Tech News on G4
Fire Emblem: Awakening a huge triumph
Apr 9, 2013
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
It's often difficult to find a video game with a single memorable character or noteworthy relationship. Fire Emblem: Awakening may be as technically-sound as any game released in the last decade, but what makes it such a superb title is that it has an entire cast you're sure to remember long after you're finished playing.
The 3DS-exclusive Awakening is the first new title in the critically-acclaimed Fire Emblem series since 2007's Radiant Dawn for the Nintendo Wii. Long-time developer of the series, Intelligent Systems, has honed a game that is achingly wonderful in nearly every possible way, making for a title that could plausibly be loved as much by fans as those who are new to the Fire Emblem games.
Like past game in the series, Awakening is a turn-based strategy RPG. As you progress through the story, you'll lead a group consisting of several soldiers into numerous battles against all sorts of enemies. You'll quickly become a tactician of the highest order as you account for endless contingencies, and this is one of the great things about Awakening - every battle feels like a brand new experience, so the adventure never gets boring.
Like the characters in the game, the plot for Awakening is multilayered and constantly evolving, but the gist of it is that your character is woken up in the middle of a field with little memory of who he is or how he ended up where he is.
The shepherds who found you are led by Chrom, and he takes you under his wing as a war looms between a nearby city that's hell-bent on revenge, and a mysterious group of evil creatures who appear seemingly out of nowhere one day. At the centre of it all is the struggle to control the Fire Emblem, which is an object of immense power.
Although you'll create a character at the beginning of the game to use as your avatar, you'll be controlling every character in your party. There's more - a lot more - to the game than simply moving people around the grid-based battles. The basics are back here in the form of the paper-rock-scissors weapon triangle, wherein lance beats sword, sword beats axe, and axe beats lance.
The player also has to account for different conditions, from sandstorms that can limit your characters' range of travel, to mid-battle ambushes that require a changing tactics on the fly.
With Awakening, team members are now able to pair up in order to help each other out, and it's a wonderful addition that fits perfectly with the game's focus on the bonds between people.
And it's those bonds you strengthen in between battles that could save you when the odds are stacked against you as you're surrounded by enemies. You could be down to your last hit point as an enemy goes to stab you with his sword, but certain death is avoided because the person you're paired up with jumps in front of you and blocks the attack - and may even counterattack.
Relationships grow in several ways, not the least of which is between-battle conversations. They're often random in nature, but by listening in on what players are talking about, you get to learn more about the characters you're controlling, while also improving the bond between people.
Those well-defined characters and relationships serve a very specific purpose, because typically in Fire Emblem games, when a character's hit points reach zero, they're gone for good. Some soldiers you won't have a chance to get too attached to, but it always hurts when you've built up a certain favourite character over several hours, and because of one silly mistake on the battlefield, or one unexpected critical strike, you lose them forever.
It doesn't feel cheap or frustrating though, and that's a testament to the game itself. I was always angry at myself when a character died, because I knew I could have planned things out better.
All that said, Awakening is also geared more toward those gamers who have limited experience with the series. They are three difficulty settings to pick from, as well as a "Casual" and "Classic" mode to choose, with the former letting the player have characters back if they die in battle. A word of advice though: choose Classic mode, because it ups the emotional ante a hundred-fold when you know every move truly counts.
Players can also choose to have units move around automatically during battle, and while this is a great addition for those who may still be learning the ins and outs of Fire Emblem, the game shines when you have to plan everything, both before and during battle.
One small gripe though, is that with the sheer amount of info thrown at the player at any given moment, it would be nice to have a glossary to explain what certain short forms mean, for the sake of aiding those who aren't Fire Emblem experts. A lot of information is easily available by touching different stats on the 3DS touch screen, but other things, such as AVO or MT, aren't properly explained.
Players of any skill level will be able to hone their skills and level up characters via side-missions that are often as enjoyable as missions attached to the main campaign. The world map is constantly opening up and branching out to new areas, and past areas are often populated with new opportunities.
Awakening is also one of the only 3DS games to offer downloadable content - both free and paid. Players are sent extra equipment just for the heck of it, but by unlocking the Outrealm Gate on the world map a few hours into the game, they can also buy special maps and missions.
Those who have played past Fire Emblem games will be treated to plenty of fan service in the form of past characters becoming available, but regardless of the type of fan you are of the series, these characters can be a big help to the player who is low on allies.
The neat thing about a lot of these extra characters is that while it's possible to spend a lot of in-game gold to buy them off and get them to join your group, you can also choose to fight them, and if you win, you earn their services. It's yet another option to extend the length of the game in a way that doesn't feel tacked on.
There's even Streetpass and local connection functionality with Awakening. You'll be able to exchange team members and items with other Awakening owners when you pass them on the street, while the co-op Double Duel mode let's two owners link up locally to combine their three best players to defeat enemies in tournament of sorts.
Turn-based strategy games may not be your cup of tea, and that's fine, but if there were ever a game in this genre that's worth checking out for a non-fan, Fire Emblem: Awakening is it. And for those who have even a passing interest in the series or genre, it's an absolute no-brainer to play this game, as it simply will not disappoint.
Fire Emblem: Awakening is one of the best games to come out in years - on any system - for numerous reasons, but it's the bonds between characters, and the player for that matter, that truly make this a truly special title. Just don't get too attached to anyone, because as in real life, it hurts to have someone taken from you when you least expect it.
Fire Emblem: Awakening
About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.