Strategy RPGs usually grab a hold of me and don’t let go.  One of my most played game has to be Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, where I poured in over 100 hours to beat all 300+ missions.  My 3DS has been mostly a dust collector since I got it, to my dismay.  Fire Emblem: Awakening helped me break that by being my favorite 3DS game to date.

Tiles, terrain, and the weapon triangle. Veterans of the series will feel right at home.

  • TL;DR: Highly strategic, deep customization, and stunning to look at.
  • Platform: 3DS
  • Score: 9.0
  • Hours Played: 20
  • What I Played: Main story on hard
  • Recommended: If you want a real challenge, absolutely

Fire Emblem: Awakening is the series’ first entry on the 3DS.  It starts off with your player-created character awakening to this game’s royalty, Prince Chrom.  As is par for the course in Fire Emblem games, war has torn the country apart.  It’s up to you and your slowly-building army to stave off both opposing and demonic forces.

If you’ve played strategy RPGs in the past, you’ll know what your in for here.  Characters move around the map in a grid with a certain amount of movement spaces per turn.  Melee characters can attack adjacent spaces, while ranged characters can attack from various ranges depending on their class.  Unit placement has a new level in FE:A with the introduction of an in-battle support system.  Units standing next to each other in combat will give passive stat boosts to each other, occasionally attacking or even negating incoming damage, sometimes at the most clutch moment.  Consistently pairing the same units with one another will increase their support level, further increasing how big a boost they give one another in combat.

Battles are incredible detailed, as this poor engulfed enemy can attest to.

Deciding which of your character’s will attack which enemy is a multi-tiered process.  Melee weapons have a rock-paper-scissors system, with axes over lances over swords.  Bow units can devastate air units (pegasus knights, wyvern riders) while mages can take out heavily-armored units with ease.  Fliers and horse-mounted units can move your forces quickly.  But, you have to make sure you’re not leaving a unit where it can be killed.  Fire Emblem has permadeath — you lose a character, he/she is gone for good.  I’m still mad at myself for letting my Florina die back in the first Fire Emblem for Gameboy Advance.

FE:A has a chapter-based story, as the series entries before it, but the world is more open than ever before.  Random encounters will pop up on the overworld map, along with damsels in distress to save, shops, and bonus chapters.  The story isn’t bad, but it’s nothing to write home about.  A few scenes are fully animated, but most of the story is told through old school, giant talking head “dialogue.”  I put “dialogue” in quotes because it is far from voice acted.  Characters say something to the effect of “hmph”, “ah”, or “whoa” before their text pops up on the screen.

The class system is incredibly deep in FE:A.  Classes have passive skills awarded every five levels.  At level 10 or above, your units can evolve into a more powerful unit — the cavalier can become a great knight or paladin, mages turn into sages or dark knights, etc.  You are also given the option to completely reclass a unit, allowing you to really tailor your team.  If you want to have a falcon knight with some passives from a sniper, you can build an archer into a sniper, then reclass into that falcon knight.  The possibilities are wide open.  You can even warp in teams led by units from previous FE games — Lyn, Hector, Jaffar, and Lyon, just to name a few.

It’s like chess with fireballs and lances.

Fire Emblem: Awakening is a brilliant entry in a hugely popular series and currently my best game on the 3DS.  Class customization and unit placement are absolutely paramount — one wrong move and you might have to restart the hour-long mission you’ve been on.  It’s definitely a challenge, but incredibly satisfying.

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