Fire Emblem Awakening is meant to be the last hurrah for the series, but instead continued it. But is it as good as people says it is?
|Developer||Intelligent Systems, Nintendo SPD|
|Purchase (3DS)||Purchase from Amazon.|
So, guess what? Today is the release day of Fire Emblem Fates. And when I get my copy of the special edition, I’m going to be playing the shit out of it. If there’s ever a time to become a Fire Emblem fan, it would be right now.
For the longest time, Fire Emblem used to be that one Nintendo series that alienated me. Watching someone playing it was not really fun. It didn’t seem that deep at a glance. And after I gave The Sacred Stones a try, I thought I was never going to come back to the series.
But after talking to a friend who had a copy of Fire Emblem Awakening, she told me it was an amazing game. So I got my own copy and… well, I actually played it to the end.
Ah, the bitter iron-like taste of irony.
So a few years back, I thought it was an amazing game that hit all the right notes. But looking back now and seeing some criticism towards the game… maybe it’s not as good as I thought it was.
So, an interesting bit of trivia. The Fire Emblem series had been selling poorly compared to other Nintendo flagship series, to the point where New Mystery of the Emblem on Nintendo DS didn’t get an international release. So Awakening was going to be the final entry of the series.
So as sort of a final death cry, Intelligent Systems tried to borrow various elements from older Fire Emblem games and tried to add them all into what may be the very last game. In a way, it’s meant to culminate into the ultimate Fire Emblem.
It succeeded more than expected. The sales goal was meant to be 250,000 units, but it broke more than 1.9 million copies worldwide by the end of 2014. So of course, the series continues to Fire Emblem Fates.
It was often cited as one of the best Nintendo 3DS games of all time, as well as the most popular entry of the series. With this game and the Super Smash Bros. series, a lot more people are aware of Fire Emblem. It’s sort of a new age. Even the fourth Super Smash Bros. can’t get enough of Fire Emblem characters, apparently.
Ugh. Damn you, Corrin.
At the same time though, the game’s ambitions seemed to have converged and turned into an odd sort of clusterfuck. So, let’s see what is good and bad about Fire Emblem Awakening.
The Conquest of Ylisse
As usual, the standard gameplay doesn’t disappoint. In fact, there is quite a bit of depth to it that you can pretty much write an entire strategy guide.
As with previous games, you control the blue units on a grid-based map while fighting against the red units. Unlike previous games though, there are no missions that require the main Lord to seize a specific spot. Most chapters require you to kill the boss, though I can only remember one at the top of my head that is more or less a “king of the hill” type of mission. While this is a minor criticism, there is no variety in your goals. It’s pretty much killing the boss every time.
Though the gameplay is quite streamlined, it is not without its faults. For one thing, there is the weapon triangle. This is okay. However, there is no magic triangle despite that there are different magic tomes based on elements like fire and lightning.
Why, though? The magic triangle in the previous games added another depth of strategy. But here, you can only purchase fire, thunder, wind, and dark elemental tomes. The problem is that fire and thunder have nothing special and only slightly differ in damage and accuracy. Wind magic has its use as being an excellent counter against flying enemies. Dark magic is easily the most overpowered, with spells like Nosferatu and Ruin inflicting a large amount of damage. Not to mention that Mire has ridiculous range.
So, Light magic is completely absent from this game for whatever reason. Anima and Dark magic don’t seem to have any particular effect towards one another either.
Even though the chapter maps themselves look pretty, there is so much open space in these maps. I remember that some Fire Emblem games had more mountains, cliffs and bodies of water.
There were also some more hazards, like ballistae, in these games. Why not implement them?
Skills make a return to this game, though they’re turning into a necessity at this point. Most classes in the game allow you to learn two skills. Promotions are like the ones from The Sacred Stones, where each character can choose to enter either of two master classes using a Master Seal. But if you acquire a Second Seal, you can reclass your units to different classes and make them even more customizable. For example, Sumia can reclass to Cavalier or its promoted versions, Paladin and Great Knight. There is so much you can do with this game’s job system, allowing you to create a unique army.
The graphics are alright for the most part. The maps in each chapter look detailed and colorful, and I actually do like the new art style used for the character portraits. The 3D models can look iffy sometimes (like their lack of FEET?)
