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Review: Fire Emblem: Awakening for 3DS

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fire emblem: awakening

Title: Fire Emblem: Awakening
Price: $39.99
System(s): 3DS
Release Date: February 4, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Nintendo (Intelligent Systems)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language and Mild Suggestive Themes

Fire Emblem: Awakening is the reason I bought a 3DS. I didn’t know it at the time. I figured I was buying the system for the eventual exclusives it would get and because I happened to have a substantial gift card that helped cover most of it. Now that I’ve spent over 10 hours playing it, I know it was all for Fire Emblem: Awakening. The in-depth support system, challenging story battles and oodles of character customization options come together to make this the best entry in the Fire Emblem series and one of the finest strategic RPGs I have ever played.

The Shepherds watch over their flock – and the world.

fire emblem: awakeningThere are Shepherds in the kingdom of Ylisse. They aren’t mercenaries or brigands. They’re an elite fighting force led by Prince Chrom, brother of the kingdom’s Exalt. The Shepherds have been quite busy lately, as soldiers from the neighboring kingdom of Plegia have been sneaking across the border, posing as bandits and assaulting villages. The Shepherds are around to investigate and stop it. During one of these searches that they come across a lone woman, or man as players get to pick, in the road.

This woman is an amnesiac strategist, a wielder of swords and tomes who is somehow able to see what would and wouldn’t work on the battlefield. And despite her memory’s absence, she still knows her stuff, her name and, oddly enough, Prince Chrom. After a few battles fought together to show her loyalty, she becomes a Shepherd and goes on to assist Chrom in the defense of his kingdom.

Even if you don’t buy DLC, there’s more than enough content for multiple replays.

fire emblem: awakeningFire Emblem: Awakening‘s basic gameplay is largely unchanged. Players command an army of warriors, all of different classes and with different skills and weapons, sending them off to battle in the hopes they are stronger than the enemy. The rock-paper-scissors (axe-sword-lance) weapon system remains, units build relationships by fighting alongside each other, weapons have durability levels that decrease as they’re used, you can’t rely on one small group of soldiers due to different map and opponent conditions and you still never, ever send a pegasus knight or wyvern rider out into a map filled with archers and wind magic mages. It’s core is as solid as ever. I would have liked to have seen master seals, which allow characters to improve to a better class, before Chapter 10, but the ability to buy beaststones and dragonstones for the taguel and manakete party members after Chapter 12 more than makes up for it. The ability to turn off perma-death, where a character isn’t dead should he or she fall in battle, is a major boon as well. In fact, it’s these and all the other improvements to the basics that make Fire Emblem: Awakening shine.

As I said in my earlier article in which I declared Fire Emblem: Awakening the best dating sim ever, the Support system in this installment is incredible. Certain units are able to develop bonds with other characters. This results in conversations off the battlefield that reveal a bit of the units personality and allows friendships to form or love to blossom. Units that are close will provide hit, damage, defense and dodge bonuses to their partners when they fight alongside each other, and the supporting unit may even step in to take a blow for the person they care about or deliver a follow-up attack. Not to mention pairing up friendly units means a bigger stat boost when the two are working together. I noticed the support benefits more here than in any other Fire Emblem game and they had a bigger influence in battle.

Not to mention a player’s Fire Emblem: Awakening army can be huge. Play the game right and players will have a force that is so large, any situation is conquerable. Facing a desert map? By a certain point in the game players could have a respectible mage and pegasus knight army that could move across it swiftly. The next legion is made up of dragons? Send out the archers and mages. Indoors, outdoors, it doesn’t matter. There are enough characters to ensure everyone will have a fighting force with the appropriate skills to give them the edge in any situation, provided you turn perma-death off or work extra hard to keep every unit alive.

Take care though, as all of this content could tempt a player into over-preparing. I had six pairs of characters married off before I began the Chapter 7 battle. The couples were Stahl x Miriel, Sumia x Frederick, Sully x Kellam, Ricken x Maribelle, Lissa x Gaius and Vaike x Panne, if you’re curious. (It would have been seven, but I had cold feet and couldn’t decide if I wanted my avatar to marry Chrom or Lon’qu – I went with Chrom.) As a result of relationship grinding, I had an army where almost everyone was around level 15 by that point. That’s a pitfall of Fire Emblem: Awakening. The ability to buy Reeking Box items or use the DLC maps to level grind means there is this drive. “Should I play this map five times in a row so Lissa and Gaius will get married?” Yes. “Should I go through this map as my avatar 10 times so I can have her change classes with a Second Seal to become a thief and learn the unlock doors/chest skill?” Of course! “Have I been playing Fire Emblem: Awakening for six hours straight?” Uh oh. The ability to accrue skills across classes and build relationships with characters provides the perfect incentive to keep playing. Players can build the best Fire Emblem army ever with Fire Emblem: Awakening and I think fans are going to capitalize on that and keep coming back to this game.

Which brings us to the DLC. Fire Emblem: Awakening has it and handles it perfectly. As I’ve seen from the first map, Champions of Yore 1, it’s a helpful, supplemental aid. It provides a map that can be replayed an infinite number of times to build experience and acquire items from the two villages there. It isn’t necessary, but it is very handy to have for completionists who want to go overboard and really maximize their army. Plus, Prince Marth, the free character granted, has the Aptitude skill that increases his stats’ growth rates, making him a formidable member of any army. I don’t know if I’ll be buying all the extra maps, but I will definitely get the ones that provide tons of gold and new support conversations.

fire emblem: awakening

Fire Emblem: Awakening is a perfect installment for players of any skill level.

Fire Emblem: Awakening makes me glad I own the downloadable version of the game and not a physical copy. I don’t want it to leave my 3DS. Even after I beat this game, I can easily see myself coming back to it not only for the DLC, but to replay the game and unlock different Support conversations between different characters. This game has a fantastic story and so many opportunities for players to come back and improve their characters that I can’t imagine it getting old. I think I’m always going to want to see how my avatar might do as different classes, or work with my favorite units to make sure they have the best skills for future fights. I can’t wait for StreetPass encounters against other players so I can recruit their avatars and see what they decided to do with their characters. Fire Emblem: Awakening is an incredible and essential addition to the 3DS game library.

Product Page {Amazon}

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