fire-emblem-awakening

Release Date: February 4, 2013

ESRB Rating: T for Teen Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes

Genre: Turn-Based Strategy; Tactical RPG | Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Intelligent Systems

Summary (from IGN):

In the visually stunning world of the Fire Emblem Awakening game, you command and fight alongside an army of spirited heroes standing against an enemy with the power to destroy empires; a dark dragon whose agents include armies of the undead. Plan your attack, customize your forces, and guide your heroes as you forge alliances that strengthen your resolve in battle and shape the course of history. Lead a team of distinct characters with unique abilities, rich backstories, and evolving relationships that guide the path of your quest. Plan your attack carefully – the lives of your soldiers and the future of the world depends on it.

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Review: 5 out of 5 Dogwoods

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Fire Emblem Awakening is a blast! It is so much fun to play! I am shocked that more people have not played the Fire Emblem series.

This is a game worth texting your friends about.

It’s reason alone to get a Nintendo 3DS.

Awakening has both the depth and nuance that tactical RPG fans crave, along with the ease-of-use and fluid tutorial system that newcomers require. Awakening is the ultimate portable strategy RPG and the best game I have played to date in the Nintendo 3DS’s library.

fire-emblem-fight-statsAwakening’s general gameplay model will look familiar to anyone who’s ever tried their hand at a tactical RPG or is familiar with chess; the joy in this sort of experience comes from strategics. You control a set of units – a fighting force of knights, archers, mages, women on flying horses and the life. You have to decide who to take into battle, which weapons and skills to equip them with, and how to position each unit. As in chess, each type of unit has its own rules about how it can move and attack. Each has special weaknesses, too. For example, do not fly your Pegasus Knights near enemy archers. You will have to think 10 steps ahead and push yourself to devise new tactics to take your opponent off guard. It is a slow and satisfying progression; one that builds and builds as battles evolve and new mechanics are introduced.

Now, imagine if every chess piece had its own personality and gained experience every time you used it. Let’s say you’re good at slaying pawns and bishops with one of your rooks. That rook will go stronger and will eventually evolve into a much better elite piece that plays by a more favorable set of rules. In certain respects, this is how I imagine Wizard’s Chess to be in Harry Potter.

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There are other gameplay additions in Awakening, including the option of pairing teammates in battle, the Seal system whereby you can change a character’s class, and the ability to build relationships between units (over time two characters can even get married and have a kid – who can eventually be recruited to your team). All these things and more create great layers in this sophisticated battle system, and go a long way in involving you in the game and making you feel like a truly great tactician.

The game presents four difficulty levels to choose from: Normal, Hard, Lunatic, and the unlockable Lunatic Plus. This complements the new ability to play in either the Classic style, where characters who die stay dead – permadeath, or the Casual mode, where you can save the game at anytime and the permadeath is disabled so that your characters come back, even after they’ve died in battle. The choice between these two options means that there is no longer any reason for strategy RPG newcomers to miss out on the Fire Emblem action.

Beyond the game-play, the heart of Awakening is the world and the characters. On the surface, Awakening offers another “royal hero protecting the kingdom” story line, but it is far from stale.

As the narrative unfolds, the story takes more chances, artfully drawing the player in and investing them in the kingdom of Ylisse. I was truly surprised at several points, and by the end I honestly felt like I’d been on a remarkable journey and really grew attached to my faithful teammates. Expect to be genuinely surprised and moved at several points, to ride waves of triumph and feel the sting of grief as Chrom’s story unfolds chapter by chapter, battle by epic battle.

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Herein lies the game’s greatest strength: the characters are so well fleshed out that they have a real and tangible presence in the world. The overhanging threat that any of them can die at any time – and just like in real life, that they will stay dead forever – lends more intensity to each battle. With every choice, every battle and every teammate you let fall, you are writing your own story and playing a key role in determining the destiny of everyone around you. This makes for a truly special and unforgettable experience because your choices carry real weight and have a real effect on the game’s characters.

This is the core of the new Fire Emblem. It’s not squarely a war game. It’s a game about relationships.

Once you are invested in the world of Ylisse, you will never want to leave. If you have access to a 3DS, do not deny yourself this truly special and incredible experience.

 

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