The Fire Emblem series has a long history dating back to the times of the NES, when it was just finding its way into the strategy RPG genre. It grew a steady following and later found its way on the Game Boy Advance in North America. The game has since appeared in a number of other systems including, most recently, the 3DS. Fire Emblem: Awakening is hands down one of the best Fire Emblem games yet. The game pushes the limits of what the 3DS can do, with impeccable graphics, solid music, and – as always – excellent gameplay.
For those unfamiliar with the Fire Emblem series, the gameplay resembles that of Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, in which the player’s units fight it out with the opposing team in a turn-based match.
Awakening takes a step up from previous Fire Emblem games in that it is incredibly customizable. While the most obvious ability to customize lies in the creation of your own playable character, the game also allows you to switch between Japanese and English voices, select the amount of information to display during battles, switch between various classes, decide who to marry, and choose the difficulty of the game. The customization becomes a huge part of the game. Instead of trying to create a standard game that hits a wide audience, Nintendo created a game that hits a wide audience by allowing the game to be adjusted to the liking of a huge majority of players.
The learning curve for Awakening is surprisingly gentle. While the tutorial can be turned off upon starting the game, the information it gives is extremely clear cut, simple, and to the point. The game gradually parcels out information on gameplay and story. Even for beginners, the game does an excellent job at not overwhelming players.
The gameplay is as sound as ever. No map seems recycled, and many of them have such incredibly different terrains that certain units will fare significantly better on them than others. Awakening emphasizes the position of units in battle, as placing certain units closer to one another will result in stat increases.
While the dialogue and cutscenes can be lengthy, there is good reason for this. All the dialogue either moves the story along or creates more depth to the characters. Everyone in the game is thoroughly fleshed out, with their own quirks and habits, and some with their own particular way of speaking. The characters become very real, and on many occasions, the dry humor and unintentional wit of some is enough for hilarity to ensue.
The downloadable content is a welcome addition to the game. Old players from previous Fire Emblem games can be recruited, and it opens new side stories and side quests to add another layer to the amount of content that is Awakening.
Not only that, but Awakening also adds another touch to the game by its thoughtful use of the 3DS’s StreetPass feature to send your team to other players. The teams of other players will show up on your map, making it possible to purchase items from them, battle them, or shell out some virtual money to recruit them.
While it is possible to battle alongside friends, the multiplayer is limited to local, and the setup for the multiplayer feature was disappointing. Rather than have a map to battle on, both players select three members from their team to fight against three opponents. It eliminates a large amount of strategy, opting out instead for which unit has the most brute force. However, the multiplayer feature does yield some incentives, including items and experience.
Despite a somewhat shoddy multiplayer, Awakening has enough content to make up for the wireless features. The amount of customization and side quests – both within the game and outside the game through purchasing downloadable content – are enough for the game to last endless hours.
- Pros: Impeccable graphics and 3D. Huge amount of content. Good use of StreetPass function. Vast amount of customization. Excellent gameplay, characterization, and storyline.
- Cons: Multiplayer feature was disappointing. Dialogue and cutscenes can occasionally be lengthy.