Fire Emblem : Awakening Review
Cart Fire Emblem: Awakening
Coin: Intelligent Systems
Emotion. Something that is very difficult to pull from the average gamer’s stone-cast chest. Not the usual mix of blood lust, excitement and tension found in spades in many modern games, but fear and compassion for your characters in the story, and a genuine worry about their wellbeing.
Empathy is tough to get right in games, mainly because you know that, if you fail, the worst thing that will happen will be being forced to restart the last level, or the most recent checkpoint, with your character magically reborn, as if nothing had happened at all. This makes it extremely tough to actually care about the people in a game, and even those games that do manage to prod a pang of emotion from players do so with scripted cut scenes, which goes against the very nature of the interactive element of the medium.
Fire Emblem has always done things a little bit differently. In Fire Emblem, if a character is killed in combat, they stay dead forever. This fundamental difference from other games really makes you grow attached to your avatars. They stop being units, they stop being characters, but start to become little people, living through a war, which you witness through the 3DS screens.
Fire Emblem is a grid and turn based strategy game, that plays in a very similar way to Advance Wars, also by Intelligent Systems, and tells a feudal tale that is actually slightly pompous and laboured in the telling, although the stellar cutscenes do help to get you involved in the wider world.
The game is lovely to look at, and a treat for strategy fans
This Fire Emblem, Awakening, with its clever additions, takes the main concept further, by making the character’s relationships with one another central to the gameplay, the story and the way you approach every encounter in the game. Characters who stand next to each other on the battlefield automatically aid each other with stat boosts and even physical help, but the ones you actively spend time getting to talk to each other in the areas between battles, will start friendships which can, if they are of opposite genders, end in love, marriage and even children.
These characters give each other massive stats boosts when near one another, with whole family units very strong indeed. This all takes time and commitment on the part of the player, and believe me, you will want to keep these guys alive, which is very difficult indeed.
When you do make a mistake and find that you have put an important character in danger, the whole dynamic of how you play changes. The mission goes out the window, and you spend every resource on rescuing that person, which usually has the knock-on effect of endangering yet more characters. It is hard to describe just how upsetting it is to lose a character that you have crafted, not only in upgrades and abilities, but emotionally and in terms of their relationships. Think its annoying to have to restart levels in other games? You have no idea.
Like Advance Wars, fights take place in mini cutscenes
You can, if you really want to, select ‘casual’ mode and have your fallen units respawn for the next battle. Don’t do it.
Awakening also has a few decent online features, such as Spotpass, which lets you get new maps, Streetpass support for swapping teams with strangers, some paid DLC and even a pretty good 2 player local mode, although it is a shame there is no download play, as finding another owner of this may be a challenge in itself. Why there is no online multiplayer is a bit of a mystery, and a big letdown.
It still plays as well as it ever did, with the new options opened up by the new ally system giving the whole thing a real feel of freshness, which is helped by the best graphics in the series so far and some truly snazzy cutscenes. The extra maps, items and characters offered by the online portion mean that this could last you a very long time.
Fire Emblem is one of the least well-known of Nintendo’s franchises, yet it is also the deepest and bravest world you may come across on 3DS. The best game I have played this year so far, Fire Emblem: Awakening is simply stunning.
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Editor and founder of VoxelArcade and The Smartphone App Review. Favourite games: Uridium 2, Frontier: Elite II, Sensible World of Soccer, Far Cry 3, Zelda: Ocarina, Metroid Prime, Solar Quest, F-Zero GX, Monkey Island 2 and Tetris.