Review by arvilino
"Fire Emblem: Awakening brings about a new standard of excellence in the Fire Emblem series"
Fire Emblem: Awakening is a breakthrough in the Fire Emblem series, the sheer amount of new features working together with the features from previous games and even the balancing between equipment and items availability and use slots together to make in a way, a more complete Fire Emblem experience.
I am currently unable to comment or rate the main story due to not understanding Japanese. However from a fan site that has translated a good portion of the character supports there are some comments I can make.
The characters get a gigantic amount of supports, with almost all the males being able to support all the females. These supports develop the cast significantly more than was seen in previous Fire Emblem games, where the main characters usually get both the most plot development and supports.
So even the more secondary characters personalities who in any other Fire Emblem game would get no dialogue after their recruitment chapter are explored through more than 10 different support. There are a few who only have supports with the My Unit character and/or 1 more character but excluding one character they show up frequently in the main story.
The Game play is where this game shines, it seems like a culmination of the last 12 Fire Emblem games in terms of balancing, equipment, classes etc along with new features.
Much like FE12 there is a casual mode option for newer players or those who don't want permanent death,
There are four difficulties with the 4th, lunatic+ being un-lockable. This along with the casual mode allows for 8 degrees of choice for the games difficulty. The difficulties are handled fairly well. Normal is a fair challenge with enemies, Hard steps up the stats of the enemies a fair margin and increases their numbers. Lunatic further boosts both the enemy stats and numbers and requires intelligent use of the newly implemented features for any chance to succeed.
However Lunatic+ is where the difficulty falls through the only changes from lunatic is that the enemies are assigned 2 random skills from a pool of powerful skills exclusive to enemies(excluding Counter) on that mode. The problem is that the random allocation prevents you creating reliable strategies for chapters as they'll change each time you re-load and some(Counter) make the enemies significantly harder,
Double is implemented wonderfully and is my favourite feature of this game. A character can support another if they are in-range and occupy the same square, providing bonuses to the active character. Each class gives a specific bonus to the unit they initiate the double up with, and you can switch around which unit is active in the pair. This vastly increases the number of strategies you can perform and promotes synergy between unit use.
An example of it's movement use is Armoured Knight initiating double with a Pegasus Knight and then using the Pegasus's higher movement to cross a river or block a choke point and then switching the Armoured Knight to the active role to defend against enemies attacks. Both units working together can accomplish tasks that either of them couldn't perform single-handed.
It's battle use stems from the class specific bonuses, these can be used to prevent enemies doubling certain characters(which you really don't want on Lunatic) or to double the enemies. Strengthening a character who is in range of enemies with one who is out of range,.
Supports are the best they've ever been, they build as units fight together or heal each other. This way characters build relationships with each other in a way that is non-intrusive to your game strategy and there is an extensive amount of support options between your units, with most males and females being able to support each other.
Class change from the DS games is back but this time a slightly pricey item called a change seal is required. Units can switch to a class from a set of 3(all for the my unit character(s)) dependant on the character. Class changing resets a characters level to 1 but the game keeps track of overall levels gained for each character so going from level 10 to 1 in another class will not increase EXP.
Skills have changed once again. Skills are class based learned at level 1, 10 for un-promoted classes and 5, 15 for promoted ones. A character can equip up to 5 skills. Through use of the change seal mechanic you can customize what skills your characters will have but is balanced in that getting a full set of the best skills would require tens of levels and change seals in classes which a character may have a low weapon level in.
There is a world map in this game a lot like FE2 or FE8, when you beat a chapter you can buy items from that place, enemies randomly appear on the map to fight in skirmishes but unlike FE8 you can pass by them without being brought into battle.
The graphics are rather nice in the cut scenes and during game play. Even zoomed in the pixel art of the class sprites are top-notch, with the characters all having unique field sprites in a lot of their classes. The in-game 3D models are quite nice, extremely distinctive between classes, with characters having distinct models for their base classes, with them still having their characteristics for their secondary classes(e.g. Villager Donny keeps his pot helmet between all of his classes).
Battle animations are very dynamic, similar to the SNES games and are worth watching for at least one play through if not more.
Sound and Music
The sounds in the game are great, there is voice acting for the characters, however these are sound bites as opposed to the entire dialogue though they are good quality and it is acceptable given the sheer amount of dialogue in the game.
The music is pretty amazing. There is a huge variety of it, plenty of songs and all of them of high quality. Even the DLC even using chapter tracks and even their battle tracks from the previous Fire Emblem games the DLC was based on.
For the First Fire Emblem game with spot pass capabilities this game performs extremely well.
Spotpass provides teams to fight featuring characters from past Fire Emblem teams to recruit. There are 120 in total from all the different games and can be called from a menu to appear on the world map at a location to fight or gold can be used to recruit them, additionally items can be bought from them . There are also Spotpass maps that allow you to recruit bonus characters related to the plot from.
The DLC provides both characters and a repeatable map to fight on. These characters and maps are based on previous Fire Emblem games, quite a breath of fresh air as all the story relevant downloaded content is the free spotpass content.
This content along with the great number of difficulty settings allows for a great amount of replay value. Even without the DLC, the spotpass alone allows for more playthroughs of the game using which past Fire Emblem characters you want.
Outside of the Wi-fi features there are also 17 optional Gaiden chapters which some become available after beating various chapters and others based on characters receiving S-rank supports. Since who gets a S-rank support with those characters determines certain things about those chapters there's good reason for replaying the game with different characters reaching S-rank with each other
Overall Fire Emblem: Awakening is a truly amazing instalment in the Fire Emblem Series. if you enjoy strategy games and especially if you enjoy Fire Emblem games, I would highly recommend this game.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/06/12, Updated 07/09/12
Game Release: Fire Emblem: Kakusei (JP, 04/19/12)
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