By Phatmac 19 Comments
I've never played a Fire Emblem game before playing Fire Emblem: Awakening(which we will now refer to as FEA for this review). So keep this in mind while I talk about my love for this game. That said, I do have some experience in the SRPG genre with games like Final Fantasy: Tactics and Tactics Ogre. Ultimately, FEA is a game for newcomers that haven't had a chance to play this franchise. It doesn't require prior story knowledge in order to fully appreciate. The game has a helpful tutorial that fills you in on most of the details that you have to know in order to succeed. The game doesn't hold your hand to much so veteran players can easily avoid it. It's a game that gracefully introduces players into it's world by having impressive production values. I haven't played a handheld game that has felt this content rich in a long time. I loved my time with FEA as it delivered nearly everything that it has to offer brilliantly. This game dominated most of my life for several weeks. I couldn't get a good night sleep as I kept playing for hours and hours. This is all due to a number of reasons that I'll address.
The story isn't that important in FEA. It's a serviceable way in order to give you a reason to keep playing. That's not to say that the story is bad or anything. It's a tale of kingdoms at war and trying to make peace with one another. It's a also a bizarre story of time travel and trying to save the future from a grim end. The story that you should care about is the interactions between characters. It's easy to scrutinize the story if you view it overall. The time travel is never fully explained in the game and it seems to be an easy way to achieve the concept of your children joining your party. The dialogue between characters is well done and quite often hilarious. Kudos to the localization team at 8-4 for doing an exceptional job of making these characters come to life.
Character interactions are also key to this game beyond story cut scenes. A new system is introduced in FEA which is called the support system. You can pair up characters in order to deal more damage and get better stat bonuses. Doing this will also increase their social rank with you. Every support relationship starts off with C and can eventually lead to getting an S with a character that is the opposite sex from one another. Once you S rank with a character you'll automatically marry them which then creates a child for both of these characters. This child will have stat bonuses depending on the stats of their respective parents plus the skills that they acquired. They also get separate exclusive support interactions with one another. Pairing characters up and marrying them is key to fully enjoying this game. It truly expands the story of your characters and hopefully gives you a strong new party member.
The gameplay is your typical SRPG with grids and percentages. There aren't any key additions to combat that are unique to the game. What it does add instead is a high level of polish that is rarely seen in these types of games. From the character portraits to the music it's all done in a way that impressed me. The combat itself is also different as it shows 3D polygonal combat whenever you attack an enemy. The game still has 2D sprites while on the map but once you enter combat you're treated to great looking action scenes each time. This added flare amplifies combat and improves the game overall. Other than that combat is mostly intact from previous Fire Emblem games.
In combat you have to worry about your weaknesses when facing certain enemies. For example, your winged rider should always avoid an archer or else they'll probably die. Once you die you're dead for good. This is the other aspect that makes combat thrilling. Most characters can die and not end the game so characters like Lissa can die and never factor into the story again. The tragic thing is that most people will probably at least one character in the game. This is the reality that you have to face when playing FEA. It's especially heart breaking if one of the characters that you've been relying on dies early on in the game. You still get a healthy batch of characters early on in the game so even if you lose a few you'll probably be fine. I lost several characters in my 30 hours of playing the game. I also went back and saved a couple that I simply couldn't let die. Gameplay in FEA is tense and exciting which is rare for the genre.
Fire Emblem: Awakening is an incredible game that devoured my life for weeks. I throughly loved my time playing FEA as it truly impressed me with its production values. The art style has its own style that isn't your typical anime art style. The cut scenes are especially great looking and look even better with the 3D on. It all looks and sounds great in most aspects. The game also introduces new players well enough without being too long. As someone with no experience with the franchise the tutorial was a good way to help me. I could also develop my own play style and do most of what the game has to offer with ease. FEA doesn't revolutionize the genre but it accomplishes nearly everything with incredibly amounts of polish and brilliance that I love. It's a great reason to own a 3DS so I highly recommend that everyone checks it out. I'm hopefully for the future of the franchise as a new fan to the franchise. It'll be tough to see where this franchise goes from here but I'm sure that I'll continue to enjoy it for years to come.
Be sure to watch the video below as I talk about Fire Emblem: Awakening.