ArbitraryWater's preemptive Game of the Year 2013*

Me? Writing about a Fire Emblem game? Crazy, I know.

Oh, I’m sorry. Were you surprised? No. Of course you weren’t. As the second most obsessive Fire Emblem fan on these forums, you knew that this would come up sooner or later. And, after only a mere 25 or so hours I can tell you with absolute certainty that… Fire Emblem Awakening is a Fire Emblem game and is definitively a better time sink than Dead Space 3. Oh, other games? What other games? Studying for midterms isn’t games, silly. Ok. A bit of Endless Space, but I haven’t played enough other than to tell you that it seems really cool and I will possibly be writing about it in the future. Much like how I’ll be writing about Far Cry 3/World of Xeen in the future. Yeahhhhh…. Really. Maybe I’ll do something with those 50 Genesis Games I bought off amazon downloads for $7.50 while I’m at it, unaware that they didn’t come with steam keys. (I also bought Binary Domain. You should really check out their sale).

Sadly, no special-edition 3DS for me, for as much as it breaks my heart. On the other hand, I saved like $25 getting one used off ebay, and it came with a bitchin Super Mario case, so I can't complain too much.

Anywhoo, if you didn’t already know, Fire Emblem is probably one of my single favorite series of video games, sitting alongside Might and Magic, Resident Evil, and “Anything that was made using the Infinity Engine” in franchises with an inordinate number of installments, most of which I have probably played. Admittedly, I haven’t played every Fire Emblem game to completion, four of the 13 still elude my grasp (five if you count Tear Ring Saga, which is Fire Emblem in all but name and also it’s on drugs). I’ve written about them a few times on this website, both as new, japan type, experiences as well as ranting about how Sacred Stones is too easy or how Radiant Dawn’s erratic difficulty curve and constantly shifting roster of units really bums be out. There’s something to be said for its particular brand of Turn Based Strategy, with a mechanical lightness that belies how devious things can get. I’d compare it to the most recent XCOM in that regard, except I’ve kind of soured on XCOM as of late and am secretly in my heart of hearts considering a retroactive demotion to second place with Dishonored as my GOTY of 2012. Ironman Classic isn’t fun, and some of the mechanical inadequacies of that game have reared their ugly heads a bit too often in my case. Oh well. What was I talking about? Oh right. Fire Emblem is cool, you should play it if you are into self-loathing or perhaps a deeply tactical experience that doesn’t involve endless grinding for JP just so you can be strong enough to fight Wiegraf.

“But what of this specific Fire Emblem”, you ask? Well, I’m glad you clicked on this blog, because that is what it happens to be about. Awakening can be best described as a grab bag of all of the best features of Fire Emblems past, which sadly does not include the ability to capture enemies and steal their items. No, what it does have is a world map (Fire Emblem Gaiden/The Sacred Stones), Alternate Promotions (Sacred Stones), Hella character skills (SNES and Gamecube/Wii titles), Reclassing (Shadow Dragon), a Player-created unit (Shin Monshou no Nazo), and Waifu obtaining (Geneology of the Holy War, though instead of a second generation the game uses time travel to explain why everyone’s overpowered kids are fighting alongside their parents. Also there is no incest, sadly). Also there is DLC, which I will get to in a moment. All of this together makes for perhaps the most mechanically interesting Fire Emblem and a nice return to form after the rather… underwhelming DS installments. It also clearly has the largest budget of them all, with voice acting, 3D graphics that don’t look terrible and those crazy prerendered cutscenes that are also quite good-looking. The soundtrack is also pretty awesome, if you’re willing to youtube it.

Meet the avatar of death himself/herself.

With all that said, I’ll just say flat-out that the gameplay is fantastic, but of course you already knew that because it was a Fire Emblem game and I’m the one writing this blog. You can’t fall into the trap of raising a crummy unit because everyone in your army is useable and effective, if not an absurdly powerful whirlwind of death and destruction the way your created tactician character is. While the ability to use both tomes and swords is good enough, the real power of your tactician comes in the form of the veteran skill, which they start with and boosts their experience gain by 1.5x as long as they’re paired up, a new mechanic that replaces rescuing and involves having two of your units fighting together, one giving stat bonuses to the other with chances of an extra attack of a full damage block (which is increased by the units’ support with each other, which is where the Waifu element comes into play). Since there is usually little reason not to have your units paired up, this led to my tactician easily becoming overleveled even without grinding, which this game has. That’s not to say that Hard difficulty isn’t respectably difficult, it certainly was until I gave into the temptation of easy, unlimited grinding, further emphasized by the DLC.

