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Review

Fire Emblem: Awakening Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • 3DS

New mechanics and charming characters make Fire Emblem: Awakening a joy to play.

Fire Emblem is the game that essentially kick-started the strategy role-playing game genre in Japan more than 20 years ago, and it has since grown into a thriving and complex niche. While some pioneering games have a tough time evolving along with the genres they helped form, Fire Emblem: Awakening takes many of the best elements of modern strategy RPGs and implements them beautifully into its classic, time-tested formula. The result is a high watermark for the franchise and one of the most engaging and enjoyable experiences on the 3DS yet.

The story in Awakening opens with your player-created avatar waking up in the company of a roving band of soldiers called the Shepherds. The Shepherds protect the interests of the citizens of the kingdom of Ylisse, which has recently been targeted by bandits from the kingdom of Plegia. Plegia is looking to incite a war based on past transgressions of Ylisse's rulers, but there's more to the sinister goings-on: strange beings called Risen are attacking towns, and a mysterious masked warrior named Marth claims to see a future in which humankind has been destroyed. While the narrative is filled with interesting melodrama and political intrigue, the unwavering evilness of some of the villains is ridiculous and makes some parts of the story hard to take seriously.

Fortunately, Fire Emblem: Awakening is more than just talking heads spouting off about vengeance and crushing foes before them: it's a robust turn-based, grid-driven strategy game. Like in many strategy RPGs, you move individual units around a grid, attacking foes while using terrain and character placement to get the upper hand. Certain units and attack types have priority over others: the three main weapons (swords, lances, and axes) form a rock-paper-scissors-style relationship. Archers have attack boosts against airborne units, magic spells can crush the defense of heavily armored fighters, and a host of other factors come into play. Odds and percentages are a key part of formulating your strategy, since some units also have a higher potentiality to hit or miss than others.

However, positioning is more important now than ever: standing next to allies can grant stat boosts, additional attacks, and protection. Keeping two characters in close proximity to each other can allow you to increase their relationship status between battles. In some cases, they can even fall in love and further increase stat boons when they are next to each other in combat. Characters can sometimes help each other in more direct ways, such as following up an attack with an extra strike and shielding each other from damage by foes, and these actions are also affected by how strongly their interpersonal relationships have developed. The burgeoning friendships and affections between allies carry outside of battle, too: visit the barracks to get a glimpse of how characters interact with one another in their off-duty time (as well as potentially gain experience and items), which is a very charming touch.

But I prefer 'Cuddlesnookums.'

Like previous Fire Emblem games, Awakening is divided into chapters consisting of story sequences and battles. Unlike those games, however, it's not a strictly linear progression: you have a world map that allows you to fight side battles and visit shops in-between story events, which makes managing your gear and leveling up some of the lagging characters much easier. You can also play optional side missions with unique objectives in order to recruit new members to your merry band or obtain rare items. The map is constantly changing, too: traveling merchants show up to peddle rare wares, enemy Risen outbreaks happen in random locales, and a StreetPassed team of another player's warriors might even appear to fight or trade with you.

The class system has also received some welcome changes. In most Fire Emblem games, class progression is fairly linear, requiring specific items to level up to particular classes once a unit reaches a certain rank. These items are more available in Awakening, making it much easier to promote units. This time around, however, units can also reclass entirely with a special item, sometimes to wildly different classes than what they previously held. Each class learns unique skills that grant special boons during combat, which are retained even after switching to a new class, so changing and leveling up classes can often create some very powerful units if you are willing to invest the time and effort.

Via the 3DS's StreetPass feature, you also have the opportunity to recruit avatars from other players whose data you have downloaded by either fighting or hiring them, further bolstering your ranks. Additional downloadable content scheduled to be released later also promises reappearances of other beloved characters from Fire Emblem installments past that can potentially join your team. Winning battles against warriors from other worlds increases your renown points, which can be exchanged for rare items.

Your teammates all have some odd, but endearing, quirks.

Since you have considerably more freedom in customizing and building up your units than in other Fire Emblem games, the overall difficulty of a normal-difficulty playthrough is lessened, but that doesn't mean the game is a cakewalk for everyone. Difficulty is customizable from the outset: the harder modes feature downright ruthless enemy fighter AI, and you can choose to play the game with or without the series-hallmark character permadeath. Many players will no doubt gun for the classic "dead means dead" setting in spite of any frustration it may entail. Because you see so much of the characters' personal traits throughout the game--and because you build relationships between them--losing a character can be devastating both gameplay-wise and emotionally.

Though many elements of Fire Emblem: Awakening are both smartly designed and extremely fun, there are a few minor annoyances that bog down the experience. Avatar creation is limited, with limited options to change physical features. Some elements of the game's interface are cumbersome--in particular, the inventory system. Each unit carries its own stock of items, but the game lacks a simple "give" command to transfer items in-between fights, necessitating that you put everything you want to pass along into storage with one character and remove it with another.

Nonexistent character feet don't make the 3D combat scenes less exciting.

