|Dev: Intelligent Systems|
|Release: February 4, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes|
by Sean Engemann
Though January is a frozen, barren wasteland when it comes to Nintendo releases, the 3DS will smash through the ice starting in February with a bombardment of marquis titles. Kicking things off in a big way is Fire Emblem: Awakening.
The venerable series, which was once confined to a Japanese audience, has made a significant mark on the Western audience. Fans on this side of the Pacific keep begging for localization of the entire series and wait with bated breath for each new title to be announced. Fire Emblem: Awakening is the eleventh installment of the series, the first for the 3DS, and it’s jam-packed with dozens of hours of content.
Not messing around with the tried and true setting, you can expect a medieval fantasy backdrop with tenuous politics and warring factions, vibrant characters with distinct personalities, and strategic turn-based combat that is both challenging and engaging. In Awakening, the Holy Kingdom of Ylisse is in a precarious position with neighboring Plegia, with bandits and political corruption threatening war to the land. To make matters worse, an evil force of undead has been roused, led by a baleful dark dragon bent on consuming the world.
You will play alongside Chrom, commander of the Ylisse forces and brother to the Empress. Throughout the campaign you will enlist over thirty playable characters, with many others adding gravy to the story.
The word alongside was key in the previous paragraph, as you will be able to create your own customizable character, choosing a gender, facial and body features, and eventually different class options. Not only will your unique character play a major role in the storyline, but with the StreetPass, your character can be enlisted by other Fire Emblem owners in the vicinity, and vice versa.
Each of the playable characters has their own personality and demons to overcome, and many different classes to toy with. These classes can even be promoted for upgraded statistics and new abilities. Aside from gaining combat experience and leveling up, characters can also build relationships with each other, some even turning romantic, creating multiple directions for the story to unfold. Some relationships will unlock side quests, giving the already lengthy campaign tremendous replayability.
The grid-based combat system fills each encounter with environmental obstacles and a variety of enemies, requiring different tactics to succeed. Working as a team has many different benefits. When attacking next to an adjacent ally, your bond will increase with those characters, simultaneously growing the relationship and their efficiency in combat. Two characters can also combine forces for a dual attack, with beneficial effects and combo powers depending on the classes. Purchase items to bolster your troops, tailor your own weapons and armor from scratch, and scour the globe for rare artifacts, all to strengthen your stalwart force against a challenging opponent and unforgiving A.I. tactics.
You'll be able to enjoy the epic tale through various visual presentations. Text-based conversations, in-game cutscenes, and fully rendered cinematics all work together to weave a symphony of sights and sounds. The in-game character models may have rough edges, and the combat maps sport an archaic facade, but considering how much content is crammed into a 3DS cartridge, all at a portable game price, it will be easily overlooked. The compositions from the trailers are an audible delight, and considering the orchestral pedigree of previous Fire Emblem titles, we can expect these epic melodies to perfectly compliment the campaign.
Apart from the StreetPass "My Unit" trading, there is also information floating around the web about local two-player skirmishes on a select number of maps. I have not seen an official confirmation of this from Nintendo, so for the moment I will simply cross my fingers and hope the American release has this feature incorporated.
However, there will not be any online PvP matches. Instead, Nintendo is taking advantage of a thus-far underutilized system in the form of DLC. Fire Emblem: Awakening will have popular characters from past titles available for purchase, with side quests and new storylines to pursue. If we're lucky, Nintendo will grant the Western audience the same courtesy they did for their native residence and offer Marth as a free purchase for a limited time.
RPGs are very efficient at draining the battery life from our portable systems. Fire Emblem: Awakening looks to be of high enough quality that you'll keep your home consoles powered off, instead opting for hours of 3DS time while on the couch or in bed. If you like the strategy genre, you'll get more than a bargain with this new entry, and if you're a diehard fan of the series, don't worry; the February 4th release date is less than a month away.
Date: January 7, 2012