10 years ago today, Fire Emblem: Awakening was released on the 3DS in Japan. At the time the series had a core and devoted audience, but it had struggled to make a meaningful sales breakthrough outside of Japan. There was no doubting the development and storytelling talent of developer Intelligent Systems, though, and the background of the game's creation is now well known and repeated regularly. It was to be a final push for the series, with presentation, budget and an eventual global release on 3DS — if it struggled, like multiple predecessors had, the series may have died right there.
Instead something rather lovely happened. Along with a slowly reviving 3DS platform, the game found its feet in the West, even if the 3D characters in the game didn't have feet. We could all overlook that oddity, though, as the game captured imaginations and made it a must-have on the portable. This, remember, is after the West had to wait for it — it's the 10-year anniversary in Japan, but the 9-year anniversary in Europe (it arrived in North America a couple of months before EU). It was still a slightly scruffy and staggered global release, something that is now a rarity with first-party games, but that didn't prevent its success.
The sales success of Awakening — comfortably passing 2 million copies — meant that an IP most only knew about from Super Smash Bros. was now integral to the 3DS generation. Nintendo and Intelligent Systems saw a gap in the market (and the big N's library) and went all in; the enormous Fire Emblem Fates followed, along with intriguing remake Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, which saw the return of 8-4, the company behind Awakening's excellent localisation.
The series is going strong on Switch, too, with Fire Emblem: Three Houses being the best-selling entry in the series, and soon we'll have had two Warriors games, with Fire Emblem Warriors soon to be accompanied by the upcoming Three Hopes.
To celebrate the arrival and eventual success of Fire Emblem Awakening, a few of the team have taken a look back at this 3DS cart slot staple...
Tom Whitehead, deputy editor
I was, like many 3DS owners, new to the Fire Emblem series. I knew the name, and that its characters were fantasy-types with cool swords, but that was mainly because of Smash Bros. It seemed like one of those important Nintendo IPs in terms of the company's history, and I knew of Intelligent Systems for its reputation of tactical excellence. Yet aside from dabbling with Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones as part of the 3DS 'Ambassador Program', it was largely a mystery to me.
I was all in on 3DS, though, and when Nintendo unveiled Awakening I was struck initially by its production values and storytelling. Looking back, I suspect that was vital in drawing in a larger audience for the game, beyond the diehards. The story sequences and stylish animation, the sweeping music and the fantastic character designs, they gave it an epic feel in a lot of the marketing. That's all superficial in a sense, but it's important — make people care about the setting and characters when it's a 'new' IP to them, then they can be enraptured with the gameplay.
Importantly, the actual tactical / strategy gameplay was fantastic. I adore games like this, where you play at your own pace and try to outwit your foes, and allied with the grand storytelling it drew me in. Mixing up the classic pixel grid look with 3D battle animations — even without feet — was a brilliant move, especially for those of us that enjoyed having the 3D slider up.
With production values, storytelling and most importantly gameplay right out of the top bracket, I fell in love. It made me a series devotee, and funnily enough after suggesting to my mum that she might enjoy Fire Emblem: Three Houses on Switch, she is now also a huge fan of the series. That's something Fire Emblem: Awakening kickstarted — it showed gamers of all ages and types that it's a series that shouldn't be missed on Nintendo hardware. Long may it continue, too.
Alana Hagues, staff writer
Despite adoring RPGs, strategy RPGs have never really been my thing. Admittedly, though, I did accidentally fall in love with Fire Emblem shortly after Super Smash Bros. Melee came out. Like many, I'd never heard of this series before Marth and Roy made an appearance in the platform fighter. So when Fire Emblem came to GBA, marking the series' Western debut, I snatched it up. And I adored it. Sacred Stones followed, and I liked that too, but I slipped off the series after that.
