Opinion: Fire Emblem Awakening

I finally completed Fire Emblem Awakening yesterday and with that I have played every single Fire Emblem game released in the West, and completed all of them excepting Shadow Dragon.

This post will be about Fire Emblem Awakening only, but I do plan to compare Awakening and Fates with the older entries in the Fire Emblem series in a later blog post.

So, without further ado….

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The game that defined modern Fire Emblem for what it is.

To briefly introduce the game

The 13th instalment of the Fire Emblem series, Fire Emblem Awakening puts our avatar Robin and prince Chrom to the task of repelling the future devastation of their world by the hands of the fell dragon Grima.

So, let’s take a look at the elements of the game one by one, shall we?

Gameplay:

  • The biggest addition to the game gameplay-wise is the ability to ‘pair-up’ units. Paired up units can defend each other from the enemy’s blows as well as attack in unison which makes it a rather powerful and game-changing option. It us definitely a a good change as it makes moving across the map easier and lets players quickly unlock the vast number of supports in the game.
  • Though it may be noted that the inability of enemies to pair up can make the game trivially easy for experienced players. A one-two strike by a paired up duo will kill most enemies.
  • The removal of the 5 supports per character limit was easily one of the best decisions IntSys could have taken. It’s possible to obtain all support conversations in just one run with enough grinding, which is a far cry from the time it took in older games.

Music: The music in Fire Emblem Awakening is, in a word, solid. This is one point most everyone will agree on. It is on the same high standards as the rest of the series. My favourites are Prelude (Ablaze), Id (Purpose) and Conquest.

Map Design: This is unfortunately one place where I have to agree with the game’s critics. While the maps do attempt to give different flavours depending on the location of the chapter, the variations in them are simply not significant enough to merit a different strategy from the player. Add this the extremely limited set of objectives – literally only “Rout the enemy” and “Defeat the Commander”, so there is basically no incentive for the player to do anything besides grind up and kill ’em all.

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Plot Setting: Awakening does a decent job at world building. The continent of Ylisse is quite fleshed out with Ylisse, Ferox and Plegia taking up unequal amounts of land and having their own way of ruling. Valm was rather weak though. The only things you can deduce are there are East Asian styled dynasts (based on Say’ri and Yen’fay) as well as European style Rosanne on the continent. So a missed opportunity there. Still miles better than Fates.

Story: [SPOILER WARNING]

Awakening has received some controversy over its story, and while it’s certainly not the best storyteller out there, it’s story is actually quite par. It’s coherent, and you can make sense of what’s going on. The story is basically three mini-plots in sequence with Gangrel, Walhart and Grima as the the bosses of each part. That’s fine, but the problem arises when the game tries to build Grima as the final boss, but the foreshadowings and hints it drops have no immediate consequence on what’s going on, so they don’t really tie the whole thing together.

Gangrel’s quotes are really exploitable.

The sub-plots by themselves are fine and quite well-written, and the villains are okay (Gangrel in particular is pretty entertaining), but the sum total is a bit underwhelming as no villain gets enough focus to leave that much of an impact.

Characters: Ah, the other thing Awakening often gets criticised for. Overall, the game focuses only on a handful of characters – most importantly on the dynamic of Chrom and Robin, and to a lesser extent Frederick, Lissa, Say’ri, Lucina, Flavia and Basilio. Outside these eight characters, others don’t get much (if any) screen time other than their initial appearance, which is a bit short to get the player to care. The obvious remedy to that is support conversations, but even they focus too much on the character’s single defining trait. (Lon’qu being afraid of women, Sumia always tripping, etc.) Of course, there are exceptions to this, most notably Virion.

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This game was released before Five Nights at Freddy’s.

The other issue I had with the games is the unnecessarily sexualised designs of some female characters – notably Cherche, Tharja, Nowi and Olivia. It’s not much of an issue in-game as the game won’t let you ogle them, but it’s still a sore point.

