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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