The year is 2005. I walk eagerly into a local gamestop with my mom, looking for a new game to sink my greedy young teeth into. As I scan the Gameboy Advance shelf, a certain game sticks out like a diamond in the rough. That game is Fire Emblem. I quickly take the game to my mother, asking if she can do me the honor of buying the game for me. Fast forward a couple of weeks. I am on chapter 17. All of my characters have perished except for my three main Lords. I am stuck, and I am forced to restart the entire game in hopes of this time, being able to keep my characters alive. This is the world of Fire Emblem.
*Since Fire Emblem: Awakening is so full of content and aspects that make the game unique, I will try my best to go over the most important parts of the game while constraining the review to a reasonable length*.
Fire Emblem: Awakening for the 3DS is the latest entry in the series, and Intelligent Systems did their best to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to create their own experience in their newest game.
Right off the bat, Fire Emblem: Awakening offers a less intense setting for newcomers and casual gamers alike. The new addition of casual mode allows characters to come back every chapter, despite deaths. Classic setting, which is the recommended setting for Fire Emblem veterans and those looking for a challenge, instills the premise of perma-death, where characters do not come back when they die. This makes each move extremely vital, all while making the game that more engaging.
The game begins with your customized avatar being “awakened” by Prince Chrom of Ylisse, Frederick, a knight, and Lissa, Chrom’s younger sister. Your character is unaware of his or her past, and embarks on a journey with Chrom and his gang in order to discover the truth. I will not delve into the story too much for spoiler’s sake, but it is engaging enough to not only surprise the player, but provide the played with an emotional connection to the characters in the game.
Fire Emblem: Awakening features 26 chapters, slewed across a giant navigable map. The map has various side quests that become available throughout the game, along with battles appearing randomly on already completed chapters. Even after completing the game, there is enough extra content to double the time played and then some. This is not even including the DLC that is available. In theory, Fire Emblem: Awakening can be played as long as you feel like playing. The content is seemingly endless. If you are wondering, yes, this is a good thing.
The combat in FE: Awakening is like a well constructed rock-paper-scissor game that revolves around a gambling system. What this means is that whether you hit or miss, get a critical, or activate a skill is based off of chance. What weapons you use, and what type of weapon you use against other ones, increases or decreases your chances. Swords have an advantage over axes, axes have an advantage over lances, and lances have an advantage over swords. There are also different types of magic available, which also have advantages and disadvantages over one another. There is a wide variety of weapons available to purchase in shops and scavenge off of enemies, and depending on your character’s weapon level and class, you can use them until they break. This is a common system used in the Fire Emblem franchise, and it works very well.
A system that is not new, but is built upon in Fire Emblem: Awakening, is the support system. Characters can pair up with each other, giving stat bonuses to one another and increasing their overall support level. Getting two paired characters of the opposite sex up to the highest support level, S, will allow them to marry and bear children. Some characters, as well as downloaded characters, are unable to marry and bear children. The support system really adds a certain attachment to characters, since some are relatively dependent on each other. This adds a lot to the game itself, without stripping the game of its original combat system.
The leveling system in Fire Emblem is also based around chance, with the chance of your character’s individual stats increasing being based on the characters growth rates and class. Fighters have higher attack but lower defense, Myrmidons have a higher speed and skill, Knights have a higher defense but slower speed, etc. Along with classes having different stats and weapons available to their disposal, each class has a certain weakness; some more than others. Pegasus Knights are extremely weak to arrows, and knights are fairly weak to magic.
There are some 43 classes in FE: Awakening, all with their own skills and statistical advantages. Each character has the ability to upgrade to an advanced class or change classes completely after reaching level 10. Unlike previous Fire Emblems in the franchise, upgrading a character class is done through a universal master seal instead of specific items. This makes upgrading classes less of a hassle, but it decreases the excitement when coming across certain seals (which are much more available in this entry).
Having played through the game on multiple difficulties, I find it, especially for veterans to the franchise, more challenging and rewarding to play on harder difficulties than normal. That is not to say that the game is fun any way it is played. The game does get easier after the mid-way point due to characters becoming significantly stronger, especially so in Hard and Lunatic mode where the map is readily available for grinding characters. Depending on how much time and effort you put into the game, it can be easy or vigorously hard.
The last aspect I am going to mention is spot pass. Certain teams from past Fire Emblem games can be downloaded and interacted with, whether that be a battle or purchasing the leader of the team. Spot pass also allows certain items to be downloaded, based on a separate system of points called renown points. Renown points are obtained from defeating spot pass teams or teams acquired via street pass. This adds on the playability of the game, with even more options for battle available. Those looking to 100% the game are in for quite a ride.
Fire Emblem: Awakening is a game that is so dependent on the player, that the experience of the game, good or bad, depends on the skill and perseverance of the person playing the game. Just because the game is almost perfect in my eyes, does not mean another player might not get the same experience that I did. Yes, this could be the case for every game, but I feel it applies even more heavily in a game like Fire Emblem: Awakening. You can play with a few character as powerhouses, or you can play with an army of equally skilled characters. You can play with risk, or you can play conservatively. You can give meaning to your characters, or you can let your characters die off like ants. No matter how you feel you would play, the only thing I can advise is to give the game a chance, because it could just be your favorite game.
Reviewed by Nick Putnam