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This is ridiculous.

Though, on the positive side, the eight characters I mentioned are treated well. Not all of them undergo character development, but are certainly presented in a way to get the player to like them and care about them. The relationship between Chrom and Robin, in particular, is where the game truly shines. True companions to the end. Two halves of a whole, as they like to put it. (I actually regretted not marrying my Robin to Chrom.)

As an aside, I chose the ending where Robin gets the final blow on Grima and the following cutscene actually moved me to tears. Though it made the credits at the end all the more satisfying.

So, to conclude…

I had gone into Fire Emblem Awakening expecting a mediocre game, and I was quite happy to be proven wrong. While the game does have flaws here and there which make it look weak compared to the games before it, it is still a good entry in the series and an excellent entry point for newcomers. Nintendo and IntSys’s strategy obviously worked, as Awakening ended up saving the franchise making it Nintendo’s new darling.

Hours sunk into the game: 34

Recommendation

YES, especially for series beginners.

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Langquirks: English Articles

If you’ve read my about page, you might remember that I enjoy reading up and learning languages. In my Langquirks articles, I’ll focus on tiny quirks and features of a language that set them apart in rather subtle, but unique ways from others.

This Langquirks article is about the indefinite articles in English – a and an.

English articles themselves do not feel particularly special or quirky at a first glance, when you consider its neighbourhood of Western Europe. After all, Irish, German, French, Spanish and Portuguese also contain articles and most have more articles than English.

To explain my point, I’ll list a simple phrase “a cat” and “an expedition” in English, French, German, and Spanish to demonstrate my point.

English A cat An expedition
French Un chat Une expédition
German Eine Katze Eine Expedition
Spanish Un gato Una expedición

In French, German and Spanish, the indefinite articles (Un/Une, Ein/Eine, Un/Una) change according to the grammatical gender of the word. Chat is masculine in French, while Expédition is feminine, so the article changes to reflect that.

Contrast this difference with English. English does not have grammatical gender, so why does the article change? It does so to accommodate the fact the Expedition begins with a vowel sound.

This feature, of the indefinite article changing to fit the sound of the next word, is pretty much unique to English. Irish has a similar feature, but both Irish articles are definite, meaning they correspond to the instead.

Other than that, there is one other feature unique to English articles.

In French, German, Spanish, the indefinite article corresponds quite closely with the word for one, which makes sense given that is how most indefinite articles originated.

Again, to compare. (*For the sake of brevity, I’m only including the basic case for German.)

Language Word for the number 1 Indefinite article
French Un Un, Une
German Eins Ein, Eine
Spanish Uno Uno, Una, Unos, Unas
Portuguese Um Um, Uns, Uma, Umas
English One A, An

Interestingly enough, the words a and an in English do originated from the word for one, but have diverged so far that English appears to have three commonly used words for denoting a single quantity of something.

That concludes this post about language quirks. I have more examples in mind, but this will likely not be a regular series, because you never know what can catch your eye.

 

Opinion: Dagashi Kashi

Dagashi Kashi is a slice-of-life anime about dagashi, or Japanese snacks. Throughout the anime, while talking about the lives of its cast, it also delves into the various dagashi sold throughout Japan and a history of how they came to be.

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From left to right, Saya, Kokonotsu, Tó, and Hotaru.

The anime has a delightful cast, the reluctant hero Kokonotsu, his slightly immature father Yō, the laid back and perverted friend Tō, the secret crusher Saya and the star of the show Hotaru.

Premise

The basic premise of the show is that Kokonotsu, the ninth in line to be the Shikada Dagashi shop’s owner aspires to be a manga author instead. Meanwhile, Hotaru has been sent by her father’s company, the Shidare Company to convince Yō to join the company. Yō agrees on one condition – that Hotaru must convince Kokonotsu to succeed Yō and take charge of the dagashi shop.

