Fire Emblem Awakening Review
Fire Emblem Awakening REVIEW
It has been a long, winding road for the Fire Emblem series. Renowned for its difficulty, FE is a strategy-RPG that started way back in 1990. Over the years, FE has been released on several consoles and received various levels of acclaim. Most of the old versions are available on virtual consoles, but now is the perfect time for anyone and everyone to start playing this marvelous series.
This brings us to Fire Emblem Awakening, the first installment in quite some time for a handheld console. Awakening is going to be the new gold standard that strategy-RPGs will aspire too. It’s a game that improves areas that needed fixing, keeps the difficulty the fans love, all while making things accessible for a broader range of gamers.
Up until recently, strategy games were basically a niche genre. Some people just find them too slow or too difficult. Let’s face it- not everyone wants to plan five-ten moves ahead. In this way, FE is comparable to chess; it requires patience and thought, because make a wrong move and it could be hazardous. This is where Awakening makes its largest stride forward in offering both a casual and a classic mode, with four difficulties: Normal, Hard, Lunatic and Lunatic+.
This is a pretty big deal because before Awakening, the series was pretty damn hard. For the enthusiasts, Classic Mode is going to be the obvious bet. This mode has permanent death and gives each of the stages a lot more risk. Trying to navigate through a stage without losing a single ally gives the game that extra sense of achievement the core fans love, and the constant threat of death lingering over each move gives the game an unbeatable thrill.
If you are new to the series, or more interested in just exploring the game, casual mode is the way to start. The game is still pretty difficult even on the easiest settings, but being able to turn off the perma-death is a huge step in getting new players to pick up the series. Casual mode is also the best way to go about seeing everything that the story has to offer. If a character dies in classic mode, their story arc will die as well. If you want to make sure you see everything the characters have to offer, start with the casual mode.
Fire Emblem Gameplay
This brings me into the core gameplay, which is the same for both classic/casual modes, minus the death vs perma-death aspect. Those familiar to the strategy-RPG genre will feel pretty comfortable with Awakening. Standard grids show movement spaces, menus are well placed and easy to navigate through. Some games can get a little clunky when handling this many characters, items, and customizable options. A good menu system is key and I have few complaints about Awakening in this aspect.
The game has very tight controls. Moving your team around the board, attacking, teaming up is all simple to do. I liked playing in classic mode a lot more because it does give that extra sense of strategy and risk that the casual mode just doesn’t have.
Characters in this game also really shine despite the somewhat cliché story of good vs evil and having to save the world with a deep relationship system that effects things as small as whether an adjacent ally will block for you in battle to or as big as characters getting married and having children. There is a nice amount of new characters along with some familiar faces that fans of the series will recognize. A few of these classic characters are also recruitable, which is a nice touch. The best thing about having such an expansive cast is that there is a large variety of personalities, which makes it easy for people to start recognizing their favorite companions and I’ll admit that it was much easier for me to save characters I like over characters who acted like douche bags.
The fluid battle system offers a wide range of options both old and new. Being able to pair up two characters into one stronger unit is a fun system to toy with. Certain characters really work well as a team and it becomes key in certain stages of the game, which is also one of the best ways to build up character relationships. The whole system overall is the best in its genre, but still very familiar to fellow strategy-RPGers.
The game’s battle system is so refined and well balanced that few games up to this point even compare. The game brought back memories of last year’s brilliant XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a game that did a lot of cool things with the strategy genre. I truly hope games like XCOM and Awakening get a wider audience interested in the strategy RPG genre.
The only reason I was disappointed with Fire Emblem’s system was that it felt a bit too safe – nearly perfect. I was hoping for a bit more risks in the overall battle system. I don’t exactly know what those would be, I don’t claim to be an innovator. I just hope that the core of the strategy RPG can evolve much like other games have been doing in recent times.
Don’t let this quip sway you, however. It wasn’t Awakening’s focus to shatter strategy RPG conventions. They wanted to make the most accessible and polished entry in the series to bring in both old and new fans, and trust me when I say they succeeded. This is a must-own for the 3DS.
Don’t be afraid to try something different. If you own a 3DS, pick this game up!
Final Score – 4.5 Stars