We haven’t done a full review of Fire Emblem Awakening yet on this site, but I think I can speak for Shaun and Jason when I say that it’s a fantastic experience. The three of us have all beaten the game now and thoroughly enjoyed it each step of the way.
Awakening succeeds because of a variety of small factors: the character relationships are extremely important, the English translation is impeccably done, the battle system is a refined version of the series’ usual solid gameplay, and so on. But this particular article is about a subject that I think has flown under the radar: how good FEA’s soundtrack is.
Up until a couple of weeks ago, the best we could do for music off of Awakening’s OST was gamerips (essentially, fans rip the music files from the game’s directory, then try to give them proper filenames and loops and such). Sometimes gamerips become the definitive version of a soundtrack. Pokemon games are a great example of this: the gamerip for a Pokemon game frequently has four or five times the number of tracks of an official release, because the rip catches all the little musical cues (like getting an item or rating your Pokedex) that an OST will usually ignore.
In the case of Awakening, the gamerip was a nice way to listen to some of the music, but it was blown out of the water when the official soundtrack released in Japan on March 27. The OST contained tracks that couldn’t be found in the cartridge’s files. More importantly, though, it sounded WAY better — a clearer sound that featured a lot more of the background instruments and really showed off how great Rei Kondoh and Hiroki Morishita’s work was.
I like a lot of the music from FEA, but I’m going to focus on the music that plays while you’re fighting. And now I can finally say that Music to My Ears has covered a game that isn’t 20 years old. So that’s nice.
Here are my picks for the five best battle themes from Fire Emblem Awakening:
This was the first song I heard off the soundtrack, and from the moment I listened to it I knew I was hooked. The opening of this track sounds like the beginning of a journey with a caravan of your favorite adventurers (which essentially is what you put together in Awakening). It’s beautiful. But then toward the end, a familiar musical cue hits and Fire Emblem fans get a nod to the main theme that has stuck with the series for two decades. Perfect accompaniment for the battles ahead, which is why I’m not upset that this is probably the most used track in the game. (Also, yay for a picture of Severa.)
I’ve talked at length before about Fire Emblem Awakening’s ability to make you care about your characters. To me, the music of this game has a similar effect. There have always been a couple of tracks that I enjoyed in previous FE games, but this OST has winners from top to bottom. Destiny is a track that just sneaks into my top five, but it — like the other songs listed here — is an example of how a game about battlefield warfare still manages to have a heart.
I’m not going to get into spoilers here, so we’ll just say that this track makes its first appearance in Awakening’s most important battle — at least until the last couple of chapters in the game. Considering the stakes when you step onto the battlefield, this piece conveys the right amount of tension. Up until now your ragtag group of soldiers has faced some adversity, but nothing like this, which is why this track fits so well. Jason would go for the Ablaze version of this track (and both have their merits), but I’ll go with the field version over the fighting version.
Don’t Say Her Name!
Just a perfect track. Most of the music for fighting in Awakening gives you this feeling of courage. You can lead your team to victory no matter the odds. This song, on the other hand, has no such message of hope or invigoration. Instead, after witnessing a tragedy, your back is against the wall. Forced with escape, being relentlessly pursued in a driving rainstorm, still coming to terms with what just happened…and all of it with heart-wrenching piano and a nod to an earlier track in the game. Characters, graphics, story — all of these things play an important role in setting a scene, but sometimes the music of video games is just as important.
Regular readers of this column already know about my predilection for final boss music, so I can’t imagine this choice will be too much of a surprise. This is the BGM for the ultimate battle, a fight that decides the fate of the world’s future and puts the bonds that you’ve forged to the ultimate test. Considering the stakes and the setting of this battle, the fact that this track is an eight-minute epic masterpiece isn’t all that surprising. And just for good measure, there’s a hint of the Fire Emblem main theme in this song as well, albeit not a direct reference like in Conquest. I’m a sucker for pieces that build from a simple melody and slowly crescendo into something much more layered, so the section from 2:33 to 4:00 that adds more of the choir each round is easily my favorite bit of anything on the album.
Music to My Ears covers soundtracks or individual songs from video games on a recurring basis, which is basically whenever Chris gets around to writing it. You can view all posts in the series by clicking here.