The Fire Emblem series was virtually unknown in the West, until in 2003 there was the bold decision made to include two of its leading characters in the fantastically popular Super Smash Bros series. Since then, a slow wave of them have trickled onto our shores, and this, the latest edition being on a handheld even, has in fact shown itself to be one of the finest installments in the entire long running series.
The Fire Emblem titles are mostly set in the same world each time, but centuries apart, meaning that references to mythology will still be relevant for long time fans, but newcomers won’t be put off and will be able to fully engage with the material itself. The game stars the adventures of Chrom, the prince of a besieged kingdom, along with the help of his rag-tag bunch of friends and comrades as they uncover the plots and events that threaten to destroy their realm. Joining him on his journey is You, a character that can be customized and created however you wish and who then serves as an avatar and character throughout the game.
Gameplay is in the form of the Strategy Role Playing Game, or SRPG. Similar titles include Final Fantasy Tactics; Tactics Ogre, and the recent Xcom: Enemy Unknown. Players have a turn to move and arrange and attack with their units over a grid based map; which is followed by the enemies taking a turn, and so on. The unit diversity in FE is great, with multiple roles and jobs being present to fill all your needs, be it in magic or strength of arms. These jobs can be switched or upgraded as the game progresses to allow for more growth.
The greatest feature of these characters is how well they are brought to life. You are not sending a random mook to the battlefield, by a few missions in you will be more than likely choosing to send in the characters based on how much you like them as people. And the game allows for this, and the battle system dynamic enough to make any combination possible. Added to this is a system whereby units can build relationships with one another that result in benefits on the battlefield, and extended scenes of characterization off of it. Your comrades can fall in love and get married, have children which you will also meet, or just become great blood-brothers. This means the potential for how many different potential interactions there are between them is enormous; and you will certainly engage in multiple playthroughs.
Fire Emblem Awakening has multiple levels of difficulty; the first option decides how hard the battles will be, but the second is labeled as Classic and Casual. Classic is the standard mode of any FE game, where units which die on the battlefield are lost forever, providing another tactical level of play. Casual allows them to return in the next battle, for those who want to be engaged more in the story. A single play through can very easily last for 30 hours, with different missions opening up based on player decisions. There is also a great array of custom maps and DLC areas and maps available for purchase or unlocking after you’ve moved through the main game and are still hungry for more.
Fire Emblem Awakening is a visually stunning, charming, fun, engaging and challenging video game. It’s a fantastic title to have on a handheld, and is an absolute must buy if you have a 3DS already. If you don’t have one, use this title as a reason for maybe looking into buying a bundle deal somewhere or a second-hand console. It’s that good.