The Waifu Wars
Unlike most other Fire Emblem games, you can create an avatar. This feature was first introduced in the previous game, the Japan-only release of Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem. By now, most people recognize the avatar character in this game as “Robin.” While your avatar falls under the Tactician job by default, you can also customize his/her appearance, give a different name, give a different voice, and even give a different strength and weakness in regards to stats.
If either Chrom or your avatar falls in battle, the game is over.
There is a new mechanic called Pairing, which allows two units to team up as a single unit. This comes with a few benefits.
- The primary unit gets a stats boost
- The two units can build up their support points more easily (traditionally, two units would have to be adjacent to each other on the map)
- There is a chance for a dual guard (the secondary unit protects the primary unit, nullifying enemy attacks) and a dual attack (the secondary unit also attacks the enemy)
While this is a really powerful mechanic, it can also be risky. Overusing it will easily cut down your numbers by half. While this is no problem against smaller enemy forces, larger maps that come with hordes of enemies can easily become overwhelming.
This mechanic also encourages you to build up support points between units. And I’m not gonna lie. The support system in this game is the very best in the series. In most Fire Emblem games, each unit can only have up to five support conversations, meaning they are only allowed to one A support to sometimes unlock a different ending. This also forces you to start up a new save file in order to see all of the support conversations.
In this game though, characters can have an unlimited number of support conversations in a single save file. However, there is a catch. Each unit can only have one S support conversation, which is a marriage proposal. It also affects the ending of that character.
And yeah, marriage is a mechanic in the game. So in a strange way, Fire Emblem Awakening can also be considered a type of dating sim. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
Yep. You can see why this can be called Fire Emblem: Waifu Simulator. However, I do wish there is a little more to this than just marriage. Though your avatar does get children if he/she marries someone, there aren’t many important conversations between the couple after the S-support. It does make the experience feel a bit shallow.
But it is definitely encouraged to do your shippings and have the majority of your women soldiers to get married. Why? Because your bonuses from pairing up will be better. And also, because you can also get children! …From the future.
That’s our Owain!
Yeah, that’s a stretch. Plus it’s interesting to see this mechanic, seeing as how Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War for Super Famicom has a precursor of it. The children of the future are some of the most useful recruits you can get, as they can inherit stats and abilities from their parents.
The world map makes a return to the series, not having been around since The Sacred Stones. Again, because of this, Fire Emblem Awakening can be considered THE easiest game in the series because you can go purchase a bunch of Reeking Boxes and grind levels as much as you want. That, and there is one DLC mission that is literally nothing but grinding for experience.
And there is also a Casual mode where you can play through the game without ever having a single unit die on you like in the older games. This is in place in order to make the game more accessible to newcomers of the series. But if you ever want to play through any of the previous games, I would definitely pick the Classic mode over Casual.
Oddly enough, Awakening can also be debated to be one of the hardest for this reason…
LUNATIC PLUS?! WHAT! And I thought Lunatic difficulty was ridiculous!
The thing with Lunatic difficulty and its more sadistic sibling is that they are just outright unfair. Not only are enemies overleveled and have access to powerful abilities, but they even give Frederick trouble at the beginning. Unless you purchased the EXPonential Growth DLC and Golden Gaffe DLC, grinding for experience and money in Lunatic/Lunatic+ is impossible. They made it so that random enemy encounters will always be maxed out in stats.
That is so beyond bullshit. It is not really a test of skill. It’s more about whether you’re willing to have your wallet talk for you and whether you’re willing to drop hours into leveling up your units so you can actually progress in the main story. Because if you try to do things the normal way and just progress through the chapters without grinding, many of your units will have a horrible time staying alive or leveling up.
These difficulties are definitely meant to cater to the veterans of the series. But for the life of me, I don’t understand how anyone would be able to get through even the earliest chapters without a lot of luck.
And finally, there is a LOT of downloadable content. While you have to pay for much of it, you can also download free DLC using Spotpass (giving you exclusive characters, items, multiplayer options, etc.)
So yeah. By far, Awakening felt like an almost complete entry in terms of gameplay but still stops short. You can easily pour hours into it, unlocking more support conversations and customizing each and every one of your units.
The soundtrack is some of the best I heard from the series, containing many intricate orchestral pieces.
And now, the story. The common point of criticism in this game.
I have to admit, I did enjoy the story when I played through the game the first time. But now, I can see why it can be considered one of the game’s weakest points.