Know what Fire Emblem really needed? A bride class that only Women can use (yes, it's DLC only and has yet to come out in North America. Male characters get the Demon Fighter class instead)

Oh man. The DLC. While I can attest that fighting and obtaining old Fire Emblem characters is cool, especially with all of the overpowered bonus characters you get as a result, one of the DLC maps I purchased also allowed for painless, quick grinding of the likes that could only be found in a Disgaea game, and there’s a different one that is part of that same pack that allows for quick, painless gold grinding. Needless to say, if you give me a way to ruin the game for myself, I’ll probably do it. If you are in your right mind and want to be around $2 richer, for the love of all that is strategic and such, don’t download that map. I can see it being useful for some of the absurdly difficult postgame content (which, again, is all DLC and none of which is currently out in the United States), but it kinda burned out a lot of the difficulty. That’s not to say that I didn’t have units die and was forced to restart (in this game, bows are actually hazardous to flying units), but generally most of my units could one-shot just about everything by the end. I’m tempted to start a playthrough on Lunatic and try not to grind, because everything I’ve heard and seen about that difficulty suggests I will hate myself for doing it, and as we all know, Self-loathing builds character. That’s why I’m a productive member of society here, sitting up at 1AM writing a blog about crazy strategy games.

Henry likes murder and bad puns. Also puppies.

Certain classes are better than others as well, though that’s to be expected. Pegasus Knights and Dark Mages are hilariously broken, thanks to the Dark Flier’s ability to move again after killing an enemy and the Dark Mages in this game actually being super dangerous tanky mages (with buyable Nosferatu, no less) instead of the useful but also somewhat crummy novelty characters they were in previous installments. Below that, your main unit’s tactician class is unsurprisingly deadly in its versatility and unique skills, and of course the main lord Chrom is good at killing everything as long as he isn’t targeted by like 4 mages in a row. My personal favorites though, are probably the hilarious War Cleric (using axes as well as staves, made even more hilarious if you make Lissa one instead of a Sage like you’re clearly meant to) and the assassin (having an instakill skill with a pitiful activation rate but otherwise being the glass cannons I want out of such a class). I would’ve made an army of War Clerics if I could, but not enough of the units I used had it as a class, so I was forced to settle for having no less than 3 assassins by the end and another unit with the insta-kill skill inherited. Also the weapon triangle still ostensibly exists, so I guess variety is… good? Bah. If I wanted weapon triangle control, I would’ve made a bunch of great knights. Also, you should use Henry, if only because he’s a dark mage (and thus crazy powerful) as well as being the most delightfully sociopathic character I have encountered in a while.

Don't do it. I know you want those forged Brave Axes as much as the next man, but you're a better person for saying no.

Oh right. The characters. I feel like the plot needs to be mentioned as mostly being a way to justify the presence of children characters, and the entire middle of the plot feels like it’s barely connected to how the ending shakes out, and it’s pretty easy to tell who is the bad guy and who isn’t. I wouldn’t call it bad, most Fire Emblem games aren’t especially masterful with their storytelling, unless you really identified with the overt “YO GUYS, RACISM IS HELLA BAD” subtext of Path of Radiance. Instead, it’s probably the characters that are worth mentioning. Since supporting is a pretty important mechanic in this game, and since almost every female character can support (and thus marry) almost every male character, there’s A LOT to be found in that support archive once you’ve finished the game, and I give mad props to 8-4 for the localization, which is top-notch and successful at making characters that otherwise fit pretty squarely into certain anime archetypes interesting and occasionally hilarious. Just… just watch this. Not a support (though those are probably all up on the youtubes), but easily an example of why having professionals at work can be a definite boon on the script. (Minor Spoilers, I guess)

Pega-Pony-Princess indeed.

With all of this said, I’m pretty sure this still isn’t my favorite Fire Emblem game. Most of the later maps don’t have any victory conditions other than Kill Everyone/Kill the Boss, and with the last game I played being Thracia 776, with its definitive trait probably being its utterly devious and clever level design, this one didn’t quite do it for me in the same way. But seriously. If you have a 3DS, you should probably purchase this game for a sum of money, though if you want a physical copy they’re apparently a total bitch to find. I only had to go to two gamestops to get mine, but I’d give caution to those seeking for such. Fire Emblem is still Fire Emblem guys, and I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Dinosarus?

*It's not impossible, but for all I know Bioshock Infinite will really blow my socks off.

Posted by LiquidPrince

I'm so unbelievably annoyed at the fact that no where has this in stock. even says that they don't even know if they will ever have it back in stock... How crazy is that. I refuse to buy it digitally.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@liquidprince:I've heard similar stories elsewhere, and it's all seems like it's a nightmare to find. Hopefully Nintendo will send another shipment because people should play this game. Also, it's nice to see that your banning mishap has turned out ok.

