Wow. If I didn’t feel a dire need to express how truly amazing Fire Emblem Awakening is, I could just write this one word and leave the article at that. In the past couple of years, I’ve begun playing more games than ever, but despite the dozens of games I’ve played lately, none of them are as good as this one. In fact, I would venture to say that Fire Emblem Awakening is possibly best game I’ve ever played; undoubtedly, it is the best mobile game I’ve encountered. There are so many aspects of this game that come together perfectly or near perfectly, it was amazing. I’ve not yet encountered a completely perfect game, but now I now how it feels to be so close to that nirvana. I’m very glad to bestow upon Fire Emblem Awakening the highest review score on my blog to date.
Awakening is a turn-based strategy game that takes place in a fictional world during medieval times. Your character (who I named MC, and will refer to as MC for the duration of this article for simplicity) is found in a field with amnesia. The band of warriors (called the Shepherds) find him, wake him up and start talking to him. MC doesn’t remember where he’s from or anything about his past, so Chrom, the leader of the Shepherds takes him in. As they begin their journey to their home, Ylisstol, they encounter small hordes of undead that they name the Risen; they seem to have come from a different dimension, and nobody even knew the Risen existed until Chrom and the gang stumbled upon them. When the Shepherds arrive in Ylisstol, they warn Chrom’s sister of the Risen because she is the exalt of her land, essentially the queen. From there, they set out to a nearby region known as Regna Ferox in search of military aid to combat the Risen.
From there, the story progresses from one thing to the next, but it’s a quite lengthy story, and it would take a few thousand words just to do it justice. The Shepherds learn more about the Risen and find that they do come from another dimension; another time, in fact. An individual from the future warns the Shepherds about how different the future will be unless they find a way to alter the events that lead up to the terrible reality. This is where the plot really thickens, as twists and turns abound. Chrom and MC learn more about the future and how to change it. The gang then sets out to find a way to defeat the main antagonist (read: final boss) to save the world from destruction. Honestly, the plot may sound a bit vague, but it’s the best I can do without giving out major plot points. It really doesn’t take long for unexpected twists to start occurring, so I’d spoil a great story if I went into any more detail, even about the first few chapters.
The story is long. There are lots of cutscenes, and the campaign took me roughly 25 hours to beat, and that was just on the easiest setting. Had I tried a harder difficulty, it could have taken me double the time. Anyhow, the great thing about Fire Emblem is that even though it’s a very long campaign, it never felt lengthy or boring or drug out. I always felt as though I was a part of the action, it was exciting, and it was fun. The cutscenes were enjoyable, and they helped flesh out the characters. This is one great point in Fire Emblem that I’ll touch on later.
As far as cutscenes go, they were not voiced; it was all text based, and you could watch the 3D animated figures stand around while they gesture and motion on the screen as their dialogue simultaneously scrolled along with a detailed 2D picture of their face to show their emotion. Every once in a while, a short clip would play in which there was no dialogue to click through. Rather, these clips were legitimate scenes made to look like an anime; they were fully animated, fully voiced, and were usually used for scenes with lots of action. The unanimated cutscenes were simply dialogue scenes. The great thing about both the anime scenes and the dialogue scenes were that they were both viewable in 3D. It was amazing to watch a sword fight occur in full 3D where the blades fly toward your face in a flurry of smooth and precise motion.
The story was well written, and all the characters were distinct and had their own personalities. I really enjoyed the fact that these characters were well fleshed out even though there were over a dozen important characters in the game. None of them felt similar to another character, and I grew to like some while I grew to dislike others. This even carried over into my strategic decisions; when I could only choose to battle with a certain number of troops, I might bench the ones I didn’t like and train the ones I did.
A great feature for fleshing out characters are the Support Conversations. Basically, these conversations open up intermittently, though I’m not sure if they’re triggered by companionship and helpfulness in battle or if it’s completely at random. Anyhow, when these conversations open up, you can click through some dialogue which serves two purposes. First of all, it helps you get to know characters a bit more, helps them become more or less likeable, and brings a depth to their personality. You can find out which units get along, which ones have a crush on others, whether or not one is willing to teach another, and so on, just as you might have happen in reality when you stick a bunch of strangers together for a cause. They get to know each other, and the player gets to watch. Secondly, the more of these conversations you have, the more the units friendship increases, which grants you bonuses in battle when the two fight together as a paired unit. A couple with a friendship level of D might only grant a point each to strength, luck, skill, and resistance, but with a level of A, they might get a 3, 4, or 5 in each category. This can really turn the tide of a battle, and it makes the support conversations worth reading, even if you don’t care about storyline progression. I don’t want to ruin anything for you, but there might even be a bit of a surprise if you have enough conversations; also worth checking out.
