Fire Emblem Awakening: A Flawless Victory

Fire Emblem is a game series that has long enjoyed significant popularity in Japan, but has had a relatively small following in the west. I’ve found this disappointing, as the series is an extremely high-quality turn-based strategy RPG, and every localized installment I have bought has been a lot of fun to play. The newest entry in the series, Fire Emblem Awakening, does not disappoint at all, and may be the best Fire Emblem to hit the States yet.

The story of Awakening follows a lot of the standard tropes of the series; your player-created avatar, a character with no memory, is found by a heroic young lord named Chrom and his retainers. Demonstrating courage and loyalty in a skirmish with local brigands, you earn Chrom’s trust and soon become the tactician of his small but powerful peacekeeping force. Your appointment comes only days before Chrom and his companions are drawn into a much wider conflict; Plegia, a large nation to the south, is preparing for war, a conqueror across the sea has begun to turn his attention outwards, and the dead have begun to rise as the result of a sinister cult attempts to revive the evil dragon Grima. Most of this is ground that has been covered before, but Awakening executes the old elements with extreme competence to make them feel fresh, and manages to throw a few surprises your way even so. By including the player as a character in the events, the game manages to draw you into the story more deeply, particularly at several rather emotional moments where the game presents you with a choice on how to respond to several dire situations.

Graphics-wise, the series has never looked better on a handheld. The character models have found a pleasant middle ground between the sprites employed by the Game Boy Advance games and bland pseudo-3D models from the DS games to give us more detailed 3D models that retain the charm and personality of the individual sprites of yesteryear. The battle scenes flow excellently, and occasionally the story shifts into downright beautiful cutscenes with full voice-acting, a step for the series that had previously been restricted to main-line consoles like the Wii. This is further enhanced by the game having an excellent soundtrack to dramatically enhance a sense of foreboding, tragedy, or triumph.

Of course, all of these considerations are inconsequential if the fundamental question about the game cannot be answered; is it fun to play? To which I would reply, yes. Overwhelmingly so. Awakening may be the most fun I have ever had with a Fire Emblem game, and on top of that, it’s the most fun I’ve had with a game in a long while. The combat, despite being turn-based, is fast, satisfying, and rewardingly tactical as you get good at using your army as a team, and the new mechanics such as the ability to have two characters team up and act as one and the special abilities characters gain as they grow and change classes (another trait that had only been on main console games previously) work very well. It is easy to lose an hour or two to the game every time you power it up, although it helpfully reminds you to take a break the next time you save after it has been running for an hour or so.

The game has extremely variable difficulty to make it accessible to any level of player; neophytes to the series will find Casual Mode of great use, as it offers them a chance to ease into the game with the ability to save in the middle of a level before performing a dangerous action and a character’s health being reduced to zero merely ‘benches’ them until the next level. More experienced fans will likely prefer to play in Classic Mode, where you must suspend a game in progress if you want to pause it without finishing, fixing your mistakes will require you to start the level over, and a character losing all their health will die and be lost for the rest of the game. On top of this, there are three difficulty settings; Normal, which is decently challenging at first but has difficulty keeping up later in the game as you and your companions become skilled, Hard, which limits the size of your army more and strengthens your enemies so you need to use your head and become skilled at teamwork to overcome the enemy, and Lunatic, the go-to difficulty for hardcore fans where it requires a mixture of trial and error, strategy, and sheer dumb luck just to survive.

On the whole, if you own a Nintendo 3DS and enjoy RPGs, I cannot recommend Fire Emblem Awakening enough. The gameplay is tremendously fun, the characterization is brilliant, the story, visuals, and music are all extremely competent, and the difficulty can make it rewardingly challenging for newcomers and old veterans alike. I give the game a 10/10.

One Response to “Fire Emblem Awakening: A Flawless Victory”

  1. Eve Topalian says:

    Excellent review but you need to edit punctuation. Comas and apostrophes come up as question marks.

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