“It’s so nice to feel special for once!”
Fire Emblem: Awakening is a strategy based RPG that covers the story of a war between several fantasy nations. It is very strong across all areas of the game, having particularly good character development and interaction, engaging gameplay and high quality music.
Story and Characters
This game is set in a traditional fantasy setting, covering the story of the wars between Ylisse, Plegia and followers of the Fell Dragon Grima. At the start, you create an avatar, which will be the main focus of the game. As you progress through the game, you are joined by several other characters, notably Chrom, the lord of Ylisse, to join his cause to win the war. Your character plays a very important part in the storyline, as you are in control of what the other members of your army decide to do.
There are many decisions that you have to make, both gameplay and story wise, which means that if you play the game again, you can have a totally different experience from last time. While the main objectives remain the same, the way it unfolds is different due to the different ways characters can develop. Characters can build relationships throughout the game, which unlocks support conversations which give an insight on each character’s thoughts. It is even possible to get characters to marry each other if you are dedicated enough.
One thing I liked about the support conversations is that most of them are unique and that they strengthen how each character is portrayed. There are a few stereotypical character designs, such as a clumsy girl and a hero, which are implied to be paired together. There are also some character designs more typical of Eastern culture, such as a crazily obsessed girl, so it may seem odd to Western players. However, this game, unlike some other RPG games, allows you to break these typical setups in many ways through your decision making. It is even possible to get your character involved as well, with some quite interesting results and conversations.
The main story is quite strong and that game does a good job in putting you in the shoes of your avatar. There are many emotional highs and lows throughout the game which give you feelings of empathy for the characters. I also found it easy to identify with some of the characters in the game, which made it much more enjoyable and gave a feeling of purpose to the story.
There are many subtle lines of dialogue that add to character development here. For example, there are random conversations in the barracks, conversations while fighting enemies and even a short sentence when you buy items at the shop.
Overall, the story and characters are developed very well. Unlike other stereotypical RPGs where you just defeat the villains because you have to, which just passes through your head without a second thought, Fire Emblem: Awakening gives you a compelling reason to go through and make decisions.
The main story consists of fighting enemies on a grid like map in turn based battles. Each side takes turns in moving their units in order to attack, defend or reach certain areas of the map. At certain points in some battle, the enemy can send in reinforcements, which act immediately on harder difficulties, so some prediction is required. Good planning is crucial to clear the maps near the end. At first, you’ll only have a choice of a few people to fight against the enemy, but as you progress, you have to choose which units to bring in. You get a full preview of the map beforehand, so it is up to you to choose which units the use, as they all have various advantages and disadvantages. There are 27 main battles, which mainly consist of beating all enemies or just the boss. There are also a number of side scenarios where you can recruit other people, including children once your characters get married.
There are initially three difficulty settings, with a choice to play either Casual or Classic Mode. Each difficulty level increases the complexity of the maps and enemies, meaning you’ll need to be more careful with planning. While Casual Mode is forgiving, Classic Mode makes your decisions even more meaningful, because once a character dies in Classic Mode, they are unable to battle for the rest of the game (although you can reset if you really want to).
Each unit has different abilities, weaknesses and strengths depending on what class they are in. For example, the Tactician class, which your character starts off in, can use magic tomes and swords and is fairly balanced overall. The Pegasus Knight can move further in a turn, has high speed and good resistance against magic, but is weak against bows. This means that you want to position your characters carefully on the map in order to avoid being sniped, which you’ll quickly learn if you place a Cleric (healer class) in range of the enemy.
Characters can also change to a more powerful class, or even switch to another class to a limited extent. This becomes useful, as each class has different skills. Some skills provide simple stat boosts, while another skill, Vengeance, allows you to deal more damage when your health is low, which can be risky but rewarding. You don’t have to grind for particular skills to succeed normally, but choosing the right skills and classes can definitely make the game much easier.
