The Nintendo 3DS has had some great games in the past few months with one of the most notable being Fire Emblem Awakening. Having a love-affair with strategy games and being a Fire Emblem virgin, I was anxious to delve into the game and see what all the fuss was about.
The story of Fire Emblem is a bit of a mixed bag. It starts off in an interesting, if cliched fashion: your custom avatar wakes up in a field with amnesia. Now, I know what you’re thinking but stick with me, the story gets better. Having been found by Chrom, the prince of the kingdom of Ylissia, and his companions, you help them in defending the countryside from marauders, eventually joining them in the greater struggles that await. These struggles range from demonic Risen to all manner of political intrigue and attemped coups. Chrom’s sister rules the kingdom and he enforces her rule, but there are neighboring nations that have nefarious plans of their own, all of which give you a reason to do what you do best: fight some battles and kick some ass. The story encompasses everything from bandits to time travel to world-ending dragons, so there should be something in here that appeals to everyone.
The story kind of lost me after a while. I started to lose track of who was who and what country we were invading/defending, but that didn’t impede my enjoyment of the game at all. Indeed, after going off the rails, the story manages to course-correct in the final 4 or so missions, resulting in an emotional climax that I wasn’t really expecting. The reason for the emotion has to do with the characters, though. Each character is unique, humorous and memorable, with dialogue that fits for each one. Frederick is the serious, stern elder knight who refuses to loosen up. Kellam is the tank who is so dull that no one ever notices him. Tharja is a Dark Mage that falls in love with the avatar and exhibits some dark thoughts. The dialogue between them is often humorous and clever. Even if you don’t care for the overall narrative, you will come to love the characters in your squad.
Fire Emblem Awakening is a strategy game, which means you move your army piece by piece around on the map and then the enemy does the same thing. The most infamous feature in the series is perma-death, which is on par with XCOM when it comes to brutality. If a character falls in battle, they are gone. No Phoenix Downs, no resurrection spells, nothing. When they die, a part of you dies. Or reaches for the reset button. It’s been known to happen, but whenever it does, you always know it was your own mistake that led your beloved soldier to his or her death. The game is tough, but fair. It actually pays to play defensively and let the enemy armies throw themselves at your front lines rather than risk a soldier becoming isolated far away from any support.
And support plays a huge role in your tactics. If you have two units standing next to each other, they will assist when attacking or defending. The assist ranges from increasing your stats or even blocking damage and attacking themselves. The more you use the same units together the more powerful this support becomes. You can even Pair Up units, which merges them into one, bolstering the lead unit’s stats and shielding the other from any damage. The only downside is the rear unit gains no experience points, but you can separate them whenever you like. In addition, if two units of opposite gender reach the highest compatability level, they might fall in love, get married and eventually have children, who then grow up and become new units for your army! It’s a nice touch of gameplay and story meeting in a logical way.
As your units gain levels, they learn new skills which aid them in battle. You can also use special items to change classes once you hit a certain level and even promote to a stronger version of your base classes. For example, an Archer becomes a Sniper, with new skills to learn and better stats. You can do this over and over, so even if the level caps off at 20, you revert to level 1 when you change classes. In this way, you can max out your skills and stats to an insane degree, but this is only needed in order to conquer some of the uber-hard post-game content.
I really have nothing bad to say about Fire Emblem Awakening. It’s super fun with a lengthy campaign that doesn’t overstay its welcome (about 30 hours with a few sidequests and grinding thrown in) and tons of post-game content, including plenty of free DLC. There is enough to do here that you can probably clock over 100 hours if you want to 100% the entire game. It takes a little while to get used to the intracacies of the game’s systems, but once you do, it is smooth sailing from there. I had to grind a bit to make sure my party was strong enough to beat the game, but it wasn’t excessive by any means. Besides, the battles are fun enough that I enjoyed it.
If you’ve never played Fire Emblem Awakening and you have a 3DS, this is a great place to start. If you are a fan of the series or just tactical RPGs in general, buy this game. I plan on holding on to my copy for a long time because I enjoyed it so much and I want to take a shot at all the post-game content. Having completed the campaign, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of all the treasures Fire Emblem Awakening has to offer.
Fire Emblem Awakening is a must-buy if you have a 3DS and if you don’t, it might be enough of a reason to buy one.
How does our grading system work? Check out our grade chart!