Fire Emblem Awakening Review
Prior to popping the Fire Emblem Awakening game card into my Nintendo 3DS, I was only familiar with the series because of the Super Smash Bros. games. I must admit, I was a little intimidated to get into the series so late, but I’m glad I did.
Fire Emblem Awakening was released for the Nintendo 3DS on February 4, 2013. It’s a tactical, turn-based role playing game that follows Chrom and a mysterious avatar – the character you create at the beginning – through their struggle with the neighbouring nation of Plegia.
This story is told using anime cut-scenes, in-game cut-scenes, and dialogue on the battlefield. I really enjoyed the use of all three techniques and felt they all served their purpose well; some last minute taunting on the battlefield was all I needed to push through the struggle.
I can’t compare the story to other Fire Emblem games, but I was a tad disappointed. While there is a massive cast of interesting characters and an interesting story, the overall arc felt a bit generic, even with the time travelling aspects. The twists (including the ending) were predictable, but the game definitely has great moments; one of which involves the sacrifice of a certain character. The story is logical, and isn’t hard to follow with information being revealed a consistent pace. Overall, the story is good, and if you enjoy tales of magic and dragons, then you’ll enjoy Fire Emblem Awakening, regardless of my opinion.
Fire Emblem Awakening is broken up into chapters with each chapter being accompanied by plot development, and gameplay. Aside from the main chapters, there are eighteen paralogues that are essentially sidequests. You meet new characters during these small bits, and can even recruit the game’s best character, Donnel. Paralogues are on par with the rest of the game and are just as enjoyable, plus they make great excuses for grinding experience.
For those not familiar with the Fire Emblem series, you don’t advance in the traditional way. Yes, you can visit shops to buy items and weapons, but there is no free roaming around the map. You progress by beating one chapter at a time and move around a world map to select the chapter you want to play.
Each chapter puts you on a battlefield that is divided into squares. Each character is represented by a small sprite and can move a specific number of squares on the grid. The action is turn-based, so you must select your character’s moves one at a time. You’ll enter a battle when you encounter enemies on the battlefield, but can avoid confrontations by keeping your distance. Also, the terrain can limit your mobility, so you must take that into consideration when moving your characters. This is just one small piece of the chess-like, tactical gameplay you’ll experience in Fire Emblem Awakening.
Characters play the role of one of the game’s 40+ classes, each complete with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Some classes can move farther (such as Pegasus Knights), and some classes can only use certain weapons. When approaching enemies on the battlefield, it’s important to take note of the weapon they have, and the weapon you are using. This is mainly because Fire Emblem Awakening has a lance-sword-axe dynamic that is similar to rock-paper-scissors; a small mistake can easily lead to death. Mage and archer classes can attack from a distance, and healer classes must be within range to mend a warrior’s wounds.
Of course, defeating enemies will gain you experience points. Gaining experience points means you can level up, much like any standard RPG game. Certain classes can be maxed out meaning you can no longer gain levels; however, you can switch to an advanced class, or a different class using in-game items. This will start your character over at level 1, but they can now gain more experience, stats, and learn new skills. While this won’t play a big role early on, it becomes necessary later in the game if you want to stay alive.
Fire Emblem Awakening also offers a whole host of strategic elements, but in my opinion, the most important is battling side by side with another character. When two characters are adjacent on the grid, they will lend a hand in battle which can result in stat boosts, or the other character jumping in front of you to block an attack. This becomes extremely important because the more you fight alongside other characters; the larger their bond grows. Larger bonds will mean higher stat boosts, and if you build the characters’ relationship to its highest level, they practically become invincible.
Growing the bonds between characters can play a role in the story, and the sidequests that you can complete. After enduring battle, you can go to a support menu to initiate chats between characters. These offer some cute, and funny exchanges between characters, and must be completed to grow the bond; your bond with a character is measured by C, B, A, and S ranks for those that can get married. Married couples can also produce children that can be recruited in paralogues that only open after marriage. This mechanic offers some truly unique depth that I haven’t experienced in any other game – take into consideration that I may not have played the game you have in mind.
There are a few other aspects of Fire Emblem Awakening that must be discussed before I conclude this review. You are offered the choice between two game modes: Casual and Classic. If you play using the casual setting, your characters will be revived between battles. If you choose classic mode, your characters will leave the battlefield forever if they die. You can also pick between normal, hard, or lunatic difficulties before starting your game. I played the game on normal difficulty and using the classic rules, and I thought it was quite challenging. I offed more characters than I want to admit, but I really enjoyed the experience. In a nutshell, Fire Emblem Awakening’s gameplay is its strongest asset. It offers truly addicting gameplay with a lot of RPG elements to keep the experience interesting.
Fire Emblem Awakening’s other strengths are its visuals and soundtrack. Not only does the game look incredible in-game, but its cut-scenes are among the best on the 3DS. One of my favourite aspects of the game is watching characters pull off flawlessly animated maneuvers in battle. Of course, the game also has a stellar soundtrack, but it also sports the best 3D effects on the Nintendo 3DS. No other game – that I have played – can compare to Fire Emblem Awakening’s stereoscopic 3D. It provides the most believable sense of depth that I have experienced thus far. I was in awe many times when playing this game because I didn’t think 3D could truly be this magical; this game sets the bar that other 3DS games should try to reach.
Fire Emblem Awakening is a stellar strategic RPG experience that caters to fans of the series and welcomes newcomers. There is a massive cast of characters with each having incredible growing potential including a variety of classes to master, lots of weapons and skills to equip, plus the ability to create bonds with other characters. It took me 22 hours to complete the main quest (26.5 according to my Activity Log), but I could easily lose another five to six hours completing sidequests, building characters, and playing DLC. If you’re looking to invest some time in a 3DS RPG, Fire Emblem Awakening should be that game.
9/10 – Excellent
Borrowed a Review Copy