by Alex Layton

As a perennial Nintendo fan, I’ve always wanted to play through a Fire Emblem game. Seeing as how they usually cost an arm and a leg to pick up however, I’ve never really had the chance. You could say I was late to the game. As you might guess, I was excited to receive another chance at getting into the series when Fire Emblem: Awakening was released in early 2013. After playing it, my only regret is not playing a Fire Emblem game sooner.

After customizing your character, the story then starts you off with the classic JRPG trope: the main character wakes up with amnesia and is introduced too a ragtag bunch of soon to be world savers. Chief among these potential heroes would be Chrom, the prince of Yilisse, accompanied by his personal militia the Shepherds. After assisting Chrom in defending a nearby town, he realizes your potential as a tactician and asks you to join him as he defends his kingdom. From that point, and throughout the course of the game you’ll be tangled up in assassination plots, time travel, and much more. The story is one of the game’s strong suits, and it’s pretty incredible. I was really impressed with it, and even surprised at how dark it got at times considering it is a Nintendo game. Still, every detail felt necessary.

The character design is near perfect, and the development between them is amazing. Even though most of the dialogue in the game was between 2D versions of the characters, I didn’t care. The conversations were all so well written that I actually looked forward to what they had to say. The 2D portraits change based on the emotion behind what the characters were saying, while simple, this still works pretty well to convey what’s happening.

Speaking of character interactions, another strong point featured in Awakening would be the relationship system. Based on how much characters spend time paired up during battle, they will gain the opportunity to strengthen their relationships. By doing so these character will recieve bonuses when they fight alongside eachother, and can even get married and have children, who themselves become usable allies. This system works very well, and was actually one of my favorite things about the game. With this it also gives a sense of replayability, for instance going through the game a second time to see what it’d be like if character x had a child with y and what’d they’d produce, and how different your force will turn out to be.

imagesThe real meat of Awakening would have to be the battles. Awakening eschews real time fighting, and instead follow a turn based format, in which you move all of your units and attack the opposing side, and vise versa. With a wide variety of weapons available, and enemies that have individual strengths and weaknesses, it makes for a truly strategic and at times very intense battle system. One important distinction to Fire Emblem’s battles would be that when a character dies, he or she is gone forever. You can turn this off in the options if you prefer (a new feature to the series), but I felt it was far more satisfying playing it in it’s classic hardcore glory.

When you choose to attack an enemy on the field, you’re then taken to a cutscene that shows your unit attacking the other. While these cutscenes aren’t incredibly detailed, and they’re practically the same thing throughout the whole game, they are definitely entertaining and look pretty well to boot. With the option of either speeding them up, slowing them down, and even watching through a first person perspective, it’s quite some time before they start to get old. If battling NPC characters isn’t enough for you, included in the game is also the option to fight your friends’ teams via the 3DS’s Streetpass function.

Overall Fire Emblem: Awakening is a great game, and a game I’d recommend not only to Fire Emblem and JRPG fans, but to absolutely anyone who has a 3DS. It’s worth the buy, so grab it while you can!