Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fire Emblem: Awakening Review

I finally got around to playing and finishing Fire Emblem: Awakening. I would have played it sooner but I only bought a 3DS in November and have been playing catch up ever since. It was released in March for the 3DS and if I would have known how much I was going to enjoy it, I would have picked up my 3DS when the game is released. That's right this is a killer app, a system seller, and if you even have a passing interest in strategy games you a doing yourself a huge disservice by not playing this game. 

This game carries the tradition of great tactical RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre. It has a job system similar to those games. You have many different classes all with their own abilities. The archer and magic users can attack from a distance and avoid being attacked back. Melee units are great up close, healers heal, etc.. A simple enough concept. The game throws in some twists though. You can pair units up to help boost each others stats adding hit %, avoidance, and other buffs.

The real bonus to this pairing system is that if characters are paired up often then their bond will increase giving even more buffs to one another. These bonds can be built up to a high enough level that if the two characters have a strong enough bond they will get married and have children. "So what?" you say. How does that help your party? Well if they have a child together, that child will come back in time and be unlockable through a side quest. The kid will have grown up and have traits of his parents which determines his class and attributes.

This pairing system adds a ton of customization to your party and gives the game a uniqueness in knowning that you probably had an entirely different group of characters than most other people depending on who you chose to pair together. 

What's great is you don't even have to worry about pairing characters together. It's just a bonus to the game play adding depth. You can go through the whole game and not bother having any characters get married.

The other defining trait of the game is if you play on classic mode all characters except the your character and Chrom, the other protagonist can die. When someone dies, thats it. They are done and unavailable to be used for the rest of the game. This adds a level of tension not often found in games. You really think through your moves and taking risks is a big deal when it means you could lose some of your favourite characters forever. Of course this is optional as well, and if you want to play a little more stress free you can play on casual and characters will be available again once the battle they died in is finished.

The graphics are exceptional in some respects and overly simple in others. The grid where you control your team is very 8 bit looking. It would have been nice if they would have made it look a little nicer and not just flat with miniature sprites. It almost looks like an old 90's chess game. I would have liked to see them make the grid more in the vein of Final Fantasy Tactics and make the game much more appealing. The rest of the game is beautiful though. Every time you attack or defend you get a very nice little cutscene with fully 3D modeled characters attacking one another. These scenes are great and I didn't get annoyed with them since holding a button fast forpatient. They are short though so you never wait long in between attacks.  

The real beauty of the game is in the anime cut scenes. There are quite a few of these scattered throughout the game and they are some of the best looking ones I've seen so far on the 3DS. Sadly most of the story is told through pictures of talking heads. While not a big deal and never overly long, clicking through text bubbles is never as fun as watching well done cut scenes.

The story is pretty good even if it has just about every anime cliche and trope out there, the main character has amnesia for example. The reason it works though is because you start to care about the characters, especially if you are playing in classic mode and they can die. Getting to build the characters up and playing match maker is addictive and I was genuinely sad when I lost a character who I was relying on and had invested so much time into pairing them up with someone and leveling their relationships up.

Anyways, enough jibba jabba. I loved the game. If you like strategy/tactical games you'll probably love it too.