I’ve got this habit of referring to Fire Emblem: Awakening as ‘magic chess’ in my head. While perhaps not entirely appropriate, it’s nonetheless a pretty good description for it. Fire Emblem is a popular series of tactical role-playing games, and its latest game, also frequently referred to as FE13, is not so different. Truth be told, it’s actually my first Fire Emblem game, so I can’t quite judge it in comparison to its predecessors.
As I’ve mentioned, ‘magic chess’ basically sums it up. You’ve got a bunch of characters on your side of the board (starting locations may differ from round to round), and the enemy’s got an even bigger bunch on their side, and the objective is usually to either kill off the commander, or wipe out all enemy units.
Some tactical and strategically knowledge will obviously be useful, but it’s necessary to remember that unlike chess, in classic gameplay, once a unit dies during that round, he dies permanently, and stays that way for the rest of the game. I mean, sure, you’ve got some fairly important characters who would still turn up for plot purposes, but otherwise, they’re completely unusable as playable characters. So, that’s certainly an important point to note. FE13 also offers a ‘casual’ mode, where death isn’t permanent. At the same time, there are several opportunities for the player to recruit additional; characters from Fire Emblem’s previous games, though they only serve as combatant roles (understandable).
One interesting thing about the game is its support mechanic. Support has several levels, C to A, and it’s built by pairing up characters during combat and winning fights. Once there’s sufficient support, characters can be made to speak to one another to promote these levels. Quite straightforward, and a fairly interesting take, in my opinion, since most games generally only focus on the relationships between the main player and their companions, and not amongst those of the later as well. Furthermore, it gives an even bigger incentive to grind a little, since the player will be rewarded with not only experience points but also additional dialogue to watch. A rather clever way to go about it.
But there’s something else. Characters of two different genders are able to progress to ‘S’ level support, which means they marry, basically. There’s a reward for that too, and to make a long story short, the kid of these two characters will come from the future to assist in the fight. Fundamentally, children generally have one fixed parent, while their stats may vary depending on who the other parent is.
Obviously though, this means that a lot of players thus seek to ‘create’ the best offspring with the best stats. Truth be told, it makes the whole process sound like an awful sort of breeding, and I can’t quite place how I feel about it. Another point of interest is that there is no same-gender romance whatsoever, which seems to further suggest that this mechanic was mostly in place for letting in more characters through the concept of children & time-travel. It’s by no means a deal-breaker, and perhaps it’s conservatism as a Japanese company, but with large game companies such as EA taking a stand and moving towards playing a bigger role in social issues such as LGBTQ rights, it’s worth a bit of a thought, in my opinion, especially in times such as these.
As a tactical role play game, it’s probably no surprise that combat generally isn’t too impressive, since emphasis is on tactical thinking. On the game-board, you move characters around to challenge the enemy. Before you attack, you get to see the most likely outcome of the challenge, so you can change your mind and move your characters elsewhere, or in a more favourable position. When you attack, a short clip comes on, and it looks like standard fare from most RPG combat. You can’t do anything combat-wise when the sequence comes on, so just sit back and watch. In retrospect, the total time span of all the clips over the course of the entire game probably builds up to a fair amount, but without it, the game is likely to feel stale and boring. Furthermore, you get to fast-forward through most action scenes, so there’s less waiting and watching, and more thinking.
The large ensemble of characters available also means that you’ve got a lot of flexibility in gameplay, since each character has their own skill set, stats, abilities, support relationships, weaponry, and so on. There’s really no denying that there’s a lot of freedom in combat in this game, and while it may sound a bit overwhelming at first glance, it’s actually really easy to adapt to and understand.
The story itself is actually fairly engaging. While awfully obvious at times, it’s interesting enough that it draws the player in to reach the end. Perhaps it is due to the game presenting a tense cliff-hanger bit from the ending right at the start of the game, but regardless, it creates a sufficient amount of questions to keep the player interested. It’s not ground-breaking or revolutionary by any means, but it’s good enough.
There are a couple of cut-scenes done in brilliant, sharp animation, and it really looks like it comes straight out of a high-quality 3D anime, so that’s the good part. The bad part is that there seems to be about five of those at most, but then it’s really not that important, and, again, not a deal-breaker of any sort. The normal graphics are also standard JRPG quality, and nothing to boast about, but this is running on the 3DS.
Additionally, the legacy characters that I’ve mentioned previously are part of the DLC packs that the player can receive via SpotPass, along with some interesting weapons for use. These packs, which come in both free and paid varieties, certainly help to keep the game feeling fresh, encouraging replays and what not. The StreetPass function can also be utilised to
At the end of the day, it’s the stellar gameplay that comes up tops. The most important thing is that it’s a whole lot of fun, and it’s pretty addicting fun at that, and while I can’t speak for long-time fans of the series, beginners are no doubt inclined to enjoy this game, and perhaps even consider looking into the other games in the series, such as myself.
Ratings: 4 out of 5 Stars
by Chua Yuxuan
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