My accidental love affair for the anime-esque strategy RPG series came back with Awakening, though. I missed it upon launch, dismissing it because I was still wary of the SRPG gameplay; it was Lyn, Eliwood, and Hector who made me stick with what we now know as The Blazing Blade. But the new difficulty mode, the heavy focus on characters and relationships, and the sheer amount of praise the game was getting meant I couldn't resist. I got to create my own avatar, 'My Unit', and I could interact with other characters on and off the field. Pair Up was such a cool new feature — similar to Rescue Command but without the drawbacks, two units could become one and boost each other's stats to help enhance their strength or boost their defense. Doing this also boosts the characters' relationship with each other, and many characters can even get into relationships, and these 'supports' can level up, making their Pair Up even better.
The support system was more than just stat boosts, and trying to optimise character romances so I could get the best child units became a little game with some paper and a pen. Except when it came to my "Robin." I'm a bit of a sucker for certain anime tropes, and a lot of Awakening's cast leans into many of these that you can often just boil down to a single sentence. Like Gaius' candy addiction or Lon'qu's potato-slicing. So I obviously married the potato-slicing myrmidon. That's Travis Willingham's voice, too! It's probably not optimal, but they say you don't choose who you fall in love with.
The more-accessible gameplay, the colourful characters, the incredible music, and those gut-wrenching story moments (Chapter 10?) made Awakening a winner for me. But I've, again, drifted away from the series. I'm regretful of that, given that Awakening has reignited the entire franchise. Maybe Three Houses or Shadows of Valentia will call to me one day.
Gavin Lane, editor
I've written before about the genius of Awakening — I chose it as my pick for Nintendo Game of the Decade back in the dim and distant mists of time (January 2020) — so I won't waste time repeating myself about the exceptional writing, or the brilliantly subtle use of the 3D slider, or the loveable character roster, or any of the points Tom and Alana rightly brought up above.
There's one thing I didn't really touch on when I wrote about the game, though; it was my very first retail game which I bought digitally. Before Awakening, the thought of not having the box and the manual (well, manuals had already been replaced by a pamphlet or two by then, so let's just say extra bumph) along with the cartridge seemed unthinkable. My eagerness to not have to wait and visit a shop got the better of me, though, and it turned out to be a good move — I put over 100 hours into the game and not having a cart to lose down the back of the bus seat was a boon.
A couple of months later I'd buy Animal Crossing: New Leaf digitally and begin down a dangerous digital path which helps disguise a backlog so colossal and embarrassing it would put the London fatberg to shame. But it was Fire Emblem: Awakening that started me on the road to less physical clutter and more digital clutter. Thanks, Fire Emblem (I think).
In an odd coincidence, this morning I finally took possession of Shadows of Valentia, a game I've been wanting to pick up for years now which I ordered just a couple of weeks ago. With my memories of Awakening alive and well, it feels like a fitting tribute to soon return to the system that started my love for the series nearly a decade ago and begin a new battle.
Feel free to discuss below your memories of this most excellent game below.
No, it can't be. I refuse to acknowledge that...
It's crazy to think that FE wouldn't even be a thought in the west if it wasn't for Sakurai putting Marth in Melee.
Sad as it is, sounds about right. When my wife and I were newly dating she bought me this game. As if her being beautiful and a genuinely good person wasn't great enough!
Quick question. I love Fire Emblem Awakening, and I'm close to buy FE Three houses (I know, very late to the party lol), how does it compare? Is it as good as Awakening?
Aw man, what a game. Truly loved that game. A great series prior to that, but at that time, it was my favourite FE game.
One of my favorite games of all time.
Strangely I'm of the opinion that the GBA games were the bee's knees in comparison to Awakening. Wasn't a fan of making the tactician a playable character, or the strange camp shenanigans which led to the in between battles class elements of Three Houses.
I fell in love with the series around the time Shadow Dragon came out, then it immediatedly turned into garbo with the next game, figures.
Not my favorite, but Fire Emblem Awakening is definitely one of the most important entries with saving the franchise and introducing marriages and kids. I personally think the remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden, Fire Emblem Echoes Shadows of Valentia, is the best entry on 3DS.
