3DS Game Re:Re:Reviews - Fire Emblem: Awakening

12:52 PM

Welcome to what's hopefully to become somewhat long running series. Here I'm planning to write some reviews of some games I've enjoyed on the 3DS as the system turns 5 years old. A lot of these games will be pretty old, some from the system's early line up, and some released last month. It's not a comprehensive list of what's good on the 3DS, but rather a list of games I've played, liked and think that people who haven't tried them really should give these a shot. I'm aiming for a 1 game every other day schedule so hopefully I can keep that up for a good week or two.

Today it's the much loved, Fire Emblem: Awakening.

Fire Emblem is one of those series that has a special place in my heart. I was hooked on it with the first game that came stateside back on the GameBoy Advanced (Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword). For many people, however, Awakening was their first dip into the Fire Emblem series. And what a first dip Awakening was. It's more accessible than the series has ever been, adding the casual difficulty that removed perma-death, a feature that's core to both the story and the experience. Like Animal Crossing, Fire Emblem Awakening is one of those titles that everyone seems to have. 
For those wanting a more detailed read on the Fire Emblem series, as well as the importance of Fire Emblem Awakening, Anime News Network has a good piece on the game that saved a series. You can find it here.

Awakening is probably the most accessible Fire Emblem game to date, or at least the most accessible of the ones that have come to this side of the Pacific. The game's structure bears close similarities to that of an earlier game, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (GBA), where you could, and still can, move around the world map and grind up some levels or support in randomly placed skirmishes. Most Fire Emblem titles don't have the option of grinding, putting much more emphasis on your tactics. Being able to over-level yourself takes a lot of the tension out of a fight, letting you strong arm your way through missions.

The addition of Casual mode, which removes perma-death of your units, is a nice touch for newcomers to the genre and series. It's a huge security blanket that may just remove a bit too much of the tension. I know it's not how everybody will play it, but there's some real tension to be had when a character, paired with a face and lots of story, is on the line every time they go into battle. On the flip side, Lunatic mode ramps up the difficulty to make it truly a challenge.

The game play of Fire Emblem Awakening is solid, much like it has been throughout the series. If you're like me, and have been with the series since the first North American released game back on the GBA, the game hasn't changed a whole lot. It's still the turn-based strategy game, though it does have that fresh new coat of paint on it to make it look pretty darn good. My favourite art style still goes to the Wii title, Radiant Dawn (Ike is one of the best Fire Emblem protagonists). There is also a notable lack of feet.

Skills make combat more complex, as you can create some ridiculously broken characters, based on the skills they have learned. Lifetaker (Mage Knight), ensures that your character is as close to full HP. Sol, for keeping HP high while on the defence. Galeforce, for making a broken character that much more broken. With Second Seals, items that let you reclass units, you could theoretically have a character with completely maxed stats, with a skill set guaranteed to make them near invincible. I've definitely seen lots of those kinds of parties in the Streetpass arena.

The story still has a bit of the seriousness from the older Fire Emblem games, but support conversations definitely took a turn towards the light hearted side, being almost entirely fun and comical. There aren't a lot of unhappy characters which gives the story this unique split between the serious main story line, and the humorous “side stories” told through the support conversations.

And on the topic of support conversations, the characters in the Fire Emblem series have always been it's strongest point. In Awakening, they're a large, colourful cast of goofy, fun characters ranging from the clumsy Pegasus Knight, Sumia, to bunny warrior Panne. From ancient manakete, and recurring series character, Tiki, to Donald, the simple farm boy who would become the most powerful warrior in the realm, but will also always wear that dumb pot as a helmet. In a series first, YOU are also a playable character. You can create and customize your very own avatar unit, holding the class of Tactician. The avatar has supports with pretty much everyone. If you play a female avatar, ending with Chrom is probably the closest to the “true ending” this game will ever get.

The conversations between these characters flesh them out as people, and telling a bit more about the world that the game takes place in. Once characters get married, through anime magic, their kid(s) show up from the future, determined to change the past and save both their world and their parents' world. The kids, both story wise and game play wise really are a different bunch of characters. They still have weird quirks and traits, but their stories tend to be more serious, as they generally only have supports with each other and their parents. Game play wise, the inherit skills from both parents, as well as some stats, making them prime candidates for being absolutely broken characters as soon as they hit the map. I definitely sunk probably too many hours into pairing up characters to result in super powerful children characters. As such, there's a tonne of replayability in this system. Pairing up different characters to see their conversations, using different characters (you're given more units than you generally need, in account of the possibility of losing characters), and even using different characters in different classes.

Since it's a hot topic with the recently released Fire Emblem Fates, I'll just put my 2-cents in for the topic of this game. I typically play games with the Japanese voices whenever possible. My game cart was probably bugged in that it'd always revert to the English voices whenever I booted it up, so I ended up just playing it with the English voices. They're perfectly fine. I liked them. I liked them enough that I got the autographs of the English voice actors for Lucina and Lon'qu. The voices in Fates have...some issues, but that's another topic for another time.

It really is one of the must haves for the 3DS. If you don't have it already, do consider picking it up.

You Might Also Like