Some of you reading may know that I can get absorbed into the story of something, be it book, video game, TV show or movie. I get attached to the characters and locations and fall in love with almost everything. So when I find a game that has a great story that I can engross myself in, I get excited. And the most recent game in Intelligent System and Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series, Fire Emblem Awakening, is a great example of this type of game.
Released on Feb. 4, 2013, for the 3DS, Fire Emblem Awakening is the 13th game in this long-running series that started in Japan in 1990 and came to the United States in 2003. I’ve been playing these games since the first game came to the United States, and I’ve played every one released since. While this series isn’t as well-known as others, the Fire Emblem series still has a big following in the United States, and for many good reasons.
The biggest thing that sets Fire Emblem apart from other types of role-playing games is the gameplay. The series is known for having one of the most unique gameplay styles, so everyone has his own opinion on how to describe it.
My way of explaining it is this: On your turn, you move your units around the field and attack your enemies with weapons or magic, but you have to keep in mind that some weapon and magic types beat others. It’s like rock-paper-scissors … just with swords, lances and axes instead. If you lose a fight, then the character that lost isn’t just knocked out, he’s dead for the rest of the game. This means that every move you make with each character has the chance of being the last.
Fire Emblem Awakening brought a huge change to the series by introducing a team-up battle system. Instead of one-on-one fights, your units can support each other in battle in a two-on-one style fight. Units that do this build up their relationship, becoming closer and closer with each other, and some pairs of units are even able to marry each other. While unit supports are nothing new to the series, marrying almost any character to any other character is, and it brings about a whole new level of the story.
The writing and storytelling in Fire Emblem games have always been good, and the story in Fire Emblem Awakening continues the trend, while throwing in a few new aspects.
The biggest change is that you’re no longer only a third-person observer; you’re also a character in the game. You get to create your very own sword- and magic-wielding character to use in the game. You can name it whatever you want, have it fight however you want it to, and marry whomever you want it to. You want to play as a dragon-riding lance user who marries his stalker? Go right ahead.
This change in how you, the player, are involved in the game gives me mixed feelings. On one hand, I get more absorbed in the game’s story as I decide who to team up with and who I marry as I make my decisions in the game. On the other hand, I also liked how you got to watch the characters form relationships without putting yourself in the game. You got to see the character development without being a part of it.
Besides character relationships, the actual story in Fire Emblem Awakening is pretty out there for a Fire Emblem game. You start the game in a flash-forward that has a surprising outcome, and then your character wakes up in a field and meets Chrom and Lissa, prince and princess of Ylisstol. You join their army, the Shepherds, and travel with them, preserving the peace, fighting evil, facing loss – the usual for a fantasy game. However, further down the road, you end up meeting the children of the characters that have been married. They’ve come from a messed-up future back in time to prevent their future from happening. Your actions determine if their future will come true or not.
Just one more thing
Fire Emblem Awakening has more than just a great story, it has amazing music as well. Composed by Yuka Tsujiyoko and ReiKondoh, the music is wonderful, way beyond the background noise you hear in most games. (And this is coming from the guy with an alarming number of video game soundtracks on his iPod.)
Some of the tracks are fun little pieces that fit in with the humor of an event, and some are powerful battle themes that follow the death of a major character (that’s not considered a spoiler, is it?). I like to listen to all types of music, soundtracks, rock, alternative, and I’ve already got a copy of the Fire Emblem Awakening soundtrack on my iPod.
In all honesty, if you have a 3DS, you should pick up a copy of Fire Emblem Awakening, either as a first-time player or longtime fan. With a wonderful story, a huge array of colorful, deep and flawed characters, great gameplay and amazing music, Fire Emblem Awakening is a game that I’m going to keep coming back to play.