In late February, IGN updated their list of their top 25 Nintendo 3DS games. Since then, I have been playing through the list on my updated New Nintendo 3DS XL, trying to extend the longevity of my games and look at them more critically. Today, I’m getting the ball rolling with #2, Fire Emblem Awakening.
Developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo, Fire Emblem Awakening was supposed to be the final game in the series, but due to the high popularity of Awakening, the series will live on with Fire Emblem Fates when it arrives in 2016. It isn’t hard to see why we are receiving another Fire Emblem game because Awakening is a phenomenal game.
The main meat of Fire Emblem Awakening is its tactical, turn-based RPG gameplay. The extremely deep mechanics have been built by many generations of Fire Emblem games before, but Awakening shepherds new players into the fold with quick and simple tutorials that make the minutia accessible to all. Awakening also introduces Casual Mode to the series, a difficulty option that revives fallen warriors after battle. Before Awakening, Fire Emblem could only played with permadeath on, so if a unit died, he/she is dead for the rest of the game, but Awakening doesn’t have to be played like that. While Casual Mode alleviates some delicious tension and drama, it acts as the perfect entry point to the series, providing unprecedented accessibility to the series. The ability to fully customize units’ weapon and class type adds a sense of power and control which perfectly fits the gameplay. The standpoint of being a tactician in a war feels surprisingly accurate because of the delegation muscles you can flex with next to no drawback. Awakening’s realism astounds with its astute sense of fighting a war, but some aspects take the realism too far. Weapon breaking, the mechanic where weapons can only be used a certain amount of time before breaking, detracts from the fun of the game. Realism usually receives praise in video games, but at some point realism makes aspects of games a chore, and Awakening hits that point with weapon breaking, but ultimately, weapon breaking feels menial and takes very little away from the overall experience.
The jam-packed story of Awakening feels like a tense novel with nearly all twists and turns feeling necessary, touting only a small amount of superfluous fluff. While the impressing, large-scale battles that make up the 25 chapters of the main story provide more than enough entertainment, the best narrative elements come from the support conversations that warriors can have between battles. When pairing two units together in battle, their affinity for each other grows stronger, resulting in the rise of not only their strength when fighting side-by-side, but their love for each other as well. Couples can get married and have children together, which then can open up certain side missions, up to 17, but there is no exact science to the coupling. One unit can unlock a paralouge, regardless of the mate, but each pairing boasts unique dialogue. What’s more, the paralougues reward players with new units, some based on the pairings you have chosen, so the combinations make for a story that feels incredibly personal. The soldiers that are fighting for a righteous cause have interwoven connections that make you care for them as a player, you want them to survive so the relationships they have made continue to flourish.
Fire Emblem Awakening revitalized and revolutionized the tactical RPG genre by introducing the deep mechanics that define the series to the masses. A dramatic and suspenseful narrative hooks players early on and introduces soldiers who are strangers at first, but at the final battle, those soldiers have become your comrades that march into battle next to you. The level of compassion that develops for these characters astounds with their unique connections to their brothers and sisters in arms, but Awakening keeps its edge long after the start because of the long reaching consequences of the familial ties your soldiers develop because of your choices.
- Accessibility of mechanics that were previously scary and unbreachable by series newcomers
- Customization of soldiers, from weapons, to class type, and even significant others builds compassion for your soldiers
- An invigorating 25 chapter story with a ton of side missions packs a ton of long-lasting, quality content
- Weapon breaking makes being a tactician a chore, but only for a brief second