Story

Being a slice of life show, there is no overarching plot in the show. The manga is still ongoing, so the premise I mentioned previously simply serves to drive the character interactions.

So every episode begins loosely with Hotaru and Yō trying to convince Kokonotsu to agtee to succeed as the shop’s owner. That ties in to Hotaru bringing up various dagashi whose history, brand identity, mascots and such are then discussed in the skit. Slightly predictable, but it’s a format that works within the anime’s premise as a show about dagashi and they change it up enough so that it never feels like a drag.

When not talking about dagashi, the show switches to the relationship between the Kokonotsu and the rest of the cast, especially him, Saya and Hotaru. This is one place where the show unfortunately falls short – the characters and the relationships do not develop enough to pull the viewer in and get invested in them. This, I suppose, can be forgiven due to the manga still ongoing, but it does detract from the show.

In any case, the show delivers on its premise quite well. The world of dagashi is explored in a nice amount of detail and is done in a manner to not bore the viewer.

Cast

The characters in Dagashi Kashi are arguably its strongest point. While the story doesn’t progress too much, the character themselves are quite likeable. While Hotaru, Tō, Yō and Kokonotsu all get their time to shine, Saya is the who really carries the show. The fact that Hotaru calls her Saya-shi (Master Saya) is a good indication. Along with Hotaru, she does seem to be rather popular with the people who watched it.

The animation is beautiful and all characters stand out quite well – no one feels dull. While the character tropes in play aren’t exactly original, it’s enough to make the characters feel distinct and new.

Saya-chan is precious.

And lastly, fanservice

Dagashi Kashi is generally light in terms of fanservice. There are a few lewd jokes and some suggestive scenes scattered throughout the 12 episodes, Hotaru’s “assets” do get focus from time to time but overall, nothing feels particularly distracting.

Conclusion

Dagashi Kashi is overall an enjoyable anime and will likely prompt you go follow the manga from where the anime ends. The anime does get bogged down by its less than compelling story-telling though, so you may no end up caring for the characters in the show. It’s hit-or-miss and  largely hinges on how much do you find yourself attracted to the characters. Regardless you will walk away with a large trivia knowledge of the world of dagashi.

Opinion: Bravely Default

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Four heroes on a quest. Sounds rather standard, but it quickly diverges from that.

A brief introduction

Bravely Default takes places in the world of Luxendarc, a world that has recently been beset by a series of tragedies and our cast of 4: Tiz, Agnès, Ringabel and Edea go on a quest to restore the world to its former state.

So, the positives first.

The story, the characters, the music, the world, all can be described in one word, FANTASTIC.
The world building is great. Luxendarc is truly a living, breathing world. Every location has a unique touch to it – Caldisla, Eternia, Hartschild, Ancheim, Florem, Yulyana, you name it. Each has its own feel, its own problems to deal with, its own way of living and ruling. Each city is based in a different part of the world and give off a remarkably different vibe, which coupled with the distinct music each city has, really sets the mood for each area.
Perhaps to drive the point home, Tiz, Agnès and Edea are all from different cities in the world.

The battle system is Bravely Default’s biggest strength. The addition of Brave and Default, the namesake of the title were interesting enough on their own, but the job system is where the game truly shines. The game lets you select a job class for each character and have a secondary job class as your Ability, which lets you use the special moves related to that job. This alone opens a gigantic room for experimentation, with whopping 110,075,314,176 (yes, that’s over 110 billion!) possible unique combinations of jobs and abilities. Not saying all combinations are viable, of course, but the choice is there should you decide to do it.

The sub-quests required to get each job are also very well integrated into the world. Never does it feel forced or out of place. They are all optional, but the player is enouraged to get them all, both as a way to grind for money, experience and job points, and getting new jobs in the process.

I didn’t get all the job classes by the end, and I chose to settle on a rather simple combination at the end. This was my party by endgame.

