I was finally able to track down a copy of Fire Emblem Awakening and I am completely, totally, hopelessly hooked on it.
I’ve really been dying for a good 3DS game to sink my teeth into, especially after getting my XL a few months ago and not really playing much on it. Kid Icarus was a disappointment, Kingdom Hearts didn’t stick and Paper Mario was an exceptionally hollow experience. I wanted something meaty, something that was going to have me gripping that handheld for dear life. I finally found it.
My past experiences with Fire Emblem games are not noteworthy. I bought Path of Radiance because it was hard to find and I wanted to try the series but only got a few hours in. I got Radiant Dawn as a gift and started it twice before putting it aside for other games. Sacred Stones gave me heart palpitations. Despite the series and I never hitting it off properly, I downloaded the Awakening demo the day it went up and knew I had found my game within five minutes of starting it up.
The first thing that sold me is the addition of Casual Mode. As I mentioned in my Sacred Stones article, I could NOT deal with permadeath, a staple of the Fire Emblem franchise where if a character falls in battle, that’s it… they’re dead for the rest of the game. My brain is weird when it comes to video games and I was completely unable to cope. It made me sad, because in general I really like turn-based strategy games and I really wanted to be able to enjoy Nintendo’s genre entry. When the demo told me that with the click of a button I could rid myself of that pressure and actually enjoy the game I was elated.
It wasn’t just that, though; the demo let me create an avatar for myself (well, all the options were locked. It’s more accurate to say it TEASED me by saying I could create an avatar in the full release) and I automatically 100% love any game that lets me create a character. I’m not very original and went with the default model and just changed his hair to purple, but it still gives me a sense of ownership and connection with the character I wouldn’t have otherwise.
I immediately fell in love with the art style. The characters all look great, both as 3D models and 2D talking heads and although strategy games aren’t the first genre you think of when you think of games that benefit from stereoscopic 3D, the game’s world felt that much more real and inviting. I wanted more time with the characters. I wanted to explore more. I needed the game! So I bought it.
The battle system is a real treat. I’m a fan of the paper-scissors-rock system with swords, axes and lances, and the little cutscenes that illustrate the battle are a real treat. I find myself going out of my way to grind it out in every optional battle possible before moving on to the next scripted skirmish simply because I love playing the game so much.
And the relationship system… oh man. As someone who spends a lot of time complaining about fandoms on tumblr “shipping” everything I’m sure spending a lot of time thinking about who I’m going to pair up in this game. The stat boosts the characters bestow on each other as their relationships grow stronger are incredibly helpful and the conversations they share are equally charming and hilarious.
I had Chrom marry Sumia (because, c’mon, OTP) and I was going to wait until I had more characters before I decided who to have my avatar, Ethran, marry because I didn’t want to miss out on someone rad, but during battles he often found himself along Miriel, the studious mage. I had Ethran using magic so it seemed like a good fit, and their relationship was solidifying after every battle. I had seen art of some of the female characters that would join me later, but after a battle the “Support” menu was telling me that Ethran and Miriel wanted to talk and it would result in an S-Rank relationship, meaning they’d get married. I decided to save beforehand and initiate the cutscene just so I could see it, but I loved the scene so much and Miriel was so cute that I decided to go with it and immediately save my game so I couldn’t change my mind. Now during battle it’s not an uncommon sight to see Miriel get attacked only to have Ethran push her out of harm’s way, and then both of them completely decimate her attacker with a retaliatory barrage of magic.
I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m only on chapter 9 and this game has completely consumed me. I never want to NOT be playing it. All day at work I sit there thinking about who I’m going to take into battle with me and which characters I’m going to pair up. I’ve got the game’s soundtrack playing on YouTube as I type this because I just need some kind of Fire Emblem injected into my senses at all times in order to function (also the music is REALLY good). In order to write this I needed to have Christina take my copy of the game from me, and now she’s started up her own file and early indications suggest that she’s going to be totally enthralled with it as well.
It’s so good. IT’S SOOOOO GOOD. If you can find a copy (and believe me, it’s really hard – my local Target had 6 copies one night and none the next morning) and want an engrossing experience that’ll keep you glued to your 3DS, you need to get Fire Emblem Awakening. I don’t mean to be presumptuous but I can easily see this becoming one of my favorite games of all time and possibly even unseating Final Fantasy Tactics as my favorite strategy game. It’s THAT good.
Now to post this and get my copy of the game back. I’m coming, Miriel!