Grab your swords and gather the wedding rings because we are getting into the eleventh title in the famous SRPG series developed by Intelligent Systems and distributed by Nintendo for the Nintendo 3DS, Fire Emblem Awakening!
If you’ve never played a strategy RPG before or you’ve somehow never heard of RPG games before, let me give you a quick overview. Strategy RPGs are basically more developed chess tables, with each piece having its strengths and weaknesses due to its class. To give some examples, Mages pack quite a magical punch but let them near a melee fighter and you might just have one more body hanging in the battlefield. Pegasus Knight’s are amazing due to their speed to hit opponents more often and dodge attacks, but let them near an archer and you’ve got a pegasus barbecue. What spices things up for this to be different are three factors: Each character’s personality, the permadeath effect, and the dating sim aspect brought into this game, but before we get into that follow me for a quick summary of the premise
Fire Emblem Awakening’s story revolves around the continents of Ylisse, previously named Archanea for the older fans. In ancient times before the events of the game, the Fell Dragon Grima tried to destroy the world, and it was the Divine Dragon Naga’s duty to stop him. In order to do so, Naga chose the ruler of the Kingdom of Ylisse, the Exalt as he was called, to grant power to in the form of two magical artifacts: The Falchion, with the power to slay dragons, and the Fire Emblem, with the shape of a shield. With these two, the Exalt was able to strike him down and put Grima into a deep slumber. The game’s story itself goes down within the land of Ylisse now divided into the Halidom of Ylisse and the Kingdom of Plegia. Without entering too deeply into spoiler territory, you play as a customizable character who becomes the tactician of the Shepherds, a side army of Ylisse.
The premise is quite a simple one but leaves a lot of room for expanding what happens after these events, but one of the game’s downfalls is exploring more of the worldbuilding on the events that happened before the game starts and how it affects the world. It’s almost like the world just suddenly started the moment you booted up the game. It doesn’t make it a bad story, but it feels like an exam you did decently for a subject you enjoyed: It’s not a bad grade, but with all that it has going for it, it could’ve been much better.
The story in the game itself has some twists, but the game was never about setting high standards to creativity on the story itself and is more a compilation and a love letter to the fans of the series. This game, much like Final Fantasy was for its studio, was to be the last game of the series due to low sales and the reception in the west. Fortunately, it was a huge success and sales skyrocketed. Going back to the story, it has a ton of elements from the past games and some don’t even make sense lore-wise but their inclusion is understandable in order to please everyone as the final goodbye of the series.
What sold this game to me was the gameplay. It’s quick to see why people enjoy it so much, despite it being really repetitive with its battles, without new objectives like the older games had and with the majority of the game being “defeat all enemies” with few exceptions. However, going back to the chess metaphor, imagine if your bishop was a clumsy girl who tries her best to please others, loves baking pies but always trips and breaks things. Now that would make you more attached to it, right? That’s Awakening’s charm – understanding that everyone matters in your little army and with its ever-growing number makes you more connected to each person who enters the army, trying to understand who they are and see why they are like that. Take for example Gregor, a mercenary with a Russian accent who likes helping others with his charismatic personality, but you feel there’s something to him and you want to join people with him so they understand each other; Join Gregor with Tharja, a dark mage that can only be described as a yandere at face value and see how they develop each other. And that brings me to the next point: The dating sim
Dating sim games are on a high recently, mainly due to the aspect of being able to bond with the characters and insert yourself in that world to experience events with these charismatic personalities. This game mixes that in with being able to marry your tactician to any of the characters in the game. Seeing that blossom brings in a simple system of bonding over battles in levels, from C-B-A then finally S rank arrives and boom you got a partner! While that may have created a split in the community due to the game selling itself as a dating sim, in the end saving the franchise allowed it to continue production but we will talk about these games another day. And I might add I married Cordelia myself the first time around and I don’t’ regret it one bit, fight me
Now, the final point is the permadeath which can be turned on or off, meaning that when units die, they die. Remember that character you where you loved the personality to death and was planning on marrying to that one cavalier? Well, it looks like you don’t have him anymore and you need to get better so you don’t have to lose them the next time around or on a higher difficulty (in this house we don’t talk about Lunatic, that is an unbalanced demon on itself). But the game’s focus never ends up on that aspect, since the game is very easy even in the hard difficulty. Instead, this game exchanges dealing with loss and turns it 180 into understanding friendship and bonding with others; The mechanics itself prove that, with the pair up function allowing two units to combine into one of them with boosts on its strengths and covering some weaknesses in exchange for moving 2 separate units. This is basically exchanging isolation and dealing with things alone for people working as one and literally using the power of friendship as a weapon and that is a genius move (despite being quite op gameplay-wise, but this is not about it).
Before giving my conclusion on it, I do want to point out some details on the technical side: The music on this game is absolutely amazing and I am guilty of downloading a ton of it on my phone. You should now go and listen to this while you finish reading this. It’s worth it trust me. The graphics in cutscenes, for a 3DS system are phenomenal and look like they are ripped straight out of an anime. Ingame the models are also good looking (ignore the lack of feet, it’s a long story) but nothing to write home about and the background might get stale due to being stationary
Overall, this game is a must for anyone who enjoys RPGs and has a 3DS due to it’s easy to grasp gameplay and due to being a game that will easily hook you, despite being quite easy if you are used to its gameplay. For those who want to get into these type of games, this one is also excellent due to the low difficulty and focus on one of the best aspects of RPG’s: Bonding with the characters.
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Nick has been gaming for quite a while, a decade now! His first console was the DS but the first one played extensively was the Nintendo 64. He loves a huge variety of games, favourite genres include RPG, platforming, metroidvanias and visual novels. No longer a member of the NookGaming team, but still here in spirit. Follow him on @NickMendz.