Hands On with Fire Emblem: Awakening
It's time to awaken to a new adventure.
So as a disclaimer, this is a look for the first time at the demo. No spoilers or plot points will be discussed within the article.
Fire Emblem: Awakening will have been the first Fire Emblem I've played since I've had my Gameboy Advanced SP. So while I'm not too familiar with how the series has progressed, I'm no stranger to the style and game play of the series. If you're unaware, the Fire Emblem games are turn based strategy RPGs with progressive classes and disposable weapons. What this means, is that you have to be very prepared before every battle. The most trying part of these games, is that when a unit dies. . .that's it. There's no revival, there's no phoenix down. That character is like Aeris/Aerith after a run in with Sephiroth's sword. Naturally, that means essentially, you're running with more 3DS breaking moments than you'd be used to. Take heart, though. You CAN save in battle.
Right off the bat, it's welcoming to newcomers and veterans alike, allowing you to choose your difficulty, and also level of frustration, as it were. In other words, how hard the game will be, and how hard you get hit when you're in battle. If you're not ready for this game, choose normal difficulty on a casual setting. This allows you to not have to endure permanently suffering the loss of a character you truly like, or put so much time into through a rookie mistake. Once you've made your selection of hair ripping intensity, you can go on to create your character. Unlike the much older titles, you're more than just a tactician. I'll get to that in a minute. Choose your appearance, name, birthday, etc. and then choose a stat that you excel in, and also that you have difficulty in. Once you've made the decision, go on and start the game.
You're then thrown right in. You wake up to a Lord, and a cute girl. When you're helped up, you know the Lord by his name, Chrom. While I won't go in to the fact you would conclude that was his name since his sister, Lissa said his name, he'll be surprised that you know it. Then you get introduced to their knight, Frederick. (The wary) This guy finds it very odd that you know Chrom's name, but not your own. Yes, amnesia has happened and you're not even 5 minutes in. (Oh joy!!) While debating on what to do with you, a nearby village is being attacked. So while the 3 of them rush off, you decide to follow, and offer your assistance.
Here's the kicker to the whole thing: You've got some apparent skill. You're also a warrior, with access to tomes. That means you fulfill not just one, but THREE roles. This came as a bit different to me, as you didn't take part in battle before as anything other than a tactician. Anyway, you get your tutorial on as you battle, and obviously, these battles are meant to get you used to the system. What's interesting is that you get to preview the character's abilities, and even their animations. (speaking of which is beautiful.) You obviously get drafted in to the group, and you're now a Shepard. Someone who takes care of the people, much like a shepard does his sheep. You are currently in a land called Halidom of Ylisse. Apparently you are at odds with another country called Plegia to the west. Furthermore, the group you fought were called Brigands. That's another thing they don't go much in to. Perhaps we'll get a more detailed explanation when we get the full game. Without giving too much away, some events lead up to Lissa being saved by a masked warrior who looks oddly familiar. My suspicions were correct, too. This masked warrior goes by the name of Marth. Could he be THE Marth? Is he simply someone who bears the name? Is he perhaps a descendant? You're left with that burning question as the demo ends. Sadly, you get two battles, some dialogue, and some cut scenes.
Graphically, which you'll find isn't exactly my personal selling point, this game is quite beautiful. The designs are nice, but there's something really amiss about their feet. Something minor. The art style can be coined an ode to Radiata Stories or Eternal Sonata. There are fully animated, beautiful cut scenes to keep you occupied as well. Don't worry, you can skip some scenes should you not wish to see them.
Sound wise, the musical score seems to be in place the way it should be. It's definitely enough to set the mood for you. Brilliantly orchestrated scores to suck you in to battle, and match the moment for other scenes. It would also appear as if the script is partially acted out, while having grunts or one or two words for the beginning of their lines. An ode to Radiata Stories as well. For more familiarity, think The Legend of Zelda. From what I've heard, the voice acting is on point. Marth has a feminine. . .well…he's got a female voice. (insert typical Marth joke here)
The gameplay, as I mentioned, offers various forms of difficulty to mix and match. That would lead, naturally, to a moderate to high replayability. Within two battles, you earn 6 characters, including yourself. As with tradition, Fire Emblem allows for a variety of characters to grow, or leave be as you wish. The battle system allows for support by merely standing near your ally, or actually pairing up with them, and moving as a unit. Great for protecting specific allies. Also, as with tradition, you can get a forecast to how your battle encounter with each enemy should go by switching weapons. There's a bit of a rock paper scissors aspect that goes with Swords, Axes, and Lances. Swords beat Axes, Axes beat Lances, and Lances beat swords. Of course, then you have your long range, with tomes and archery, and your healers, which don't attack. You gain weapon proficiency for attacks, and item pickups on the battle field. (Which are random.) Of course, as I mentioned before, be careful of your weapon usage. They're limited, and while slightly encumbering, it's not too much of a hassle to buy another weapon.
The controls aren't very complex. It's a strategy RPG, after all. However, Fire Emblem: Awakening does offer comprehensive explanation for battle. The interface isn't very difficult, and if you've ever played a strategy RPG at all, you should feel right at home. Even if you haven't, it shouldn't take you long to begin to get a feel for how the game handles.
Whether you're new to the Fire Emblem series as a whole, or a returning warrior of varying skill level, this game should definitely be worth the pickup. You can go download the demo for Fire Emblem: Awakening now for your 3DS off the marketplace for free.
Fire Emblem: Awakening will be released in North America on February 4th 2013 as of now.