Fire Emblem: Awakening review
Another Fire Emblem Gem

The good:

New support system
Excellent characters
Decent animations

The bad:

No 'S' level for weapons, tomes, and staves
No 'wheel' of magic


Fire Emblem Awakening

This review will use the following weighted system
Graphics – 15%
3D Effect – 5%
Game Play – 50%
Plot – 10%
Music/Sound – 10%
Replay Value – 10 %

Graphics: After spending the past several years on the home consoles, Fire Emblem returns to its portable roots. However, the graphics on this game rival those of the Game Cube in certain areas. Animations are a excellent example of this. Full battle animations are well done as are the cut scenes. The overview of the of the battle map, unfortunately, only offers slight improvements. Overall, the graphics are superb in this game. (9.0/10)

3D Effect: I like how on the battle overview map the 3D effect makes certain terrain features pop a bit more. There is also depth given to battle animations and cut scenes. Overall, this is a good use but it does enhance the game a whole lot (7.0/10)

Game Play:
Starting a new game will give players three choices for difficulty: Normal, Hard, and Lunatic. This followed by two game modes: casual and classic. Classic is what veterans of the series will come to expect. Units that die in battle are gone forever. There are no resurrection spells or items. So, there will be times where a level is played more than once to prevent a loss of a certain character. Casual is meant as an introduction to the series, for those not prepared to deal with the brutality of never using a unit again. The casual mode also allows players to save at any point where as classic mode can save on the world map and create bookmark saves during battle (more on this later). Purists may scoff at the two modes, but I like the choices. It gives players two different experiences and the chance to use some tactics in casual that may not have been used in classic. Next comes the creation of an avatar. Players can customize build, face, hair style, hair color, voice, and of course, name. This gives player a much deeper connection to the game through this character. I will say that it would have been nice to select the character's class.

The game begins with two characters, one being the avatar you created. If the normal difficulty was selected, the tutorials on various game actions and battle strategies will appear on the touch screen. The higher levels will not have the two tutorials. Therefore, beginners should definitely choice the normal difficulty to start. This brief mission also show the battle map which is made of squares. Follow the tutorials or read the build in manual to learns how to play. Fire Emblem uses a Medieval theme with weapons and spells. There are also several character classes. Classes start at a base level, and have the opportunity to change past level 10 with two items: Second Seal and Master Seal. Second Seals allow characters to change class in the same tier. So, a cleric could change into a mage or a great knight could change into a paladin. Master Seals allow base characters to change into a more advanced class. In Awakening, players are finally able to choice the advanced class with the exception of lords. For example, mages can change into sages or dark knights.

Each class has the ability to use one or more weapon, tome, or stave. Some characters can use a combination. For example, the avatar you created is a tactician. Tacticians have ability to use swords and tomes. Weapons include bows, swords, axes, and lances. Tomes are magic spells that include fire, wind, thunder, and dark magic. Staves have a variety of effects on your units, the most popular being the healing staffs. All of this equipment has different levels of power. For example, basic weapons come in bronze, iron, steel, and silver. Characters who use this equipment will build skill levels for that piece of equipment. More powerful pieces of equipment will require higher skill levels, especially tomes. Skill levels are measured in letters, starting with E and going to A. Previous games have featured an S level as being the highest, but that's missing here in Awakening. It was a disappointment to me.

Basic tactics involve what I refer to as the wheel of weapons. Swords have the advantage over axes. Axes have the advantage over lances, and lances have the advantage over swords. There used to be a wheel of magic also. When Fire Emblem came to North America for GameBoy Advanced (GBA), there were three kinds of magic: light, dark, and anime. The wheel existed among the three. For the home console games (Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn), the wheel was transferred within anime magic (fire, wind, and thunder). Light magic was on its own, and there was no dark magic. For Awakening, there is wheel and no light magic which was another disappoint for me. I think this reduces the tactics involved as players would need to think about how to enemies who use magic.

