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Review: Fire Emblem: Awakening

Death is part of life but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to understand. When people die they leave a certain unfilled open space behind, a general feeling of sadness. Death is one of the hardest moments in life, especially for those who stay behind without their beloved friend or partner. Death isn’t only a painful part of life, it’s the essence of Fire Emblem: Awakening.

Fire Emblem: Awakening is the newest strategy game on Nintendo 3DS and is created by Intelligent Studios. Awakening isn’t just one of those predictable strategy games, it’s a game about loss and choices you have to make in order to win the battle.

When you start up the game for the first time, you’ll be able to select a level of difficulty. This goes from normal to hard. Once you selected the difficulty you can choose to play the game in classic or casual mode. The classic mode is the hardest one because you’ll never see your beloved character again when he/she dies. When you play in classic mode and one of your units fall on the battlefield, they’re gone forever. In casual mode those characters will come back to life at the end of the battle. Although it might sound a little strange, it’s best to pick the classic mode. You’ll play the game in a different way when you know what’s at stake. Making the units die forever will result in another way of warfare and will also create a strong bond between gamer and character.

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(The battlefield)

A bond that starts at the very beginning of the game. At the start you can create your own character, featuring custom strengths and weaknesses. You can customize the way he/she looks, talks and fights. Don’t expect a lot of options to choose from, the hair and face sets are rather typical for Japanese action figures. After you created your character you can name him/her and start your adventure.

The adventure starts with a very impressive animated movie, the story is told by those magnificent movies throughout the game, and ends in amnesia. Your character wakes up in a strange world that people call ‘Ylisse’. He doesn’t wake up alone however. A small group of warriors named Chrom, Lisa and Frederick found you laying in the soft grass. Once they woke you, it’s clear that you lost track of your memory. Chrom and his party decide that you definitely look interesting enough to stick around and they take you with them on their quest in Ylisse.

Ylisse sounds as a peaceful name for a peaceful place but it’s far from that. Cities are overrun by criminals and several countries are just minutes away to start a war. The real threat however comes from a mysterious portal in the sky that drops off the Risen on the earth of Ylisse. The Risen are something nobody ever saw before and they can best be compared with crazy red-eyed zombie killing machines. Needless to say, it’s up to you and Chrom’ party to stop this new threat and to save Ylisse from a certain doom. How can you achieve this? By winning all the battles you can possibly win.

Placing you characters wide in the open will often end in a painful punishment by your enemies.

The battles in Fire Emblem: Awakening are very important because they really are the beating heart of the game. Awakening is a strategy game so the battles have to be fought using you brains rather than your manpower. The battlefield is divided into small squares. Each unit of your army can walk, fly or float on/over a certain amount of these squares each time it’s their turn to move. The battlefield can be compared to an alternative way to play chess. It’s divided into several separated squares and both player and enemy will have their chance and time to move their units as they please. When your turn is over, it’s time for the enemies  to advance.

This type of gameplay forces you to think ahead and to estimate your enemy’s next move. Placing you characters wide in the open will often end in a painful punishment by your enemies. Lining strong characters in front of the weaker like your archers is by example one of the strategic moves you can use to defeat your opponents. Your army is packed with different types of units, going from swordfighters, mages, healers and knights to more fantasy characters like Pegasus, dragons and shape shifters. Each character has its own strength and weakness but all prove value on the battlefield. Selecting your unites and their weapons before the start of each battle consists out of making the right decisions and often results in a combination of pure strength characters with more sneaky ones. The choice of your weapons will also depend on the returning weapon triangle that’s typical for Fire Emblem games. Lances will have advantage over swords while swords are better to defeat axes. You’ll take this triangle into consideration before entering the battles.

The strategy doesn’t end there however. Awakening introduces a new partner and friend system. By placing two characters next to each other, they’ll both enter the battle scene and grant each other some nice extra bonuses like more health or defense points. Later on you can form teams with your units to improve the friendship and bond between characters. Units that fight as a team will become more motivated and can even attack at the same time when they trust their partner enough. Teaming up your characters can result in a double attack.

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(Battles happen in 3D now)

To create those kind of friendships and bonds, there’s a lot of text in Fire Emblem: Awakening. Not all of those dialogues are necessary to follow the story, so some of you may find the amount of text a little downside of the game. The reason why Intelligent Studios put so many words in the game is to create a personality for each and every individual in your army. The little chats and introductions of new characters result in a kind of bond with the gamer. You’ll get to know the different characters and their behaviors on a way they could be family, making it extra painful when they die during  combat.

All in all Awakening has enough innovation like the new cut scenes, 3D battles, partnership and interesting story. Intelligent Studios and Nintendo put a lot of effort into this game and created the best strategy that’s out there at the moment. It’s a game that takes you on a journey with newfound friends, a journey to save the world. You’ll spend hours in this game just by getting to know your units and building out their armor. You’ll fight in a lot of battles and send a lot of enemies to their grave. The game has a lot to offer and doesn’t get boring after a while. Awakening is an emotional rollercoaster that you just can’t resist to play.

9/10

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.