Fire Emblem Awakening Hands On Preview
Don’t sleep on Nintendo’s latest strategy game.
The Nintendo 3DS is getting its fair share of great looking games in 2013. With games like Luigi’s Mansion 2, Animal Crossing, and Pokemon X and Y all coming out this year, there will be plenty for 3DS owners to get their hands on. Sooner than all of those comes the niche, but respected strategy game Fire Emblem: Awakening, the latest in a long series of strategy titles exclusive to Nintendo’s consoles. What I can tell you from my hands-on with the game is that not only is there a great game on the horizon, but it might just be one of the best 3DS games yet.
Fire Emblem has been a series that has been praised and lauded for its difficulty and unforgiving nature. The series usually lets players take control of a band of characters, usually led by one lead protagonist, in his quest to keep the peace in their respective kingdoms. One of the initial draws, for me anyway, was that when you lose a character in battle, they are gone for good and are no longer usable in combat. This means that every move counts and that you have to be tactful in order to keep everyone alive. This holds true in Awakening but in order to ease fans in, there is a Casual mode where characters come back to life after every battle. This will ensure that people new to the series can still enjoy their time with it, but experienced players will likely want to select the Classic mode, where death is final.
One of the first things that caught my attention during my time with the demo was the character creation. Players have the chance to create an avatar that will be a main character in the story alongside the main protagonist Chrom. You can change everything from the hair and build, to voice, assets and flaws. The assets and flaws in particular are related to stats like health and magic. Your asset will be a stat that your avatar specializes in, while your flaw is a stat that your character will not be as good with. This adds a pretty cool dimension to the game, letting you feel in tune with the universe just a bit more.
After creating my character, I was greeted with a beautifully rendered cutscene that reminded me of Valkyria Chronicles. Your avatar wakes up in a field greeted by the protagonist Chrom and his younger sister Lissa. Your avatar is an unfortunate victim of amnesia, but still remembers various names and abilities that are intriguing to Chrom. Their conversation is interrupted by an enemy invasion that you and your newfound allies must dispense of.
Fire Emblem: Awakening is full of gameplay tweaks that enhance the tried and true strategy formula and make it seemingly better than ever. One of the coolest and most important new features lets you pair up members of your squad on the battlefield. This can be done by placing members of your party next to each other on the battlefield, and by pairing up two characters and having them occupy the same slot. Having your teammates work together like this has a multitude of advantages. Your squad mates gain stat bonuses and assistance in battle from being in these pairs. Having them work together also increases their relationship or friendship, which increases the effectiveness of these stat bonuses.
Anyone who knows Fire Emblem knows that the game is far from a cakewalk. Tact is as important as ever, and the pairing system adds a lot of depth to every move. I was constantly trying to position my units in the best spots to gain the benefit of team stat bonuses. Enemies are smart too, always going after weak links in the party, or even the player’s avatar whose death leads to an automatic game over. Even in the short introductory chapters, I found myself as engaged as ever by the new tweaks to the combat.
Chapter 1 of the game also introduces new zombie-like enemies known as the Risen, who pose a mysterious threat. Things get even more confusing with the introduction of a character posing as the legendary hero Marth (who many might know from the Super Smash Brothers series). Though the demo was short, it was sweet, and kept me going back to it to find the best strategies to fell my opponents and keep my allies alive and well. I’ve only begun to dive into Awakening's new features, but I’m extremely excited to play the full game and see what it has to offer. Fire Emblem: Awakening launches on February 4 for the Nintendo 3DS.