Lets be fair, some of us can be cheap-skates when it comes to buying video games, and much like movies, you either go see it in cinema (buy it while it’s full price and brand new) or wait until it’s on Blu-Ray, TV or Netflix (Reduced in price or second hand). But unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo don’t let their prices drop too quickly, and this was the case with this game. It came out in 2012, and in 2016 it was still about £30. Curious, I went ahead with the purchase…so how did it go?
Our story revolves around a character named Robin (But you can name him or her whatever you want and change their appearance, he/she is usually referred to as “The Avatar”). After witnessing him/herself killing the other main character, Chrom, in a dream, Robin wakes up in a field with amnesia. He/She is found by Chrom and members of his personal army, who decide to take him/her to see Chrom’s big sister Emmeryn, who is this great peacekeeper in the world. Through battles with “The Risen” (Effectively Zombies), Chrom finds out that Robin is a very skilled tactician, and makes him/her a high member of his army…an army with quite a range of personalities and classes. Then we start taking on more bad guys (Not giving anything away here).
Despite having no experience to prior Fire Emblem games, this was 1 of the best surprises I’ve ever experienced with a video game. I’ve played this game roughly everyday for over 2 months, sometimes with many numerous hour binges, and it feels weird now that my first play through is all over.
The graphics are more or less what you might expect from a very good looking handheld game. It’s detailed enough to rival the PS2 in the gameplay, and looks like the PS3 in it’s cutscenes. What does amuse me however is how small and/or nonexistent everyone’s feet are on the screen compared to the rest of their bodies. It was apparently done to make it easier to apply animations to the character sprites themselves, so from this perspective I don’t have an objection…in fact, it does make this game memorable in an unorthodox way (If you don’t take the rest of the awesomeness into account).
The Art Style is very much in the Japanese anime style and created with a range of artists, including the likes of Daisuke Izuka and Wada Aruko. The characters are beautifully designed and their personalities shine through with most of them (and others being surprising). Also, everything looks beautiful when you turn on the 3D aspect on the 3DS.
The Story is very interesting, because you can tell that it’s an anime approach to storytelling, while at the same time it maintains a Nintendo presence (in the same way there’s a Disney presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while there’s not 1 with the Marvel Netflix or X-Men series). At times it can be rather predictable, but it does follow the notion that sometimes cliches are cliches for a reason, and with it’s Nintendo presence comes a light-heartedness that is usually written all over a majority of their products. It has good balance, as it’s touching and sad when it needs to be, and it also has a lot of good and oddly realistic humour to it, so it’s far from a bland and uninteresting journey. It can also be mentioned that story-wise this is basically a family game – It’s safe for kids (Plenty of morals), but also, adults can get a lot of out of it as well (lots of wisdom and themes about lifestyle, relationships, personal perspectives and overcoming hurt).
The characters are wonderfully done, with every character interaction showing different sides and layers to each character. Everybody has a primary personalty, such as Frederick being a Butler with OCD, Vaike being a Medieval Jock, Donnel being a lovely but unread farmer boy, Gerome being Batman (But looks more like Nightwing) riding a dragon, Gregor effectively being Russian and Tharja being 1 of the goth kids and possibly played by Aubrey Plaza. Despite this, nobody is 1-dimensional (except for the villains, a number of them really do want to be evil), and conversations with different characters peel back the layers until you know the root to their problems and their reasons for behaving in such a way. Much like Atlus’ Persona games, there is a dating sim aspect. The more you pair up certain characters, the more they get to know each other through grades (supports). You can only have 1 S-rated support per character, and it’s usually that character’s new husband or wife. With each marriage, comes a new side quest, and with each of these side-quests, a new character can join your army. The character? It’s the kid from that marriage, usually adopting the hair colour of the father, as well as some other fighting traits from both parents. There’s a time travel element to this game, which is why this happens, but I won’t say anything else. Do I have any favourite characters? Yes: female Morgan (Your kid if your avatar’s male, easily 1 of the most loveable characters in the game), Henry (The adorable black mage who belongs in the South Park Christmas special “Woodland Critter Christmas”), Lissa (Chrom’s tom-boy sister), Lon’qu (If Batman was afraid of women), Gaius (Sugar-loving thief who never calls you by your real name), Cordelia (The highly talented perfectionist who hates being called a genius, because she knows her flaws) and Brady (The highly insecure Punk violinist who I imagine calling his sharp, posh, practically Queen’s English mother, Maribelle, “Ma” in a Belfast accent).
The Gameplay is that of a grid-based strategy RPG, with Characters given the opportunity to pair-up or “pair-up” by simply standing on a square beside another character. It’s fantastically put together, and when permadeath is activated (Meaning your character stays dead if they die in battle, rather than become injured), it becomes a very challenging game that requires you to use your own logic and make plans. In this sense, Fire Emblem Awakening, gameplay-wise, is a timeless and phenomenal experience.
The Music in ‘Awakening is an absolutely glorious combination with a wide range of emotions to each piece, ranging from epic battle to sad to touching, to funny, to serious, to others that could be mentioned.
Voice Acting: The voice acting’s great, and if you’re not that fond of the english dubbing, you’re provided with the Japanese voiceovers as an alternative. Every voice suited the character design they’ve been assigned to.
Would I recommend Fire Emblem Awakening? Absolutely! It’s easily 1 of the best games for the 3DS, and 1 of the best strategy-based J-RPGs I’ve ever played. It takes elements of several of my favourite J-RPGs (Such as Valkyria Chronicles and Persona) and strategy games (like X-COM) and not only make them it’s own, but occasionally do them better. I call Persona 4 Golden the reason to get a Playstation Vita, and in this instance, I call Fire Emblem Awakening the reason to get a 3DS (and not any Mario or Zelda games).
Art Style: ****3/4
Voice Acting: ****3/4