Kinda sad that people wished that fe awakening had failed so FE would die because they’re furious at the amount of fe characters in smash. 😔
Ah yes, the game that the OG Fire Emblem fans poo on and poo on anyone for liking. Because change bad. And IDK, I guess they would've preferred it stayed dead like F-Zero?
Fire Emblem did what it had to in order to push sales (the wild plot, zany characters, sex appeal). And it worked, it really helped attract that global audience. Sad that this is was the series has defaulted to. Tactics games are still pretty niche & are hard to develop, and outside Fire Emblem entries, there are few games that have sold outside multi-million copies. I don't know, these games are still kinda boring to me. It's basically the same general plot with the same typecast character doing the same gameplay (see Brian David Gilbert's Fire Emblem video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMVjPDqrkyg)
FE4 had both marriage & child units way before Awakening did.
@shoeses “stayed dead like F-Zero”
You know, you just had to throw that reminder in there to make me sad today, didn’t you? Is that what you wanted? Huh?!
Never played it and I'd buy a Switch port day one!
@Expa0 Alright, I admit I haven't played that one, so thanks for the correction.
I honestly hate that this entry, in its (understandable) goal to save the series, has also permanently changed the series, and not for the better.
While I tolerated most of Awakening, and some of the more broken mechanics could be for the most part ignored, I found the sequel, Fates, to be a far worse entry. Don't even get me started on Heroes on Mobile.
I miss old school Fire Emblem.
i find the characters/story/artstyle (though the pixel art is swell) extremely bland but gladly welcome the ways it's made the series approachable to newcomers; permadeath can continue stuffing itself with socks
@JeanPaul Awakening was my favorite game in the series, until I played Three Houses.
Please, do yourself a huge favor and buy Three Houses now. You won't regret it.
Without saying too much, Three Houses is longer with a much stronger replay value. The overworld map has been replaced with a calendar system and you have more freedom grooming your Recruits.
Awakening is such a massive and easily replayable game. It really put Fire Emblem on a turn that would ultimately make the series more ambitious. Titles more contained like Shadows of Valentia would eventually become even larger black sheeps for the Fire Emblem series as a result. The biggest thing Awakening did was just make the series alot more approachable. You were hardly forced into battles you weren’t prepared for. Casual Mode was welcomed. There were more systems that you can gained and it was more open to communicate its mechanics. Not my favorite in its series, but still a great title that opened the door for more Fire Emblem afterwards.
Would you rather your favorite franchise stay the same forever but be abandoned or would your rather your favorite franchise become more popular but with significant changes?
I like FE games mix multiple game genres to create a truly unique experience, but I can also understand if OG fans wish the games remained true to their origins.
I have a host of criticisms with Awakening- primarily its hideously unbalanced gameplay and bland maps - but it tried a lot of new things and introduced a ton of people to the series. It was really fun fighting against streetpass teams in college.
It walked so Conquest could run.
Today's headlines are doing a great job at reminding me of my massive 3DS backlog! I loved Awakening from start to finish, but all three Fates titles have been sitting dormant for years. Made some good progress on at least one of them, but I've got a ways to go!
I remember Awakening wasn't even announced at E3 and Reggie just casually mentioned it was gonna get localized. I don't think Nintendo had much hope for it but turns out it was the game that saved the franchise.
As a long time fan of the series I always imagined how cool it would be to have the series gain some recognition and when the series finally broke through I was thrilled to see it have success.
Awakening may be divisive amongst long time FE fans but I personally still think it's great. My friend became a huge fan because of it. Great to see it become a Nintendo staple now.
Awakening was tremendous. Best game on the 3DS in my opinion, certainly the one I put the most time into. I actually finished it, which is very rare for me, and even bought some of the DLC maps so the experience wouldn't end. Sadly, I haven't enjoyed another FE game as much since then. Three Houses is a stellar game, but IMO it leaned too far into the social and romantic parts of the game - still great, but not as good as Awakening.
