Fire Emblem was a series that I, along with countless others who naturally learned about it when it threw characters into Super Smash Brothers, but never really paid much attention to. However, as what was potentially the final game in the series dropped a few months ago showed that if you remove permadeath, the series can sell enough to justify its production costs in North America alone. Not sure if I have a ton to say that hasn’t been said, but I dumped 90 hours into this thing, and should probably review a game from 2012 not that the year’s halfway over.
Fire Emblem Awakening Review
Release Date: 04/2/2013
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Describing the plot and central goal of Fire Emblem Awakening is actually fairly difficult for me, if only because how the game could potentially be cleared in twenty or so hours through its twenty-five chapters. But from the twenty-three side missions that come with the game itself, another $40 worth of DLC, and the randomly generated challenges, I couldn’t help but find it more than a little distant from my series of character management.
Not that there isn’t much of a story. Centering around a user created vessel, the tale of Fire Emblem Awakening can almost be a bit too wild. With a kingdom distancing itself from its regrettable past, the rising of the undead shifting an already angry neighboring kingdom, and, of course, time travel. Which brings up a second half to the story following a two year leap before the goal is one that I’d assume to be the goal for nearly every Fire Emblem title, defeating a giant dragon that will destroy the world.
Moving back to the comment I made awhile ago, to me the game is not so much about the overarching plot or conflict going around, it is all about a cast of forty-nine units (with about another 16 if you count DLC) of various narrative involvement. While manipulating the relationships, stats, equipment, and classes within them. All tied around a turn based strategy that occasionally shifts into a bit of a pairing simulator and being the type of management that requires a lot of thought, but not necessarily spreadsheets by any means.
Although, I can’t say I didn’t attempt to do so, at least for the bonding system. By having two units either pair up into one, or stand adjacent to one another when either they or an enemy attack, the units may grow more attached to one and other. Well, assuming the option for them to grow attached is available, which can be a hint aggravating due to the user interface for determining whether or not two people can become buddies. This leads back to the mention of time travel from before, seeing as how if two characters of the opposite sex achieve an S-rank relationship, they will get married, help each other in combat a lot more, as well as potentially getting a child who themselves will be a character. Well, an older version from a future that represents a can of worms that story doesn’t so much as try to close upon opening it, as much as it throws said can out of sight.
The whole marriage thing is actually a very neat idea, with the child gaining the skills and classpaths of their parents, along with what are probably some of the best units in the game if you play the relationship cards well. Yet, what keeps this as just a neat idea, is that the game, which has a very comfortable tutorial set before opening up to a massive world, doesn’t tell you about a lot of these things. Such as, the child only obtains the last skill equipped from each parent, how having a thief character for a father, who you can completely miss if you don’t talk to him in an unrepeatable chapter, will allow their offspring to become a pegasus rider. Well, assuming you made sure the child was a girl because men can’t ride pegasuses for some bizarre reason.
This, along with a very broad spectrum of things to do, which I likely doomed myself with seeing as how I’m guessing the traditional way to play Fire Emblem is with a core group of 20 or so characters as the rest either die or get promptly ignored. Really do make Fire Emblem one of those titles where you need to research who to play it outside of the game itself. Mind you, there are several workarounds, with the biggest help being in the form of a mode where permadeath is promptly deactivated, and the robust DLC market that I indulged in myself. Effectively removing the threat of a limited supply or weapons, which normally degrade with each strike, by getting a near limitless sum of money as I tried to get as many things done as possible.
However, I do not intend to say that this is the way the game is meant to be played, like how I often found the at least mildly relatable Pokemon Conquest to be. Without choosing bizarre paths to use in order to make sure every child character gets Galeforce and stats so high that they stop going up, Fire Emblem Awakening is globs of fun. It may be hard to communicate the joy of moving around characters donned in blue to fight off the red ones, but going through thirty-six chumps only a few levels below you with only twenty is a sense of accomplishment as much of a puzzle as it is a power fantasy.
Aside from that, there is plenty to love aside from the core gameplay. With the aforementioned social pairings being adorable looks into a fairly tropey cast, that are also surprisingly well written as the characters managed to keep a constant personality in what is likely enough possible text route to make a 200 page novel. Creating a very engaging reward for taking advantage of the game’s mechanics, ultimately being my favorite aspect due to how it feels like the game is writing fan fiction about itself, except you decide who to ship in the end.
Similarly, the game does a very nice job in pretty much all other frontiers in the audio visual spectrum. Adorable character and class specific sprites for the grid based planning stages. Anime-esc portraits for the conversations, with designs that reflect their personas as well crafted, but not wholly original, though how would that be possible with nearly fifty characters? Aside stylish 3D models for the actual combat sequences and the backdrop in story cutscenes, looking very impressive for the system, despite how they all oddly lack feet. Not that I noticed most of the time, as I was taking in how every character and class hybrid technically had a different model.
With the game spouting an impressive amount of voice acting given the undoubtedly low expectations that were crushed by almost instant shortages. Not having tons of voiced dialog, but every character has their own series of responses and grunts that really do make them feel amazingly realized given the sheer quantity of them. Along with a score that captures the grandiose scope and medieval fantasy setting well, with the ending theme going a bit too well, with both endings sounding like you’ve failed as they go through every character’s epilogue letter by letter.
Going through the lists of reasons I’ve been gathering in my noggin as I write this review, the best way I can describe the appeal of Fire Emblem Awakening is that it has a lot of heart surrounding a surprisingly compelling set of mechanics that. While not always the easiest to follow, make for a game where my biggest complaint is how there is barely any form of new game+. Although, with Project X Zone on the horizon, that is probably for the best.
An exceptional product that is hindered by a few issues to the point where they are barely worth noting for this superb title. Definitely worth both your time and money.
Also, it should still be on sale as I’m posting this. Seriously, it won’t be much lower than $30 ever again.