Last Level Press

Review: Fire Emblem Awakening

Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo

If you’re like me, and let’s hope that’s not exactly the case, then your first encounter with the Fire Emblem series was with Super Smash Bros. Melee, when you saw these two strange characters with swords who spoke only in Japanese, and had some of the best looking attacks in the game, all the while you were pissing your friends off because you kept attacking Link with the only attack Roy was used for. And if you’re really like me, the first Fire Emblem game you played was Radiant Dawn, which was a sequel to Path of Radiance on the Gamecube. And if you’re really REALLY like me, you’re reading this and thinking, “When will I start reading about Fire Emblem Awakening?” In the next sentence!

“You dare delay my beard’s introduction?  Philistine!”

Fire Emblem Awakening is the latest title to grace a series that has its roots back in the 8-bit era and has started to see a growing fandom here in the West. The game centers primarily around two people: Chrom, prince of the Halidom of Ylisse and commander of a specialized group of fighters known as the Shepherds, and the avatar character you name and create, a person suffering from amnesia, but a tactical genius. With the threat of war rising, it is up to you, Chrom, and the Shepherds to bring peace to a world that finds itself on the verge of the apocalypse as you face marauders, opposing nations, and even the undead.

For a game that is centered on things as intense as war, death, and destruction, it’s actually pleasant to look at. Everything from the profile pictures of your characters to the fields you fight on are not a dusty, realistic brown, but it’s also not a cel-shaded wonderland of vivid color. While the on-field sprites and animated cut-scenes of your characters are bright and recognizable, their colors are somewhat muted in their profiles and 3D models, a statement that holds true in every regard when talking about the enemies you face. The battle animations, though they become repetitive after a while, are smooth and fun to watch as opposed to seeing some numbers on the screen go down. I will say that the only problem I have is that the 3D models of every character make it look like they have no feet and walk around with nubs on the bottoms of their legs, but this is more of a nitpick than a deal-breaker.

Nub feet or not, I know Dota 2’s Juggernaut when I see him.

Kill it with fire!

Although the voice work in Awakening is unbelievably better than it was in Radiant Dawn, much of what is heard is good as far as sound bites go. With the exception of the occasional fully animated cut-scene with dialogue, much of the game is silent as far as characters are concerned. You will get the occasional clip of audio, or even hear a short phrase during conversations, but beyond that the only voices you’ll hear are the ones the characters say in battle, which doesn’t get annoying so much as it makes you remember what they sound like. The music is good as well, with each track fitting their intended purpose, but they’re not just simply there to fill a quiet space like elevator music: they add to the experience like an epic involving an ancient hero. While the soundtrack itself isn’t really anything to write home about, it’s still a pleasant experience that keeps you listening for more.

The game functions like any other tactics-based games out there: your battlefield is a grid and each unit has its own strengths, weaknesses, and limits to movements. In the Fire Emblem series, there’s a rock-paper-scissors system called the Weapon Triangle with the three major weapon types: swords, axes, and lances. Swords are strong against axes, axes are strong against lances, and lances are strong against swords. There’s also your distance based weapons such as magical tomes and bows, and then there are staves, which are used to heal or assist a character. The game’s bread-and-butter is strategy, so your units are only as strong or useful as you can make them. If you’re terrible at tactics-based games like I am then you and I are in luck since there is a Casual Mode that allows units that fall in battle to only be removed from battle; if you’re really good at tactics-based games, or just wanna laugh at people like me, then you can play on Classic Mode, where if a unit dies in battle then they’re gone for good… unless you reset. But you wouldn’t do that, right?

…Right?  I mean, no pressure or anything, man.  

Just like any good game based in a fantasy world, the world of Fire Emblem Awakening has its own mythology and history, but it is mostly unimportant save that there’s an evil dragon god named Grima that some people worship, and Marth, the hero of the first Fire Emblem, is a legendary historical figure. There are a few things that are worth mentioning though. First is the call backs to prior Fire Emblem games in the form of weapons and one particular recruit who emulates flashy heroes and names his attacks after previous entries in the series. Another is a recruit named Inigo, a dashing swordsman who briefly refers to women as “buttercups.” He hasn’t mentioned giants yet, or said “inconceivable,” but if that wasn’t an in-joke by the translators or a reference by writers then I don’t know what is. Overall, the game is still engrossing just with what it has by itself, and that’s okay.

The great thing about the Fire Emblem series is that they’re all stand-alone games with only a few exceptions. This particular title would be a great entry point since it does offer a Casual Mode for people who aren’t very good at these types of games, and also offers DLC in the form of maps older characters from previous games. If you’re a fan of Fire Emblem or tactics games, this would be a good choice, and you probably already own it. If you’re on the fence for whatever reason, picking this title up along with Shin Megami Tensei IV before August 31st will give you the chance to get $30 free for the Nintendo eShop when you register their codes on a Club Nintendo account, which was a good motivator if you’re me. And if you’re unsure if you’ll enjoy tactics-based games, you can always try scouting out the older games, and then buying Fire Emblem Awakening.

Rating: 8.0

Visuals: 8

Audio: 8
Controls & Mechanics: 7
Atmosphere & Experience: 8
Entertainment Value: 9

  Consoles: Nintendo 3DS

  Developer: Intelligent Systems

  Publisher: Nintendo

  Release Date (U.S.):  Feb 4, 2013

  Release Date (U.K.):  Apr 19, 2013

  Release Date (JP):  Apr 19, 2012

Final Verdict:


Last Level Press © Copyright Cliff Davenport  Est. 2013.  Links | Legal Notices

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