After playing through Fire Emblem 7 and 8, my addiction has continued with Awakening. I’ve recently beaten it after one hell of a ride. This one however had many bumps. It’s a great game but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the GBA games. My first mistake was playing on Hard mode, it was NOT worth it. It is not hard at all. The game cheats and trolls, to the point where it forces you to cheese the game and troll back. The balance of this game is all over the place, with a decently challenging first 10 chapters, a BRUTAL period shortly after, then an incredibly easy final 8 chapters. Obviously everyone’s going to see this differently, since different people die, level ups are random, and we all focus on different characters. However, I can only talk about my experience and it was bad.
This is where my Awakening experience fell apart, because quite simply it re-enforces the defensive mechanics in this game, forcing you to optimise the Support and Pair Up mechanics to ride out waves of enemy spawns. This map has reinforcements come from 4 different places outside the map, and you pretty much have no choice but to stand there and wait. In Hard Awakening, enemies can attack on the SAME TURN they randomly spawn, meaning an entire quarter of the map is instant death if one of them is a Pegasus Unit with huge movement. Most of the map design in this game is nonexistent, just a big open field with enemy reinforcements you have to guess. Not fun, man. There are several chapters where I can’t criticise the map layout, because there was NO layout. This was one of them. It also made me realise how powerful the Pair Up mechanic is.
Pair Up is fucking broken and ruined the last 8 chapters for me, because it’s the only way I could get through them. I can’t even tell if this was intended or not, because the game design is so inconsistent. You basically combine two units to make one mega unit that will never die. I had one unit with super high Speed and Luck stats (again, not sure if intended or I got lucky with level ups, since THOSE are random too) and after being Paired Up her stats grew even more. I could just send her into the middle of any battlefield and every attack would miss her. It completely broke any sense of strategy to this game. Pair Up and win. Almost all my units could survive like this with their added defense.
The story is another thing that I felt was unbalanced. There are some brilliant moments and a lot of garbage. I was almost immediately put off by Chapter 3, where you have to kill a bunch of people to prove you’re a good person. What the fuck? This was a test of Chrom’s character to me, because he just fucking does it and doesn’t really try to find another way. The characters are weak and meaningless at this point. It’s like they are defined by “Wow, great combat skillz!!“. You’re such a great tactician Robin! You’re also a fucking liar.
Maybe because YOU LOST YOUR FUCKING MEMORY. That is probably why you haven’t seen so many people before. ARGH, how the fuck can a writer miss this? At least phrase it differently please. Like, “WOW, that’s a lot of people!“. Even worse is that Robin has the most casual support conversations in the world, almost immediately in this game. She just appeared out of nowhere with no memory, and starts joking with your crew like they’ve known each other their whole lives. It’s fun and all but it just feels so uncanny to me. Like, what is the point in fighting for these people? I don’t like any of them except Frederick, who basically notices their behavior and makes fun of it. I think there’s some amusing dialogue in this game, but it just killed any weight to the story for me. It doesn’t tell you anything about the land, all these potentially cool things are happening but the story doesn’t present them at all. I think that’s why I really loved Sacred Stones because everything was important. To Awakening’s credit, I thought the way the story unfolded was very good. There was some real smart connection of ideas and some things did surprise me. It had a very interesting script but I couldn’t get into it because the writing was so forgiving.
The whole marriage thing, I don’t even want to talk about it. Let’s just say I’m never making a female avatar in Fire Emblem ever again. I just thought the Male Robin looked really dumb, and suddenly I’m getting marriage proposals from handsome men. The uncanny feeling was unshakeable at this point, but I actually enjoyed the connections between characters, and it was nice to chill in the barracks. Even if it broke the gameplay, the fact that characters cared about each other was a good addition to the game, and had a strong presence on the battlefield. Even THIS, I still had a problem with. I was playing on Hard Classic and had 13 deaths throughout the game. This means I missed out on a lot of potentially interesting dialogue, and even playable chapters. There is almost no benefit to playing this game the Classic way due to the way it is structured.
The music was probably my biggest disappointment coming from the GBA games. It’s not BAD, just too depressing and boring for my tastes. There is no HYPE, just a wash of instruments all falling over each other. It sounds more like Tales of the Awakening than Fire Emblem. Not a single arrangement surprised me. Oh yeah, the voices annoyed me too. It’s the same bunch of generic voices I’ve heard in every RPG in the last two decades. Sure they do a great job, but feel very unwelcome in the Fire Emblem universe. I switched Japanese voices on for the first time EVER in a game, and surprisingly enjoyed it because it felt foreign and videogamey again. The way the English voices would say one word to sum up a whole sentence also pissed me off. It was super distracting to hear a different word to what I was reading.
I have a mixed opinion of the graphics as well. When I first started Awakening, coming from the GBA games I was like “Whoa, 3D graphics! Cutscenes! Amazing!” but it quickly faded in gameplay. On one hand the 3D environments are amazing, but it makes the gameplay less functional. The 3D battles are pointless, quite frankly. I don’t get the appeal of 3D models existing just to do a canned animation, when it just doesn’t look better than 2D battles. The map is also more awkward with its viewpoint not directly from the top, and units not coloured in a way to tell which ones are enemies. I would quite often have to hold the cursor over enemies just to see them properly, and that is not a graphical “improvement” to me.
Anyway, I still overall enjoyed it because despite a bad story, broken mechanics, and awful music, it’s still Fire Emblem. I debated whether this writeup was worth doing because I hate being that guy who tells people something they like was bad. It made me realise that Fire Emblem games must be fucking HARD to make. In such a specific genre like strategy, every single map must be balanced for multiple situations, and with all the new features people expect like DLC, Spotpass and Casual mode, it might just have been too much for them. I am not a negative person and I can see why people love this game. I think if I actually was enjoying the music and story, I’d have had a much more positive attitude towards the gameplay. There was just no downtime, or any sense that the journey was worth it. It’s just an opinion and maybe if I play through again, it’ll be different. If anyone has suggestions how to enjoy it more, I will take them. I don’t regret playing it, despite hating every individual aspect of it. I would say 80% of the time I was enjoying it. Hell, I played for 50 fucking hours. I just won’t be touching any DLC and hope Fates is designed a lot better.