Some of us like hardcore strategy RPGS. Some of us like casual romance simulators. Fire Emblem Awakening is somehow both of these things, and all the better for it.
You play as the Avatar, an amnesiac who wakes up in Ylisse, a country on the brink of war. Aided by the crown prince, Chrom, and his warrior Shepherds, you embark on a quest to end the war ravaging the continent, and regain your lost memories.
Awakening plays it safe with gameplay as well as story. Most missions rely on routing the enemy or defeating the commander, the turn based style remains the same, and the old swords>bows>axes weapon triangle in unchanged from previous titles. So far so Fire Emblem, and while we could point out the lack of innovation here, but let’s be real, it’s a proven formula, and doesn’t need changing.
The new Pair Up mechanic seemed contrived at first, but once you’re used to it you’ll wonder how you ever got by without. Each character boosts another’s stats is unique combinations, and the more they like each other, the better these boosts become, from guarding against attacks to backing you up in a fight. It also leads nicely into the Marriage system, where you can ship all your favourites together, which can have great payoffs about halfway through the game. The friendship dialogue is unfailingly entertaining and the characters mostly likable, so it complements the rest of the game beautifully.
Awakening’s real genius, however, lies in its accessibility. While many players have been put off previous titles due to the perceived difficulty, Awakening brings back Casual mode, designed to ease newcomers into what is admittedly an overwhelming franchise. This new option revives all fallen warriors once the battle has been won, allowing for some mistakes along the path to victory. For the veterans, Classic mode retains all the features we love about Fire Emblem, so if your warrior dies, they’re not coming back. Nothing short of resetting will let you fix a fatal mistake, so every decision counts.
The portability of the 3DS system is nothing but an asset to Awakening. This is the kind of game you could play for hours on end, but also one you can play for ten minutes and come back to later, making it ideal for the casual gamer or commuter.
The inventory and shop interfaces are a bit clunky, and it takes a while to adapt to all the information on the battle screen (there’s a ton). But these are minor issues in an otherwise stellar game, and it’s probably the best strategy game to hit the 3DS so far.
Awakening brings new and old together seamlessly, and is a worthy successor to the Fire Emblem name. Every addition is welcome, every change justified, and there’s enough content for weeks if not months of entertainment. If you’re looking for a new 3DS title to get lost in, look no further.