February 4th, 2013 in North America and is only on the 3DS.

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