Fire Emblem: Awakening is the latest addition to the Fire Emblem franchise, a series which has only left the shores of Japan in the last decade. It’s also the first to launch on Nintendo’s 3DS, with full 3D capabilities. This strategy role-playing game is rich in character development and has a robust plot. You play as the Avatar, a character you get to customize yourself, and befriend Chrom, prince of Ylisse and captain of the Shepherds, a group of soldiers who protect the realm. As you make your way through the story, you level up and gain more characters to use in your battles, and also gain the chance to develop relationships. Permadeath is the norm in Fire Emblem games, but Awakening has a Casual mode that is more lenient for newer players. Does this destroy the integrity of the series?
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Genre: Strategic Anime RPG
Release Date: February 4, 2013
ESRB Rating: Teen
Fire Emblem: Awakening was my introduction to these games, partly due to the fact that I was intimidated by the idea of permadeath. I get really attached to my characters in strategy RPGs, and I couldn’t imagine leveling up a character and painstakingly choosing their gear and abilities and then having them die on me. Sure, I could be like my friends and just turn off the system and revert back to an earlier save, but that sounded like… well… cheating. So I felt just fine starting with this “easier” version of a Fire Emblem game.
Your character, the Avatar, begins the game with amnesia. My Avatar was a woman named Robin, so I’ll refer to her as “she” for simplicity. She meets Chrom and his band of Shepherds, joining up with them and becoming their master tactician. Depending on the choices you make, certain characters join your band of merry do-gooders, and some even develop special relationships with one another. This is based on who you choose to team up to fight together in battle, as well as when characters speak to one another in the barracks between combats.
Weapons, gold, and other items are dropped by enemies and can also be found in treasure chests throughout battles. There are also special locations on the battlefield that are sparkly (seriously, they are just little squares that sparkle) that can have items or gold, give experience points, or up your stats if you end your turn on them. You can sell and buy weapons and items at special stores on the map – regular stores are located in set town locations, but there are also wandering merchants who pop up on the map randomly. Wandering monsters can also appear on the map, and there are special items to summon both the merchants and monsters if none are available.
Every merchant has a forge in which you can upgrade certain weapons. You can make your weapons more powerful, but it’s important to keep an eye on the number of times you use them, because after a certain number of uses, they break. There’s a colorful array of weapons available – some shoot off spells, while others give you multiple attacks, and still others let you retaliate against attacks.
There are more than 40 classes available in the game, and you can use Seals to change your character’s classes, which change their hit points and stats. You also have set skills, up to five of which you can have active at a time. As your characters grow more powerful, and the enemies get more difficult, the skills you employ become more important.
One of the neatest things about Fire Emblem: Awakening is how it incorporates StreetPass into the game. You can create teams that are then picked up by other players through StreetPass, which then populate their map, showing up as neutral units. You can fight against them, purchase items from them, or even recruit the other player’s Avatar and add them to your own team. These are considered “bonus” characters, of which you can only have 20, so choose carefully. I enjoyed showing up random places and fighting against other people’s teams, as well as adding their interesting characters to my own party.
Fire Emblem: Awakening was one of the best experiences I’ve had on my 3DS. I grew attached to Robin, as well as Chrom, Frederick, and the merchant Anna, whose hard-hitting sword and funny shopping-related quips endeared me to her. I enjoyed teaming up various characters, watching their relationships build. It warmed my heart to watch them protect and defend each other in battle. The twists and turns in the plot kept me on my toes, and I enjoyed the story all the way to the end, even with the difficult choices I had to make. It was an enriching experience, and I found myself wanting to go back and replay it to see the effects of the story branches.
Anyone who enjoys strategy RPGs will love Fire Emblem: Awakening. It’s also the perfect game if you’re trying to get into the genre and don’t know where to start. With the multitude of characters and classes, and the varying plot choices, there’s a lot of gameplay time here – and a lot of enjoyment. It’s difficult to find a physical copy of the game at retail price, so as long as you don’t mind owning a digital copy, Fire Emblem: Awakening is a game you need in your library.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Fire Emblem: Awakening was provided by Nintendo for the purposes of this review.