Fire Emblem Awakening Review

Developer:

Intelligent Systems

Publisher:

Nintendo

Console:

Nintendo 3DS

Release Dates:

February 4, 2013 (NA)

Player(s):

Single-player, Multiplayer (through Street Pass)

Genre:

Turn-based Tactical RPG

-Jovan St. Lawrence

Behold, the best looking 3DS game to date

Fire Emblem has always been a Nintendo property that has garnered praise in Japan but was considered widely unknown in the West. Far too many people have experienced the Fire Emblem series. In 2002, most of us were introduced to Fire Emblem in Super Smash Bros. Melee with trademark characters Marth & Roy. Their popularity motivated Nintendo to localize the very first Fire Emblem title in North America on the Game Boy Advance and released to critical acclaim. Ten years later, spanning the Gamecube and Wii, the tactical RPG comes to the 3DS in high fashion. 

Strategy Only A “Mother” Could Love

Fire Emblem Awakening’s gameplay model is very familiar to anyone who’s played the previous games or any tactical RPG (most recently XCOM: Enemy Unknown) or a turn based RPG (most recently Ni No Kuni). Similar to a game of chess, Awakening’s joy resonates in the strategics. Figuring out where to place your units, how to position them, which to bring out in battle with you, and which weapons and skills to equip all fall into the core concepts of the strategy in this game. Thinking at least ten steps ahead and devising tactics to take down your opponent is half the battle and certainly not for the impatient or faint of heart. It is slow yet satisfying progress that heavily rewards players which is what I loved most about it.

This model is capitalized on with the additions of the Seal system where you can change a character’s class and the pairing of characters in battle. This eventually can lead them to build an intimate relationship and have children whom can also be recruited to your team. This just complements the already sophisticated system that Awakening follows making you feel like a real tactician.

Going Easy On Me

One of the best things about Fire Emblem: Awakening is its accessibility. Customization is incredibly diverse but also simplified for players who just want to get into the heat of battle. From being able to switch between the Japanese and English audio to skippable cutscenes to toggling how much information about a character can be displayed on the bottom screen, there’s a lot to choose from. For any who may have nitpicky issues in the past, for the most part, Fire Emblem Awakening fixes it. It is truly astonishing how the customization even affects gameplay. There are four difficulty levels: Normal, Hard, Lunatic, and Lunatic Plus. This complements the new abilities to play with the Casual style (where you can save anytime and permadeath is disabled) and the Classic style (where characters who die stay dead). These options gives a fair advantage to anyone who’s even the least bit interested in getting into the Strategy RPG genre. Even the tutorial can be skipped. This tutorial in particular is concise, clear and straightforward without overwhelming the player with useless information for a later time.

Telling a Story Within A Universe

The gameplay in Awakening is vital and important to master. However, the heart of this game lies in its characters and world. Your basic “royal hero protecting the throne and homeland” premise may seem overly predictable but the story takes so many more chances as it goes on. People die, new alliances are made and you as the player are heavily invested in this world of Ylisse. The triumphs of victory, the stings of grief, matched with a beautiful score are more than enough to move players to love the main character of this tale, Chrom as the chapters go on. This game does not feel its length and that is certainly a good thing in this case. Many of these characters have a wide variety of personalities which is not uncommon for a JRPG but what is surprising is how well they are with each other. In other JRPGs there is always that one character or more that really feels out of place and you can’t wait to kill them off if you had the chance. I personally did not feel that way in the cast of Fire Emblem Awakening. Chrom can be trusting and gentle in nature, Frederick is loyal right down to his family, Virion is hilarious in his conceited disposition, and Lissa has a very timid but welcoming charm to her. These characters feel like real people and not cardboard cut-outs like some JRPGs of the past. You can even find yourself clinging on for dear life to make sure none of these people die, not just because they are useful in battle but also because you can attach yourself to them.

Fire Emblem Awakening is by far the best looking 3DS game to date. The production value in the cinematics, character models,  and 3D effects really make this game feel alive. Although this isn’t a genre for everyone, this game in particular will certainly make you feel in control  and not over or underwhelmed. This isn’t anything new to veterans of the Fire Emblem series, however, it has never been so accessible or refined as this. Whether you enjoy this kind of game or not rest assured, Fire Emblem Awakening is most certainly a reason to buy a 3DS.

The Pros:

  • Satisfying and rewarding RPG gameplay
  • Insurmountable amount of customization  
  • Deep, enriching characters
  • Interesting plot twists in main story
  • Beautiful animations and cinematics
  • Great variety of difficulty and style of play

The Cons:

  • Street Pass can be ineffective
  • Local multiplayer falls short

Verdict: 9.5/10

Price Value: At the time of this review, Awakening costs a full $40 price for a 3DS game. However, at this time. there are complications with certain retailers in the US, most notably Amazon where copies are limited. If you can’t wait, the Nintendo eShop is your best bet at getting a digital copy of Fire Emblem Awakening.

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Fire Emblem: Awakening Trailer