Posted by EarthBowl

A Fantastic game that is the best of the entire franchise. Hearing so many great things from the community about this game is amazing to see. I'm happy you enjoyed it and that it shows through your write up, a fine read.

Posted by Animasta

um, excuse me, but my preemptive game of the year is much better than yours.

I know this because I haven't played it

Posted by SuperWristBands

I too feel like this will be one of the best games I play all year and honestly that is quite surprising to me.

I've never played a FE game before this one and I'm not so good at strategy games so the normal difficulty being so gosh dang easy was a real boon to me. It let me focus on the part I liked the best: marrying people and viewing the support conversations.

Now I'm playing through it a second time on hard/classic and am fully appreciating the difficulty (I tried Lunatic but couldn't get past the second turn of the first fight), chapter 5 took about 2 hours and a whole lot of retries but I made it through with no casualties... then I went and played the free DLC map, like, 10 times... >_> so I guess I won't be appreciating the difficulty anymore for a while :p

I knew that this was supposed to be a "greatest hits" version of FE (cause the top of this page keeps telling me that) but I didn't realize how much of it wasn't in all of the earlier games. I kind of figured that the support stuff would have been in all of them, though that is probably cause I liked it so much, that is Fire Emblem to me now...

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@earthbowl: Considering how... divisive the Fire Emblem fan community can be at times, it's honestly pretty surprising that this game is as positively recieved by them as it is, though there's still the odd fellow here and there complaining about how it's all Anime Dating-Sim nonsense now.

@animasta:And what game would that be? I'm pretty sure Crusader Kings 3 has yet to be announced.

@superwristbands:Support conversations technically are an extension of the love conversations in Seisen no Keifu, but have been in Fire Emblem proper since the 6th installment. They've been in all of the games to come out in the west sans Radiant Dawn and Shadow Dragon, but this game is just notable by how much they're emphasized whereas you could probably get through the GBA games without ever realizing you could make units talk to each other if you set them together for long enough.

Posted by C2C

@arbitrarywater: Well, you've convinced me not to buy the Golden pack. Though have you played or heard anything from the Lost Bloodlines pack? Was thinking about getting that since I did enjoy the the Champions Pack.

Edited by ArbitraryWater

@c2c: Lost Bloodlines 1 is a pretty good map, yeah, though what really excites me is the second map, which gives you the Demon Fighter class (can use swords, axes and tomes. Initial skill gives 10 resistance). I have no problem with that stuff because it isn't a bunch of paid cheats like the Golden Pack sort of is.

Edited by SuperWristBands

@arbitrarywater: Interesting. I may looked into the two GBA and the GC game at some point then, though I suspect they are going to be really hard to find, huh? How difficult are these games? I quite appreciated how easy Awakening was and would probably prefer that again.

Edit: fuck me, the GC game is $120 on amazon

Posted by Dolphin_Butter

I finished a Lunatic/Classic playthrough yesterday, and I was able to beat all of the later missions with only two pairings. Yes, I used the Golden Gaffe and EXPonential Growth maps to boost the grinding process, but the first three or four missions (in which you don't have pre-mission control over inventory, placement and no access to the DLC) were some of the hardest things to do if you're aim is to make it through without anyone dying; it was satisfying to find the perfect strategy, but I can't imagine doing Lunatic difficulty without any sort of DLC.

Then I started Lunatic+/Classic, and a part of me thinks it's impossible to get to the DLC gate without anyone dying. I'm on the first chapter (where Sully and Virion get introduced) and I can't get by at all. Enemy skills are randomized, but normal enemies on Lunatic+ have the possibility of attacking first even when attacked and/or having all of their attacks be guaranteed hits. I think two playthroughs on Classic might be my limit. As much I love this game (my game of the year for 2013 so far), Lunatic+ is truly insane.

Posted by EarthBowl

@arbitrarywater: That may be the case, but that can be said about any game, within any franchise. In regards to this game and the franchise as a whole, there is no better that has as good of a story, as deep of gameplay mechanics and as accessible to newcomers as Awakening.

@SuperWristBands: The first GBA game is a classic in my books and a must buy for anyone interested in the franchise, you can skip Sacred Stones IMO. The GC and Wii games are interesting in their own right, but only from a presentation aspect. The greatest aspects of the franchise for me was being able to play it anywhere with a handheld and introducing the franchise to friends.

Posted by coakroach

Everyone shut up about how great this game is until April when it comes out in Australia.

Please... you're killing me.

Edited by Hailinel

Don't diss the bride class. You might laugh, but you're only quickening your inevitable demise at the hands of a spear-wielding woman in a wedding dress.

Posted by Hailinel

Also, the Gold and EXP maps are only good for those that have already spent a lot of time with the game. Walking into the gold-grinding map with a party of sub-level 10s is asking to get slaughtered.

