Fire Emblem: Awakening is the latest installment in the famed tactical RPG series. It follows Chrom, a prince of the kingdom of Ylisse, as he leads his army of soldiers against mysterious undead creatures and rebelling armies. You however, play as the amnesic main character with an unknown past. Customizing your character truly makes the experience so much more special and being a tactician plays perfectly into the notion that it is your job to lead your army's every movement.
As a turn-based strategy game much of the gameplay takes place on a battlefield grid. The game will make you care about each move you make down to the last detail, as mistakes can be very costly. Your team and the enemies each get one move per character in which they can attack, heal or use items, or pair up.
Teamwork is key in Fire Emblem: Awakening as relationships play a big role in strengthening your battle tactics. Pair Up allows two characters to fight along side one another in the same space, acting as one unit by giving bonuses in stats such as hit and chance of landing a critical move. One character attacks as the other provides support and occasionally attacks as well. It is a nice feature for slower characters as, for example, they can be paired up with a flying unit for more mobility. After finishing a face off with an enemy, both characters will also gain relationship points.
The Fire Emblem series has been using the relationship mechanic for a while now, but Awakening takes it further by allowing you to marry two characters or further strengthen their bond of friendship. After a battle, if you have used a pair of two characters enough, they will be able to have a support conversation that boosts their relationship level. This is huge improvement over the past Fire Emblem games where you would need to have two characters next to each other for them to gain any relationship points and support conversations could only be triggered on the field. Pair Up fixes this and makes relationship building easier.
Support conversations provide a nice break from battles as each set of dialog is nicely written and is one of the most entertaining parts of the game. The couple or friends start at level C and when a couple reaches level S they will be married. Married couples are almost unstoppable on the battlefield blocking, dodging, and attacking with critical strikes more often then characters can do on their own.
New to the Fire Emblem games is the addition of the barracks feature. When it is lit up after a battle you can check on certain units. They will gain relationship points, EXP, or find a useful weapon. The game also recognizes when a character has a birthday and they will get bonuses added to their key stats.As with previous installments, at level 10 each character that is at its base class can be upgraded to an advanced class with a master seal. Your very own tactician can become a grandmaster, wielding magic and swords with more power then before. A cleric or monk will become a War Cleric or War Monk, now wielding axes, in addition to staffs.
Skills also play an important role in battles and can change the odds in your favor. For example, Charm grants hit/avoid +5 to all allies within three spaces of the character who posses the skill. Another interesting skill is vantage, which allows a unit to strike first if their HP is half, even if they are attacked. Interestingly enough, skills can be passed on to different generations. Children will will show up in side missions and can be recruited to join the party.
Visually Fire Emblem: Awakening makes good use to the 3DS's graphical capabilities for many reasons. The scenery pops out, drawing you into the game. Birds will fly above the battlefield strengthening the atmosphere. Character artwork is unique and beautiful. It definitely is a vast improvement over the past installments. Battle models could look a little better, as they tend to have strange looking feet and boring looking faces. It's safe to say that the high-resolution graphics are far superior to the council versions of Fire Emblem. This really shows promise for the series in the future, as new games will ultimately look just as good or even better.
The soundtrack composed by Hiroki Morishita definitely sets the mood perfectly for a heated battle or even goofy moments between characters. The only way that these tunes could sound better, is if they were fully orchestrated. Old music from past Fire Emblem titles also makes an appearance in the DLC. As for the voice acting, the developers decided to not fully voice any of the cutscenes besides the full motion ones. When a character speaks a line you will hear a grunt or a few words from that line. It's a bit sad that this game couldn't have been fully voiced, but over looking this is quite easy.
Re-playability is certainly high, with 26 missions to complete and tons of side quests that appear along the way. SpotPass will also give you a bunch of challenge missions that are great practice for the main game as well is the chance to buy powerful weapons and gain other free content. The main game can easily span more then 30 hours, but the side quests make the experience last almost double that time. Multiplayer doesn't really provide much to help with this, but it really isn't the real eye catching feature of the full game.
Fire Emblem: Awakening is by far the best tactical RPG on the 3DS right now and it's well worth your time. It is also a great place for new players to get into the franchise, as casual mode turns off the permanent death feature. But hardcore fans will be happy to see the option to switch the difficultly setting for a bigger challenge. Awakening's beautiful fantasy world truly draws you in and when a game has done that, you know it is an experience to remember.
|Beautifully atmospheric soundtrack|
|Best tactical RPG experience on the 3DS|
|Lack of full voice acting|
|Multiplayer falls short|
|Normal mode might be too easy for some|