When Marth and Roy first appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee for the Nintendo Gamecube, it was for advertising purposes as Fire Emblem - Fuuin no Tsurugi was about to be released in Japan for the Gameboy Advance. However, their appearance also meant that Western audiences could finally experience the Fire Emblem series for the first time and it has proven popular enough for several games to make it to Western shores. Fire Emblem - Awakening is the latest game in the franchise to come out and it is hands-down one of the best games that the franchise has to offer as well as one of the best games for the Nintendo 3DS period.
The story is quite solid with memorable characters and an engaging plot that, while having a somewhat generic start, soon begins to grow in complexity as the chapters go on. Western fans of the series will also be delighted that Support Conversations have been brought back in full force in this game, especially after the lackluster version seen in Radiant Dawn and its absence in Shadow Dragon. These Support Conversations do not just serve to give bonuses to paired-up characters; they give players a deeper look into each character, providing backstory and greater depth, helping each character stand out and not be relegated into flat character' territory.
The game mechanics are also quite solid and provides a lot of strategic opportunities for players. The Reclassing system allows players to customize every character, giving each one a major boost in effectiveness through learning new abilities and allowing certain stats to gain significant boosts. The Double Up system also allows for more strategic play, encouraging players to think over how to distribute their army and what layout would be best for a good offense and defense. The game also includes several modes to suit every player's style; players can tackle classic style where every death is permanent and every decision counts, or they can instead play a more casual style where they can save more often and defeated units return by the end of every skirmish.
There are a few hiccups, however, in this otherwise excellent game. The inventory system may take a while to get used to, especially when it comes to having one character give an item to another on the map screen. Thankfully this is not a major issue, though there might be a few people who will find managing items a little tedious. Another very small issue is the presence of characters from other Fire Emblem games in certain bonus episodes. Many of these characters come from games that were never released outside of Japan and it might cause confusion among those who are unfamiliar with the franchise. Luckily, none of this impacts the story and newcomers into the franchise can still fully enjoy this game.
It took nearly ten months for Fire Emblem Awakening to reach North American shores, but it was worth the wait. The solid writing, the variety of modes to suit a wide range of play style, great replay value, and a fantastic localization makes this a must-own for anyone who owns a Nintendo 3DS. This is a game that both old fans and newcomers into the Fire Emblem franchise can enjoy.
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