Tiz – White Mage with Time Mage (the healer)
Ringabel – Black Mage with Freelancer (the glass cannon)
Agnès – Monk with Ranger (the lightning bruiser)
Edea – Knight with Spell Fencer (the stone wall)

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The sound of the whole party levelling up will be your favourite sound before long.

One of the game’s strengths is how it was able to make dungeon crawling accessible. I couldn’t get into Etrian Odyssey, but I found myself enjoying exploring the dungeons in BD. The variety of chests scattered throughout really make exploring feel rewarding.

Then, the story. It’s really well-scripted and well-written; and really dark. The problems the people face, their motivations – all feel real and relatable. I was too used to the idea of defeating enemies as just that, defeating them. Here, it’s straight-up death. The game is fully voice-acted too, so you will hear their dying words in full sombre detail. You will feel bad for slaying your enemies. The game will hammer it in that their blood is on your hands. In any case, it has one my favourite stories in any game I played, despite me not liking the ending. Character development is handled exceptionally well and you will grow really attached to all four of the cast.

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Whether you adore puns or groan at them, you’ll definitely be enjoying the writing.
As someone who enjoys learning languages, Bravely Default impressed me in another regard. It’s chock-full of language options. The game has the option to choose between six languages – English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese – for the dialogue and is fully voiced in English and Japanese, despite being a really dialogue-heavy game. That they managed to fit all that in a 3DS cartridge is impressive, to say the least.
Now I should mention the music. Absolutely top notch. My personal favourites are Tiz’s theme and Hartschild City theme. Though honestly, every song in the game is worth listening to. And you’ll never get tired of them.

Now a word on the mechanics. The game is seriously good at avoiding player frustration. Shows a lot of developer foresight in that regard. The game lets you adjust everything from enemy spawn rate to difficulty to suit how you play the games. And with how easy is it to gain levels in the game, very rarely will you come across a situation that frustrates you.

Aaaaand the negative.

If you have played Bravely Default , then you probably have a good idea what this is about. Yes, I’m talking about the endgame, the only place where the game falters.

Without giving away any spoilers, the game forces you to fight the same bosses over and over again, around 16 boss fights with not much plot development in between, just fighting and healing. It gets tedious quickly, but is necessary to get the true ending of the game. I simply couldn’t find it in me to go that far.

In conclusion,

Bravely Default is one of the best RPGs available on the Nintendo 3DS, featuring an incredibly functional battle system and a fantastic story. What else could you really ask for?

Hours Sunk: 60

Recommendation: 

Yes, especially if you like RPGs.

Opinion: Fire Emblem Fates

To clarify about the title, it’s in essence a review of the game. But, I do not consider myself a professional or even unprofessional reviewer, so I chose to avoid the word. Opinion suits me much better in my opinion (heh). Also because I won’t be assigning any numbers to the games. Just a recommend or don’t recommend.

To start off, this is a review of all three paths of the whole game, not any one of them, as the experience of Fates is incomplete without playing all three of them.

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Japan or Europe. Take a pick.

A brief description of the game

Fire Emblem Fates is the 14th instalment of the series and it’s story places you where you need to choose between the family you were born in or the family that took care of you till adulthood. The path you choose decides the story and the events that unfold.

Now then, the positives

Gameplay: The gameplay of Fates is easily amongst my absolute favourite in the series, rivalling Radiant Dawn.

  • Pair up as it in this game is a really good way of changing up the gameplay and is really fun. It also makes for some really great battle scenes, seeing four fighters at once, sometimes attacking together, other times defending one another. It’s also much more intuitive than Awakening’s implementation.
  • The addition of a large number of Japan based classes are a plus. While the sheer number of them can get confusing, more options are better.
  • The simplified RGB triangle was alright and probably necessary to make sense of the large number of weapon classes in this game. (I just wish the magic triangle returned. Ah well).
  • The removal of limit on supports is a huge plus, as it really lets people grind for supports and get a much better picture of the character in just their first run.
  • The removal of weapon durability… didn’t take away that much from the game. Although it did prevent the “Too awesome to use” weapon dilemma that players earlier sometimes had.
  • My Castle is neat. It is quite useful to see your characters taking on different job in the various buildings, which adds to the immersion.

