Review - Fire Emblem Awakening
Nintendo is finally bringing its most beloved tactical RPG, Fire Emblem, to the 3DS. The flashy new hardware is promising not only a graphically impressive version of the game, but a new Dual System to change up the combat as well. So get ready for some swords, sorcery, and tactics with Fire Emblem Awakening!
Fire Emblem Awakening’s style suits the platform it was built for. Menus share both the upper and lower screens harmoniously. Despite the touchscreen itself being woefully underutilized, the animations on the top screen are smooth. Cutscenes mostly contain talking head moments, with the exception being major story beats. Those are fully fleshed out in Anime-style cutscenes, which are truly impressive. Otherwise, you're treated to relatively static character models. Their lack of any visual interchange is mitigated by the large character pin-ups, which cover much of the screen. This really hurt the 3D experience in my opinion, because it adds so many layers to each scene. The models, on the other hand, look really great for the most part.
Something that I absolutely loathed about the character models is the lack of feet. It is a strange art direction to say the least and at one point I honestly thought Nintendo was trolling me, but this was apparently a design choice. While it won’t affect anything substantial, I found it to be stylistically jarring. Some classes break away from this visual travesty, especially mounted classes, and there is a wide variety of characters who represent them. With so many to choose from, I feel like the characters and their respective classes provide something for everyone. This diversity carries over into the various attack animations and gear that your characters will acquire throughout their journey.
The musical score is impressive and boasts a full orchestra. It complements the setting and tone of Fire Emblem as a franchise perfectly, raising expectations for what a handheld title’s OST can be. The voice acting on the other hand, leaves a bit to be desired. The Anime cutscenes are fully voiced, but much of the game contains those talking head moments where you are expected to read. Not a big deal, but they've added a bit of sporadic voice acting, with characters exclaiming a single word or gasp at the start of a sentence. It becomes jarring when rolling through text and characters are sighing or gasping back and forth. Again, it isn’t a deal breaker by any means, but I’d prefer to enjoy the fantastic music while I read through the story.
Fire Emblem Awakening is true to its franchise roots as a tactical role-playing game. You create a custom character to accompany main protagonist, Chrom, as he defends his homeland of Ylisse. As the Tactician in the group, you’re not only a mighty warrior on the battlefield, but you control everyone else’s attack patterns. You manage these characters from an overhead view on a grid. As your extensive team grows in size and numbers, your party becomes a “war machine” and it may become powerful enough to steamroll the competition with little direction from you. Making the sum of the whole greater than the individual parts.
This is the unique thing about Fire Emblem Awakening that inspires you the player: the innocence that characters subscribe to over the course of the story, despite all the war. Little hearts pop up in battle to remind you that the experiences you and your companions share help each other grow stronger. NPCs who become fast friends inevitably end up married and as a pair, and they’re much more powerful. Sharing this journey and building relationships along the way is how Fire Emblem differentiates itself from other tactical RPGs.
While this mantra is communicated subtly through the combat mechanics, conversations between NPCs range from dismissive to revelatory. Despite there being entire menus devoted to encouraging relationship management, it never felt like a burden. The Support menu fosters additional dialog between characters for combat bonuses, and the Barracks will play host to a exhibitions which boost stats or reveal additional weapons. Like past Fire Emblem games, weapons play a huge role in how you will build that “war machine”.
Weapons are a significant factor when it comes to how you combine classes and they encourage you to mix it up. Weapons will dictate the number of your attacks, chance of critical attacks, and from what distance you can attack. Depending on your class, you are limited as to which weapons each character can use and to what proficiency of weapon they have access to. Weapons can also be forged to increase stats, which was satisfying when working with Heroic-grade weapons. As you level these character classes, they will also receive passive bonuses -- some of which are various critical attacks using the weapons. The system feels natural, while still having a fair amount of complexity.
