Outnumbered three-to-one and beset by enemy units in their own land, I realized that I would have to make a hard decision. I did not anticipate reinforcements arriving from the south, and now we were all but surrounded. I knew that I did not have enough strength among us to take the entire army by force, but if I could best the opposing commander, my enemy would become scrambled and unfocused. If I had a distraction, I could slip a small compliment of units away of the main battle, and engage the commander directly, but that would weaken my main forces, requiring the rest of my army to stay behind and fight what are already overwhelming numbers. It was a huge risk, but I saw no other viable option.
I decided that it would be my own avatar, the digital representation of myself, who would be the one to brave this gambit. While Chrom stayed behind to rally my team (as any true leader would), my avatar paired up with the woman he loved, and together, they snuck by the bulk of the opposing army, while the enemy units focused on attacking the main group. After a few intense skirmishes, and a brush with death, my avatar came face to face with the leader of the enemy army. He mocked my judgment and drew his massive axe, but I stood firm, despite my grave injuries. One incredible dodge and a chance critical hit fell the commander, leaving the enemy army in disarray, and my jaw on the floor.
Moments like this are what make the Fire Emblem series shine. These moments are made possible, because Fire Emblem plays out like a chess match, where strategy and careful planning rule the day. In order to secure victory, you must think as a master tactician, plotting out your moves well in advance of your opponent. You must understand what your opponent will do for any given situation, and act as the counter to that situation. Victory is hard won, with many decision trees to be made over the course of a single battle. Each move has to be carefully planned out among many different units, and one false step can mark the death of a close comrade. However, these tough decisions have often ostracized many players from the Fire Emblem games for years. Previous entries of the Fire Emblem series traditionally apply a cripplingly unrelenting difficulty that makes for a high barrier of entry; one that has turned away many players. Fortunately, the new mechanics of Fire Emblem: Awakening help to form the perfect combination of accessibility for newcomers to the series, while still retaining the elements that made hardcore fans and veterans admire the series, making Awakening one of the best games available for anyone who owns a 3DS, and the best strategy-based game for the system.
In classic Fire Emblem form, the death of a character in battle has weight. These characters that you recruit to your army stay gone, and over the course of the story their absence can produce a real sense of loss. Permadeath can make you feel like each and every choice you make has importance, and that rushing through a battle headlong can have brutal consequences. However, Fire Emblem: Awakening gives players the option to begin the game in Casual Mode. This mode takes off much of the pressure, allowing units who have fallen in battle to continue on the adventure, available again during the next fight. Casual Mode gives newer players and younger kids an accessibility to the series that wasn’t available in previous games, but fans and veterans are encouraged to play Awakening in Classic Mode, where their failures stay with them until the credits roll. The customization in Awakening doesn’t end there, as players can tailor everything from battle animations to menu screen displays. The customization options are vast, and have enough depth to cater to any player, making Awakening accessible to any style of play. No matter how you want to enjoy the story, Awakening has the options to allow you to play the way that works best for you.
In addition to Casual Mode, Fire Emblem: Awakening also adds the ability for units to change classes (via seals), and the pair-up mechanic, where two characters can merge into a paired unit, granting the main unit additional combat prowess. The pair-up ability becomes stronger as units grow with each other, which is also a new feature available in Awakening. Characters can pursue relationships with each other, which helps develop the story in support scenes, but also serves to make your army stronger as these characters bond together. These bonds can eventually allow characters to marry (and have children), adding even more depth to the series, and more weight to the choices we make with these characters on the battlefield. The feeling of loss is always stronger after attachments have been made.
Of course, none of this would matter if we didn’t care about the characters in the story. The characterization in Fire Emblem: Awakening is the driving force behind what makes this game incredible, and the story will draw you in, remaining in your memory long after the tale ends. Chrom is a stoic, yet compassionate leader, and while the story can feel a bit like “good vs. evil” at times, the relationships that develop over the course of the plot, especially those involving the protagonist, are all believable, and often heartwarming. You and your kids will care about these characters, you will want them to survive and grow together, and you may find yourself torn when they are in danger. This is Awakening’s greatest strength, and because of it, the perilous journey Chrom and his companions face becomes all the more compelling and intense.
Fire Emblem: Awakening elevates the Fire Emblem series to a new level. Its stunning cut-scenes and graphics are arguably the best in the series, and easily one of the best looking games on the 3DS. The story is an instant classic; one that Awakening’s accessibility allows players of any age and skill level to enjoy, and all without sacrificing any of the elements that make the series great. Fire Emblem: Awakening is a true masterpiece, and has earned its place as one of the best games in the 3DS library.
Fire Emblem: Awakening is out now. The game is rated for teens, however we recommend parents play the game and make their own decision on what is appropriate.