More advanced combat information, like the odds of your companions performing guards or follow-up attacks, can be tough to find and isn't shown at all in the default pre-engagement screens. The local multiplayer is also disappointing given both the robustness of the StreetPass features and the history of multiplayer in portable Fire Emblem games. It consists of cooperative battles of three units from each player's team simply fighting a group of enemies one-on-one in sequence for items and renown points. Compared to the full-fledged fights and trades that StreetPass offers, the local multiplayer is ridiculously limited.

Nonetheless, it's difficult to find any glaring flaws in Fire Emblem: Awakening. The fun, tactical combat, the character-driven relationships, and the greater feeling of freedom combine to make Awakening the best installment of this beloved series in a long time. Anyone looking for a fantastic strategy game or a long, engaging adventure perfect for on-the-go sessions should absolutely not overlook this gaming gem.

The Good
Challenging, finely tuned turn-based strategy gameplay
Adds new gameplay elements that emphasize positioning
Offers a great deal of content outside the main story
Auxiliary character dialogue adds personality to the team members
Excellent use of the 3DS's StreetPass functionality
The Bad
Some elements of the interface aren't intuitive
The local multiplayer falls short
8.5
Great
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343 comments
mtappe
mtappe

This was for me hands down the best handheld game of 2013 and top 5 for any console.  Simply a great game.

kingtrax
kingtrax

I don't care that GS game Fire Emblem a lower score than I would have, everyone has their own opinion.  But for me this is a 9-9.5.  One of my favorite games on any console in the past few years.

Notelessinferno
Notelessinferno

one of the best games released on the 3ds in 2013 alongside Bravely Default. Those two games made me get the 3ds. 


WhiteTulip1
WhiteTulip1

who cares about personal avatars? its a silly complaint. LOL LMAO XOXO FTW ASAP SOS JRPG

pcty
pcty

Intelligent Systems is my favourite game studio of all time.

QuietOnlooker
QuietOnlooker

Is it just me, or is Gamespot consistently biased against Nintendo games?  For this game, Metacritic gave it a 92, but Gamespot gave it an 8.5.  For Ocarina of Time 3D, Metacritic gave it a 94, but Gamespot gave it an 8.5.  For Super Mario 3D Land, Metacritic gave a 90, but Gamespot gave it an 8.0.  This trend is troubling, because now I can't tell whether a Gamespot criticism of a Nintendo game is honest or prejudiced.

Wardishy
Wardishy

I own Rekka no Ken, The Sacred Stones, and Shadow Dragon, but Awakening is far and away my personal favourite of the series that I've played so far. The world map makes unit management a lot easier, it's possible to grind if you need to level up weaker units, upgrading is 10x easier, and the support function has been expanded incredibly. I heartily recommend this game.

UKFX
UKFX

I ordered this, should be arriving soon. There needs to be more well designed games for the 3DS. At the moment I am somewhat disappointed by the serious lack of awesome games. Monster Hunter 3 I didn't buy because though it's playable without CPP, people complained about water areas being an annoyance without CPP - though obviously doable. Also, these games that don't need but play better with CPP is kind of admitting that Nintendo should of added another analogue stick - something it doesn't need and sets it apart from other hand-held devices.

However, polished, well designed titles like this really do make owning a 3DS a treat. That an gems such as Crimson Shroud which I got for £4.49 from Nintendo eShop. Should do me nicely until Fire Emblem arrives :)

I've only played the demo of FE:A, but what I did play of it is my kind of game (I suck at RTS, but turn based I love)

:)

SteveMcD01
SteveMcD01

Buy them both, just wait on a bogo 40 or 50 off deal. This game looks great. Surprised Gamespot didn't give it a 5 or 6 since its Nintendo.

craickdam78
craickdam78

According to the press, it's a great game, I played the episode " sacred stones " i have liked. I don't have this game, at least not yet. I still hesitate between this game and luigi's manson 2 dark moon, hard choice .

Shawn45
Shawn45

I am so glad this game has a casual difficulty. I don't have to restart an entire mission because I made a stupid mistake that cost me a unit. Makes it a lot more fun for me to know that I'll be able to use them again after the battle.

Great game, I'd definitely recommend it.

PrestoX
PrestoX

Still out of stock at EB games. I got mine from Best Buy on the 2nd day after release. Their initial shipment was delayed.


gix47
gix47

really amazing game and a good example on how DLC should be done

thequickshooter
thequickshooter

too bad nintendo doesn't support my country 

it will takes weeks until retailers will stock this game

unless... 

oh that's right i could order from zavvi or blahdvd 

ux1077
ux1077

The game is on the Nintendo e shop as a downloadable game if you don't want to wait for retailer to restock the physical copy. I brought the digital copy myself.

snake63
snake63

It is over three weeks and Gamestop and Best Buy still don't have it.

Navarre1994
Navarre1994

It really sucks having to wait another month and a bit for this game. I've been eager to play it ever since it was released in Japan and can't wait much longer! It's clear that Nintendo wanted to sell it in the US first because of sales, but it's unfair making us Aussies and Euro's wait an extra 2 months. 

