I’ve loved JRPGs for a while now, but Fire Emblem was something I never really considered playing. At first, I think it was because I didn’t hear about it all that often, but once I did hear about it, I quickly learned that one of its defining features is that if a character dies in battle, they do not come back. As someone who essentially takes a Leeroy Jenkins approach in most games, I knew that I would never be able to clear a game that featured permadeath. But, a week or two ago I was informed that Fire Emblem Awakening gives you an option of playing the game without
permadeath. So I did a little research, then downloaded the demo, and then decided to cash in some of my GameStop points to pick up Awakening. This was a very good decision.
For starters, yes, I definitely needed Casual Mode—I lost my first unit in my third battle, I’m pretty sure every unit in my army has died at least once, and I know of a particular unit whose death count I lost track of around 5. (She did go on to become one of my best units, though.) I do want to follow the series as it goes forward, but if Casual Mode disappears then I know I’m not going to be able to. So I really, really
hope it’s here to stay.
With each weapon having a limited number of uses…I am not a fan of this mechanic, but it is unique, and it isn’t that much of a pain. I guess I really only care because I’m a bit of a hoarder. I was initially disappointed that we couldn’t replay previous chapters, but then I realized there are equivalents to random battles, so it’s no great loss. The Pair Up feature is something I didn’t use a whole lot for a while. I now realize this was a bad idea and I need to use it a lot more, not just for the advantage, but because I really want to see more Support conversations. The few I have seen are delightful. I really
like that units gain EXP for acting rather than just for defeating the enemy. It makes it a lot easier to power up units, especially weaker ones. The slow level progression confused me before I realized the full extent of how the Class system works. I have several upgraded classes and a few units who have maxed out an upgraded class, so now I need to get a feel for re-classing with the Second Seal, which is…something I’m wary about. I feel like what these units are doing now works so well that I don’t want to change it. Of course, I do realize their stats are frozen unless I do this, so I’m going to have to change my mind.
But what really draws me into something is simply how it feels, and while the super-over-worried part of me did rear its ugly head, I realize that those concerns are silly and, in and of itself, Fire Emblem is just plain fun. It’s a big fantastical world of swords and magic on par with Final Fantasy, with interesting mythology and abilities, plus a potentially enormous cast of characters who are all legitimately fascinating to get to know. The story is grand and epic, but there remains a vital stream of humor at the same time—not to the degree of Final Fantasy V (Awakening limiting its light tones to early chapters and the Support conversations rather than being full-on self-parody like FFV), but this is certainly not a bad thing. It strikes an excellent balance, in my opinion, and once you earn the humor it, along with the enduring hope throughout the story, keeps you and your characters strong in even the darkest moments of the plot. I had so much trouble putting this game down. I bought it on the 12th
and beat it on the 19th
One thing that kind of bothers me is that so many of the characters are only important during their introduction. I realize that this is most likely the case so that the story can continue on no matter who gets killed off, and it makes a lot of sense with the whole permadeath thing. For me, though, there were times when I felt like this giant herd was a little more faceless than I wanted it to be, and now I want to search all the Support conversations I haven’t gotten to so I can feel like they all matter. Also when you get to those few scenes where they get a statement from everyone in the army, it runs a little long. The final roster went by so slowly that the credits actually finished before it did. And I didn’t even recruit everyone. I also have a few unanswered questions/things I wanted to see in more detail, and I feel like the “find the Gemstones” part of the plot was sort of rushed. Every game has its flaws.
The dating sim element is also fun. Since I was focused mainly on the story and didn’t utilize Pair Up as much as I should’ve, there are only two couples in my army right now: Chrom and Sumia (she was clearly in love with him so I wanted it to work out), and the Avatar (Zadakh) and Anna. (At first I was just going to fight on and see if Zadakh ended up with anyone. Then I recruited Anna, and, well…she’s cute…and since then I’ve learned she’s the FE equivalent of Cid so that’s cool.) As for the children, I’ve been keeping Lucina around (though I haven’t used her quite as much as I’d like to), I recruited Cynthia but haven’t really used her at all, and I also recruited Morgan, but she’s been having trouble even after Class Changing to an Assassin. I have a lot more to explore in this area…
So basically, Fire Emblem is very engrossing, I really like it and will continue to follow it as long as they keep Casual Mode so I can actually play it. You done good, Nintendo.
Now to play Earthbound.