Fire Emblem: Awakening Aims to Keep the Series' Flames Burning

Despite a few new options and features, Awakening strives to remain true to the Fire Emblem formula.

It begins in the midst of a heated and crucial battle. Snippets of dialogue make it clear that your character and your ally Chrom have fought alongside each other for quite some time to reach this point. A maniacal laugh from the imposing Validar leaves no doubt that he is an evil figure who must be stopped.

By letting you create your own character--a Fire Emblem first--and then immediately tossing you into this high-stakes situation, Fire Emblem: Awakening grabs you right away. Who are these people? What are they fighting for? How did they reach this point? The answers to such questions will have to wait. After a brief skirmish with Validar, a shocking turn of events occurs that you may wish to experience for yourself. At this point, the game flashes back to your character's first meeting with Chrom, the proper beginning of Awakening's tale. It's an intriguing start that makes you eager to experience the journey that brought the heroes into that fateful encounter with the villainous Validar.

Awakening aims to be a good entry point into the series for those who have found it intimidating in the past. This is evident in the casual option, which disables the series' famous system of permanent death for characters who fall in battle; with this option enabled, characters defeated in one battle return in subsequent ones. But of course, this is just an option; anyone who wishes to fight battles in which the threat of death hangs over their troops can do so. Decisions are sure to feel far more meaningful when you know that the wrong one could cost you a character whose skills you've built up and whose personality you've grown attached to.

You might worry that a game that lets you disable permadeath wouldn't be a true Fire Emblem game, but Awakening's early moments exhibit all the hallmarks of the series. The quality of the writingis immediately apparent, and characters speak with the alluring formality that is typical of noble warriors in Fire Emblem games. (They rarely use an insult any more crude than "dastard," for instance.)

Characters like Donnel can be recruited during side missions, if you can keep them alive.

But despite their highborn sense of propriety, the characters' use of language is anything but stiff or off-putting. Your created character is suffering from the all-too-common video game ailment of amnesia when he or she first meets Chrom and his companions, but refreshingly, Awakening demonstrates a sense of humor about this predicament. Frederick, Chrom's rational, skeptical right-hand man, doubts the veracity of your claims of memory loss, advising Chrom that your amnesia is "a load of pegasus dung!" In quick, sharp strokes, Awakening gives its characters distinctive personalities that immediately make you want to get to know them better, and to keep them alive throughout the battles ahead.

Those battles seem poised to maintain the delicious balance between accessibility and tactical depth that has given Fire Emblem its reputation as an excellent series of strategy games. The weapon triangle is still in effect here (swords are good against axes, axes are good against lances, and lances are good against swords), and positioning your troops in these turn-based conflicts is more important than ever. When allied characters are near each other, they can provide each other with stat bonuses, and can pair up to perform coordinated attacks on enemies. As in earlier Fire Emblem games, the relationships between characters can strengthen over time, and in Awakening, it's even possible for your created character to marry certain other characters. Of course, seeing characters level up and learn new skills is rewarding, but it may be just as interesting to learn more about them as people and see their connections with each other evolve.

In most ways, Awakening appears to stay true to the Fire Emblem legacy, but there are a few new elements here that have the potential to enhance the experience without compromising what the series has always been. Random opportunities for battle appear on Awakening's world map; these give you a chance to earn some experience, but you're always free to avoid them if you choose. At a certain point in the story, you gain access to the Outrealm Gate, from which you can access downloadable maps that offer various rewards, if you can win the challenges they face you with. The first such map will be available for free and rewards you for your victory with the hero Marth as a member of your team. Other well-known characters from the series will be available rewards from future DLC. (Those interested in Fire Emblem's fiction may be glad to know that these characters don't naturally exist in Awakening's world; the Outrealm Gate functions as a gateway of sorts to alternate universes.)

When you approach a team that's arrived in your world via StreetPass, you're greeted by the other player's created character.

For inveterate StreetPassers, the most exciting new feature Awakening brings to the series will likely be StreetPass functionality. This allows you to put together a team of 10 characters who appear in the worlds of other players you StreetPass with. Their teams also appear in your world, and if you can defeat them in battle, or afford their price in gold, you can add their members to your own forces. Provided that anyone you encounter in your travels actually plays Awakening, this could keep the game's world feeling spontaneous and alive.

Awakening's first 30 minutes exhibit a good deal of promise. The question of whether or not the game delivers on that promise will be answered soon; it's scheduled for release here in the US on February 4th. If you'd like to get a taste of Awakening yourself and do battle with some brigands and dastards, a demo will be made available on the 3DS eShop on January 17.

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Discussion

125 comments
Ischelu
Ischelu

When is it coming out?

Los9090
Los9090

The create a character mode sounds awesome.

Will47
Will47

The demo really pushed me into preordering the game, can't wait.

linthes999
linthes999

So the game is available as preinstalled data in the Fire Emblem 3ds Bundle that will be released in early Feb.  But for those of us who already have a 3ds (XL), we'll have to wait until April to buy the game?  I guess it'll push some extra 3ds sales.. but it seems a little odd.

Kirby13432
Kirby13432

Played the demo last night, and it was awesome!

