GVN Review: Fire Emblem: Awakening

Potential Spoilers, you have been warned.

The Fire Emblem series has produced many hours of fun for me and it's been interesting to
watch the series evolve. Awakening has been the third installment that I've played, with the
other two being the GBA games. I never did play the DS version for some reason, but I
should probably get to it at some point. Suffice to say, I am not a stranger to this series and I
have beaten both GBA versions at some point and am in the process of beating Awakening (as
much as real life and apathy are trying to prevent me from doing so).

The first thing I noticed about Awakening was how polished everything initially looked. They
put a lot of work into the cutscene animation in this one. You can tell as much from just the
pre-title sequence. I specifically have to point out that the 3d is being used really well here.
Cutscenes are in full 3d, maps are in full 3d, combat is in full 3d. The 3d for cutscenes doesn't
feel flat like most releases prior to this one. Maps incorporate subtle additions such as flying
birds and flames to make the 3d pop much more. Combat in 3d looks very good, and having a
first person view is an interesting take on the system. Watch out when combining 3d and first
person though, all the bouncing might make you a bit queasy, but it is quite epic to watch. My
only complaint about the graphics of the game is the fact that magic has extremely
underwhelming animation compared to the 2d games. Most of the magic here can be
simplified down to flinging balls of energy.

Speaking of magic, it seems to me to be the weak link in their game design. Magic is one all-
encompassing type now. As opposed to the older games where you had a weapon triangle
between Light, Dark, and Anima (elemental), Awakening has primarily Elemental magic with
Dark magic being a sort of utility magic (incorporating special abilities) and Light magic is
nowhere to be seen. That combined with the fact that the magic animation is rather
unimpressive makes the caster classes my least favorite to use.

Although magic has taken a hit, melee classes seem to have improved a bit. The attack
animations are less "anime"

 For lack of a better description.

but that lends better to the new 3d animation than the magic animations did. The weapon triangle is still in effect and I'm finding myself using ax units for once, something I completely avoided in the previous games due to my own preferences. I think it's probably because they changed the primary weapon of the wyvern rider from the spear to the ax, so I now have an ax character that focuses on something other than strait damage.

With regards to units in general, the reclassing mechanic feels weird to me. In the previous games part of the optimization process was making sure you got all the growth you could out of the levels you gained, since there was a maximum of 40 levels total per unit. Although, that combined with the fact that different units had different stat growth rates made certain ones much less ideal to use. In this game it seems like unit choice doesn't really matter that much. Just sort of go with what you like. For example, I never really used Gaius, so by the time chests without corresponding keys started showing up I just started using Jaffar from the downloads.

Who is every bit as epic as he used to be BTW.

In terms of difficulty, I started on hard mode so I can't say anything about normal difficulty. But hard mode is only hard when you're trying to get your units up to the point where they start being powerhouses. If I recall correctly, hard mode spawns more enemies so you actually build experience quicker than you would in normal. However, right now I'm at chapter 15ish and I already have several characters I can just place in the middle of an enemy formation and just watch them wreak havoc.

Speaking of wreaking havoc, my favorite units so far have been the manakete. So much so that I paired Nowi with my main character. The two of them paired up can produce some absolutely massive damage. When I found out that pairing those two up gave me an extra manakete that I normally wouldn't have gotten I was rather happy. Although Morgan is currently a swordsmaster (training up to get access to Astra, because I want to see what happens when I combine manakete and Astra) she was doing absurd damage before I reclassed her (around 150 damage via crit and Ignis, at level 20ish).

The addition of skills is something I consider to be a good idea. But it also has to do with the reclassing which I'm still on the fence about. On one hand, the addition of skills improves a lot of the more mediocre classes, such as mercinary. On the other hand, it doesn't seem like there's really any unit that's better than another because you can just reclass them until you have max stats (which doesn't take long, mind you).

Moving away from mechanics to plot, I can't really say much about the plot. The plot seems to feel sort of generic to me, at least compared to the other two I played. Although the whole "team up with your children from the future" thing is sort of interesting, I can't help but feel I've seen this plot before. Maybe I watch too much anime.

There is no such thing as too much anime.

+3d is used extremely well
+Skills revitalize the class system if you were bored with it
+Skill/class combination experimentation
+New 3d style combat is well executed
-Magic is rather underwhelming
-Combat is less anime (a minus for me anyway)
-Reclassing removes some differences between units

Final Grade: A

Fire Emblem: Awakening is one of the types of games you'd buy a system for. I bought my 3ds a while back, but if I hadn't I would have bought one just for this game. It displays the capabilities of the system extremely well and remains relatively true to it's origins while taking new steps.

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