After weeks of searching through stores out-of-stock on the latest rendition of Fire Emblem for the Nintendo 3DS, we finally managed to snag a copy! The highly anticipated (and, as of now, highly acclaimed) Fire Emblem: Awakening brings some of the older, classic elements of past Fire Emblem games, while also bringing some new features and mechanics to the table. Is it for you? Read on to find out!
Fire Emblem has been known for its brutal permadeath (if any of your characters die, they disappear from the game. Forever) mechanic, but for the first time in the series, players can now select a Casual option that takes away permadeath. This option will allow veteran Fire Emblem players to keep the mechanic if they so wish to, but allows novice players to ease into the game without worrying about player deaths. It’s a welcome feature, and allows everyone to choose their own play style based on their level.
Character customization is also q pretty neat feature here, however, the customization options for your own character are a tad limited. You will, of course, get to choose your gender, and then corresponding body builds, hair styles, hair color, facial structures, voice, and your strength/weakness stats are up for change. You begin as a Tactician class, which gives you the ability to use both swords and tombs (magic), and once you create your own unique character, you’ll be thrown into the story headfirst. Over the first few chapters of the story, you’ll have a few tutorial cards that will appear on the 3DS’ bottom screen, giving newer players unfamiliar to the game’s core mechanics a quick, easy runthrough.
Once you fire up the main game, you’ll also come across a couple of different scenes: Anime-type scenes, and classic polygonal-figures-in-background-with-2D-character-and-dialog-overlay. The latter is what you’ll be seeing most, as the Fire Emblem series is relatively heavily story based, and anime-type scenes are few. You’ll also hear shortened dialogue during the main storytelling scenes, which can include parts of the speech, grunts, or other attentive sounds, while you’ll get a full script during anime scenes.
The gameplay is pretty much the same as in past Fire Emblem games. You control a band of merry men (and women), starting with a Lord-class character (Chrom), an overpowered knight (Frederick), a healer (Lissa), and yourself (the tactician). Frederick serves as an easy way out of battles as he can simply kill any enemy unit within 1-2 hits during the early chapters (and probably in the later chapters if you use him constantly), as well as having high enough defense to receive no damage from the opposing force. Your Lord-class character, Chrom, can never die (or else a Game Over will occur), and Lissa will be the one to ensure that your units don’t die in the midst of battle.
Later on in the game, you’ll also be able to pair various characters up on a single tile. Fire Emblem: Awakening is unique in that character positioning is important; the more a pair of characters battle besides each other, the better they can support each other with various bonuses. At the end of each battle, you’ll also have the option to listen in on support conversations between two compatible characters, and if you reach S-tier support, and if the two pairing characters are male and female, they will marry. You may also have a sidequest for a few pairings which will, if you complete the necessary mission goals, recruit their child into your little army. All characters will be able to only bear one child, with the exception of your created character and Chrom, which can have 2 kids.
The story is also quite compelling compared to the other Fire Emblem games, as you’re quickly wondering “what happened” after a short dream sequence in the beginning. Your character has a bit of amnesia, and your comrade (pretty much Chrom for all we know) has no idea who you are. Almost instantly, you’ll be thrown into war, commanding an army with almost no objections.
Another new thing to come to a Fire Emblem game is the inclusion of DLC, which come in both free and paid parts. As of this writing, you’ll be able to download a free DLC map that, when complete, contains a recruitable Prince Marth. Some free DLC also include fighting skirmishes with old armies, as well as gaining access to cool weapons and maps. Though the main game might feel a bit shorter than most other games, the DLC features, as well as SpotPass and StreetPass integration, do prolong the game’s replayability considerably.
As of now, there are quite a few SpotPass teams that you can spar against, and they’re neatly ordered by game (most of them anyways). Currently, there are only three options: Fire Emblem, Sacred Stones, and Path of Radiance. Each section has characters that can be found in each game, with one character leading a group of generic soldiers. Just like StreetPass armies, you can choose to recruit the leader, fight the leader, or just shop around (after which the team will vanish from the world map). Each team that you download is relatively challenging, and scales based on your selected difficulty, so each potential recruit feels quite rewarding.
Some novelty features include Barracks, which lets you “listen in” on your comrades as they wander around a room, either talking to one another or talking to themselves. You’ll be able to gain experience or items randomly, as well as having the ability to build up character relationships from time to time. Side quests can grant you the chance to step away from the main story and potentially recruit a few new characters, the first of which is a villager that starts quite weak, but can grow to be your strongest ally. Also, at the beginning of the game (before you load your save file), you can pair up two characters and Old Hubba will do some “compatibility testing.” Nothing really major here, as it doesn’t affect your actual game, but it provides some short laugh sessions.
Lastly, the battle animations are a bit more interactive this time around. You’ll be able to adjust the camera in three different modes: Auto, First-Person, and Battle. In Auto, the camera becomes more dynamic, rotating around the field as two (or three) units duke it out, while First-Person camera mode will put you in the shoes of your character, and Battle will retain the same style as classic Fire Emblem games. You’ll also be able to mess around with the camera a bit using the 3DS’ circle pad, as well as zoom in and out (slightly) using L/R buttons. It’s a nice feature, but doesn’t technically impact the game a whole lot.
Our verdict? It’s one of the best games on the 3DS right now, and if you can find a copy, it’s totally worth the $39.99 USD MSRP for it, as well as a little extra for the paid DLC. Graphics may look a bit choppy at times, but the anime-rendered scenes are gorgeous and could make some wonder “why not make the entire story like this?” The game can also potentially tide you over until the next major 3DS games, such as Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, or, perhaps even farther off, Pokemon X and Pokemon Y!