Video Game Review: Fire Emblem: Awakening

Details: Played through it in about thirty hours. Also played through some downloadable content, though not all of it. More information can be found at https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/fire-emblem-awakening-3ds/

Score: 7.2/10

Fire Emblem: Awakening is likely the most successful game in the Fire Emblem game and the game most responsible for the franchise’s success. What I like about it most is how it combines the tactical role playing game elements with the romance gameplay elements. It somewhat reminded me of Persona 5 and the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona franchise.

Awakening takes place in a fantasy world with magic and knights and stuff. You play a protagonist with amnesia who joins an army and must save the world from an imminent threat. It’s standard Japanese role playing game stuff.

Gameplay consists primarily of combat. This is strategy/tactical role playing game, kind of like Final Fantasy Tactics or XCOM. The game flows like this: you go to a spot on the overworld map, a cut scene plays giving you some story, then you get into a combat grid where combat takes place. You control a number of characters with different jobs and abilities and move them around a grid like map filled with enemies with their own jobs and abilities. Your goal is usually just to defeat all the enemies.

Combat is pretty average if you’ve ever played a tactical role playing game before. There is a rock-paper-scissors relationship between different types of jobs and attacks so that every enemy type can be countered. The characters you control also have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Characters level just like in any other role playing game. There is a “seal” system in place which lets your characters switch jobs. It’s hard to explain so I won’t get into it.

The most unique part of this game compared to other strategy role playing games is the romance/social system. One aspect of combat is the “paring” system. Basically, you can merge two characters into a single unit or place units next to each other during combat. When you do this, you get combat bonuses and you get points towards their relationship with each other. Get enough social points and you unlock some dialogue between the characters. Unlock enough dialogue and the two characters can get married. If the characters get married, a mission unlocks where you can then recruit their child into your army (there’s a narrative reason for this, but I won’t spoil it).

This is one of the most unique and well known aspects of the Fire Emblem franchise is the ability to marry your soldiers together and then recruit their kids. This is also one of the most enjoyable in that you really start to care about your characters and feel like you are an active influence in their lives. Add in that characters can permanently die during combat (this is an optional gameplay setting), thus ruining whichever romance you were trying to make happen, and you add a lot of tension to combat missions. In addition to the romances, you can also develop platonic friendships, which is also fun to see.

For a Nintendo 3DS game, this game has one of the best presentations on the console. The cut scenes are well animated. When you get into a confrontation on the two dimensional grid/map, it zooms into a three dimensional in game cut scene where your characters fight it out with the enemy. The though that went into the art style, the animations, and the overall presentation are very well done and help add to the overall experience.

The music is fantastic as well and exactly what you’d want in an epic, fantasy story. The game is not fully voiced, only the high end pre-rendered cut scenes are voiced. Otherwise, characters just have short sound bites instead of saying the entire dialogue. It’s the kind of thing Nintendo is known for as they very rarely have fully voice acted games.

There are some online features, but I’m playing this game in 2020 so they are mostly irrelevant.

I played through some of the downloadable content and it mostly offers little to no meaningful story. Some of them did have some story. Some of the levels were substantially harder than anything you’d find in the main story missions. It’s mostly just challenge missions for people who want more combat missions to play. I found most of them repetitive and uninteresting.

Overall, Fire Emblem: Awakening was a fun game to play. It is still lacking in many respects and I wonder how much better it could be with a larger budget and on a more powerful console like a Playstation 4, or at least the Nintendo Switch. I know that Fire Emblem: Three Houses just came out and I’m curious how the franchise has progressed since Awakening was released. I love the Persona game franchise and I feel like the Fire Emblem franchise could be about as great as the Persona games.

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