Review | Fire Emblem: Awakening
Within a minute, my plan was destroyed.
After setting up a flank for turns to take out some Risen, I left a Pegasus Knight just slightly in range of an enemy archer.
All it took was one hit and Sumia was gone forever, dead because of one careless mistake.
Fire Emblem: Awakening does add new features in. However, the feature that sets it apart from other titles is still there: if a unit is killed in battle, it’s gone for good.
Unlike in past games, though, that rule doesn’t always have to be on. The game starts you off by asking not only what difficulty you want, but if you want Classic mode or Casual mode. Casual will be a great help to casual strategy fans that have always wanted to try the series. Units can die, sure, but in Casual mode they actually come back in the next battle, letting gamers be a bit more haphazard with some of their strategy. When trying a few missions in Casual, I found myself sacrificing a few units to set up traps. In Classic, though, there was not a chance I would let a unit die because all were useful at some point later on.
After choosing these options, the game introduces another first to the series: character customization. You can choose the look of your character before dropping into the gameplay. However, you’ll always start as a tactician that can use both magic tomes and swords.
The game starts you off in the heat of battle against Validar. After beating him with Chrom’s help and having a shock thrown your way early on, you have a flashback to the past, to your first meeting with Chrom. It’s during these early times that you get more of a feel of the backstory and relation with Chrom as you find out the cause of the Risen, fight off a rival country and more.
This leads me to the meat of the game, the battles. There never is any “set” amount of units you can use in each battle. Some chapters may let you use only eight units, while others may let you use 10 or more.
Each unit has a set amount of spaces they can use and specific weapons. They can hold up to five items to use during battle, but extra items acquired can be sent to the caravan if not needed. As far as combat goes, it’s standard RTS fare where you can attack enemies next to you and two spaces away for archers and mages. Like in past games, swords are better against axes, which are better against lances, which are better against swords. Other weapons have similar strengths and weaknesses as well. Units can pair up for more attack or dodge percentages, or stand next to each other for additional benefits as well, including a chance for a dual strike to dispatch enemies quicker.
Also in each battle are a few glowing spaces you can send units to get an enhancement, such as weapon proficiency, experience or items. Villages can sometimes be on a battlefield as well, and warning a village of the fighting can get items or sometimes units.
Another thing to watch out for in battle are uniquely named enemies. Most enemies just say bandit or risen or something to that extent. However, others sometimes have unique names. Normally, you can send Chrom to talk to them and recruit them to your side. You can kill them as well if wanted, but it’s always better to try and get more units when you can.
There are also a few things on the screen to mention in battle. On the touch screen, you can either have basic information or advanced information on units pulled up showing individual stats and more. The other screen can show the radius an enemy can attack in by pressing Y. The radius will change frequently depending on units blocking the way as well.
Besides completing chapters to advance the story, paralogue chapters will sometimes open up giving side quests to do. The side quests can help you recruit new soldiers or open up a hidden shop to go through for rarer items, among other things. Also on the overview map are random battles that sometimes appears. They can be completely avoided if wanted, but I found them useful for getting some extra experience and weapon proficiencies, along with sometimes some extra items to sell for cash.
Two things I continued to buy from the hidden shop were Second Seals and Master Seals. For those that don’t know, a Second Seal will let characters at least level 10 (or an advanced class) become a new class while retaining all previous abilities. However, the Master Seals are the more sought after seals. They’ll let you make your unit an advanced unit, giving a stat boost, along with sometimes new weapons to use or skills to utilize.
As you progress through the game you’ll also unlock the Outrealm Gate, which will let you access downloadable maps that will be released later down the line. The first map, which will be free, will let players get Marth on their team if they win the battle. Other maps will give characters from the series as well. It’s a good extra feature for the game to help give some extended playability after being the main quest.
Another aspect that plays into the game are the social links that soldiers can get with each other. In the overworld map, Support options will sometimes pop up, which are short scenes between two people that can increase the benefits they give when paired up in battle. In addition, events can happen in the barracks while not playing where units sometimes gain more experience, items or increase their relationship as well.
An effect from the relationship aspect is that units can sometimes marry each other, producing offspring that can eventually fight as well. Even your created character can get married to some of the characters in the game if wanted.
Going along with the social aspect of the game is the StreetPass functionality the game has. Players can have up to 10 fighters in a unit to appear in other player’s worlds as they pass them. By fighting the group, or by paying a price for the group, you can add their members to your own forces. Unfortunately, I was unable to try the feature out, but it sounds like a good way to keep battles going after finishing the game.
The graphics in battle are similar to previous handheld titles, although the graphics and the 3D effects used during cutscenes are a nice touch. The profile artwork for each unit is nicely drawn as well, and voice acting, when used, is good. However, it seems to be used at odd times outside of cutscenes, and I’m not sure why that is.
Fire Emblem: Awakening is probably the best strategy game out there for a 3DS, and a solid title for system owners to get. The only turnoff may be the genre, which definitely isn’t one of the most easily accessible ones out there. However, with the easier and more forgiving modes, this is definitely a strong entry in the series to check out for newcomers and veterans alike.