Fire Emblem Awakening Review

fea My past exposure to the Fire Emblem series has been rather brief. This should be unsurprising for a game series that rarely comes over to North America. I am, of course, somewhat familiar with the characters that have made an appearance in the Smash series as well as having played one previous game in the Fire Emblem series. I’m also not much of a fan when it comes to Tactics RPGs and, in fact, my taste for turn-based RPGs in general has waned over the years as I have grown tired of level-grinding. So, I was not particularly looking forward to Fire Emblem Awakening on the 3DS.


Fire Emblem Awakening is, as I mentioned, a Tactics RPG. For those unfamiliar, that means the combat portion of the gameplay is much more passive rather than actively selecting abilities and powers. I would liken the gameplay to a game of Chess or a card battle game such as Magic the Gathering. Whether or not you come out of a fight victorious depends mostly on the units you select and the weapons and items you equip them with. While you can watch the individual battles play out, all of the die rolls, calculations, and ability triggers take place behind the scenes.

Weapon selection plays a rather large role in preparing for combat. When engaging an enemy unit, the game allows you to select from any of the weapons in your unit’s inventory which they are able to use. This plays on the fact that various weapons have strengths and weaknesses. For example, flying units are weak against bow and arrows and wind tomes, and there is a rock-paper-scissors styled system at play with axes, swords, and lances. The class of each unit defines not only what weapons they can use, but also their stats and available skills.

So, speaking of skills, this entry in the Fire Emblem series makes use of an extensive re-classing system in order to allow different characters unique sets of skills. This is limited by the fact that each of your units is in fact a character, thereby limiting the classes that each has available to them. The only exception to this is your Avatar (My Unit) which has all classes available to their gender minus a few exceptions. This is quite useful as a number of the class-specific skills are very useful to any class, such as Galeforce which allows the unit a second turn upon defeating an enemy. This system also keeps Units from becoming useless, for example: a character that joins your team as an advanced class can be re-classed to a basic class in order to gain the skills and stat boosts from leveling.


Grinding levels in this game is not quite as mind-numbingly annoying as in some others. This seems to be a purposeful attempt on the part of the developers. Primarily you have access to shops that sell an item that causes the map you are at to spawn enemies. In addition, DLC is used twice-over to lessen the time it takes to level. One map has only enemies that grant a boosted amount of experience upon defeat, while another grants you an item which can be used to grant any unit a skill which doubles experience gain.

One element ubiquitous to the Fire Emblem series is that losing a battle causes permanent death for the losing unit. While you can play Fire Emblem Awakening with this system active, this game in the series also allows you to play in “Casual Mode” which prevents perma-death. This option makes this game an excellent entry-point for this series, and indeed genre, as well as opening up the series to people who do not care for the perma-death system.


Fire Emblem Awakening has a well-written story that easily manages to reel you in. Despite the involvement of time travel, something that I find often complicates or outright harms a story, everything is kept quite solidly together. Even the odd side story or character that comes out of nowhere doesn’t feel particularly out of place. Honestly, the writing is some of the best I’ve seen in RPGs and the localization, despite a few flubs, did a fantastic job overall. They managed to maintain the action, drama, and comedy without any falling flat. I don’t want to go too in-depth as I think everyone should check out this story for themselves, be it from the game or a Let’s Play.


Perhaps some of the best moments of both humor and character development come from Awakening’s Support conversations. These are conversations between two characters which are unlocked by having the characters fight together. Each of the characters is a bit of a cliche in their own way, however, the quality of the writing shows that cliches aren’t always a bad thing. Indeed, many of the support conversations make light of the character’s trope-lidden traits.


Traditionally, the Fire Emblem series makes extensive use of 2D sprites and backgrounds. In this regard, Awakening is a departure from the norm as all the battle scenes and cutscenes are rendered with 3D models. This actually ends up meshing perfectly with the use of the 3DS’ 3D visuals. The only apparent loss in this conversion is that of the character’s feet. As the character models appear to have tiny peg leg-like feet at the end of their legs. In regard with the 3D effects, Fire Emblem Awakening has some of the best 3D I’ve seen on the 3DS. This is particularly evident in the cutscenes which look absolutely fantastic in 3D. The anime style art used for character portraits as well as still scenes is also top-quality.

The game does still use more traditional visuals for the overworld map and the battle grounds. While not as striking as the newly utilized 3D, this still looks perfectly fine and your units are still typically easily identifiable on the map by their unique hair/head.

As far as sound, the standout to me is most certainly the voice acting. Despite only being used for a few cutscenes and brief interjections, the voice acting is very good and from what I have heard, nearly perfectly matches the original Japanese voice acting. The game also boasts an excellent score with some quite memorable and catchy music. The sound effects, while not bad, certainly pale in comparison to the music and voice acting.



At the very beginning of the game, you will encounter the character creation system where you get to select your character’s gender, appearance, and voice based on a hand full of preset options. This is nice as it provides some extra immersion into the game’s world, and the option to select your gender is always a nice edition.

As you progress through the game, you’ll run across a number of paralogues which are essentially optional story content. As long as you meet certain criteria the maps will unlock, usually holding a new character. Some of these have especially challenging tasks you must perform in order to recruit the new character. Some of these paralogues are also unlocked through the 3DS’ SpotPass function. This function also unlocks special enemy teams (characters from previous games in the Fire Emblem series), special legendary items, and new teams in Double Duel.

Double Duel is the game’s multiplayer mode. It allows you and a friend to select three characters each and the team you wish to battle. Each round consists of you and your partner selecting a character to use for that turn. Rounds alternate who is in the primary role and who is the support role. You are then challenged to defeat the enemy team with those characters. It is notable in this mode that you are not allowed to select the character’s weapon and you will automatically use the weapon currently equipped.

The game also features a StreetPass functionality. For this, you set up a team of 10 units– your character and 9 others– you wish to send to others’ games. After that is set, upon StreetPassing someone, your team will appear on their world map and vice versa. You can interact with the team in a variety of ways including battling, purchasing of items, and recruiting.

Awakening also have several available DLC packs. Each pack includes three maps, available to purchase separately. These maps are designed to provide extra challenge, longevity, special skills, and classes. Some of these maps include other unique features such as the aforementioned EXP gain map and special conversations between units. About half of these DLC Maps also include references to other games including some past characters who can be recruited to your army.


Despite my initial skepticism, I have thoroughly enjoyed this game. It is one of the few times I have ever found encouragement to level grind and specifically I found the reclassing system very enjoyable. I’m also someone who has been turned off of this series in the past due to the perma-death system so the ability to play without that was a welcomed change.

I certainly recommend Fire Emblem Awakening to series veterans and fans, however, I would also say this is a game everyone should try. The casual system, difficulty selection, and re-classing system combine to make it very approachable to people not familiar with the genre.

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