Fire Emblem: Awakening (Available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Release Date: February 4th, 2013
Download Size: 8,577 Blocks
Plays Like: Any Fire Emblem game released before it, which is to say a turn-based strategy RPG. You take turns moving specific units across a grid-like map, strategically attacking weaker units in hopes of keeping your prized team members alive.
Review Basis: Completed the game on Hard, played all the DLC maps and still coming back for more.
Fire Emblem is one of Nintendo’s best kept secrets. This is only the sixth Fire Emblem game released overseas, yet the series counts 13 unique offerings. It’s puzzling why so few have ever been released in North America considering the overall quality of these games. Awakening is no different. If you’re a fan of strategy RPGs, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Never before has Intelligent Systems poured so much effort into one of its Fire Emblem titles. From the get go, you can choose from three difficulty settings, all with a significant increase of challenge. Those turned off by this challenge can now choose to turn “permanent-death” off, while series vets can still play in classic mode. This is in my memory also the very first Nintendo published title to offer paid DLC, and it adds dozens and dozens of hours of gameplay to an already lengthy game. Free add-on content can be downloaded each day via spot pass giving you new maps and challenges to warrant coming back and playing more and more. You can even unlock “lunatic +” difficulty, for those courageous enough to even attempt a “lunatic” play through. You get a complete package here, an effort which will hopefully carry on to all of Nintendo’s franchises.
+ Pairing up units adds a whole new dimension to the game. Can’t reach a certain enemy? Join a character with more reach, then switch up and you can now attack that foe in the same turn. Almost down, but no healer in sight? No problem, simply pair up, the second character in a duo can’t be harmed. The more characters work together, the better their relations become. This in turn creates added bonuses during battles, making them harder to hit and even lending a hand during a fight. Units of the opposite sex can even marry and have children, which you can then recruit later on.
+ The pricing seems just about right for the DLC packs. Coming in at $1.50 a map (if you buy in bulk), it’s quite cheap considering you’re likely to play each map dozens of times. They let you recruit characters from past games, get a whole new class, and even some rare items along the way. They also add some humorous story bits. With the promise of getting new DLC for the entire year, you won’t be putting away Fire Emblem anytime soon.
+ Challenging as usual. You’re really doing yourself a favor if you’re playing on classic mode. Perma-death adds a level of tension not found anywhere else. Losing a character near the end of a 45 minute map brings some hard decisions. Do you continue on knowing the unit is lost forever, or do you restart the level and try again? Some people have to restart no matter what while others choose to play the entire game without ever backing off, making it feel like a truly unique and valid experience. After-all, in a real battlefield, there’s no reset button.
+ Deep class system. Every character has the potential of switching over to a good variety of classes. Each one offers different skill sets. You can really create some deadly characters if you know what you’re doing.
+ Same classic and flawless gameplay. Even if you’re not into strategy games, give this game a try. It might change your mind.
+/- While there are tons of great animated scenes (with voice-acting!), at the end of the day, I didn’t find the storyline nearly as good as Radiant Dawn. I was greatly attached to the characters as usual, but the overall conflict wasn’t quite as captivating to me.
+/- An unfortunate counter-point to the DLC is that it does greatly reduced the game’s difficulty. Since you can play these maps infinitely, you can grind and grind and create super-armies. Maybe granting access to the DLC maps a bit later into the game could have balanced this a bit. It will still challenge you, just not as much as usual.
– The multiplayer is local only. Sucks too because it would have seemed a no-brainer to make it online.
– No “survival” type of missions. You usually encounter a map here and there where the goal is to survive for a certain amount of turns or to defend a castle for a while. In Awakening, you either have to kill everyone, or kill the boss.
If you still haven’t invested in a 3DS, there’s really no excuses anymore. Fire Emblem Awakening is a serious contender for the coveted Game of the Year award. I have over 45 hours invested in this game, and I see no end in sight. With new content every week, you’re getting way more than most 3DS games offer for a mere $40. I can’t stress this enough, everyone without exception should give this game a try. Fantastic effort by Intelligent Systems.
Final Score: 9.8/10