You’ll also want to watch out for enemy skills in order to avoid being killed. One such example is Counter, which causes counterattacks when the holder takes damage from an adjacent square, which can end up killing your unit. There are a few random elements in the game, such as accuracy, critical hits and skill activation, but success mostly comes down to your strategy, as you can see all stats, abilities and weapons of the enemy. These additions to the combat system give much more depth.
Resource management is also fairly important as you only start off with a limited amount of money. Weapons and tomes break after a certain number of uses and items allowing you to promote units are single use. Only certain enemies have drops throughout the story, so it is essential to manage your weapons well. There are also treasure chests which are only available in certain battles. Occasionally, you can get random battles with various item drops and a chance to gain additional EXP and items. You can also spawn enemies if you think you need to level up a bit more with an item called the Reeking Box, although on harder difficulties, the cost outweighs the reward you gain, which makes good planning necessary (unless you have the Golden Pack DLC, which exists solely for extra money and EXP, although you don’t need it to beat the game). This adds to the planning aspect of the game.
The Support system in this game allows you to pair up two units in combat, giving a boost to the lead unit while protecting the supporting unit from attacks. The more you use them in battle as a pair, the stronger their support becomes as you unlock their conversations. These support actions include making a second attack and blocking an attack for no damage. These effects become stronger as you level up. This system was done very well, adding additional layers of strategy to the game and also adding to character development.
StreetPass allows you to send items and even your own team to other players to challenge them to a battle. The incentives to winning these battles include gaining extra Renown, which opens up a range of useful items, as well as recruiting guest avatars. There is also content available through SpotPass, such as enemy teams from previous games in the Fire Emblem series, as well as 6 extra characters from the game that can be recruited. There is also DLC available for the game, which mainly consist of extra scenarios and some of the most challenging battles. This content gives you many things to do, even after you’ve finished the story.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics have been done quite well in this game. It uses an anime based art style for the character portraits as well as having 3D character models. What I liked most about the animation was the combat animations. In particular, when a character is knocked out, there is a slow motion animation of them collapsing to make the scene more dramatic. In addition, when a skill that causes instant death activates, the screen goes red with shadows of blood. 3D graphics were used very well in this game for the combat animation and maps and was not overused to the point where it ruined the art style.
The music in this game is nothing short of a masterpiece. The music in Awakening really fits the mood of different times with some being happy, strong/pumping up, sad, epic and even happy-go lucky. There are parts in the game though, where it really shines through setting an environment up (along with the story and characters) where people are moved to tears by how much emotion is put into it. I’m very impressed with the sound and love the music.
In particular, the music that plays when your avatar or Chrom dies in combat was done well, as it feels like you’ve failed to accomplish your goals and that doom is impending.
Another important part is the voice acting in the game. The voice acting is nothing but astounding. It has got to be one of the few games which I had played the game with the characters to have their english voice acting rather than the japanese voice acting (the game gives you the option of both). The voices actually fit the characters giving off one of the best voice acting I’ve heard in years!
There are a few other minor features. One of them is the Hubba Tester, where you test the compatibility of two units. This result is random, so it can lead to somewhat hilarious results sometimes. The other feature is Double Duel which allows you to co-operate with another player to defeat some enemies, although there is no map. I didn’t find myself using these features too much, but it’s a nice way to have some fun.
The story is the strongest part of Fire Emblem: Awakening. This game is one of the few games where I actually felt actively involved with the story and character development. The gameplay is also strong and adheres to the genre very well, requiring thoughtful planning while being more forgiving on the easier difficulties. It’s definitely not a casual game by any means, but it definitely gives a challenge to hardcore gamers while being accessible to players that enjoy strategy or RPG games.
The game can take 20 to 40 hours to finish and if you want to truly complete everything, you’ll be playing through many times in order to unlock the support conversations. One strength with this game is that every playthrough is different in some way, so it is harder to get bored.
As someone whose main interest is RPG games, I tried this game out and enjoyed it thoroughly. If you are interested in strategy or RPG games, I recommend that you buy this game. If you aren’t interested in either genre, you may find this game hard to enjoy though.