The story itself can last over the 20-hour mark, which may only include half the Paralogues (side quests) and none of the DLC. Yes, Fire Emblem Awakening will offer unique maps via DLC and SpotPass, increasing the bang for your buck. Pricing varies, but in addition to new scenarios, certain maps grant additional characters. The Casual Mode also returns, removing perma-death from the equation and making the game approachable to anyone. Hardcore fans are certainly encouraged to engage in Classic Mode and ramp the difficulty up if they’d like.
With so much to do, an extensive cast of characters and an elaborate story; Fire Emblem Awakening is another fantastic entry in the series. Despite a few strange design decisions in both the voiceover work and character models, there is very little to complain about. The new combat system is engaging, while still encouraging character development on and off the battlefield. Both the class and weapon systems are robust, supporting the core turn-based action that absolutely complements the platform. I highly recommend that everyone who owns a 3DS and cares even the slightest about RPGs go pick this up immediately.
|ScrewAttack's News Director Sean Hinz worked in logistics for over four years before decided it was time to switch industries. After a couple years spent getting an MBA and freelancing, he finally found a home at ScrewAttack.com. As far as games go, Sean likes to play anything he can get his hands on, but especially enjoys third-person action RPGs. Is that really a genre?|
Yea, having it optional is the best way to go about it, rather than having it one way or the other.
This game is a masterpiece. The gameplay and difficulty tuning are absolutely sublime. If there's one fault, it's that enemies reinforce at the end of the player turn on the harder difficulties, meaning that you can't formulate strategies because all of the information isn't provided to you. However, enemy spawns are forewarned, and the locations are obvious, so you can prepare to some degree.
A lot of people are saying that this game is good (alongside Sean, of course) so I might pick it up. It seems like the best way to truly jump into the franchise, I think.
I thought for sure at first that the lack of feet was just a bug where characters' feet were stuck under the floor.
All the retail version of Fire Emblem is sold out, and for some reason my 3DS won't let me buy things through the e-shop. My only choice is to save up for the 3DS pack. It'll be worth it.
It can be entirely avoided by the hardcore because it's in a separate mode, so there's no reason to complain. It was only added to draw in customers that wanted to join the Fire Emblem community but were on the fence. It's an optional feature that can be completely ignored and serves to grow the fan base, so it's nothing to be disappointed about.
Fire Emblem I love you and want your children.
I feel the same way about the perma-death, but at least they gave an option to keep it on or off, rather than just take it out completely.
They give credit where it is due and Nintendo has done nothing to deserve it. Nintendo is for casual fans and this is a more hardcore website. Nintendo has "innovated" themselves out of their true fans good graces.
Nice review but I'm a little disappointed that they give the option for death not to be permanent....that was always a big selling point for me and this series. Looks solid though now I just need a new Advance Wars game.
Yeah, for some reason the lack of feet doesn't really bother me either. Maybe it should, but it just doesn't.
So wait, you guys have to receive Nintendo's permission or something?
That's what I thought. I don't think Screwattack hates nintendo or whatever.
No I did not. Did they say that in a sidescrollers or something?
You do realize that he meant (and later clarified) was that they didn't announce any NEW game people cared about (Everyone knew about the release of Fire Emblem back then)
Hahah, no, although that is creative. I'm saying it's deep because there is story significance in battles and so much to offer in the combat mechanics and individual characters.
I love this game and very happy I bought it, just one thing kinda ticks me off and that when playing the higher difficulty levels, outside normal mode, an item called "Reeking Box" cost 4,800g, when in normal mode, only cost 500g. I hardly say that's fair (especially if you're now stuck to grinding on the DLC maps) since the Risen summoned by them are still remarkably hard to kill normally.
I found it to be the best Fire Emblem to date in my opinion. There's so much to do, the system is designed so that you could spend endless hours on a single playthrough, constantly re-classing your characters to give them new skills and to properly max out ALL their stats. Quite a few references to the old games, either in the DLC, dialogue or just general game play. Largest selection of weapons and items, and improves on the system a lot. This review isn't off the mark at all.
I think that this is the first time I've seen something over 9 on the Community scale. Nice way of coming together g1's! This game is fantastic. Nice review Sean!