Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Fire Emblem:Awakening

Gamespot Score: 8.5 (Great)

My Score: 9.0

(+) Pros: -Great story that's easy to follow, - Simple, yet addictive gameplay, - Visually impressive battles, - Incredibly amount of depth to relationships and character customization, - Addictive class system, - Diverse characters, - TONS of content (even without paid DLC).

(-) Cons: - Too easy on default difficulty

Gameplay time: 40 Hours +

I know I'm really late on this game, and god knows what I've been missing out. "Fire Emblem:Awakening" is known as one of the best games on the 3DS, and I can see why. I was really reluctant to pick this one up, because I've never played a single "Fire Emblem" game before. Luckily, even for a newcomer like me, "Awakening" was f**king amazing. It does so much right in one game with almost no wrongs at all, and from a newcomer's perspective, there's is SO MUCH that the game has to offer. Almost so much to the point where I could not put the game down for weeks straight. For the strategic SRPG market, its safe to say that "Fire Emblem:Awakening" is currently one of its strongest contenders, right next to powerhouses like "Valkyria Chronicles" and "Xcom".

The story puts you in the shoes of Robin, an enigmatic mage who's also a tactician. The beginning sequence of the game has you playing as Robin with a man called Chrom, who is the prince of Ylisse, the kingdom that you're fighting for. Chrom claims to fight against "Destiny", and you're both pitted against a sorcerer known as Validar. Little is known at this point, and when you both take down the vile sorcerer, Robin seemingly betrays Chrom at the last minute and attacks Chrom, under the assumption that Robin was manipulated by Validar when he was slain. Of course, with the cliffhanger in mind, the game transports you to the present, where Robin awakens in the middle of a plain, and is taken into care by the very same Chrom, and his little sister Lissa. What lies in store for the amnesiac Robin?

All right...here we go.

The "Fire Emblem" series is a SRPG series, that much you should at least know, even from a newcomer's standpoint. Its a SRPG series with a lot of choices for your character though, know that your character has quite a few chances to alter the game's outcome in terms of story and gameplay. And holy damn the story. For a first timer like me, I never expected such a good story! I mean, it is rather cliche at certain points, but all in all, it was beautiful, especially dialogue between characters (Lucina's speech with Robin as her mother when she was threatening her almost brought tears to my eyes). The best thing of it all? You don't have to play any of the previous "Fire Emblem" stories to get most of it.

So you start off the game creating "Robin", the default name for your avatar, which is the character that you're going to use to represent yourself. You have multiple options here, but the most important thing is Robin's gender. Being a male or female in the story can change a LOT of things, especially in the romance and parenting department. Its highly recommended that you play the game twice, just for the experience, as both genders. If you want to play once and be a completionist, I suggest female Robin, just saying.

Sumia! You can't make your feelings any more obvious!

As mentioned earlier, this is an SRPG game. It shares the very same feel that games like "Final Fantasy Tactics" or "Tactics Ogre". You stand above a playing board, with all of your units displayed out in spaces on a grid. During your turn, you move your units around, attack enemy units, and when its the opponent's turn, they do the same. Like most SRPGs, the game play here is simple to learn, its addictive, but its also deep to a certain extent. When attacking other units, stats come into play, like strength, magic, skill etc. Faster units strike more times in a single attack, more skillful units dodge more and get more critical strikes. Stronger units hit harder, units with more defense take more PHYSICAL attacks.

Whenever you attack an enemy in "Fire Emblem", they strike back at you. Also, know that if you're playing classic mode (you should), characters die for real when they fall in battle, which means that every decision you make in battle actually counts. You will think before having one of your units attack a strong enemy unit. There's a simple rock paper scissors system in this game to help get you started. Swords beat axes, axes beat lances and lances beat swords. There are also other factors to take into account, like how flying units are weak to bows, so on and so forth. Just so you know, magic dominates everything, and I do think that they need to tone magic down a fair bit.

Ready to take the pain?

