I have been a fan of the Fire Emblem series ever since I played my first one back on the GBA. Since then I have never missed an installment in the franchise. Although I always liked the hand held installments, I always preferred the console versions, because the battles always felt more engaging. Now, not only has Fire Emblem Awakening been able to bring that “engaging” feeling that I longed for to the 3DS, but it has taken it a step further!
First, let me start off by saying that Fire Emblem is one of those series that, in the past, never received the love it should. There are many reasons for this, but most notably is the difficulty level. Fire Emblem has always been geared towards the “hardcore” gamer. With the permanent death system in place, this game can be about as brutal as they come. Nothing is more frustrating than playing a battle for over an hour only to lose one of your favorite characters because of a stupid mistake and having to start all over again. However, it is that ruthlessness that I have come to know and love about the series.
|Cut-scene from Fire Emblem Awakening|
The story for Fire Emblem Awakening starts off cliché enough. You play as a tactician who is suffering from...yeah you guessed it...amnesia. I don't want to give away any plot spoilers, so I will just say that the story starts progressing at just the right time to keep you interested. By the end, you are left with an epic story that actually makes you care for your characters.
Speaking of characters, you actually get to customize your character this time around. You can choose your body, face and hair style. You can even choose your voice. One of the things I liked most about this feature was the ability to choose your strengths and weaknesses. I have always loved characters with a high defense, and now I was able to give that to my character.
|Gameplay screenshots of Fire Emblem Awakening|
Of course, there are other things to consider while on the battlefield as well. For example, your weapons have durability. Use the same weapon too many times, and it will break. That's why it's extremely important to outfit your characters in between battles and trade out weapons that are wearing out. Also, Awakening has a fantastic relationship system this go-around. In short, positioning character around each other on the battlefield makes them “bond” together. As their bond grows stronger, they will start to offer battle perks when fighting alongside each other. You can also put two of your units together to form a “super unit.”
|Fire Emblem Awakening Marriage Proposal|
Choosing who gets married is actually very important in this game. That is because the characters who get married can have kids. The kids inherit stats from both parents. So hooking people up is not always about love, but also about strategy. This just adds yet another layer of depth to the game.
The Fire Emblem series has always had a great character upgrade system, and now they have taken that to a whole new level. All your characters start off as a certain class type. They can keep growing levels all the way to level 20 before they max out and you have to make a choice. You can either choose to give them a Master Seal and promote them to an upgraded class, or you can give them a Second Seal and change their base class altogether (Second Seals and Master Seals can be given to characters as soon as they hit level 10, but waiting to level 20 gives you the maximum benefit). This is the first time in a Fire Emblem game where you are given the opportunity to customize your group any way you want to!
|Micaiah from Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn|
As if the DLC was not enough, the game offers great SpotPass and StreetPass features as well. In Streetpass, you can create a team that you want to share with other people who have Fire Emblem. When you meet them on the street, you will trade teams with each other. Then when you turn your game back on, you can actually battle their team or buy items from them. If you beat a team, you can actually hire their commander to fight alongside you. It is also possible to recruit the commander without fighting...if you are willing to buy them “at a high price.”
As far as SpotPass goes, Nintendo is always uploading free weapons and special teams you can face off against. The cool thing about these “special teams” is that they contain special characters from previous Fire Emblem games. So if you have played a lot of games from this series, it will be like a walk down memory lane.
|In game cut-scene from Fire Emblem Awakening|
The music in the game is very catchy, and you will have it stuck in your head long after you turn the game off. As an added bonuses, you can choose for the voice acting to be done in Japanese or English. This is a JRPG fan's dream come true. That being said, I would like to point out that the English voice-acting is surprisingly well done, which is a real treat to see...I mean hear.
There is so much to do in this game that I could go on forever. The main story alone will take you upwards of around 30 to 40 hours to beat it (not counting all of the times you may have to restart a battle). Once you start adding in side quests and bonus maps, you could easily sink over 100 hours into the game. This is the best Fire Emblem game that has been released yet and a must-own for strategy lovers. Now I just have to wait for Nintendo to make a Fire Emblem for the Wii U! (10/10)