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.

125 Comments

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.

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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.
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.
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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Drilbit777

This is my first Fire Emblem game. I hope its good since i pre ordered it in full.

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Thunderstarter

@Drilbit777 Even the "bad" Fire Emblem games are good. You won't regret this purchase.

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risako9

@Drilbit777

Money well spent.

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Meteor7

I am so excited for this game! I bought a 3DS just for this game!

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abHS4L88

It must be mine!!!

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WheelerJared

I wish I could turn my vita into a 3ds just for this game.

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89iajo

@WheelerJared Why do you have a vita?

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CountZurich

@89iajo @WheelerJared Personally, I bought a 3DS for Fire Emblem, and plan to buy a Vita just for Persona 4 Golden. Perhaps his reason is similar.

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fireemblemgamer

this game may be worth buying a 3DS for.

Avatar image for risako9
risako9

This is how you make a sequel for a game. Not some recycled crap like you know what.

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Meteor7

@risako9 I hope you don't say Radiant Dawn because I have enjoyed all the Fire Emblems that have been released in the USA.

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debot5

@Meteor7 @risako9 I believe s/he is referring to Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon for the DS. It was a remake of "Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Tsurugi" for the NES

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risako9

@debot5 @Meteor7 @risako9 Actually i'm referring to COD

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Sotheus

I need this....this will complete me.


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Ledah

This looks amazing, although I wished they kept the sprites for the battle animations, I'm not too fond of the new 3D they are using in newer Fire Emblem titles.

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XeonForce

Is it wrong for this to be my most anticipated game of the year?

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gohanrage

Shouldn't the graphics of the 3DS be better than the PSP? The Original DS was no better than an N64 I thought the 3DS would at least beat a GameCube

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katanaguy

@gohanrage Just depends on how much you want to pay for your system I suppose. I'd rather keep some cash in my pocket than give it all to Sony only to get a console. IMO graphics are only a small part of gaming, the current thought is more realistic is better which seems to have led the industry to only produce realistic games, FPS, etc. Some of the best games are the most creative ones, not the most real.

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89iajo

@gohanrage Have you seen the graphics in Kid Icarus Uprising?

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gohanrage

@89iajo @gohanrage I've only Seen the Graphics in Video Footage.

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Ovirew

"By letting you create your own character--a Fire Emblem first"

Actually, you could create your own character in the remake of FE3 on the DS. But that one was Japan only.

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rjgamefreak

I can hardly wait. This game looks amazing

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DameotokoN

According to the official site, DLC is available also in US version. As I know, "Side-Story"(famicom),"Genealogy of Holy-War"(SFC), "Thracia 776"(SFC) never appeared outside Japan. "The Sword of Seals" was an only appearance of the protagonist in SSBM. In Japanese version of Awakening, the DLC consists of 2 stages: The Magic Card of Heroes, which features the illusion of past-sceries characters, and The Path for the God Strategist.

I don't know how they treat the unreleased series.

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Joshua2222

I'll be buying a 3DS just for this game and I can't freakin wait :D

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Evil_Apai

I like his english

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Master_cheat001

@Evil_Apai Ai lai dis commen.

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SoreThumbsBill

@Master_cheat001 @Evil_Apai

THAT'S WAISIS.