And whenever you attack an enemy, a battle animations plays out. I have to be honest here, for a 3DS game, the battles look pretty damn good. They fully crisp in 3D (though I must admit, do NOT turn on 3D for this game, or any f**king game for that matter), and the different styles of attack come into play here to make the game look more diverse. Sure, for most melee battles, its just unit after unit of hitting each other with a sword or an axe, but when skills activate, or when you critically strike an enemy, that extra flair that's added to the visuals make everything look more impressive. Also, the battle animations sometime take too long, so its a good idea to speed things up a notch, unless you're keen on stacking up the play time.

For battles in "Fire Emblem", characters that are paired up with one another or just stand close to each other in the battlefield will sometimes help each other out. Be it assisting in an attack, blocking an incoming enemy attack, or just being there to provide buffs. As you do this more often, the characters build support points with one another, and they get to know each other more. When these characters build support points to a certain level, you will unlock support conversations between one another. These can go up to a few levels, and the more of these support conversations that you build between each other, the better they help each other out when paired up again during battle.

Some parental love here I see.

Of course, if you keep going this way, and the characters happen to be of the opposite sex, can you guess what happens? Love happens, of course. This is how characters get married to one another in "Fire Emblem". And when characters get married, they get kids. Considering the insane amount of characters in this game, there are a crazy amount of possible pairings that you can actually create. Yes, since characters aren't "canonically" paired with one another through the story, you get to choose who marries who. You can do this purely out of your fantasies (I still think Lonqu is the best fit for Miriel), or you can do this the way the game wants you to. As you pair characters with one another for marriage, they pass down stat attributes and skills to their children. Taking into consideration what your desired child actually WANTS to learn or inherit...making children in "Fire Emblem" can be serious f**king business.

Then there's the class system, which you can spend HOURS playing around with. Sure, its not the most complex thing around, but its still incredibly fun to experiment with what kind of skill set you can cook up. Basically each character starts off with their own class, and can switch into a set of classes that are available to them from the start. Basic classes promote into advanced classes, and as you level up in a class, you gain skills. You can change to any class available to you as long as you hit some pre-requisites. Its one of those games where you can get a Knight's skill on a Sorcerer, or an Assassin's skill on a Sage. Its just a matter of grinding for them skills, but if you've got the perseverance, you can create the ultimate team of bad asses that will NEVER f**king die to anything.


If you even need a reason to care for your characters, don't fret. Each and every single character has a personality of their own, in conversations between other characters. You never know how someone is going to react when they've been confessed to, or when they confess to somebody? How is someone as crazy as Henry going to treat his kids? Would Cordelia make a good wife? You will care for all, if not most of your cast enough to grind them up, have them pass down awesome skills to their kids and make for a big, bad ass family.

Then there's also a shit load of content without counting the paid DLC. Paralogues allow you to solve problems outside of the main campaign to recruit new allies. As mentioned, there's the experimentation of the skills in the class system. There's also additional content via spotpass, where you get to fight against "Fire Emblem" characters of old, and even try to recruit them into your army when you demonstrate your strength. There's SO much to do, and when you've felt like you finally need a real challenge, go challenge Priam and his 50 man squad.

Yes please. Hell, f**king yes. Note: I chose Sumia as my wife for my male character.

There's nothing much that's bad about "Awakening", actually. Since this is my first "Fire Emblem" title, its difficult for me to compare it to previous titles and see where it hasn't improve (or gotten worse).  What I can tell you, however, is that if you play on Casual, there's no risk involved. You can play as nonchalantly as you want and the game becomes a breeze, because in all honesty, even on classic, the game is TOO EASY on normal mode. Even if you need to weigh your options carefully, its not difficult to get through the game without a single death, as long as you plan ahead. If you want a more "fulfilling" experience, hard mode works, though you should prepare yourself to spend even MORE time on the game.

"Fire Emblem:Awakening" is an amazing game. Its easy to see how its one of the most well regarded titles on the 3DS, even today, more than 2 years after its release. The amount of depth in its game play, the class system, the support system, and the crazy amount of content just makes this game a blast to play. And you'll be having a blast for a pretty long time too. Now I'm kind of hyped for a new "Fire Emblem" game, if they ever decide to make one (I'm sure they will, considering how well this game did).

Happy gaming!