A tactical fantasy RPG inspired by medieval folklore, it perhaps isn’t surprising that the Fire Emblem series is often regarded as one of Nintendo’s forgotten treasures. When placed against the classic canons of Mario, Zelda and Metroid, the series has always remained as a secondary Nintendo franchise, content with pleasing a select hardcore audience. That was until Fire Emblem Awakening strolled up, brandishing lavish production values and a content-packed hourglass figure. A game that perfectly welcomes newer players without ever sacrificing the defining spirit of the series. It is essentially the gateway Fire Emblem for all us non-believers.
For those scared of plunging directly into an ongoing turn-based RPG with reckless abandon, fear not. Fire Emblem Awakenings intelligently designed tutorial system will ease you into the games mechanics like a seasoned masseuse. It perfectly trickles new tactics, units and situations into the game whilst never feeling slow or overwhelming. The game also smartly utilises the lower screen for these tutorials, allowing veteran players to simply bypass them and slay the invading threats at their own pace. It might sound silly to praise an introductory tutorial, but accessibility has always been an issue for many non-players of the Fire Emblem series. Something that has now been rectified with glorious aplomb, elevating the franchise alongside the big names at Nintendo HQ.
So what can newbie players expect from Fire Emblem Awakening now these barriers have been broken? How about a thoroughly engaging turn-based strategy RPG with a great cast of characters, an insane amount of customization and some hilarious writing. It’s a world where characters regularly spout lines like ‘unhand me, you gutter-born troglodyte’ on a whim, and where the communicative art of dramatic grunting is wholly encouraged. It’s the place where you’ve always wanted to be.
On the surface, it’s easy to see Fire Emblem Awakening as simply another turn-based strategy game. Yes, you’ll have an array of units with opposing strengths and weaknesses. Some can be boosted if they’re teamed up, and occupying certain strategic points on the battlefield will grant you the upper-hand in combat. But where Fire Emblem distinguishes itself is in its characters and their relationships. Allowing the player to dictate friendships, force the sanctimony of marriage upon lovey-dovey couples, and earn battle-hungry children as your prize. Now that is strategy.
Whilst you’re being an evil love puppeteer, you might also start to become attached to these well-written characters. All of whom have their own distinct personalities that entertainingly unfold in witty conversational banter. It’s this emotional attachment that makes the ‘permanent death’ feature work even better. A staple of the series that means if you lose a character in battle, they are lost forever. Their story arc is removed and you will have to proceed throughout the game without their help. It’s a brutal notion that really sets Fire Emblem apart, and one that will have you rebooting the game frequently in fear of losing one of the games beloved characters.
At certain moments, Fire Emblem Awakening is one of the most stunning-looking games to grace the 3DS system. 3D battle animations look great and there is some truly stunning anime cut-scenes that push the story along in beautiful fashion. In fact, it’s a shame that there isn’t more of them. Despite the well-written dialogue, it can be disappointing to face a wall of text after witnessing a spectacular CG cutscene. It’s a small gripe, but it is the only negative aspect that can be nitpicked in a game that does so much ridiculously well. Curse you Nintendo and your joyous charms.
Awakening isn’t stingy on the content either. On top of a lengthy 20+ hour campaign, you’ll find numerous side-quests that open up new weapons, abilities and characters for use in the story. Downloadable content also makes an appearance with battles that feature famous characters from Fire Emblem’s history. True, many will only recognise Roy from his inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Melee. But it’s alright, Awakening is happy to welcome newbies like you (and me) into its remarkably packaged bosom.
That is the true secret weapon of Fire Emblem Awakening. It has pulled open the doors to this incredible world, allowing a broader audience to thrive in the deep strategy core that has always been there. As the 13th entry into the series, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems have created the definitive Fire Emblem experience that will be replicated for years to come. Welcome to the big leagues guys, you’ve earned it.