The game centers on Prince Chrom, a descendant of the hero king Marth, and Robin, the amnesiac tactician. After a fateful encounter, the two become fast friends and Robin becomes a new member of Chrom’s unit, the Shepherds. From there on, the story sort of divides up.
The story isn’t really one big arc, but rather three separate story arcs (not counting side quests). It makes the game feel a bit chopped up and each individual arc doesn’t have as much impact as it should.
The first story arc concerns hostilities between the nations of Ylisse and Plegia. Gangrel, the king of Plegia, wants nothing more than revenge against Ylisse for the former Exalt (the “king/queen” in this game) wrecking his country in a previous war. Gangrel himself is a pretty entertaining villain, having his hilarious moments but can also be quite menacing. While this story arc definitely has its strong moments, I felt that it ended too quickly on a rather predictable note.
The second story arc takes place after Chrom has been made the new Exalt and has taken a wife. A country across the sea known as Valm has launched an invasion against Ylisse’s neighbour, Regna Ferox. So it is up to the Shepherds to stop the man responsible for the invasion, a formidable ruler known as Walhart the Conqueror. Along the way, they meet a Chon’sin woman named Say’ri, a rebel intending to overthrow Walhart. It turns out that the continent of Valm is also in the middle of a civil war.
To be honest, this whole arc feels a bit like filler and many of the side characters didn’t have enough time to be fully fleshed out (such as the likes of Yen’fay). Walmart is an okay villain, being this seemingly insurmountable opponent with no real weaknesses, if not a bit dull. Not to mention that there is another MacGuffin collection plot point, where you have to find five stones to place in the Fire Emblem (some shield-looking thing in this game). Yeah, five stones.
The third story arc is the shortest and probably the weakest. One reason why.
Wow. How subtle.
Through expanded conversations, at least we know that Gangrel and Walhart believe that their actions are the right thing to do. Not entirely rational and certainly cruel, but you can see where they’re coming from.
Validar is a transparently evil, one-dimensional villain. His goal is to resurrect a powerful dark god, and… yeah, that’s it. Even though this plot point was foreshadowed much earlier in the game, it still feels like it’s been rushed because most of the relevant info is stuffed into this one arc. Though this story arc is definitely a callback to the series’ past, it doesn’t mean that it’s good or interesting.
Despite how long the game is, the lore surrounding Ylisse and its neighbors ares rather shallow and the story arcs end too quickly. If anything, the story arcs focus more on being callbacks to previous games of the series rather than letting Chrom and Robin develop. As soon as Chrom becomes the Exalt in the game, his own character arc is pretty much done. He doesn’t undergo character growth afterward (minus support conversations).
Most of the characters don’t have much development in the middle of the story either. However, their dialogue and support conversations are really entertaining.
I really like these characters. I know critics have mentioned that they’re just very gimmicky, one-dimensional throwaway characters. But fuck that. This has been a thing in pretty much ALL Fire Emblem games, even the very beloved ones. And some of the support conversations (like The Sacred Stones) seem rather… stilted. As if they’re robots.
Granted, there are some rather lame support conversations in this game that amount to nothing and feel like an utter waste of time. No new revelation or discovery in a character. No character development. Just pure stupidity for the sake of it.
It really is unfortunate that the game doesn’t give these characters much of a role or say in anything in the main story. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, however, did this quite often and gave you the sense that each and every character was important.
So even with all this said… I still really like Awakening. It’s not perfect. Admittedly, it’s flawed in quite a few places. But seeing as how it continues the series and it has given it a lot more attention, I can’t complain too much. Especially when this is the main game that pulled me into the series, after all. So, I am thankful for it.
It is still worth a play and anyone can have fun with it. In the meantime, I will spend today with the newly released Fire Emblem Fates and give my thoughts on it later.
Fire Emblem Awakening$39.99
- The gameplay and numerous support conversations give this game a high replay value.
- The Pairing system adds a higher level of depth in strategy, allowing you to gain an advantage on the field against overwhelming odds.
- The skills system and reclassing allow you to customize your soldiers even further, giving them an interesting mix of abilities.
- The story, though contrived at points, has its strong moments. The character writing, for the most part, is pretty good.
- The soundtrack is one of the best in the series.
- The plot is fairly generic and only serves to be a big homage to previous games.
- The unbalanced magic system, with a lack of light magic, no magic triangle and making dark magic overpowered.
- The Lunatic and Lunatic+ difficulties seem to push you to buy specific DLC in order to make any progress.