Posted by Yummylee

Dinosaurs! Damnit, I still haven't played through Dino Crisis again yet like I told myself I would... Oh, and Fire Emblem, eh. Given my increased exposure to strategy games thanks to Valkyria Chronicles and XCOM, I would definitely be up for trying out the Fire Emblem series. No 3DS, though, so the latest is out of the question. In fact I think the latest FB game that would be accessible for me is one that I think was released on the Gamecube.

Posted by Hailinel

@yummylee said:

Dinosaurs! Damnit, I still haven't played through Dino Crisis again yet like I told myself I would... Oh, and Fire Emblem, eh. Given my increased exposure to strategy games thanks to Valkyria Chronicles and XCOM, I would definitely be up for trying out the Fire Emblem series. No 3DS, though, so the latest is out of the question. In fact I think the latest FB game that would be accessible for me is one that I think was released on the Gamecube.

Path of Radiance (the GameCube game) would honestly be a great place to start, if Awakening is out of the question.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@superwristbands: Yeah, I imagine the prices of the older games in the series have inflated since the release of this one. You might have to wait for a while, though I assure you that (most of them) are worth a look-see. I'd personally suggest for the first one to be released in the west (simply titled "Fire Emblem" here) as well as Path of Radiance, the gamecube one.

@earthbowl:I dunno. I think the Fire Emblem community is pretty unanimous on this one, which is weird since they are so divisive in regards to other installments of the series (also,. Also, I wouldn't necessarily say this game has the best story in the franchise, (that award would probably go to Seisen no Keifu for being a multi-generational incestuous epic)

@coakroach:Oh you poor thing. Play any of the Japanese games to tide yourself over until it comes to your part of the world.

@hailinel:I'm sure the bride class is absurdly powerful the way the Demon Fighter appears to be, I just find the idea of the class itself to be sort of... unfortunate? Guys get absurd resistance bonuses and extra attack, and ladies get to wear a dress and support everyone else. Yeah, infinite gold isn't very productive until you level everyone up, but what you can get at the start is more than enough to start forging yourself some custom iron swords of death.

@yummylee:I should probably get back to Dinosaur Crisis one day. That is all.

Posted by Hailinel

@arbitrarywater: Not really. Brides are a versatile class and can use lances, bows or staffs, so in addition to functioning as a support class, bride characters also have the potential to hold their own in a fight. And really, I find the idea of a battlefield bride a lot more creatively entertaining than what the male characters got stuck with.

Posted by Phatmac

I've played this game for 50 hours so I can agree with what you're saying. It has consumed my life and I love that.

Posted by StealthRaptor

Wiegraf is such a punk. Thanks for steering me away from the DLC.

Posted by Hailinel

Wiegraf is such a punk. Thanks for steering me away from the DLC.

No, the DLC is actually pretty awesome. And you'll be missing out on some fun bonuses that way.

Posted by FancySoapsMan

I love that there is so much amazing content in this game, and I haven't even touched the DLC yet.

I don't know if it will end up being my GOTY, but it's certainly a good bet.

Posted by SuperWristBands

How does the Bride/Demon Fighter DLC work? Does it give you a character that is that class or does it unlock the class for every character?

Posted by Hailinel

My favorite thing about the DLC:

Everything old is new again.

All of these old characters finally getting an official western release.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@superwristbands: I believe you get one item per completion of the DLC? I'd imagine it's the same as the All Stats +2 manual in Champions of Yore 3.

@hailinel:I think the best part are the aneurisms coming out of the Fire Emblem community in regards to certain name localizations. (i.e. Sety --> Ced)

Posted by SuperWristBands

@superwristbands: I believe you get one item per completion of the DLC? I'd imagine it's the same as the All Stats +2 manual in Champions of Yore 3.

Ah, okay. So it's an item that lets a character reclass as that class? I've only played the free DLC map and that just keeps trying to give me Marth. (So I didn't know other maps gave items)

Edited by Colourful_Hippie

As a long time fan of Dead Space and a first time Fire Emblem player, Dead Space 3 drained my soul and made completing it a chore while Awakening stole hours of my day in the best way possible. Goddamn that game is just fun and tense...and then there's Donny.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Looking forward to picking this one up. Nice write-up, Arbitrary.

Edited by Hailinel

@superwristbands: I believe you get one item per completion of the DLC? I'd imagine it's the same as the All Stats +2 manual in Champions of Yore 3.

@hailinel:I think the best part are the aneurisms coming out of the Fire Emblem community in regards to certain name localizations. (i.e. Sety --> Ced)

Yeah, I have to imagine that a number of fans are screaming bloody murder at this.