You haven’t had a chance to play Fire Emblem Awakening yet? That’s okay, I can wait. Go ahead and download it for your 3DS — or better yet, buy it in a store now that retailers have finally received their copies and want to make some money.
Let’s talk a little bit about the best game of 2013 so far (and don’t worry, only the most minor of spoilers will be discussed here).
I haven’t been able to pour enough time into FEA to beat it yet — although Jason has — so a full review is going to have to wait for now. But a couple of people have asked me about the game and whether or not I’d recommend it, and the answer to that is a wholehearted “yes.”
Fire Emblem is renowned for being one of the best tactical RPG series ever made. Its main selling point has usually been its permadeath feature — if a character falls in battle, that’s it. They’re dead. Well, unless they’re a main character; then you get a Game Over screen and a feeling of shame to go with it.
This creates a lot of tension on the battlefield, even in some seemingly innocuous situations. One bad move can leave a character exposed without enough protection to keep them alive. Fire Emblem Awakening presents an interesting choice: the familiar permanent death feature is still around, but players can also choose to have fallen party members return after a battle has been completed. While I still believe that the high stakes of death are the way to go, I don’t see the alternative as a negative (if anything, having both choices makes the game accessible to both new fans and old).
Permadeath matters even more in FEA because of the relationships between your characters. Your soldiers can eventually strike up conversations with each other that reveal a lot about an individual’s back story. In some cases, conversations between a man and a woman can turn into love, which blossoms into marriage, which leads to a fun night in the honeymoon suite with — never mind, I’ll tell you when you’re older.
Those marriages can even lead to couples having kids who can join the fray of battle later on in the game, and that’s where everything gets serious. In earlier FE games, you grew attached to certain characters and took great strides to protect them because you didn’t want to risk them dying. Now you have even more complications to worry about: should husband/wife stay together so they can help each other fight better? What if their son or daughter is on the battlefield with them? And is the whole family ripped apart should something disastrous happen to a party member who gets flanked or picked off by a stray critical hit?
These are the choices that you’ll have to consider as you play through Fire Emblem Awakening, and it’s what makes the game so tremendously strong in my book. The whole experience is tied together by fantastic translation work that makes the dialogue crisp, witty and mistake-free, a rare combination for games that come over from Japan. Managing your characters’ relationships is always entertaining and never feels like a hassle — instead, you’re usually looking for new people to pair up in a battle so that they’ll start falling for each other.
There’s way more to talk about with the newest Fire Emblem game — the fantastic graphics, the utility of having two screens to display information, the familiar but rock-solid gameplay. We’ll leave that for another time. But if you’ve been on the fence about Fire Emblem Awakening and you’ve ever liked a strategy game, you should check this out immediately. Then you can start shipping your created avatar with anything that moves!