@mrMike great, that's what I'll do then. Thanks!
This was a good game, and I get sick of the gatekeepers this game brings out. The worst part of fandom is gatekeepers.
I seem to be far in the minority in this, but I could never get past the “1000 year old dragon” character that genuinely looks like a ten year old girl wearing a sexualized s&m outfit, and the fact that you can pair that character up to marry and procreate. Like . . . No game is good enough for me to ignore that, and I genuinely don’t understand why the wide majority of the gaming world doesn’t even see it as worth mentioning. I understand three houses doesn’t have any of this type of thing so I plan to play that one at some point. I love tactics games and love advance wars so I really wanted to love Awakening but I just couldn’t get past this.
If anyone else listens to 8-4 Play then you know as well as I do that it was that 8-4 bump that took the game past the 2 million mark, there are literally dozens of us, dozens !
Great game with some good writing as well, it was really interesting listening to the podcasts about the localisation process. I’ve kind of fallen off FE after Awakening three houses never really clicked with me, but I’ll probably give it another shot whenever I have a spare 60 hours.
Removed - flaming/arguing
Gee, I wonder if anybody at Nintendo is going to come up with a game that will resurrect a series like F-Zero or Star Fox?
If only another beloved, nearly forgotten Nintendo IP could enjoy this same fate... (sadly, I do realize this could apply to so many series).
This was my first FE game and one of my favorite 3DS games. So happy that this series was not only saved from obscurity, but also became one of Nintendo's staple franchises. Three Houses was also great(personally my favorite in the series) I'm excited for Three Hopes as well.
@Astral-Grain IMO, a truly great franchise should be able to adapt with time and still remain familiar. I think that this is what ultimately separates the "great" franchises from the "good". Traditional fans complaining about changes to beloved franchises is a practice as old as the games themselves. Sometimes these fans are correct, but most of the time they're not.
Lastly, what I loved most about Awakening is that they reintroduced concepts that have been absent since Fire Emblem The Sacred Stones (my third favorite game of the series) such as: the overworld map and the ability to choose from one of two class promotions.
I went into Awakening practically blind when I first got my 3DS. Heck I was so ignorant that until I played Awakening I actually thought Marth and Roy were original characters made just for Smash!🤣
I thought from the cover it just looked kind of cool so I bought it and the rest is history. It's my favorite 3DS game by a mile and cemented the series as one I'd continue to play. The others on 3DS didn't quite reach Awakening's highs for me but Three Houses is by far my favorite Switch game as well and I now put the series even above Zelda and Mario in terms of importance to me.
@BLD You know what I mean.
Yes, if you add Waifus, it will save your franchise.
Eagerly awaiting a new Fire Emblem that’s not some stupid warriors game!
I love Awakening, and it inspired me to create an account here (see my Avatar) with the goal of occasionally adding my two cents to the conversation. It was a fantastic game and rekindled my love for tactical strategy games.
And Awakening still remains the best in the entire series.
No way. Radiant Dawn and Path of Radiance are the games to beat.
Three Houses, Shadows of Valentia, Sacred Stones get honorable mentions. Awakening was great but the console FEs are better
Awakening's excellent demo is what catapulted me into the series, and I haven't looked back! I've played all the handheld entries to date...though technically I've only played both localized GBA entries on the Wii U. I recently came into possession of Three Houses but admittedly haven't played it yet.
Oh you can't say this game saved the franchise ppl will be upset and butthurt. It's ***** funny fe fans are so blind to admit this game saved the franchise. Some will even flat outright ***** on this and I wonder if they'd rather the series die out. I started with this entry not gonna lie but I have went and played em all and this is still a solid entry in the series and def one of the tops. Better than the slow ass fe4. Hope that ***** never gets a remake.