Enough with the storyline (I’m over a thousand words in). Gameplay. Basically, there are two game modes and three difficulties for each. Classic mode means that if a unit dies in battle, they die forever; it’s Permadeth. Casual mode means that the units simply faint like Pokemon and are revived after the battle. I made the mistake of choosing Classic on the middle difficulty even though it clearly stated that Casual mode would be for me as a new player, and that I should play on the easiest difficulty since I was a beginner. Lo and behold, I ended up in the third or fourth battle with only 4 troops at my disposal when the enemy had about 20. Whoops. I restarted and found that beginner difficulty on Casual mode is definitely the way to go for a new player.
On Casual mode, I didn’t have to worry about dying as much, and I could learn the mechanics. One of my only complaints with Fire Emblem Awakening is that the tutorials are inconspicuous and hidden in the menu sometimes, even though I played on the easiest difficulty combination possible out of the 6 I could have chosen. I had to learn as I went, which really wasn’t a problem since my only repercussion for death was the need to restart a skirmish.
I really like the fact that the mechanics are easy to learn on the surface, but they become more complex when you look into it and play on a tougher difficulty. Pretty much anyone can play at beginner/Casual level and still have a challenge, but if you really want a brain bending experience, higher difficulties will take every stat and health point into consideration. Should I upgrade this unit or that one? Will having a medic on the field help or harm me (legitimate question; not as simple as it looks)? Should I use burly units at short range or slightly weaker ones at a distance? Will pairing these two units yield better bonuses than those two? Is a strength level of 20 with HP of 42 and resistance of 18 better than a strength level of 23 with HP of 35 and resistance of 19? The list goes on and on… and on. Honestly, from hit rates, critical hit ratios, unit strengths and weaknesses, mobility and cover, and all the other aspects that might alter the outcome of a fight, there is a lot of strategy involved in this game! But at the same time the experience is enjoyable for beginners without being watered down. For experienced veterans, on the other hand, gear up for a heck of a fight.
Another aspect of this game that I love is the ability to make choices that could impact the rest of the game. For example, I came across one side mission where I find a lost girl, and if I save her from the enemies, she joins the group. If she dies, then her piece of the storyline is gone forever. This means that I don’t learn about her life and past, I might miss out on a tough soldier (which she is), and I can’t access her support conversations. The stakes are high when Permadeth is an issue, so it really becomes a matter of risk and reward on Classic difficulty. Even more challenging are the big ticket decisions like whether or not you will sacrifice your life for another, or whether this person should die or that one. I haven’t seen both sides of what happens, so I don’t know if the decisions really make a difference, ( i.e., if you send person X to die, then they die, but if you choose to kill person Y, then person X jumps in the way and dies anyhow so it really doesn’t matter) but it feels important whether it is or not. There was one decision where I had to close the game, walk away, think about it, and return in the evening to cast the lots.
Because of the different difficulties and game modes, story-altering choices, and unique support conversations, I’m beginning a second playthrough just to see how this one will turn out. The replayability in Awakening is astounding, as I never thought I would replay a campaign that took my nearly 25 hours to beat the first time. I truly think I could pour days into this game and not end up bored. This time around, I’m playing Classic mode on the medium difficulty, and I’m choosing different paths when it comes time to make important decisions, just to see how it plays out. I’ll keep you posted.
Finally, to talk about the 3D. Oh, the 3D is gorgeous in this game. The terrain rolls and dips and pops. The character models stand out while the environments fade to the horizon. Battle animations appear to be happening with such closeness, and overall, the effect is amazing. It really helps to draw you into the experience.
Well, I think I’ve covered everything I like and love about Fire Emblem Awakening, but I doubt it does it justice. In any case, now to cover the few minor issues I found. First, as I mentioned before, I was irritated at the lack of prominent tutorials. They’re there, but they’re not easy enough to spot. Again, this isn’t a huge issue as most mechanics are picked up as you go along, assuming you choose Casual mode, which you should if you haven’t played Fire Emblem before and are in need of tutorials anyhow. Secondly, there’s no online play, which seems like a terrible shame because I would love to play this war chess with a real foe. Finally, for those of you who are well versed in the “time-twisting/dimension-bending” theme, the story may possibly come off as a bit cliche. I didn’t think it was too predictable, and I was always on my toes, alarmed at a new development I didn’t see coming. For somebody more experienced, maybe it would be different; I can’t say for sure.
So there you have it; that’s that. I can’t accurately express how truly amazing Fire Emblem Awakening is. I have enjoyed this game more than any other mobile game I’ve ever played, and there were times when I forgot it was mobile because it truly stacked up to any console adventure. Awakening is a worth addition to my gaming collection, and I recommend it to all of you. If you have a 3DS and enjoy a good, story driven campaign, go buy this game. Borrow it, steal it, rent it, I don’t care; obtain it somehow.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ve found this review enjoyable, although lengthy! Please hit the like or follow buttons if you’ve enjoyed, and maybe check the LP channels in my “Links” tab.