SirSka
SirSka

Thi game is just too good. I have been plaing it at least 3 hours a day since release

Infinite_713
Infinite_713

You guys are seriously balling your eyes out about a 8.5 rated game. Go to IGN or something but keep your tears away from here

Flaon
Flaon

oh for f**k sake another bullshit half assed Gamespot 3DS review, surely there is a game better than an 8.5 for the 3DS, sick of this 8.5 crap seriously show some damn variety you biased dicks

shalashaska88
shalashaska88

I think I have too many reasons now to pick up a 3DS

ELEMENTZERO707
ELEMENTZERO707

This game... is the best damn Fire emblem ever! I borrowed a 3DS just to play this game XD

KJsmashdude
KJsmashdude

My Gamestop doesn't even have it yet, only the pre-orders came.  WHY DIDN'T I PREORDER??? :(

goldensunfan
goldensunfan

Glad to see Tom Mc Shea didn't review it. Finally a fair review that I felt justified the score it was given. The negatives listed at the top I felt were valid points though I don't think they significantly hinder the game as a whole. Too bad more gamespot reviewers aren't this professional.

Sniper-Gamer
Sniper-Gamer

I think they should have scored it higher since there seems to be no 'glaring flaws' with the game. Besides, who plays Fire Emblem for its multiplayer?

Master_cheat001
Master_cheat001

Wish they can make the graphic like on Wii or Gamecube and excellent gameplay like this one. :)

Nintendo_ltd
Nintendo_ltd

@QuietOnlooker In general as for Nintendo games since Wii era, I better check IGN scores they tend to be far more accurated, also Destructoid has some nice insights.

jikodis
jikodis

@QuietOnlooker Seriously! They are between 1 and 1.5 points lower than other reviewing sites. Just bought a 3DS and am looking for some good games. I just have to look at all the review sites and find a consensus.

Nocturnal-Gamer
Nocturnal-Gamer

@craickdam78 I can tell you this game is far and away better than Luigi's mansion, and you won't be dissapointed if you still haven't bought it yet.

linkster362
linkster362

@Shawn45 I agree, I remember countless restarted battles that at times took upwards of an hour or more each just because the enemy would get a lucky crit and kill a favorite unit shortly before the end of the fight, it really made leveling weaker units a pain

tightwad34
tightwad34

@thequickshooter Even if it came to your country it would be near impossible to find. It was very hard to find here in the US, and you would think they make it more available. Maybe they weren't counting on it being in such high demand.

tightwad34
tightwad34

@ux1077 I almost did that, but I don't like downloading if I don't have to. I just ordered it on Amazon and waited for them to ship. It took a couple of delays and a few weeks, but it finally got here.

tightwad34
tightwad34

@snake63 Just order off Amazon and wait for them to get it. May take a while, but it worked for me. That is, if you don't already have it.

TheGreatPhoenix
TheGreatPhoenix

@xtigrex I'm utterly speachless at just how bad that comment is, you sir, have hit rock bottom

Soundaholic92
Soundaholic92

@Infinite_713 You would probably understand if you had played and loved some of the previous FE games hahaha. I got a massive goose bump just from listening to the familiar FE main theme song in the review video. Getting a 3DS for this game, in any case :)

SaverofHumens
SaverofHumens

@Flaon it's not an xbox game so it can't get above 8.5

JadeTorchwood
JadeTorchwood

@KJsmashdude Yeah, I know how you feel. I didn't pre-order the new Fire Emblem at either one of the two local Gamestops where I live. The only way for me to get it is download it from the Nintendo eShop.

Obie787
Obie787

@KJsmashdudeI found it in a Kmart. they do not sell many games cause that are more expensive than in other stores. $46.99 :S

BosoxJoe5
BosoxJoe5

@KJsmashdude Amazon couldn't fulfill all their preorders, I don't think preordering  would have helped.

ReeksOfAwsmnss7
ReeksOfAwsmnss7

@KJsmashdude Don't listen to them, they only tell you that only pre-orders came just so you pre-order in the future. They are technically able to sell it to you since 48 hours have passed the release date. Trust me, I used to work there and KNOW how they work.

thequickshooter
thequickshooter

@tightwad34 @thequickshooter well i also forgot nintendo reign locked the 3DS meaning even if i buy the US it won't work since i have a european 3DS 

well, i guess i'll have to wait for april 17 (possiably more since this game has high demand)

tightwad34
tightwad34

@TheGreatPhoenix I like it how you were trying to be nice and still managed to insult them a bit, and you also were able to call them sir. LOL, good one.

Nc23Nick
Nc23Nick

@ReeksOfAwsmnss7 

I work for GameStop, and though the 48 hour rule is in place at GameStop,  it's pretty indecent to sell a game that someone whose it preordered. 

Fire Emblem: Awakening More Info

  • First Released
    • 3DS
    Fire Emblem Awakening is another entry in a beloved role-playing series known for its sense of humor and daunting challenge.
    9
    Average User RatingOut of 598 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Fire Emblem: Awakening
    Developed by:
    Intelligent Systems
    Published by:
    Nintendo
    Genres:
    Strategy, Turn-Based
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes