Fire Emblem: Awakening for the 3DS. Holy SHIT this game is good. It’s good enough to make me start this review off with a vague and generic adjective. Now, I’ve only played one other Fire Emblem game, so you veterans out there may already be scoffing at me and wondering what I could possibly tell you that you don’t already know. Well buddy-pal, I can tell you a lot. I’ve dumped 100+ hours into this game so far, and I’m not nearly finished with it.
The major difference between Awakening and the older titles is that the difficulty is much more flexible, allowing newcomers to the series a chance to ease their way in without being brutalized and given a negative impression. Features from other games are pulled in and smoothly incorporated, like the Avatar character, the relationship system, and various items and other mechanics. Since this is a general review, I’ll pretend all of you don’t know a thing about Fire Emblem, and want to find out what all the hype is about.
Difficulty is a major factor in Fire Emblem: Awakening, because enjoyment comes from immersion, challenge, and a sense of progression. Players are given the choice between Casual and Classic modes: In Casual, permanent death is disabled, which takes the edge off of having a unit fall in battle. Instead, they retreat, are removed from the field of battle, but remain available for future missions. Classic is for true-blue Fire Emblem fanatics who want their strategy to mean something. When a unit dies, it’s gone. Forever. Every subtlety in your battle plan matters if you don’t want to lose anyone.
Of course, then there are the standard difficulty choices, ranging from Easy to Lunatic, but you don’t need me to tell you about that.
Gamplay mechanics are something to mention, right? It’s fairly basic turn based strategy. You have a map divided into squares capable of being occupied by units (or not, depending on the terrain type). Your units have different classes, which can make them melee, ranged, or both. When attacking, your character will inflict their damage, and then be counter-attacked if the enemy is properly equipped to do so. For example, bowmen can’t attack melee, swordsmen can’t attack ranged. There are many weapons that defy those rules, but I won’t get into great detail on that. If Chrom, one of the main characters, or your Avatar falls, game over. The victory conditions can be to rout the enemy or defeat the commander, so plan accordingly. That’s all you need to know. Much more fun than it sounds, believe me.
The class system is simplified into two tiers: Basic classes, and Advanced classes. Basics receive higher experience but have lower stat caps. Advanced classes are the opposite. Basic classes receive abilities at level 1 and 10, while Advanced classes get them at 5 and 15. Use Second Seals to change classes while above level ten, and use Master Seals to upgrade to an Advanced Class. Each basic has two upgrades. Got it? Good.
Characterization plays a tremendous role in Fire Emblem: Awakening, due in part to the major focus on the relationship system. Marrying your characters is very important, for a reason that I can’t get into but is directly relevant to the greater plot. I’ll just say that you can either hook people up based on combat ability or personality compatibility… Depends on which way you swing.
Speaking of swing, all romantic relationships are heterosexual. It’s slightly irksome, but the necessity of blood-offspring justifies the lack of fabulous. Mostly. You’ll still have an aww moment when your Avatar achieves S rank support with the character of your choice.
Away from the relationship system, the characters are portrayed in ways that force you to involve yourself emotionally. When you fight a villain, you’ll want to strike them down because they’re complete jerks, man. You’ll feel happy when you lay the beat down on one of the several major evil figures. No lie. Plot done right.
Two more things, then I’ll wrap this up. The first: Risen. Described as an “eldritch horde of monsters,” these zombie looking freaks pop up all over the world map as a quasi-reliable source of Bullion and items. Bullion is a bulk item used for selling only, by the by. Eventually, you’ll be able to purchase Reeking Boxes for 500 gold (4,800 on Lunatic difficulty) and apply them to any location on your map so you can get some quick cash and loot. Since the cheapest Bullion sells for 1,000 and each Risen horde will drop one at the very least, Risen are a great way to grind mid- or post-game. Difficulty depends on location, so keep that in mind when using those Reeking Boxes.
Secondly, wireless content. If you have wifi, use it in Fire Emblem: Awakening as quickly as possible. You’ll gain access to loads of legendary items and characters from past games for free. This ain’t no paid DLC, this is gratis encouragement to activate the online features. Plus you gain access to the Renown Rewards, which gives you goodies for winning skirmishes. You can even put together a Spot-Pass team that you can send out to murder other players. It’s not PvP, though. Your team will be controlled by A.I. But still, nifty.
There’s still plenty left to cover regarding Fire Emblem: Awakening, but it’ll have to wait. You’ll see a second article up soon.