Published on February 15th, 2013 | by Shawn Long, Features Editor
Fire Emblem Awakening Review
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: Feb. 4, 2013
The Fire Emblem series is one of the biggest franchises in Nintendo’s Japanese market. It wasn’t until the GameBoy Advance that the series saw the light of day in the US. Since then, the series has become one of the premier tactical-role playing franchises across all Nintendo systems. The latest addition to the series is Fire Emblem Awakening, which manages to stay true to its core gameplay, while making improvements on prior missteps and areas of weakness.
The game starts out on the right foot with an amazing and beautiful cut-scene that looks outstanding in 3D. This scene immediately sets the tone for the game sets the tone for the rest of the adventure. The game features difficulty settings which is rare for an RPG, but does allow new players to ease their way into the series. Also included is “Classic” and “Casual” modes. The “Classic” is the standard gameplay feature where if a character dies, he is dead forever. While during “Casual” mode, a character will be revived after the battle automatically.
An avatar system is included which allows you to custom create one of your characters. You can name and design a look for your character, and even pick the gender and voice.
The story of the game follows a character named Chrom, the prince of Ylisse. When a neighboring village starts acting suspicious, Chrom and his group of soldiers, known as the Shepherds, move out to investigate the ongoing rumors. While most Fire Emblem games usually don’t focus on the story aspect and are strictly gameplay based, Awakening has a very deep and interesting story. The game has beautiful cutscenes which help progress the story, and it goes as far as involving marriage and having children. You can also have homosexual relationships in this game, which is the first time you can do such in a Nintendo title.
The core gameplay remains the same. Battles are turn-based and take place on a grid system. Each character has certain skills and weapons, and certain weapons are more effective than others. For example, an attacking archer can fire from two squares away, giving him distance without getting hit in retaliation. On your turn, you will do more damage with your sword because the archer as the archer is weak against that weapon.
New additions have been added to spice up gameplay. Expanding on the teamwork aspect, characters are able to have emotional ties to each other thus improving stats. The game features more than 40 classes based on leveling your character, each with unique abilities and benefits. All of the characters have a certain level of depth that wasn’t necessarily present in past Fire Emblem offerings. It is an overall more emotional experience, which that is a welcomed addition.
Besides the aforementioned cutscenes, the game features solid graphics. A 2D overworld allows you to move about, shop or activate side quests. The gameplay is a 2D grid with 3D effects. It doesn’t look spectacular, but it is serviceable. The battle scenes are well done and exciting with large, crisp characters. You can control the camera angle in the battle sequences, so you can see in a first person mode your lance or sword smashing into the opposing character. Very cool.
The main quest itself is lengthy enough, but Nintendo doesn’t let it stop there. Downloadable content (DLC) will be released featuring maps and heroes from previous Fire Emblem games. StreetPass is used in-game, allowing your avatar to enter another player’s game. The player can then buy items from the avatar, or battle the team/pay for the rights to the leader, thus strengthening your army. A limited local co-op is also offered, which features an arena battle system where you and your friend choose a character and battle enemies.
The game does have a few minor issues, but nothing damaging. While the music and battle sounds are enjoyable, the voice acting is spottily used throughout the game, with only certain phrases being fully voiced. Fire Emblem Awakening is still challenging on the Normal difficulty, especially with Classic mode on. With the higher emphasis on story, the game does tend to be heavy on cut-scenes and text reading which may put off some fans of the classic Fire Emblem games. Also, it appears Nintendo did a limited physical copy run, which means that you may have to download from the eShop to get the game (like I did).
Minor quibbles aside, this game is a masterpiece for the Nintendo 3DS and is one of the best tactical RPGs I’ve played in recent memory. The core of Fire Emblem was always rock solid, and the new additions to the game just making the experience that much more in-depth and better. If you own a 3DS and have even the slightest interest in RPGs (a genre the 3DS sorely lacks), do yourself a favor and pick up Fire Emblem Awakening.
+Improved in every way over predecessors
– Spotty voice-acting
– Hard to find a physical copy