It’s time to buy a 3DS, folks.
I’m being honest when I say that it takes something special for me to become emotionally invested in a video game, but this one has done it. Fire Emblem: Awakening is, in a word, addicting. And with gorgeous visuals, a superb soundtrack, and an engaging storyline, “Awakening” is the best installment we’ve seen from the series in quite some time.
I found myself playing Fire Emblem: Awakening to pass the time while waiting alone in LAX one day, and received several stares when I audibly gasped and let out an “oh my god!” at a plot development. Once I picked up this game I found it difficult to stop, but even if you are the kind of person who tends to play games in short spurts, the story is conveniently divided into chapters that make it easy to save and pick up where you left off. The 3D feature only does the game favors, creating a striking overlay effect during in-battle dialogue. I definitely jumped in surprise a few times at how real the embers on a volcanic battlefield looked as they drifted across the screen.
At the beginning of the game, you are asked to create your own avatar through a variety of options (gender, hair, body type, and even voice), who will serve as the main tactician for the story’s entirety. I quickly became invested in the story of this mystery character I had created, and was determined to build relationships with other characters and progress in the story to find the answers to the mystery of her lost memories. One quickly grows attached to other characters as well and is given the opportunity to flesh out their storylines and relationships with others.
Don’t like some of the characters? Don’t battle with them! There were several characters I did not bother to incorporate into my team, and it did nothing to hinder the story. Without spoiling anything, I will say that depending on the decisions you make throughout the game–from your avatar’s gender to which characters kill particular bosses–the storyline has the potential to change completely. The decisions you make as a tactician on the battlefield influence characters’ relationships in the barracks, which can in turn impact the story and the strength of particular team combinations.
Team customizability is one of the highlights of this game, and also a factor that gives it almost endless replay value. As far as playable content goes, the replayability of this game is definitely the most robust I’ve seen of any game on 3DS thus far. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, as soon as I finished the game, I started a new one on a different save file. Yeah, I never do that. Also, the downloadable content (DLC) in Awakening is some of the only DLC that I have been willing to pay for, as the characters, items, and experience I gained in these side quests actually helped my party in the main game.
If I have any complaints about this title (and there are very few), I’d liked to have seen better graphics on the game grid. I recognize the need to keep things nostalgic, but this is the 3DS, and I feel that we deserve better than simple pixelated figures. I also would have liked to see the cell-shaded animation used for the cut scenes incorporated into the gameplay a bit more. The complicated menu system sometimes bothered me as well, although in retrospect I’m not sure there was a better way to organize it, and it just takes a little getting used to. But these are minor complaints, and are not anything that will bother Fire Emblem vetrans familiar with the format of previous games.
While Fire Emblem: Awakening is a must-have for fans of the series, I encourage newcomers or those who are skeptical about the grid-based battle system to pick up a copy and give it a shot. I was unsure whether or not I would like the gameplay, but I can tell you now that I am glad it didn’t stop me. The verdict? Fire Emblem: Awakening is well worth the buy if you own a 3DS. If you don’t, you might want to seriously consider making that investment.