Fire Emblem: Awakening – Sorta Review
One of my obsessions during my absence from the blog has been the new Fire Emblem: Awakening for the 3DS.
Getting a copy was not as easy as I had hoped. Norway was woefully under-supplied, apparently because no one had anticipated the demand, according to shop people. Still, I found one eventually. In a toy store of all things. This article will be light on pictures, because I am not professional (or unprofessional) enough to start photographing my 3DS. So I just nicked a few shots from Google Image Search. My apologies to those affected.
I started playing Fire Emblem back in the Gameboy Advance days. I honestly do not remember the titles these days, but I’ve played almost every release in the past 10 years. Apparently Awakening is the 13th Fire Emblem game, which leads me to think that several titles were not released outside of Japan. And a quick check on Wikipedia backs that up.
Fire Emblem has always been a curiously hardcore part of Nintendo’s stable, with a focus on story-telling and characters, and the relationships between them. And every game I’ve tried has featured perma-death, so that if you lost a character during a mission, they were gone for good, no matter how integral to the story they were. Which led to several rage-quits over the years.
So we have a turn-based strategy/tactics game that is both challenging and unforgiving, with lots of story and personal dialogues between characters. Doesn’t sound very typically Nintendo, does it? And yet, it exists.
The last one I played before this was Path of Radiance, so forgive me if any of the things I list as changes were also in Radiant Dawn. I should put Radiant Dawn on my list of things to get, actually.
Let us start with the beginning, then. This is the first Fire Emblem game where you can actually create your own character. You can even pick whether you’re a boy or a girl. Well, man or woman, I guess. If you wanna be technical about it. And even set your own name, and fight in the battles, and get support conversations and romances and such. I might have maybe married the prince of the land in one of my playthroughs. I just, I really wanna be a princess, you guys, you don’t even know.
Speaking of the support conversations; they are all absolutely adorable and worth pursuing as much as you can. And it showed me I really haven’t spent enough time in previous games working up support levels. I mean, I didn’t even know that S-level support meant they’d get married! And this is a minor spoiler, so just in case someone doesn’t want to know, you’ll have to highlight this next bit here to read it: They have children that can join your army due to time travel shenanigans! And it’s so cool! They even inherit skills from their parents! On a less cool note, there’s not enough characters to get everyone paired off. There was always someone I had to leave out.
It’s also a lot easier to build up support than I’ve experienced before. You can now pair up your characters: One as active, one as support. The active gets a boost to his/her stats based on who is their support, and the support can also actively help out in combat. It’s based on chance, but they can either trigger to attack right after you do to do a double strike, and/or they can trigger to intercept and block the enemy’s attack. The higher your support level is, the higher the chance that you can trigger one of these assists. And since these two are now working in concert, you will build up their support level every time they do something. The exception is for healers, who will only get support with whomever they heal, regardless of being paired up. Small hint: don’t pair up two healers, because splitting them up again will waste a turn you could be healing things.
To aid all that you also have a Support Menu for the conversations to happen out of combat, rather than having to get them talking right in the middle of combat like in the earlier games. And there’s an item you get access to early in the game called a Reeking Box that lets you summon an enemy group to any battleground you have previously cleared. These are great for farming experience and support. The only issue is that while on Normal these cost 500 gold, and you get a drop of at least one Bullion worth 1000 gold per match, so you can keep farming indefinitely. On Hard they suddenly cost 4800 gold. And I guess that makes a bit of sense, since it’s supposed to be harder and limiting your ability to farm is probably part of that. It did drive me off of playing on Hard though, because the idea of subsequent playthroughs was to farm support and try different romantic combinations.
Another addition to the difficulty selection is whether you want to play in Classic Permadeath style, or in Newbie Knockout style. I am not ashamed to admit I played in Newbie mode, because I wanted to save myself a lot of rage-quits and reloads. I’ve always been the kind to not accept losses in these games, so whenever someone got killed, I’d simply rage-quit and reload. This saves me a lot of time, and improves my enjoyment, so I will not apologise for it. Also, they still haven’t implemented a “Restart Battle” function.
Combat works much as it always have, really. There are improvements, and some weapons have changed, but you’re still playing a grid-based, turn-based, tactical strategy game. There are a lot of different classes, and even more advanced classes. Way too many to talk about, really. The weapons are easier to mention.
The three basic weapon types are swords, axes and lances. They work in a rock-paper-scissor kind of way. Swords get a boost against axes, axes against lances and lances against swords. There’s still the power of the weapon and the wielder to take into account, so a sword can still beat a lance, it’s just at a disadvantage. There are also bows that attack at range 2 (or sometimes 2-3), and do bonus damage against flying enemies. And there are magic tomes that can attack at both range 1 and 2. While some of the games have had a magic triangle as well, Awakening doesn’t care about that.
In addition to all those there are also healing staves, and special stones that activate transformations in certain special classes. There are also some joke weapons, like a tree branch for a sword, or a ladle for an axe. One of my knights ran around for a bit with a log instead of a lance, because he had high enough Strength to get away with it, and I couldn’t stop laughing every time he got into combat. Especially if he got a critical hit.
I know it might sound rather involved, but it’s honestly not that bad. You’re eased into things gradually, and before you know it you’ll be executing masterful strategies with an understanding of every unit you have and every unit you face. Two things that always help is that you can always preview the numbers before having two units engage, and you can always view the battlefield before you start and pick which units you want to field based on that.
I would say that even if you have never played a Fire Emblem game before, this is a great one to start with. The more flexible difficulty settings, the self-made protagonist, the great tutorial that I actually haven’t minded replaying and just the great amount of writing and effort that has gone into the title make it definitely worth looking at if you have a 3DS. It works for playing both in short bursts, and for long sessions. And you can take it anywhere you wish.
I have already put over 150 hours into the game, and I could probably go 150 more over the next few months. It’s just a lot of fun, with a good story, and adorable characters that have adorable conversations with eachother. If you end up buying a 3DS just for this game, I would not blame you. Just try to not pay too much attention to the tiny, tiny feet.