BADGP Reviews: Fire Emblem: Awakening
Fire Emblem: Awakening (Nintendo/Intelligent Systems)
Review: Make Love and War
February 14, 2013
What is Fire Emblem: Awakening?
Fire Emblem: Awakening is the newest entry in Nintendo’s venerable turn-based strategy series. It is the first game of the series that I have played to completion, so I cannot speak to improvements or how it relates to the past entries, what I can tell you is that it easily one of the best games on the 3DS, and a front-runner for the best game of the first quarter of 2013 and surely beyond. Fire Emblem: Awakening blends its core turn-based strategy with character relationship building to form a surprisingly addictive formula. Intense battles, hilarious side-stories between characters, and astonishing cut-scenes make Fire Emblem: Awakening a fully loaded package.
How Does it Look?
The cut-scenes in the game are incredible, especially in 3D. The anime-like scenes play out with stunning detail and crisp impressive animations and visuals. The battle scene engine is also beautiful, and the story also advances here quite often. Due to these two remarkably good looking parts of the game, the in-game sprite work created a big disconnect for me. The overhead strategy view, where most of the game is played, is meant to look like older games with what appears to be a little better than 16-bits sprites. It is jarring going back and forth between sprites and full 3D models, it makes for a good compromise, but it is still jarring nonetheless. The game also has some of the best cover art I have seen in recent memory, and no one in the game has feet.
How Does it Sound?
The music is phenomenal.
How Does it Compare?
I played a little of the DS remake of the original Fire Emblem, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. The series appears to have come a long way. The presentation in Awakening and excellent writing are a big step up. Aside from Shadow Dragon I feel like I must compare the game to a sub-franchise I have much love for: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. Also a handheld turn-based strategy game it seems to be a natural comparison. I favor Devil Survivor for have better writing/story, deeper layered combat, and a more fresh setting. Where it is clear that Awakening outshines Devil Survivor is in budget and presentation; Awakening is beautiful while Devil Survivor honestly is hard on the eyes at times. There are fewer characters in SMT: Devil Survivor 1&2, this makes their interactions deeper and more meaningful, and they aren’t necessarily gone when they fall in battle. Maybe my preference for SMT: Devil Survivor comes from convenience. Fire Emblem: Awakening demands perfection on “Classic” mode and that can be really frustrating.
As a comparison to 2012’s critically acclaimed XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Awakening is more complex in the actual fights, but no so in the meta-game base. There are so many characters, relationships, and weapons to manage in Awakening there is no room for more superfluous mechanics. Both games are stressful and difficult and are good in their own ways. Awakening is more character focused whereas XCOM more base-management focused.
Fire Emblem: Awakening is a crazy good game that I do not foresee being beaten this year in the “Most Addictive” category. The game really sinks its hooks into the player. There are so many characters; there is always going to be at least one character that is close to leveling up again and urge another battle. The main story is passable (though it seems I cannot escape time travel); the writing shines in the side character interactions that are prevalent. The game possesses an epic epilogue detailing what happens to all the characters left standing after the final grueling battle (I lost eight characters in the final fight!). I do not understand why none of the characters have feet… it sadly bothered me more than it probably should have. The demanding of perfection made for an incredibly satisfying experience and Fire Emblem: Awakening demands as much attention as it does perfection.