Well it’s been a little over a week since I’ve got my hand on Fire Emblem: Awakening and I think I’m ready to review it; however, while writing this article, I’ve found that there’s a lot more than the basic points to review that I have to talk about in order to give a real review. So, what can I do?
Split the review into two parts!
This review you’re reading right here will review the game as a whole. It’ll include graphics, story, music, and gameplay. The NEXT review will be a full dissection of the gameplay to really compare it to other titles in the series. If I put this all in one review, it’d be way too long, and non-fans would get bored of reading specifics, so I’m throwing all of the detailed reviewing into a special article so you don’t have to read it unless you want to.
But I guess that applies to everything I write :c
I’ll start off with the story, with spoilers kept to a minimum. The Fire Emblem series has always had enjoyable stories, with my personal favorite being Path of Radiance. Awakening features an engaging story to say the least. While it’s a bit simple at times with a few “OH LOOK, MONSTERS! LET’S GET EM” moments, it’s nice to see that a certain temporal plot concept has an effect on your army’s colorful assortment of deadly crayons. The game has its share of underutilized plot relevant characters and events mixed with some excellent bits of writing scattered about, but it’s a solid story overall.
When Awakening was being developed, the designers called for an updated art style, with particular focus on character portraits. The traditional Fire Emblem style was updated with a more modern anime feel to it, as shoddily shown here by my brilliantly cropped photos:
It’s nice to see Fire Emblem getting a cosmetic overhaul, but it’ll definitely take some getting used to. Some people might not like the new anime-esque look, and I can see why, but if Intelligence Systems decided to stay with it, I think it would have a positive public reaction.
The 3d in-game models are a welcome new take on old classes and models, but a slight letdown. While they’re all very well made and animations are smooth and colorful, even the normal attack animations for most classes seem very bland. There IS a reason for this, though. Having such a large cast of characters means generic models had to be used to address internal memory issues. Having hundreds of characters, all with their own model? Sorry, but not on a 3DS. If the next Fire Emblem game was back on a console, this would be a possibility, but let’s not jump ahead of ourselves, eh?
Personally, I think Radiant Dawn did it pretty well. All units had their own color scheme instead of defaulting to red/blue like the majority of units in Awakening. While many other Fire Emblems also had characters with their own palette, Radiant Dawn had multiple critical hit and skill animations. Being on the Wii, the programmers had plenty of space to code everything in, so I’m hoping the next console Fire Emblem follows this formula.
Anyways, I’m getting slightly off topic. The graphics are very well done, and I’ve never encountered any clipping, glitching, ghosting, or anything of the sort. The 3D effect on this game is actually usable to me, as it also appears to make the edges of objects a little crisper. I play with them off for sake of not having a headache, but makes battle scenes a bit more flashy, and isn’t that just a bonus anyways?
The soundtrack is VERY well done, as expected from a collaboration between Hiroki Morishita and the big man himself, Rei Kendoh, prolific composer of both the Okami AND Bayonetta soundtracks. Talk about setting yourself up for fame, eh? With a mix of refreshing new pieces and new takes at old tracks, Awakening comes onto the scene with a very impressive musical score.
And of course, the Fire Emblem theme has to be mentioned. I think that this theme is one of the best renditions of the theme, starting off with an intimidating, militant bit that moves into the very empowering and familiar tune we all know and love. Rei Kendoh: keep this up and you’re joining Kenji Yamamoto and Masato Kouda up in “Gaming Music Heaven.”
Fire Emblem has always had one golden rule: if someone goes down, they stay down. No second chances, no revives, no spawn points. If a unit died in combat, they were gone forever. This made Fire Emblem a lot more about planning ahead and knowing your units’ full potentials. You had to learn about them and coordinate with other units along the journey or you’ll end up getting people killed and, ultimately, not being able to progress in the game. While it was a given that Awakening would keep that classic golden rule, they also provided a “Casual Mode,” where fallen units would come back at the end of the encounter, similar to a phone running out of battery being thrown onto the charger to get ready for the next day. It’s nice to see that Awakening is allowing itself to be more easily accessible by the general audience. Many long-time fans would prefer to play it how they used to: resetting the game if a unit dies, or accepting the loss and pushing on. Having both options allows Awakening to appeal to a larger crowd and grow its fanbase. So, good call.
Yeah… that’s it on that.
The gameplay formula has changed drastically in this installment due to the Dual Support Systems and freedom to change classes at will. Is your General too slow? Don’t suffer! Change him into a Thief and take advantage of the class’ high Speed and Skill growths, or use the pairing up system to pair him with a faster character, giving him speed bonuses! Make your Berserker even tougher, or your Archer even more accurate! Enemy units have higher stat numbers than in most other titles, so if it gets tough, call in a friendly unit to help out. Character relationships have always been a staple of the series, and it’s good to see that the previous support system has been expanded upon. 2v1 might not be fair, but sharing is caring. Even if you’re sharing premeditated murder.
One final note about the DLC controversy. People have been saying “Nintendo is doing the DLC RIGHT! Other companies can learn from Nintendo!” Well, here’s my two cents on this topic.
It seems like EVERYONE these days is whining about DLC. YES, some DLC is redundant and pointless, and YES, companies CAN fuck up how they manage it (coughCAPCOMcough), but why should that affect you so much? If you don’t support downloadable content, then don’t buy it; it’s that simple. I may be a bigger Fire Emblem fan than some other guy, so maybe I’d buy more DLC to get more out of the experience. That other guy just might be happy with what he paid for, and that’s fine.
“But what makes Nintendo right while everyone else is apparently doing it wrong?”
I’d have to say the free SpotPass content they’re handing out is a big piece of this. Using SpotPass, players can download teams of characters from previous Fire Emblem games to buy items from, or fight in battle for a chance to recruit their favorite units. Some people complained about which characters got better versions of characters along DLC maps, but at least you can get them from SpotPass for free, right? What I’m trying to get at is that Nintendo handing out the SpotPass content is a way of getting more content to people who are hesitant or opposed to the idea of paying for content. Even if you didn’t spend a dime on DLC, you can have HUNDREDS of characters for free just from playing the game and getting SpotPass rewards. The DLC is for people who want even more out of the game than both of these can provide, or have a soft spot for a little fanservice.
Anyways, I’m running out of the proper proportion of thoughts and ways to articulate them at the moment, but overall, Fire Emblem: Awakening is a very large and enjoyable game, and if you like strategy games, this is an extremely good reason to buy or hold onto a 3DS. Fire Emblem: Awakening is a solid exclusive title for the 3DS.
Keep an eye out for my new section coming out, and if you’re a Fire Emblem fan, you get the special treat of hearing my thoughts on specific game functions they’ve changed in Awakening. Thanks for reading my 2AM writing skills!
I’m gonna fall asleep on my desk now.