Bringing turn-based strategic RPG goodness to the 3DS.
The Fire Emblem series has been around now for more than two decades and, although perhaps not the most successful or well known of series, it is certainly one of the most loved. After a delay of around a year since the Japanese release, and a good few months since the US release, Fire Emblem: Awakening is finally coming to the UK this week, offering deep, turn-based combat in a more easily accessible form in the hope of enticing new players to this long running series.
Fire Emblem: Awakening packs in a rather interesting storyline revolving around the player-generated character and the mighty warrior Prince Chrom who found your character with no memory. The setting may be rather generic, but it twists and turns , and is exciting enough in its own right for the fantasy fans. But it is not this main storyline which will pull the player in, but rather the relationships between the characters of the game themselves.
Through the game, the player will come across a huge number of characters of all different types that can join the team for this tactical RPG, and it is the way that they interact which is most interesting, not only for developing the characters, but also for the bonuses that these relationships give during battle.
The turn-based battles themselves take place on a grid and involve a lot of strategic thinking. There is a rock, paper, scissors mechanic to the weapons that you team may wield in battle, the environment has to be taken into consideration for bonuses or effects that it may offer, ranged weapons are useless in close combat, and there is a variety of healing or elemental magic that needs to be thought about.
Then there are the relationships between the characters themselves. Having characters fight next to each other, or pair up, will lead to their relationship improving, conversations being sparked between the two and, eventually, strategic bonuses on the battlefield. It is possible to continue to improve on these relationships right the way through to marriage, which obviously brings not only better bonuses, but also an increased investment in the couple from the player. Which makes it all the more painful should one of them die.
Which is the other big thing about Awakening, if a character dies, then they stay dead. Perma-death in a 3DS game. It is a pretty harsh mechanic, one which would likely put off the newcomers. The developers must have realised this and have, in a moment of weakness or compassion, given the player the option to turn perma-death off. At the other end of the spectrum, there is also the option to make the game even more difficult. There, everyone’s happy.
The new players were obviously at the forefront while the game was being developed. With a decent tutorial, relatively easy character leveling and loads of options to tailor the game more to your liking, Awakening is an incredibly accessible strategic RPG. Don’t get me wrong, the battles can still be testing and will require some level of strategic thinking, but failure will now be more likely down to bad choices or luck than an lack of understanding.
Visually, Fire Emblem: Awakening is really something special. From the gorgeous, highly polished cinematics which could easily have been taken from a movie, to the cool battle animations, this is easily one of the most impressive looking games to arrive on the 3DS. The fact that everything is improved with the 3D turned on is just the icing on the visually sumptuous cake. You would be hard pressed to find a game that looks better in 3D. Even the audio doesn’t let the side down, with an incredibly fitting musical score just adding to the Fire Emblem experience.
So, we have an accessible yet challenging strategic RPG which looks and sounds gorgeous on the 3DS. What more could you want? Well, how about if the developers throw in some co-op battles and a rather impressive Street Pass function which allows players to present their chosen team to others that they pass in the street, and indulge in a bit of trading, battling or even recruiting. And to bolster the entire package even more, there will be a large amount of DLC coming after launch. Does it get any better?
It is easy to get excited about Fire Emblem: Awakening. The game really does everything to near perfection. Of course, the game will not suit everyone, it is much more strategy than RPG, for example. But if you have enjoyed a strategic RPG in the past, then the chances are that you will love Fire Emblem: Awakening. An instant classic.