On Monday, Feb. 4, Nintendo of America released one of the Nintendo 3DS’ biggest releases of early 2013 with “Fire Emblem Awakening”. However, is the title worth your money or attention?
The “Fire Emblem” series has been around for over two decades, but the franchise first came to North America when “Fire Emblem” released on the Gameboy Advance in 2003. With the franchise foreign to the region, Nintendo used an ingenious way of introducing the series to American gamers thru GameCube classic, “Super Smash Bros. Melee,” which introduced players to two key “Fire Emblem” characters – Marth and Roy.
Like many, I would play primarily as Marth, so when I learned “Fire Emblem” would see release on GameBoy Advance; I knew I had to check the game out.
I became an instant fan and have played each entry released in North America since the series’ introduction in 2003. Now, after several months of waiting, the newest installment is available in North America on Nintendo 3DS with the release of “Fire Emblem Awakening” and it may just be the best entry to date.
The story focuses on Chrom, the prince of Ylisse, and his loyal band of soldiers -- the Shepherds -- who keep the peace throughout the kingdom. Soon, a mysterious new danger appears known as “The Risen” that threaten the kingdom, but this new foe is not the only concern for the Halidom of Ylisse as neighboring nation, Plegia, looks to ignite the embers of war in order to gain control of the coveted Fire Emblem.
In many ways it is your traditional RPG storyline, and yet the story is one that will keep your interest piqued throughout the entirety of the game thanks to a strong supporting cast of characters and compelling narrative. Although the option to skip dialogue is present, you will find yourself wanting to read the story as it opens gateways in understanding each character and their motives or beliefs.
At its core, “Fire Emblem Awakening” is the same as its predecessors with a main emphasis on strategy. You take command of a battalion of soldiers each with unique classes and abilities to defeat an enemy army or commander. Carefully planning your method of attack is vital as one wrong move could prove disastrous. This grid-base combat system is simple to understand, yet difficult to master. Much like a game of chess, you need to think a move or two ahead.
Upon starting “Fire Emblem Awakening,” you first have to create a custom character, which of whom plays a crucial role in the main game’s storyline. There are plenty of options to select from to make a distinctive character to your liking. Initially, your character is a tactician, and you are able to mold them to be proficient in magic or swordplay, whichever suits your personal play style.
Once finished crafting your character, you must then select the level of difficulty and how you would like to play. “Fire Emblem Awakening” is more welcoming than previous entries as it offers four difficulty settings – Easy, Normal, Hard, and Lunatic – as well as two modes of play – Classic or Casual.
Classic mode is what veterans will feel familiar with as a unit lost in battle is lost forever – also known as permanent death. The only characters that cannot die forever are those essential to the main plot – Chrom and your custom character, for example. By playing Casual mode, you alleviate this cause of concern as your fallen units are revived automatically following a battle. In terms of difficulty, we recommend that newcomers play on Easy or Normal, at least initially. Seasoned veterans should consider playing on Normal mode as Hard and Lunatic are exceptionally difficult, even in the early chapters.
Regardless of the level of difficulty or mode, “Fire Emblem Awakening” requires strategic planning and careful thought during combat. Detailed statistics give an overview of characters’ strengths and weakness against enemy types, but the position of units is also beneficial. By using a unit frequently, you’ll gain an intimate understanding of their strengths and better understand what class they work well with during battle.
When positioned next to one another, two units can support each other during battle and help to increase statistics or provide backup – like a secondary attack. In order to reap such rewards, a relationship between units must first form during battles or through conversation. Relationships are ranked using a C to A scale; however, there is also an S rank which will have a man and woman unit marry. Some units work well together, and conversations within the barracks will give you partner recommendations.
A small, though essential, part of “Fire Emblem Awakening” is the micromanaging of your inventory. Each weapon can only be used a certain amount of times before it breaks, so equipping your party with several strong weapons is imperative.
“Fire Emblem Awakening” also takes advantage of the 3DS’ wireless capabilities with SpotPass and StreetPass functionality. StreetPass allows you to create a party of characters to challenge another player’s team. Additionally, there is a local ad-hoc mode called Double Duel where two players send 3 characters to battle an AI foe. The winner receives an item and other rewards.
SpotPass, meanwhile, brings new content to the title. New downloadable maps and characters will release periodically – the first DLC pack is available on launch day and will be free until March 6. Downloadable content brings characters from past “Fire Emblem” games for you to battle against and after completing their stage a classic “Fire Emblem” character will be able to join your party.
Visually, “Fire Emblem Awakening” is a delightful 3DS title. The level of depth the 3D adds is impressive, and the animated cutscenes look extraordinary in 3D. Like all previous “Fire Emblem” entries, “Awakening” has a lovely and memorable soundtrack. This is a title that should be played with headphones because each musical score is divine.
“Fire Emblem Awakening” is a first-rate Nintendo 3DS title and is a reason to own a 3DS.
Buy it. Play it. Love it.
(Editor's Note: A digital game code was provided by Nintendo of America for review purposes. The game was completed for review.)