I would like now to take about the support system. While the support system is nothing new to the Fire Emblem series, it plays its most significant role to date. Characters who are next to another character will automatically support the other in battle. "Next to" means above, below, right, or left in the adjacent square on the battle map. During battle, the support character will give the character who is attacking or defending a stats boost. This feature is a carryover from past games. However, in Awakening, there is chance that the support character will block an attack or counter-attack. Also, the support character may also attack the target himself/herself. Therefore, it gives the game a sense of teamwork. There is caveat. It may expose a character to multiple attacks from multiple enemy units. Just as weapons, tomes, and staves have levels, support has levels too, beginning with C and going to A. Each character has a chance to have a 'S' level of support with one character of the opposite sex. This support level often comes in the form of marriage. Yes, characters can get married in this game. While this keeps Awakening fresh and different from the other Fire Emblem games, I don't understand why the S level is limit to a character of the opposite sex. I would like to have seen the ability to have a S level with any character. Yes, marriage has a deep bond, but so do other relationships. Keep the ability to have characters marry, but include friendships and family relations (sister/sister relationship for example) to have the opportunity to gain the S level. In order to start a support relationship, character must fight side by side frequently. When players complete a mission, there may be an opportunity to have support conversations. There will be an exclamation mark next to support option in the menu. Character Eligible for support conversations will be highlighted. Conversations range from mundane to touching to humorous. I like the new support system despite my earlier gripe.

Finally, I will cover the controls and the menus. Controls are very simple with the circle pad or d-pad to move and buttons to make selections. There a couple of menus. First, the world map menu. Inventory allow players to choose which items characters will carry into battle. Equip skills does what it says. I already covered support. Barracks is a bit of an mystery. Characters will walk into the room and often say the same things to each other. Sometimes, single characters will gain a surge in certain stat areas. Other times, the character will find a piece of equipment. Two characters can also walk, and they may improve their relationship. I have yet to determine what exactly this does. Wireless lets you download the free stuff Nintendo sends every week. I would imagine that one of these days, they will cut down or stop this practice. Next is the battle prep menu. It is very similar to the world map menu except there is no barracks option. In the prep menu, fight begins the mission and exit returns to the world map. Finally, the is the in mission menu. Units reviews your units. Guide is to review tutorials. Options lets players customize several in mission settings. Bookmark is the about the same as a "quit and save". It suspends the game at any point, but the game picks up right at that point. Auto lets the computer take over with the player setting an tactic of the whole party or an individual unit. End switches to the enemy turn. Some of these options are available in the world map menu.

There is so much more to talk about like skills and touch screen layout. But, I wanted to hit some of there more important or different aspects of the game play. I leave the rest for players to discover. It is amazing the amount of depth and details here making for a satisfying experience for all. (9/10)

Plot : A soldiering group called "Shepards" find a unconscious tactician who upon awakening has trouble remembering what happened. What follows next a series of events that involves the returns of Grime, the Fell Dragon. While the overall story line isn't that compelling, the individual characters with their personalities and interactions carry this game. (8/10)

Music/ Sound: There is excellent instrumental music in this game and adds to the experience given the mood. Sound is fine also. There is more voice acting than ever and not just in cinematic. Support conversations and regular cut scenes have the voices say certain things like "right" at various points. Sometimes this feels unnecessary. Either give just text or the voice the whole conversation. (8/10)

Replay Value: As mentioned before, there are three difficulty levels so if you complete the game on the normal difficulty, there are two more levels waiting for you to challenge them. There is DLC in this game. On the world map, it is called "Outrealm Gate". Additional maps are available for purchase here. Players can also experiment with different classes and build support levels with different characters. (8.5/10)

Overall, this is an excellent game and 3DS owners should strongly consider it or at least try the free demo.

9 * .15 = 1.35
7 * .05 = 0.35
9 * .5 = 4.5
8 * .1 = 0.8
8 * .1= 0.8
8.5 * .1= .85

Final Score = 8.65 round to 8.7

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