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First Impressions: Fire Emblem: Awakening

Posted by Jeremy Thain

Could this be the best entry in the Fire Emblem series yet?

The Fire Emblem series has long been famous and hugely successful in Japan. With a long string of titles stretching back to the days of the Nintendo Famicom, the franchise is now starting to catch on in the west. Arguably the most famous tactical RPG in the world right now, Fire Emblem fans have long waited for a new entry to represent the series on the 3DS. With the Japanese version already on the market and the thorny question of English localization finally answered, fans can sit back and wait in comfort knowing that they will soon be able to enjoy this new game. They need not fear disappointment, as this title truly delivers an epic and rewarding experience that players will be able to enjoy for a long time - and after playing the Japanese edition, we're about to tell you why.

The game differs quite a bit from previous instalments in terms of both pacing and story. It starts out simple enough; players create their own 'My Unit' character, meant to represent their place in the games monstrous setting. Players can chose their unit's gender, facial features, voice, hair, and even overall tone of expression when they talk (for example, using more or less formal speech). Without spoiling the story, everything kicks into high gear pretty quickly once the campaign starts. The plot has more twists and turns than most Hollywood movies, and in the interest of avoid all spoilers, we won't be delving into the story too much during this preview.

Actual plot points aside, Fire Emblem: Awakening features some of the most expressive, endearing, and funny characters seen in recent gaming. The game's huge cast only makes it even more obvious that there is a very talented group of writers and programmers at work here. No two character's personalities or actions are alike, and while each player will have their favourites, the cast is packed with genuinely appealing individuals.

Character animations are just as fluid and bright as the personalities. In the full motion videos, the in-game battles, and still-animation dialogue scenes, each character is beautifully rendered and given a wide array of emotions and facial expressions. Whereas previous Fire Emblem games might have looked a bit static, Awakening is bursting with movement and detail. Even the tiny little battle sprites on the game maps move with more personality than would be expected from something so small.

Also of note is the music, which is just as epic and memorable as the story. The game features sweeping arrangements that at times make the player feel as though they've stepped into a concert hall, and even the pieces that are clearly made with computers instead of actual instruments feel as though they wouldn't be out of place in a big budget film. Of course, there are smaller, less memorable tunes in the game, but the large amount of powerful songs greatly outnumbers the few straggling pieces sporadically laid across some of the game's dialogue scenes.

In comparison with previous entries in the series, Awakening's pace is practically frantic. Battles are fast-paced, and the much talked about 'Pair Attack' system deepens the battle segments to a level not attained in previous instalments. The main battle map is clear and detailed, and when the 3D effect is turned on, sunsets, glistening water, raindrops and other similar effects appear to burst out of the screen. This might not sound like much, but in action these features really do make the battles come alive. When transitioning from the map screen into the battle screen (which is achieved though a zoom-in effect that is pretty cool to watch, and smoothly transitions between the map and battle animation styles), the music goes from a softer background noise into a pounding arrangement. The animation, music, character expressions, superb voice acting and fun gameplay all come together to make the combat in Awakening the best of the series so far.

A quick note about the voice acting in the game; at least in the Japanese version, the acting in Awakening in some of the best heard on a portable so far. In actual dialogue scenes most of the spoken dialogue is limited to short bursts, but in the full motion videos and battle animations the characters really come alive though the quality of the vocal talent featured in the game.

If there was one complaint to be had with Awakening, it's that there are a few moments in the 'My Unit' character's story that could be conceived as slightly clichéd. To be honest, the nature of the central protagonist makes him/her necessary in only a few moments in the game, even though a large part of Awakening revolves around the character. In fact, compared to most of the other individuals in the game - who are interesting and boast their own unique personality quirks - the relatively blank 'My Unit' character appears somewhat boring. Because of the nature of his/her place in the story as the player's avatar, the main character is mostly relegated to a reactionary role - a common complaint with many RPG titles.

That small issue aside, its not hard to see why Fire Emblem: Awakening as been such a huge success in its native Japan, and we hope that it meet with similar success when it reaches the west in just a few months. Trust us: the wait really is worth it.

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User Comments (39)

Xilef

#1

Xilef said:

Really want this now... At least i got B/W2 and Wii U to hold me over.

TrickySx4

#2

TrickySx4 said:

Bahhh! Want it now...Oh well...still enjoying Code of Princess at the moment and Wii U next month

BenAV

#4

BenAV said:

Really good article.
This is easily my most highly anticipated 3DS game at the moment.