Galford4000
Galford4000

Buying a 3DS tomorrow just because of this, I mean I was tempted before but this just sold it!

killjoy188
killjoy188

The ability to disable permanent character deaths is why I'm buying this game. I love hard games like Etrian Odyssey, but I can't handle permadeath...takes the fun out sacrificing characters.

jorge_luis707
jorge_luis707

I hope i can finish Persona 4 Golden on my vita before this comes out. I really like the quality of the new hand held games.

AndCarlsen
AndCarlsen

When I get the money I'll buy my 3DS and this game (and the other hundreds of great games on the 3DS library). It's not fair living in a country where everything is expensive.

Darlonyaoi
Darlonyaoi

Adorei!

Sou fã de Fire Emblen.

Muito bom mesmo.

D_K
D_K

" The quality of the writingis immediately apparent" ... Yes, yes it is indeed.

Andrew1073
Andrew1073

I am getting really sick and tired of all these interesting games coming out ONLY for the 3DS.  It's ridiculous.  Let's make 3DS super interesting, and just let the Wii and Wii U fall apart with the amount of games available.  Can't stand it, and no, I will not be going to grab a 3DS, at all.

Deathwing171
Deathwing171

Looks outstanding, I hope I can get my hands on a 3ds...

edinsftw
edinsftw

Too bad its not on wii instead :(

izoni
izoni

And it has to be for the 3ds :( Damn i love the series ...

vicsrealms
vicsrealms

I hope they continue to remember what made this series great.  I don't want them to go down the same road that Final Fantasy, Shining Force, and Phantasy Star.

Still, as much as I have enjoyed these games I am not willing to purchase a 3DS.

FuryX-4
FuryX-4

I'll need to get 3DS somewhere in my birthday or if I have enough money cause the games in 3DS is really impressive :o.....

D-MonDRV
D-MonDRV

Great preview, Carolyn.  Sounds interesting so far.

beardednun25
beardednun25

that's it. I promised myself i wasn't going to get a 3DS, but oh well.

wiserat4
wiserat4

It's too bad this is only coming to the 3DS... 3D is a gimmick and there's not enough good games to justify buying the system.  Plus my wife enjoys it when I play Sacred Stones on a TV with the gameboy-to-GC player. Maybe it will show up on WiiWare eventually.


p.s. love your articles Carolyn!

reivax_darkmage
reivax_darkmage

wow and all that fits into that small cartridge? 0_o... i need to finish virtues last reward quickly.

osirisx3
osirisx3

i want the 3ds xl so i can play this

genjuroT
genjuroT

I won't buy a fire emblem until they remake the super nintendo fire emblem 5 thracia fighting system. The fighting in that was by far the most intense, especially when a character had the duel ability. There would be dives,jumps,backflips,dashes, parrying, blocking,countering, and even super finishers and super starter attacks; sometimes all until one side died...and all in a one time one on one fight. I've been waiting patiently for that system to return.

PS3maniac420
PS3maniac420

Well it looks like the VITA can pack its bags....

SDSkarface
SDSkarface

@niq426 the term "pvp" refers to MMO games only,shooters are expected to be pvp. 

riou7
riou7 moderator moderator

If only I could rent a 3ds to play this game only... 

Bakaro
Bakaro

It's been decade since i last heard Fire Emblem!! 

Hmmmm this might just THE GAME that make me want to buy 3DS.

TrueProphecy22
TrueProphecy22

Well, here's a game that makes me wish I had a 3DS.

SamusCR
SamusCR

YEEES!! The reason to get a 3DS, this and pokemon X and Y, and im really happy that they remain loyal to the formula

u1tradt
u1tradt

This and Pokemon X and Y means I must get a 3DS at some point this year.

TheProphecies05
TheProphecies05

!!!!!!!!!!! Super Mario RPG Seven stars remake for the 3ds Announced!!!

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

@Tripwolf 

Your loss, especially considering the great library of games the 3DS already has. 

Los9090
Los9090

@wiserat4 Your lady is a KEEPER.  My g-f thinks that Fire Emblem is dumb!

Fiscaldeal
Fiscaldeal

@wiserat4 At this point, I'd say it's safe to bet on the 3DS receiving enough quality titles in the future to justify a purchase; it's a successful system.

Master_cheat001
Master_cheat001

@genjuroT FE 5 is a little bit challenging. But to me the best FE in the entire series is FE 4. And the fan had made the game full English. That 's waht best. :D

DameotokoN
DameotokoN

@genjuroT I appreciate that, but be warned: tracia is a hard-ass son of a bitch.

CountZurich
CountZurich

@Bakaro Since 2003? Dude, there have been FIVE Fire Emblems released since then.

riou7
riou7 moderator moderator

@Master_cheat001 @riou7 

Because that's the thought of anyone who doesn't have a 3ds and a fan of fire emblem series lol

clra2
clra2

@Master_cheat001 @Seikishidan @riou7 that's what i thought too until i sunk 400+ hours into OoT and pokemon white 2.  well worth the purchase imo.  i currently play my 3ds more than my ps3 and pc

Seikishidan
Seikishidan

@riou7 Be a man and buy a 3DS, play the game, now be a man and be happy about it.