Written by Twisted Ideas
Nintendo’s main strategy game franchise is wildly respected but one that few have played. The series is notorious for the difficulty of keeping your entire party alive or even keeping the main characters alive so you wouldn’t fail the level. There have been changes to make the game more accessible. Do these changes improve the game or is it another wrong move?
You play tactician who is a awakened from a dream by the prince and princess of Ylisse, Chrom and his sister Lissa. Chrom leads a small army called the Shepherds who travel the country to maintain peace and order. The neighboring nation of Plegia summons the Risen, an undead army, to take over dominate Ylisse with their overwhelming numbers. Chrom needs to place trust in the tactician and the mysterious swordsman Marth, who predicts events of the future, if he and the Shepherds want to save Ylisse
Fire Emblem Awakening is a turn based strategy game. You command your team on a grid to make strategic moves to defeat the enemy units. When units are in range they can initiate a battle sequence. Before you choose to attack you can see how much damage the units will do, the accuracy and chance for a critical hit. Each class specializes in certain weapons but some weapons have advantages over others and even their class. Weapons have durability value and they will break when it reaches zero. Be warned that death is permanent for your party.
The story progresses through chapters each with a skirmish. Unlike most Fire Emblem games you travel on a world map where you can shop or fight randomly spawning enemies on old maps. Occasionally new characters will join your party during the story but some have to be spoken to by Chrom first. Paralouge chapters can have new recruits. They appear as you progress or when two members of the opposite gender reach a support level of S.
Every character has a default class that specializes in certain weapon groups or has a mount. When you reach level 10 you can use a Master Seal to change to an advance class. When a class reaches a high enough level they can learn skills they can use in battles. If your character reaches max level you can use a Second Seal to start the class over at level one to earn more stats or change to a different class.
The support system is a long standing feature of the game that has been refined over the years. When two characters are next to each other or are paired up they can build a connection. Support influence several factores. Support conversations occur between characters when the support level raises. In battle, two units next to each other can improve stats dealing with luck. The non-combating unit has a chance to defend or even attack the enemy in battles. The higher the support level the greater the benefits.
Under the wireless menu option you can unlock bonus maps, items, and even units from previous Fire Emblem games. You can battle and recruit the party leader via Street Pass and team up with a friend in battles. You can also buy DLC packs with new maps and characters.
Graphics and Sound
The 3D models aren’t the greatest you have seen on the 3DS. Even with the anime style, the detail is lacking and everybody’s feet looks like stumps. That isn’t a real issue because most of the time you see the game in the traditional map view where everybody is a miniature version of themselves. The graphics are also an improvement over the Shadow Dragon on the DS and on as strong as Radiant Dawn on the Wii. Oddly when during cutscenes and battles I felt that the 3D was exceptional. Unfortunately the 3D doesn’t look as good while on the grid.
The game has voice acting but they’re mostly short phrases. I’ve always found this awkward. The phrase tends not to match the dialog and when it is close it makes you wonder why they didn’t spend the time saying a few extra words. The hardware isn’t so limited that it couldn’t be done most characters do have voices so I find this lazy. The music is well done but none of it is memorable.
This is probably the most accessible and easiest Fire Emblem game in the series. What makes the game difficult was keeping your party alive. One mistake, one surprise assault or one fight too many could mean a level restart. This also geared people towards using characters who were immediately strong to limit the chance of a death. Awakening allows for minimal risk grinding. The random skirmishes that appear on the map will give you weapons and gold so you won’t run out of inventory. An item called Reeking Box spawns enemies. You can easily build support or levels for characters who would have difficulty surviving on story maps.
This makes getting support, levels or money much easier because it isn’t dictated anymore by the pace of the story. The problem is that feels like cheating while doing the story because you remove the strategy when your characters can bulldoze over anybody. The support system helps out greatly and there are more items than ever to help improve characters. There’s no penalty and the fact that reeking boxes are cheap encourages grinding. Power leveling doesn’t mean your team is invincible though. There are post game and DLC maps that will challenge even some of the strongest teams. I wouldn’t have minded it the reeking box only was on sale after you beat the story while the random spawns still appeared.
There are a couple of additions that I appreciated. Casual mode makes it so character deaths aren’t permanent reducing a lot of the difficulty for those who just want to play at their own pace. Recruiting old characters and having weapons named after them was nostalgic. The barracks was a nice way to get to know your party a little bit more and get the occasional stat boost or item. You even earn more stats when it’s the character’s birthday. What I loved the most was that there was a post game where you wouldn’t eventually run out of resources. You could always buy common and uncommon weapons while saving your strongest for the paralogue and DLC maps.
For the stragetgy game buff this game is for you. There are three difficulties to challenge yourself with and DLC maps on top of the somewhat lengthy post game and just building your support and characters. This was the first 3DS game that has been able to tear me away from my consoles while at home. Like most Nintendo first party games, you get your game for your buck and more so. Fire Emblem Awakening is not a 3DS game you want to miss.