An Honest Preview – Fire Emblem: Awakening

Too many previews hype up a game beyond belief. So let’s do something different. Let’s tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly for an upcoming game. 

The last release in the Fire Emblem series was 2008’s Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon on the Nintendo DS. But this was the (second) enhanced-remake of the original game in the series, Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Tsurugi. The last original release was 2007’s Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn for the Nintendo Wii. So it’s been five years since we’ve seen an original release in the tactical-RPG series. But the wait is nearly over for fans. Months of news slowly trickling in, trailers, import impressions, and an eShop demo had led to this. So what do we think of Awakening thus far?

Let’s start with the good.

An Honest Preview - Fire Emblem: Awakening

You play, well, yourself

The game’s main character is Chrom, the prince of the Halidom of Ylisse. But you don’t “play as” Chrom. Instead, you play yourself, a customized character. You’ll choose your appearance, preferred stat, and weakest stat. It’s refreshing to see this pop up in such a game. Want to play as a badass soldier? You can go right ahead. Prefer to shoot people with magic? Step right up.

Relationship building and side-by-side fighting

One of the key differences between Fire Emblem and, say, Advanced Wars, is the emphasis on storytelling. The characters, relationships, and decisions all matter. Fire Emblem: Awakening takes this all one step further. Romantic relationships are developed between male and female characters, which could result in a child being born. Two characters are able to fight side by side. If they have a strong enough bond, the bonus for fighting together will be greater. This not only puts more depth into the game, but also puts the player into different situations based on the friendships and relationships they’ve developed.

Perma-death is still there, but you can turn it off

A recurring theme in modern gaming is making titles accessible to all players. This has come at a cost, however. People cry foul when once popular titles such as World of Warcraft or Devil May Cry don’t offer the insane challenge they once used to. With Fire Emblem: Awakening, however, everyone’s happy. Want to keep the perma-death on? Then you can keep it on. Too intimidated by the feature? Turn it off. Even the game’s difficulty offers various challenges to make people happy. It’s a minor detail, for sure, but one that doesn’t appear often enough.

The anime cutscenes are simply beautiful

Holy cow, the detail. The beauty. The quality. It’s vital that such a story driven game can hook me in with their cutscenes. Fire Emblem: Awakening does just that. Thankfully, all the cinematic cutscenes are presented in a slick, 2D anime style. I can simply sit back and watch the show. But when they’re over…

An Honest Preview - Fire Emblem: Awakening

In-game cinematics don’t look as good and aren’t fully voiced

…I feel like I’m playing Banjo-Kazooie. Characters in the in-game cutscenes aren’t fully voiced. Heck, half the time they aren’t even a quarter-voiced. They’ll respond with grunts or a word. That’s right, one single word. Sometimes you’ll hear someone go “I am not scared!” or “Who are you?” More often than not, however, you’ll hear a “yeah” or a “right.” 1000% disappointing. It reminds me of Baten Kaitos, and I dearly hope I can turn those voices off. They’re distracting.

There seems to be a disconnect between the art styles

Major cutscenes are anime. In-game cutscenes are in 3D with 2D anime character portraits. Gameplay is in 2D and is pixel-based. Battle animations are in 3D. That’s confusing to me, too. I understand that there may have been some limitations in terms of what you can put on the cartridge, but if characters are just going to sit still and talk, why not do what the Tales series has done: only use animated faces with text dialogue? I can’t stress it enough. I don’t like the in-game cutscenes. At all. They’re awful. I can live with the battle animations, however, simply because the transitions in and out are quick and simple. But with so many different art styles going on in one game, I’m confused as to why everything isn’t on the same page.

Will it still be too difficult?

Radiant Dawn was a hard game. Heck, the entire series is known for being on the more difficult side. As I previously stated, there’s plenty of difficulty modes to make everyone happy. But even on the normal setting, I had someone die in chapter 2, simply because everyone ganged up on him when he first entered the battlefield.

Uhhh… that’s totally not entirely fair.

Personally, I don’t mind this. But I’m not everyone. The people who beat Dark Souls with one hand and an eye patch also aren’t everyone. Some people are bad at gaming, but still enjoy playing. I can’t help but wonder how they’ll feel.

An Honest Preview - Fire Emblem: Awakening

Fire Emblem: Awakening has the potential to be a great game. But the question is, will all of it’s redeeming qualities outweigh my worries? I really, really want to say yes. After all, I finished Baten Kaitos despite the horrific voice acting and pacing issues. But there’s something different about Fire Emblem. I feel like more matters here. I can lead people to either their victory or their death. There’s a larger story and more at stake. Maybe that’s why I’m paying more attention to the game’s faults. Time will tell how I ultimately feel about the game. But the wait won’t be long. Fire Emblem: Awakening is due out February 4th.