Lighting Your Brain With Brilliance - Fire Emblem: Awakening - 3DS -
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Fire Emblem: Awakening

Lighting Your Brain With Brilliance

Loss, uncertainty, and the fear of making a mistake with your next move fill Fire Emblem: Awakening with undeniable intensity. Awakening makes you think long and hard about every move, but its standout achievement is enhancing the classic formula to create one of the best strategy/RPG experiences I’ve had in a long time.

Combat is the shining star of Awakening. Systems work so well that it feels like battles have infinite, unpredictable paths to success or failure. For instance, placing units next to each other gives bonuses, such as increased odds to dodge. Characters also build relationships over time, occasionally providing additional attacks or blocking incoming strikes. However, assistance is never a given; all you can do is deepen relationships and increase your odds. You can also combine two characters to create one super-unit. This comes in handy when a unit is low on health. Instead of leaving one character vulnerable on the battlefield, pairing keeps them safe, acquiring the other character’s HP. As characters level up, they can be promoted to bigger, badder classes. Promoting someone brings them back to level one, but it's worth it because they're much more powerful. Promotions usually let you choose between two disparate classes - some give significant attribute boosts, while others let you wield more weapons. Watching your customized characters grow is one of the high points of the game, giving a sense of accomplishment after hard-fought battles.

Maps also come with a variety of advantages and disadvantages. Different terrains impact movement, while forts refill health each turn and decrease enemies’ hit chance. Other squares, such as staircases, spawn enemies unless blocked by a friendly character. All of these elements provide a spontaneous, challenging puzzle to overcome against-all-odds battles.

Fire Emblem games have never handed out victories easily, and Awakening is no exception. The margin for error is slim and the AI is sharp. If you leave a combatant vulnerable, expect swift vengeance. Intelligent Systems has offered the option to disable permadeath, but I recommend you keep it on. Permadeath added intensity to my choices, kept me on the edge of my seat, and created an unmatched sense of accomplishment. It made me feel like I was a commander who could potentially send soldiers to their death. But that doesn’t mean Awakening is perfect; some battles feel more about luck than strategy, no matter how stacked the odds are in your favor.

Check out our Test Chamber above for a deeper look.  

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t carry the same allure as the combat. In the midst of a war over the sacred Fire Emblem, your customized character initially battles amnesia. It’s not until the second half that the story heats up, focusing instead on changing fate. The concept is clichéd, but becomes more interesting as plot twists hit later. Revelations come at the right moments, with just enough detail to avoid predictability.

Fire Emblem impresses with its large, colorful cast. For me to care about individuals in such an expansive roster is a huge feat. Between battles, characters that were placed next to each other may interact in skits called support conversations. The banter gives an interesting look at each character’s personality, revealing unexpected foibles. Get two characters’ support level high enough and they marry, but even more thrilling is that later in the game, you’ll find their children in side quests that you can recruit into your party. This creative feature is just the quirk Fire Emblem needs to stand out.

During my time with Awakening, I always had a reaction to what was going on around me. My heart raced as I watched enemies close in on an injured character, and I found myself devastated if I executed an action that cost me the match. Awakening made me scratch and claw for victory, and I savored every moment.

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User Reviews:

  • 9.75
    I have to start off by saying that I've been a fan of Fire Emblem since the first Gameboy one released in America, Fire Emblem. This series is deeply rooted in my mind as one of the pinnacles of my gaming life, so starting this new installment I was afraid I'd be disappointed. I'm so glad...
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  • 10.00
    The Fire Emblem franchise is known for its intense strategy game mechanics and massive cast of characters, all wrapped within a huge fantasy setting. This formula has followed across multiple entries without ever shaking its foundations. Awakening proves that small changes can make all the difference...
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  • 9.75
    Fire Emblem Awakening, is well... AMAZING! It is very impressive the amount of customization one can do in this game which is one of its endearing traits. But to be completely honest it can be a little overwhelming too. If you want to find out more about this game without spoilers read ahead. This handheld...
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  • 9.25
    Fire Emblem Awakening is the first Fire Emblem game I've played and I can safely say it's one of the best and most addicting games I've played over the last few years. There's numerous reasons why this game is great,it's story has great plot twists and can be emotional,the characters...
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  • 9.00
    After their overwhelming boom in popularity by being featured in Super Smash Bros. Melee, American fans demanded more of the mysterious combatants, Roy and Marth. After two years, Intelligent systems answered with the series first US release, Fire Emblem . A decade and four localized games later, Fire...
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  • 10.00
    No, seriously. I hate them with the fiery burning passion of one thousand suns. And I hate to admit it, but the game that took me down was Final Fantasy VII. You read that right. I played for five minutes, got my posterior handed directly to me, and looked at the screen wondering, "WTF Cloud?!"...
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