Game that saved the series
For those unaware before this game’s release, the developers were told that if sales did not reach at least a quarter million then the series would end. But with over one million sales worldwide this game kept the series alive, clearly as Fire Emblem Fates is set to release in February. What made Awakening so popular is that it has the most sales of any Fire Emblem game so far.
The first thing you get to do in the game is create a character. The customization is very minimal with five areas to customize appearance in: build, face, hair, hair color, and voice. Each choice has a preset amount of options to pick from. Then there is naming the character, the birthday of the character, the character’s strength and weakness in their stats. Having the ability to name the character adds a more personal touch to be more attached to the story and to the main character. The main character always starts as a tactician, with sword and mage abilities.
Once the customization is over, the game starts with what looks like a final battle more than an easy beginner level. The battle will end quickly when your character suddenly wakes up to meet Chrom, a descendant of Marth, and his forces. With no memory other than your name and the quick acquiring of your tactical abilities, things start going mad fast as Risen, zombie-like enemies, appear. Assassination attempts are made, and children from the future start to arrive to tell the tale of the devastation that an evil dragon Grima has done to the world. The goal is to destroy Grima once and for all, not just seal the creature at the risk of it being awoken again.
As with all Fire Emblem games, the gameplay is turned based where you move all your characters and then the enemy moves theirs. There are upgrades to make the gameplay easier and more streamlined. A big change is the option of playing in classic mode, where characters lost in battle are gone for the rest of the game, or casual mode, where if characters die in battle, they will return and be available for the next one. This option makes Awakening more playable for new players to the series and easier for those who might want to enjoy the story more.
The previous rescue feature has been changed to be partnering. Before with rescues, the second character would be carried gaining no experience and not doing any damage, they would essentially be useless until dropped. Partnering allows for the second character to gain experience. They can both attack enemies and block attacks on the character they’re attached to but still not take any damage. Partnering can now be helpful in training weaker forces, moving forces that would struggle in some terrains, and forming support pairings.
Speaking of support pairings, this game allows you to play matchmaker. The support system now has the added story connected component. Female and male pair supports that reach S, will have the two marry within the game rather than at the end in the epilogue. And with each marriage brings in a child from the future. I paired people that I enjoyed interactions with, Henry and Olivia, Tharja and Libra being examples of mine. Or pairings can be done for stats and special abilities.
As for some of my personal favorites in the Fire Emblem series, there are Reeking boxes and the DLC in Awakening. The reeking boxes are items you can get that can be used on earlier chapters in the map to pop up random Risen enemies, the chapter number will be the determining factor for the level of Risen. It can be used on any completed chapter. This was an amazing addition as it allowed the training of forces! I could not count the number of times my healers fell through the cracks in leveling because the amount of experience for healing was far lower than that of finishing off an enemy. Sometimes, simply having a few good tank characters left all the rest of the team being only mildly good. While it is a grinding mechanic that can be tiresome at times, it is a welcomed option that was not readily present before.
The downloadable content adds new fun to the game and allows you to recruit previously beaten enemies. I highly suggest tackling these levels only after you’ve gone through a majority of the main story characters. The levels have their own unique sets of challenges. The most difficult in my opinion is Priam, a new character that is the son of Ike from the Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn games. He is a difficult battle with a large force of soldiers all high in level and stats. To get through that one I took only my main character and Chrom, partnered them together, then put myself in the corner of the map and let the enemy come to me. The added characters can only be matched with the main character to produce a future child, so be aware of the supports if you want to hold off for any of them.
Mechanically, the game is the best in the series, and it is hard to think of any improvements they could make for the battle system. The fight animations are close to the graphical level of the previous console games. That is a great achievement considering this is a handheld game. The game feels like it falls flat with character interactions. If you play the game more than once and change the support pairings, then some will repeat with the same interactions with a different character–which made doing multiple playthroughs less enjoyable.