My Awakening story: It came out. I had a DS Lite, which would, of course, not play a 3DS game. Cue plan to purchase the latest and greatest tech in order to play more games (I was even going to buy the fancy-shmancy Awakening edition 3DS). The snag in this brilliant plan? I was too young to have had a card of my own to use for online purchasing, and despite that I had cash in hand from my summer job to pay her immediately back for it, mother dearest thought $250 for an updated version of a system I already had was too expensive and wouldn't let me use her card to buy it. From there it was a downward spiral of leaving childhood for the horrible world of adulting and being forever broke, cruising through the game aisle at walmart and gazing enviously at the cool new games I couldn't play because now I had no money to buy the console. With the recent news that the eshop was going to be closing, I, finally with funds in my account and having intended to do this years ago, got myself in gear and wound up spending almost $600 on a new-in-box 3DS XL to someone on then $50 more for the game itself. But you know what? Worth it. I'd wanted to play the game from the moment I first learned about it, and aside from some gameplay gripes compared with past games (since when does a mounted unit not get to use the rest of their range after taking an action?!), I'm so glad I've finally got it, and I've already bought all the DLC so I can have the full experience.
It's also reminded me how much I love Fire Emblem, and just this morning I was listening to the soundtrack for Radiant Dawn, wanting nothing more than to camp out on the couch and replay it. RD was technically my first FE game, because 14 year-old me thought Ike was very attractive and used him almost exclusively in Smash, and upon finding some written description in-game that said he was from Radiant Dawn, off I went to find myself a copy, because cute guy. (I bought a lot of games based on that in my teen years. I haven't exactly stopped.) I say technically because even though that started my journey, I was instantly an addict, and found a copy of FE7 for the Gameboy Advance sitting in a Gamestop display case - obviously an insta-buy - and that was the first one I played through to the end, by virtue of it being portable. While I don't know that I could choose a favorite overall game, my favorite FE guy is definitely from Blazing Blade - Legault is forever and always my man, though Naesala from the Radiant duo is a close second favorite. Oh man, if there'd been Awakening-esque romance in those games... For Awakening itself, I'm really struggling with there only being three save files, because there's so many characters I've come to like and want to pair my Avatar with, but the fact of the matter is I've been waiting almost ten years to marry Libra, and this year, it will finally happen. It's been a long road, but we're almost there, and I can't wait to play more Fire Emblem - I've already got my sights on Fates and Shadows of Valentia so I can get their DLC before the eshop closure as well.
@invictus4000 The game with no feet is the best? I still think the very first GBA western release is the best follow by Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn. Awakening to me is in the top 5 but not exactly the best.
Wow. Still my favorite one. Can we get something similar soon please
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The demo sold it for me, I kept playing it endlessly until the full game launched and it enraptured me for a long time. Best game on 3DS in my opinion and one of the best of all time.
I loved it. Sacred Stones as a 3DS Ambassador wet my appetite to try a series I had only previously seen watching a GBA over a friend's shoulder and not being able to make much out. The demo and then game captured my imagination and I've been playing games of the series since. I think Awakening was the highlight of the 3DS for me with over 1000 some odd hours.
Awakening doesn’t have Dorrrrrrcas, so by default it isn’t the best FE game. Also, while I enjoyed Awakening it set FE down a path I don’t enjoy. Fates was absolutely horrendous, but Shadows of Valentia looks better so I’ll give that a play at some point.
I’m really not into the whole creating your avatar thing either. You just end up with the most generic looking characters ever.
lol, that's a great story. I love RD as my absolute favorite FE but I don't know if it's the best one to introduce someone new to the series for the first time. It's great to see that it still made you interested and ultimately a fan of the series.
Shadows of Valentia is awesome and ranks as the best portable 3DS FE in my opinion. Curious to hear what your least favorite FE in the series is?
I'm glad someone on here pointed out the no feet, lol. FE7 was an awesome game and great intro to the series. There's no beating the Radiant saga
@JeanPaul Its a different experience with more tedious griding in between fights, but its story is really cool. And playing on switch makes it really nice. I would suggest playing if you liked fire emblem for sure, but don't expect it to be better than Awakening
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