Fire Emblem Awakening (I will shorten it with FE) is a strategy game, which is fairly popular there as well. It’s the 13th game of the Fire Emblem franchise. Yes, the 13th, just like Final Fantasy and without the Onlinegames and this odd numbering like 13-2 or something like that. Althought I only played the 11th FE: Shadow Dragon and 12th FE: New Mystery of the Emblem: Heroes of Light and Shadow (with an english fan patch) and only caught a glimpse of FE:Sacred Stones, I was quite looking forward to it.
But back to FE: Like in every installment of this series, all Units you recruit are unique with own voice, portrait and character and most importantly, if you go too much ahead of yourself, they can get killed. Not unconscious, no just temporary gone, they really kick the bucket. Even with sometimes heartfelt unique last words like “How could this happen?” (Yeah, player, how could this happen?) “Or forgive me xy. *insert other information/confession here* Only if the main character dies, it is a Game Over (most of the time, sometimes winning conditions change), the others are disposable for the plot.
There are also difficulty levels like normal and lunatic and you can choose between Casual Mode (people don’t die, they return after the mission is finished and you can save in the middle of the battle) and Classic Mode (what is says on the tin. Classic FE. People die permanently,)
Our main character in this case is the Prince of Ylisse named Chrom, who leads a group namend “The Shepherds” (lovely, just the word that I need after the mindscrew with Bioshock Infinite) to protect the surrounding villages and the borders from bandits. You, yes, you take the role of the unit you have created before (male or female, voice, hair/haircolor, statur, strength and weakness point. In the japanese original there was an option where you can decide to not have a voice at all in which case you answer only with “…”. It’s a pity…would have like to see, how that works) I will go with the Name Avatar for that one. The Avatar is just the Deuteroganist. Important, since if s/he dies it, it’s also a Game Over, but the story revolves more around Chrom, his kingdom and, you have guessed it, the whole deal with the Fire Emblem.
It begins with, what I and some call, a spoiler opening. First, you see a nice cinematic cutscene with you/Avatar and Chrom fighting some really dark looking sorcerer (this must be an evil one. slender, dark skinned, red eyes. Yes, sorcerers are almost always evil), then a short tutorial how to fight and then next cutscene. The Sorcerer is dead, Chrom congratulates you and is happy about this victory
… and then Avatar kills him. (What was it with the red eyed dark sorcerer?)
Yes, this is, for starters, some sort of What the hell hero?! moment. Even I rose an eyebrow at this, although I knew, that something bad would happen. Five minutes into the game and you kill the Protagonist. Wow that…escalated quickly. But back to the story, another cinematic cutscene (they are really well made, I will give the game that.) You wake up on a field, you see a girl (which is Chrom’s younger sister.) and you get pulled up by Chrom (due close face up of the character) In this moment, all I thought was:
“Hello, guy I just killed a moment ago.”
Of course Avatar doesn’t remember a thing about killing him, just his name. With that follows the classic exchange “Who did you know my name?” “I don’t know…I can’t remember anything”. After you have helped to fight off some bandits and later some Undead (the Risen, who came through some sort or portal like Math), you have proven your worth and you are made the tactican of the group. (It’s even your starting class, and no bad one at that)
After a fist glimpse at the story, let’s talk about the combat-system. It’s pretty understandable and easy (easy in terms of weapons: spears>swords>axe>spears. Magic is good against heavy amoured units and wind magic is especially good against flying units and bows are very effective against flying units)
The field is like a chess board. You move your units so close up as they need to be to attack, the game gives you a battle prognosis and you decide if you risk it or not. Not everytime it is advisable to follow the attack -attack strategy. Sometimes you have wait and see, how the AI moves and use this to your advantage as well the field you are in (obstacles, your flying units, sand where units with armour and horses are slower.) When they fight you gain Exp for a lvl-up and their weapon stats will get better, so they can carry better weapons (note that weapons can break after being used a certain amount of times, besides a few execptions)
There are also Seals (Master Seal and Second Seal) which either upgrades your class to an elite class or reclass your character to another class.You can also pair units up, which raises the support-lvl and grands you a bonus regaring how high the support-lvl between those two are. (Avatar can support anyone, the other units are restricted.)
Speaking of support level, the characters can marry each other (only those of the opposite gender and again anyone besides Avatar is restricted.) As soon the Support-Level hits S, they will confess and marry (So watch out for this in the conversation section. We don’t want to marry them to someone you don’t want too.) This has an impact on the game, especially on the children they will have.
And now it get’s more complicated. The parents influence the growth stats and ground stats of the children. First I thought, I would marry people off which I see fit and pair them up as they come. Then I looked in the internet and saw the whole discussion about who should marry whom, because the stats of the child are better this way. I was somehow reminded of a breeding ground. Some partners push magic, some push defense-growth …so what you chose depends on how you want to play the game.
The Avatar becomes a CG picture of the people they confess to (complete with pink glittering background and some cheesy lines)
To the characters, besides being used as breeding material, I find them quite enjoyable, of course because of the funny support conversations. A thief which you can buy with sweets, a butler/knight who takes his service to the extremes, a mage who analyses everything and has no sense of social interaction, another knight who is tall but always goes unnoticed by everyone, a smiling dark mage who has a weakness for animals and blood-spilling, another darkmage who stalkes your Avatar and likes to curse other people…..and so on. Everyone has a unique character (if you like them or not is up to you and of course there are a few cliches in there)
The story is quite good as well with the whole war, provocation, dramatic turns going on with the kingdom and main characters. With this spoiler opening and the Avatar being amnesiac…the story is not suprising, but still well executed.
Such an opening is a double-edged sword. First, it makes a bombastic, climatic, epic intro, but at the same time spoils something important about the plot, which could have been used as dramatic “I didn’t see that coming”-moment within the game. Of course it is interesting why what happened, but when the plot gets too predictable, then, well for me, it gets harder to enjoy. But, like I said, even with that, the story remains good.
Conclusion is, FE: Awakening is a very good game. I really enjoyed it from the characters to the gameplay, to the cinematics to the conversations, although the plot is nothing really new (but then again, with plot is?), it is stilll well made.
Was it worth the hunt? Definitely. A strategy with enjoyable characters and the frustation about my own incompetence because I didn’t think it through properly through (yeah, missions with AI controlled allies are still annoying) I had my eyes set on it as I knew of its existence (which was a year before it was released in the West) and I don’t regret this prey one tiny bit.