Fire Emblem: Awakening Review
Having just re-re-re-played Advance Wars: Dual Strike for about 30 hours last month, I wasn’t sure I was ready for another portable strategy RPG. Shortly after starting up Fire Emblem: Awakening though, those doubts were quickly erased. I have a feeling that this game is destined to be the best strategy RPG on the 3DS (at least until we see the next Advance Wars (hopefully)).
What I Liked
If you’ve never played a Fire Emblem game before, the core concept is pretty simple: you travel around a grid, using your allied soldiers to kill the opposing soldiers. Awakening is no different from previous entries into the franchise, though it does make a few improvements.
Thanks to the un-skippable combat scene during the opening battle, you’re able to get a taste of the graphical power behind this game. Rather than just two tiny barely animated units dealing damage to each other, Awakening rivals that of the GameCube’s Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. Each individual fight takes up the entirety of the top screen, giving a sense of realism whenever you send a unit into combat. While I personally switched these off before long (mostly to save time), they do pop up in mandatory fashions later on in the game, offering up some really dramatic moments.
As for the actual gameplay, it’s extremely fluid. Switching between the up to 5 weapons your unit can hold simultaneously is as simple as hitting the X button. The multitude of different advantages and disadvantages for each weapon are also shown in very high detail, giving you the opportunity to plan out your attacks in many different ways.
Extra layers, such as being able to pair up two fighters to increase their stats and relationships, or the ability to have adjacent units attack alongside you, also add miles to the already stellar formula. Honestly, if you have a 3DS and want to have an SRPG with top-notch gameplay, while getting 20-30 hours out of a single playthrough, Fire Emblem: Awakening is the one for you.
As you play through the campaign, you’ll have the opportunity to fight in a near constant stream of enemies across the world map, which can extend the life of your playthrough–but you’ll likely replay this game once you beat it, anyway. The reason I say that is based off of the game’s two difficulties. With Casual, you’re allowed to play through the entire game, without having to worry about losing your character’s permanently. Whereas with Classic, every single move counts and if your fighter dies, they are gone forever.
Since they’re so different, I started to have two save files open separately, with one of each mode. Even though I journeyed further in Casual because I was afraid of losing people, Classic really makes you attack and level up your characters in the best fashion possible, taking advantage of all the various features to keep everyone alive.
Basically with Fire Emblem: Awakening, you get two campaigns with the exact same story, but with two completely different battle experiences, doubling the life of the game.
The Online Functionality
The planned DLC for Fire Emblem: Awakening will help keep it in your 3DS for quite a while, and so will the online play included for free. With it, you can download extra items, maps, and even other parties into your game, allowing you to battle them whenever you like. All of these aspects add up to even more hours you can spend within the game.
What I Didn’t Like
The Story and All the Talking
I had really high hopes for Awakening’s story in the beginning. There was an interesting CG cut scene to open up the first few minutes, but after that, it quickly turns into a boring tale of a man who wakes up with amnesia and joins up with a band of warriors after earning their trust in battle.
Sure, there are a few twists and turns that differentiate it from other stories of a similar nature, but all the talking just kills it. Each chapter will run you approximately 30 – 45 minutes, and you’ll likely spend 5 of those minutes just reading through text. To make matters worse, if you have the sound on, you’ll have to constantly listen to each character saying something like “okay” or “hmm” preceding each of their lines of dialogue. This took me out of the moment every single time, and prompted me to turn the volume down during conversations.
Now, something that could have really saved the game would be a menacing villain, but that isn’t the case here. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that the villain you encounter early on is just evil for the sake of being evil, and even spouts off terrible jokes like “I could break their ranks as easily as I break wind.” Rather than being menacing, he just comes off as being too comical.
I will say that the story and characters do become more intense and interesting as the game progresses, but it takes a very long time to get to.
As many problems as I had with the story, you can skip it, leaving just the gameplay to remain. If I were judging Awakening just based off of that, it would have likely been given a 9.5, matching the heights of something like Super Mario 3D Land. Since I have to evaluate the full package though, the story does hurt the overall experience, but not enough to stop this from being an amazing strategy RPG. Do yourself a favour and buy this immediately.
Fire Emblem: Awakening was reviewed with a copy provided by Nintendo.