So, overall, I have no complaints with the gameplay. I wouldn’t have sunk 150 hours into the game otherwise.

Level Design: Conquest and Revelations hit it out of the park. They are by far the most innovative maps I’ve seen in any Fire Emblem game, which is saying a lot. Dragon veins feel like a lame excuse to add changes at first, but they seriously do run with it in some really fun ways.

Characters: This is really subjective territory, but in general, the character designs are pretty par for the course of the series. Generally likeable personalities and designs, with a personal quirk or two. No complaints there. While the addition of child characters was kind of pointless for the story, they are quite well designed and likeable, so I’m not complaining there either.

Music: Oh god, the music.The music in Fire Emblem Fates is absolutely phenomenal. Fire Emblem had always had top notch music, and Fates even managed to surpass that. Absolutely incredible. It knows how to get the player pumped up for any battle. Rena Strober did a wonderful job with Azura’s song too, and the endgame battle theme is fan-tas-tic.

And now the negatives [SPOILERS AHEAD]

Story: The story of FE Fates is easily its weakest point. It has numerous issues, such as

  • The lopsided nature of the branch of fate. The game makes it seriously hard for anyone going in blind to pick Nohr, due to how Mikoto and Garon behave. Moreover, Conquest never really makes you feel like you did the right thing by choosing Nohr, unlike how it is in Birthright. I thought the favouritism ended there, but apparently nope. Revelations takes it even further, with Mikoto and Sumeragi getting expanded upon while Garon remains a one scene wonder.
  • To continue on the point, the fact that no villain in the game is from Hoshido. Iago and Hans are both Nohrian and later on so the another late game Revelations villain. To give then credit, it’s not all black and white, as Mokushu is also based on Japan is treated as evil.
  • Now, world building. This is one area where the game falls seriously flat. You may remember older games like Path of Radiance, Sacred Stones and Binding Blade all began with introducing the continent the game is based in, as well as the various countries in it. Or at the very leastn they were explained between the chapters. Very little of that happens in Fates, to the point that the continent the game is set in doesn’t even have a name.
  • As for problems within the story, Conquest in a mess. Besides never feeling that you’re on the side of Justice (Arthur’s battle cries do start feeling bittersweet and ironic towards the end of the game), the way in which the plot progresses makes no sense at all. I can give it a slide as real wars do sometimes have flimsy reasons like this, but if you really want people to get invested in your story, then please avoid it. It also took away from the sacrifices that came in later. I personally felt more like they died for a foolish cause.
  • Revelations is okay… it would have been better if Valla was actually mentioned beforehand. The supposed curse on mentioning Valla was a rather weak way to keep the story moving forward. If they instead treated Valla as something only believed to exist in legend but actually exists, it would have been better. Though I am grateful for the Ace Attorney esque twist towards the end. That was amazing.

Misc. negative: The… *ahem* Bonding feature is tacky, to say the least. While some people may appreciate it, I don’t think it adds anything worthwhile. Then again, this exists, so I can’t complain, I suppose. 😛

In conclusion, 

Fire Emblem Fates is a good game. While the story is not quite as good as compared to the rest of the series, it does enough with its gameplay mechanics and level design to make the games enjoyable and worth your time.

Hours Sunk: 150

Recommendation: 

Yes, especially to first time Fire Emblem fans.

Here I go again

I’ve often fancied the idea of having a personal blog. I used to run a Bandana Dee support blog a while back and also used this current one for a bit, but procrastination got the better of me and I later on deleted everything.

Though over the past few days, I think have a better idea of what I want to do with a personal blog. So here we go. Blog 2: Electric Boogaloo.

I’ll probably be posting more about the games I play now, instead of focusing on language, as I did earlier.