Game Changer: Fire Emblem Awakening

We look at the Fire Emblem game that took the series to the next level!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 04/10/2015 07:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

Following last week’s bevy of announcements from the latest Nintendo Direct, Fire Emblem has understandably been on the minds of quite a few fans. With so much buzz surrounding the series, it felt like the perfect time to take a look back at what is arguably the most important entry in the series thus far: Fire Emblem Awakening. From a global perspective, Awakening saw a level of success that the franchise hadn’t seen anywhere outside of Japan. The fifth title in the series released in the West, Awakening hit a number of sweet spots that its predecessors didn’t. Let’s break down where Awakening soared, and what future installments can do to try and (ahem) keep the flame burning brightly in the future!

Accessibility

It can be a dirty word when it results in games being dumbed-down, but accessibility can also be a wonderful thing, especially when it’s used to introduce novel gameplay concepts without burying players in a quagmire of seemingly infinite menus and options to sift through. Though Nintendo can be hit or miss in terms of holding players’ hands, Awakening did an excellent job of easing players into its gameplay at their own pace. Helpful guides explained critical aspects of the game, but they could also be skipped entirely with a tap of the Start button for seasoned players.

Equally important was the decision to allow players to turn on or off the Permadeath feature that Fire Emblem games are notorious for. Unlike the majority of similar strategy RPGs, if an ally is killed in battle during a Fire Emblem game, that character is gone forever. Not many titles are willing to make the stakes so high, but Awakening has been doing it for years. Some players love it (I’m one of them), but others are turned off by the arguably rigid feature. Awakening smartly gave the option to experience its campaign without fear of losing a beloved party member, and with such a large and bustling cast, it was a definite boon for those wanting a more laid back time and to get to know everyone.

A Great Story

Awakening is no Hamlet, but the twists and turns of the game’s narrative resulted in some of the best writing in the series. Though the player’s avatar, Robin, can perhaps be labeled a generic amnesiac cipher, he or she still manages to play a fascinating role in the story, and being able to have a hand in designing the main character of the game was fun. The rest of the cast, though, is where Awakening really shined. Mysterious Marth, cool and commanding Chrom, eerie Tharja, and many more populate a roster of allies filled with personality and intrigue. Every moment of Awakening spent looking into the characters and their relationships was a joy, and as much a part of the game as its battles.

DLC

I will argue until I’m blue in the face that Nintendo is the master of doing DLC right, and Awakening is an early example of that. The core game was long and packed with content, and the DLC served the purpose that it should of simply adding even more on top. Extra quests came at respectable prices, especially if bought in bundles, and provided great opportunities to build up the experience of party members. It also brought a myriad of weapons and characters, too, further deepening the game and giving players an excuse to come back for more. I burned through dozens of hours of the game before getting to the final boss, and many other players found themselves similarly entrenched in Awakening‘s abundance of content.

AAA Presentation

From the cinema scenes, which were essentially gorgeous 3D anime segments, to the sweeping soundtrack, Awakening set a new standard for the series’ presentation. Battle animations were epic, character and environment designs were stunning, and little touches like pixelated versions of the cast on the battlefield all coalesced into one pretty package. While Fire Emblem has never been a slouch graphically or musically, Awakening felt like it tapped into a sense of grandeur that previous entries fell a little short of.

This list might seem simple at a glance, but the reality is that having all of these elements of a game come together as perfectly as they did in Awakening is a lot harder and rarer than it seems. The perfect storm that created Awakening is fairly uncommon, but the next game in the series is going to have some lofty expectations placed on it, regardless. While I’m not anticipating the next Fire Emblem to be perfect, I think that if Nintendo and developer Intelligent Systems use Awakening as the foundation for that upcoming game, then fans can expect an incredible new title to play. With the promise of two different campaigns featuring their own unique characters and themes, I’m excited to see where Fire Emblem goes next.

One Response to “Game Changer: Fire Emblem Awakening

  • 156 points
    excaliburguy says...

    Some hardcore FE fans dismiss this game for really weak reasons, such as it being too accessible or just because they say it’s bad. I’ve played all of the Fire Emblems except for the NES iterations, and I can safely say that Awakening is my second favorite game in the series behind FE4 for the SNES.
    One thing that a lot of people don’t know, however, is that FE12 was the first game in the series to feature a customizable avatar and casual mode. Most people are unaware because, well, Japan only releases. Thanks Nintendo!

    Thumb up 1

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