Fire Emblem: Awakening review
Intense strategy and amazing handheld graphics!

The good:

  • The graphics are absolutely amazing and really take advantage of the 3DS technology
  • The gameplay adheres to standard Fire Emblem mechanics but adds more game styles for those looking for more variety
  • The game is truly expansive and will last you a long time
  • DLC content is available to expand the game even further
  • Highly customizable characters

The bad:

  • DLC content may not be cheap enough for all players


Use of 3D technology:
When it comes to 3DS games, one of the most important factors (to me), is the use of the 3D technology in the game. After all, pretty much the only thing that separates the DS from the 3DS is the 3D technology. With poor or inadequate usage of the 3D technology, any 3DS game might as well be a regular DS game instead.

With that being said, Fire Emblem: Awakening does not disappoint. The use of 3D technology in this game is absolutely amazing. With full 3D activated, the graphics in this game's cutscenes are about the same as the graphics on the Gamecube (very similar to Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles), which is very impressive for handheld gameplay. There's simply no way around it -- the graphics in this game are gorgeous (although it is important to note that during movement on the battlefield, the graphics are setup much differently, with a more top-down approach).

The gameplay is the standard Fire Emblem gameplay that you can expect. The game itself features turn-based combat, in which you can (during the "player phase") arrange all of your characters and direct them to attack enemies. Then, there will be an "enemy phase" or "ally phase" in which the nonplayable characters make their battle choices. The key element of the game is strategy -- you can choose which weapons to equip and where to place your characters (for example, some types of terrain provide offensive or defensive bonuses, like placing your characters on forts where your defense is buffed). This game also features a "pair up" feature where you can combine two characters onto a single space to provide one of them with significant stat bonuses, allowing one character to be significantly stronger. You should think carefully though, because combining two very different characters might not provide useful stat bonuses; for example, if you combine a bow-wielding character with a mage the stat bonuses may not prove too useful in battle, but if you combine two mage characters the stat bonuses will align effectively (since the stat bonuses will apply to the stats that a mage uses to fight).

Additionally, this game features a strong character customization aspect. You can upgrade your character classes (like advancing a thief to an assassin) or change their class entirely (such as changing a thief to a knight to make it more defensive). The class changing system is very useful for changing the gameplay style to fit your preferences. For example, if you like to attack your opponents with deadly strikes from a distance you can change some of your characters to sorcerers (dark mages) to attack from over walls and across rivers, or if you prefer head-to-head combat you can change them to great knights which can move right into the heart of the enemy and attack from the inside while still being effective defensively.

Also important to note are the different objectives you may face during battle. Usually your objective will be to slay all opponents, but sometimes you may only need to kill one (the "commander" or main opponent), or perhaps you will just need to protect an allied (but nonplayable) character from an oncoming attack. Keeping the objective in mind is important, because if you just need to slay the commander you can rush him with one of your stronger characters and end the match fairly quickly, or if you need to protect an allied character you may want to position your team defensively around that character to protect him/her more effectively. In some battles you can even choose to side with one of two opposing armies, or fight them both if you are bold enough. Also, allied characters may join your team after a battle if you help them survive.

Yet there are a couple minor differences in this game that expand gameplay potential. Unlike most (if not all) former Fire Emblem games, this one offers useful tutorial notes as you progress through the game, teaching you bit-by-bit about battle tactics and game functionality. Because of this, it's a very good choice for first-time Fire Emblem players or those who haven't played Fire Emblem in a while. Additionally, there are different game modes you can choose to change the difficulty or modify the consequences of game outcomes. For example, there are now two game modes -- Casual (where team members can die but return after battle and you can save at any time) and Classic (where team members are lost forever when they die and you can only save between battles).

Within the game, the cutscenes and cinematic displays are absolutely mesmerizing. It's truly immersing and blurs the line between video game and full-feature film, with an extensive story line to complete the cinematic feel. Of course, you can definitely expect some surprises in the story, but I won't spoil those.

Even more game content is available through official DLC content. You can purchase extra battle scenarios for $3 each for $6.50 for a pack of three (at the time of this review). Be wary, though, because these extra battles can sometimes be more challenging than regular gameplay and usually require more thought and strategy.

The game is definitely a fair value, but purchasing the additional DLC content may not be quite as valuable, although additional characters and items can sometimes be found through the additional battles.

Replay Value:
Given the significant amount of customization and sometimes divergent game choices, this game has a high level of replay value. Maybe you want to try saving the world as a team of strong archers, or perhaps you want to try creating a team of deadly sorcerers. Or, for more of a challenge, you can try completing battles with only a couple characters and ignore the rest of your team entirely. Either way, you can play through the game multiple times with completely different teams and battle strategies and the game retains a fun experience.

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