AVahne

#5

AVahne said:

Glad this is coming at all considering the west was left out of FE12. At this point it looks like I WILL have to import an actual modern FE game. Thought I would only have to be importing the old games.

Boo_Buster

#6

Boo_Buster said:

This game and Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon are some seriously awesome releases for the 3DS next year :D

MetalMario

#9

MetalMario said:

Crap. I just got way too excited for a game that I have to wait until next year for.

Tsuchinoko

#11

Tsuchinoko said:

@ThePillowGolem do you mean the My Unit character? Or the actual main character from the story. Well, in either case, of course both characters can do anything, they're fully usable. The My Unit character really doesn't add too much to the game IMO, but the game's actual main character is amazing. He'll be just as infamous as Marth when people look back on this game in the series history one day.

@chanchandesu I doubt there will be a demo in western regions, since there was no demo in Japan before it was released here.

Wonder_Ideal

#12

Wonder_Ideal said:

Man this looks great! Cannot wait for it to come out! In the meantime I'll enjoy White 2 and Wii U.

Spoony_Tech

#14

Spoony_Tech said:

@Tsuchinoko Actually this game might need a demo in the west more so then Japan. Die hards know of it but to get everyones attention a demo might be a great idea for those that have no clue as to what type of game it is!

DarkCoolEdge

#15

DarkCoolEdge said:

The more srpg games I play, bigger is my hunger for more of them. This is surely in my buy list

Void

#17

Void said:

@Tsuchinoko How can this be first impressions when you have, or very nearly, beaten the game? :P
I'll be getting this the day it comes out and is easily my most anticipated release.
(Marth and Krom have nothing on Ike, especially him in Radiant Dawn.)

therick112

#19

therick112 said:

Fire Emblem has taken the place of my previous SRPG fave series, Shining Force (which we need more of BTW). @Void, Ike rules, I cheered when he and the Greil Mercenaries showed up in Radiant Dawn (even though I knew it was happening b/c I imported my data from PoR).

Needless to say, this is a pre-order for me.

Eldir

#22

Eldir said:

I wish there was a like button for articles so I could like this!

SomeBitTripFan

#26

SomeBitTripFan said:

Holy crap! I NEED THIS GAME RIGHT NOW! I'm more excited for this than Wii U and reminding me of it makes me want the game like crazy! Why do I have to wait on my favorite game series.

@Happy_Mask: I'm not entirely sure what that song is but, teach me oh wise one.

Tsuchinoko

#30

Tsuchinoko said:

@Void Haha, "First Impressions" is really more of a series title sort of thing. You're right, I've nearly beaten the game, the my buying Bravely Default has kinda make Fire Emblem take a backseat, I still pop in every once in a while to play a few battles. One thing I didn't mention, even without the DLC, the extra content in the game is massive.

@Tech101 It would be great for western players if there was a demo, just with Nintendo being a Japanese company, they really make sure (unlike Sony) to keep Japan their first priority. That being said, it might not be on the top of their list to create a demo for a game for western regions when they didn't have one for the Japanese release. They might find other ways to promote the game, such as videos on the E-shop or pre-order goodies.

@HarmoKnight As of yet, I haven't heard anything about this being a downloadable title, so be prepared to buy it retail. :)

Hokori

#32

Hokori said:

@Tsuchinoko Well Nintendos releasing all there company owned titles on eShop, and Layton is published by Nintendo in the west and it's also getting a digital form, and seeing as 8 older titles are coming to eShop on Nov 1 I can see FE coming soon after. Although I still count Layton as 3rd party but as far as I know that's not as a DL title on Japanese eShop

GreenDream

#35

GreenDream said:

Still not a fan of the character art design, but the game looks to have been vastly refined from Shadow Dragon / New Mystery of the Emblem.

Tsuchinoko

#36

Tsuchinoko said:

@HarmoKnight While that maybe true, there's no telling how long that will take. I assumed Nintendo meant that all their games being released from this time on would be released in both formats. There's already a lot of games out on the 3DS, so I imagine even if they were to put their entire catalog of 3DS games (all first party and some third party) in download format, it could take some time, so if the game were to come out in March in NA and EU, would you wait for the download version, even if it took some time to be released?

@GreenDream I think the character art design is beautiful. If you mean the polygon-based characters, then I partially agree with you, but the 2D portrait-style art? Amazing. :)

Hokori

#37

Hokori said:

@Tsuchinoko I'll probably wait anyway... I'm not that good at Fire emblem games and only have Sacred Stones and Goddess of Dawn, but I am much more tempted to pick this one up quicker then the others

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