Fire Emblem: Awakening

Review: Fire Emblem: Awakening

Fire Emblem is one of those series that is often referred to as a Nintendo classic, but probably one that lots of gamers will admit to never having played. I was one of them until the Sacred Stones came to the 3DS through the ambassador programme. Most will have been introduced to the series by the appearances of heroes Marth, Roy and Ike in the Super Smash Bros. series, but the tactical RPG series remained a niche title in Nintendo’s roster. Despite Awakening being the thirteenth game in the series, it is only the sixth to be released in Europe.

Now it’s time for that to change, and in Fire Emblem: Awakening, developer Intelligent Systems has created something that can be enjoyed by veterans and newbies alike. Unlike the similar Advance/Battalion Wars series (also created by IS), Fire Emblem has always been distinctive for permadeath: when your unit dies in battle, that’s it.

If this doesn’t appeal to you, there is now a “newcomer” mode - a new feature that spares your characters from death even if they are defeated on the battlefield. While this does make the game easier, it also makes it arguably more enjoyable due to the excellent characterisation of the protagonists. Each character has a distinct, fleshed out personality and relationships with other characters, which will develop as the story progresses.

Awakening is set thousands of years after the previous games, further reinforcing that this is a fresh start to the series, but there are nods to the past that are sure to please long-term fans.

Fire Emblem AwakeningThe plot follows the adventures of Prince Chrom of Ylisse and his band of knights. In a first for the series, at the start of the game you create your own customisable player. Unlike other RPGs where your avatar is mute and plays no important part, in Awakening they are absolutely crucial to the plot.

Players take turns with the enemy army to manoeuvre their troops around the map, and battles are fought out using a classic rock/paper/scissors system that dictates which units work best against others in battle. However, it doesn’t all come down to weapon strength – Pegasus knights are inherently weak against bows, while anyone clad in metal should flee from an enemy wielding an Armourslayer sword.

Awakening gives you as much or as little information as you want to help you plan out your battle – unit details and a map are shown on the 3DS’ lower screen, with a toggle to show full or simple information, while a simple press of the X button will bring up a pink grid on the map that shows the range of enemy attacks. This is really crucial for planning movement around the playing field.

Before you commit to an attack, it will show you how much damage you are expected to take, the chance of a critical hit and the chance of missing, so you can decide whether it is worth going ahead with the attack, or holding back.

Awakening develops the support system seen in previous games, where nearby units gain a boost in stats and develop relationships, which are characterised in (often hilarious) conversations outside of battle. As their bonds develop, characters will begin to defend each other and combine their attacks. It is now possible to make two units team up on one square of the map, effectively protecting one from harm and making it easier for support relationships to develop.

Fire Emblem Awakening

It is now also possible for your characters to get married, which will bring children into the world alongside the highest strength of support bonds. These kids can then be recruited via optional side quests. Be warned though, Fire Emblem does not promote polygamy and each character can only marry one other person, and incest is also forbidden! Hardcore fans will pay special attention to which characters they pair up, as the children will inherit stats and special skills from their parents.

There is so much depth to both the battle system and the development of your units – I have barely scraped the surface. On top of following the story, Fire Emblem: Awakening will have you addicted to levelling up your characters, changing their classes, improving their weapon proficiency and building their bonds with other characters.

Grinding is really not required to complete the main story, but the support conversations that result from it make the extra effort really worth it. By the end of the game, you really will feel attached to your team, especially if you’ve dragged them to the brink of death to reach that point.

This game really is a cinematic beauty, with an epic storyline illustrated through a mixture of the in-game CG animations, 2D character cut-outs with text, and stunning anime-style cut scenes, of which there aren’t enough. It truly is a beautiful game (despite the strange stylistic choice not to give the 3D models feet) with some great effects to behold when you have the 3D switched flicked up on your console. The production values are extraordinary.

Fire Emblem AwakeningBattles look as great as the story scenes, with a range of options to view the battle side-on, with a cinematic camera, or even from a first person perspective. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to have a horseback knight run at you with a lance, now’s your chance to find out.

If I were to criticise one aspect of the game, it would be the use of the 3DS’ lower screen. It is only used for displaying stats and I would have liked to see the ability to manage the inventory and to move troops using the touch screen.

Once you’ve completed the 26 main quest levels, you won’t want to leave Ylisse. Fortunately, with 25 side missions plus more to come via both free and paid downloadable content, as well as StreetPass battles which will allow you to recruit other player's avatars to your team, it’s hard to see anyone running out of things to do. That’s without mentioning the four different difficulty levels for players to challenge themselves with and a local multiplayer mode in which you team up with a friend to complete challenges which will reward you with valuable items. Awakening offers a level of depth on a handheld only matched by the likes of Pokémon and Monster Hunter.

This really should be a part of any Nintendo fan’s library. It is the most accessible Fire Emblem yet. It has stepped out of its niche not by simplifying itself, but by refining the formula and adding options so players can play the game the way they want to. The emotional investment with your troop along with the tension caused by the decisions you must make really set this apart from any other RPG. Veterans will love it as they always have, and newcomers will become Fire Emblem fans for years to come.

Its title says it all. This really is Fire Emblem’s awakening. Don’t be scared, this is one of the greatest experiences you will have on the 3DS.


N-Europe Final Verdict

Fire Emblem: Awakening is an absolute must have. An epic adventure which will have you gripped from start to finish thanks to its deep gameplay and loveable characters; this will be sure to keep you busy for many months to come.

  • Gameplay5
  • Playability5
  • Visuals5
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan5
Final Score



Accessible to both old and new fans
Highly customisable
Addictive gameplay
Brilliant characters
Beautiful graphics


Limited use of touch screen
Story scenes not fully narrated

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