A question – does anyone else have more sentimental feelings toward digital marriages than actual weddings? Well, more on digital matrimonial events later; Fire Emblem Awakening left more than tears of joy in its trail for this gamer. It left a standard for what any strategy game should try to accomplish.
I want to start with a caveat. This is the first time I have played a Fire Emblem game completely through. Also, I did so without purchasing any of the downloadable maps and characters which would add to the overall experience (especially for veterans of the franchise).
Going into Fire Emblem Awakening, the expectation was another good strategy game. This game offered a lot more. The story starts with your customized avatar waking up to the main protagonist Chrom, his sister Lissa and his right-hand man Frederick. Your character seems to be having a problem with his or her memory, but it’s what is remembered that starts off your adventure. Having recollections of being a tactician of the battlefield, your character joins the three on their adventure.
Right from the start you will notice how gorgeous the game is on the 3DS. Intelligent Systems takes advantage of this with the occasional cutscenes and in-game battles that add to the overall intensity of the battlefield. These in-game battle scenes are fun to watch, but you don’t have to watch them if you’re not interested in that part of the game. Just turn the option off. The world map and battlefields have the classic Fire Emblem feel which is not necessarily a bad thing. You may also notice something else from the start – none of the characters have feet! At first this was a bother but no worries, you will get over it, and it does not hinder the gameplay experience.
As for what you will be hearing during your play through – there’s not much to complain about, but it’s not exceptional. During the quirky and charming dialogue presented, characters will chime in periodically to give a voice to the face, so to speak. This is a welcomed part of the experience. Hearing a voice gives a personality to each character to create a deeper understanding while not completely taking over the dialogue. One of the main antagonists of the story in particular makes great use of this; you could feel the evil in his voice, as if he is emanating hate. Some of the music is repetitive, but it fits the mood of the game so it’s hard to complain about it. When it comes to the boss battles the music always set the tone – earth-shattering. It always feels like something amazing is coming. And yes, that iconic Fire Emblem theme song is present.
If there is one word to describe Fire Emblem Awakening, it’s depth. Coming from a franchise already known for its great strategy gameplay, Awakening adds on to that gameplay even more. The first thing to note is that there are two modes you must choose from before starting the game: Casual or Classic. Fans familiar with the game are used to a permadeath system. This means that once a soldier falls in battle, he or she is gone forever. Now you can choose to turn that system off. Soldiers will only be absent until the end of the battle in which they were defeated. This will allow gamers who are nervous because of the franchise’s reputation for being difficult to jump in. For gamers unfamiliar with the game, here are a few things that contribute to strategizing. One part is the weapons’ strengths and weaknesses. Different classes of soldiers will be able to choose between swords, lances, axes, bows and a type of magic ability. You will also find that some soldiers ride different types of animals, adding another level of depth. Dancers allow a soldier to move twice in one turn. Soldiers can be recruited to your army during the story and in side missions. You will find that there are many strategies to be explored, and because of that you will want to keep on playing even after you have finished the story.
There is also a new mechanic called dual support. Different soldiers can now travel together which adds yet another level to the strategizing. Stat boosts and dual strikes are some examples of the use of dual support. This opens up the ability to attack with more than one type of weapon against one enemy. You will be able to come up with your own uses for the new mechanic.
One substantial use of dual support is the building of chemistry between different soldiers. Increasing support levels will increase stat boosts even more as well as the probability of a dual strike. Most important is when two soldiers of opposite gender build enough chemistry, they will get married and become the ultimate fighting duo. These marriages are often built off of cheesy but endearing dialogue. Parts of the game like marriage give a real sense of personality to each character. (EDIT) [That’s one of the best parts. The game gets you involved to the point where you will put that extra effort to make sure you don’t lose even one soldier. If you do lose a soldier, there will be a moment when you feel sad about the loss and want to avenge the death. You will feel engaged personally when two of your soldiers get married. Most of all, you will want to go with and help Chrom on his quest, and you will want to see the story through to the end.] There is no doubt that the game tries to get the player to be as involved as possible with the growth of each soldier and for good reason.
Fire Emblem Awakening is not a game where you can just play through the story and ignore the rest of the game. The increasing difficulty forces you to work for the next step; this does not need to be a bad thing. It is still enjoyable to go through side missions to recruit new soldiers and increase your weaker soldiers’ ability to hold their own. This is a true strategy game at its best. You may choose to increase your soldiers’ strength by forging more powerful weapons, increasing chemistry between two different soldiers or fighting enemies for more experience. Of course, each decision will have its ups and downs, and that is the beauty of a strategy game having so much depth. There are so many possibilities, and if they are all explored, a first play through could easily take over 50 hours.
The only negative comments that can be made are the following: it is not easy to keep all of your soldiers on similar levels with the overall pace of the story, and the moments during the plot when you’re forced to make a decision are sometimes misleading.
The first point: It is very easy to step into the vicious cycle of making a small number of soldiers gain experience and sending them to annihilate all of the enemies. Once in this trap, the difficulty spike towards the end of the game can be devastating, especially when playing with permadeath. However, it all comes with a strategy game that has so much to offer.
The second point: There are multiple points of the game when you are given a choice to make. Usually in games this means there are multiple different paths that can be taken. That is not always true for this game. It is natural to want to feel like you can make a difference when given multiple different choices, but in Awakening, sometimes the decisions make a difference, and sometimes they do not.
Intelligent Systems stays faithful to the dedicated Fire Emblem fans with some news features. The first is the DLC available for the game. Some of the maps which can be purchased feature past characters, or “legacies,” that can be unlocked and used in the story. Extra items and characters can also be downloaded with Spotpass. There’s more. With Streetpass, you can share your avatar, items and other content with other players.
For questions about game mechanics: http://serenesforest.net/fe13/index.html
|-Customizable weapons and characters||-Misleading plot decisions|
|-New partner system adds to the already deep strategy||-Difficulty keeping a balanced team as story moves along|
|-Accessible to newcomers and those unfamiliar with strategy games|
|-High replay value due to DLC, Streetpass and Spotpass|
|-Graphics on 3DS are gorgeous|
The Acosta Statement
With everything it does well, Fire Emblem Awakening falls slightly short of strategy gaming perfection, and one question remains for those who have doubts about Fire Emblem and the 3DS: Will Fire Emblem awaken your 3DS?