10 years later, the best Nintendo 3DS game is still holding up
fire emblem is a household name for Nintendo these days, with the Switch now set to receive its third entry in the franchise. But it has not always been so.
At one point, the franchise’s future looked dire. A Segment Iwata asks 2015 revealed that Nintendo is planning Fire Emblem Awakening to be the final game in the series, and developer Intelligent Systems went into the project with that in mind. The result is one of the greatest tactical RPGs of all time and one that forever changed the trajectory of the genre as a whole.
Fire Emblem Awakening feels like Intelligent System throwing every great idea it’s ever had into a jar and somehow that mix turned into something delectable. Until there, fire emblem simply failed to catch on in the West, even though it did quite well in Japan. Several games, namely Geneology of the Holy Warhaven’t even received official English localizations and, due to a lack of innovation in previous years Awakeningsales had even slowly begun to decline in Japan.
What made Awakening such a watershed moment? It mainly comes down to two key factors, accessibility and storytelling. Since the series’ inception in 1990, it had a reputation for being tough as nails, and in many ways it helped set the gold standard for tough tactical RPGs, as well as titles like Tactical Ogre. Fire Emblem Awakening took huge steps to make the game more accessible, introducing multiple difficulty options and a casual mode that allows characters to come back if they fall in battle.
In addition to the variety of difficulty options, other core gameplay features have created dynamic difficulty. Unlike the last two fire emblem games, players could take additional cards to form characters, and the pairing system adds a fantastical new element to battles. For the first time, support relationships, a mostly hidden mechanic, actually had a tangible effect on combat. It was much more important to think about where you placed the units in relation to each other and which ones would work best together.
Even more ingenious is the way these supporting relationships play into the story and create branching mini-narratives. While there’s a gameplay benefit to building relationships, it also unlocks new support conversations that you can watch at camp. This marked a significant boost in story and writing, as most band members had dozens of supporting conversation scenes to unlock. The quality of the writing is what made them shine, as the hilarious and heartfelt conversations help you bond even more with the game’s cast.
In the past fire emblem games, most secondary characters had a bit of dialogue when you recruited them, and unlocking support conversations was much more difficult, not to mention the shortness of the conversations themselves.
Awakening allowed players to bond with its cast of characters, giving a whole new meaning to having favorite units. awakening the support conversations were brilliant, and the franchise would build on them over future entries. The characters occupy a central place in Fire Emblem Three Housesand the game gives players even more ways to hang out and bond with them.
There are a handful of other elements that played into the overall picture of Awakening, as the game reinvented nearly every mechanic the series had ever toyed with. There’s a generation system similar to Geneology of the Holy War, and child characters can change depending on which units you choose to pair. To like Mystery of the emblem, Awakening brings back the custom avatar system, allowing players to create their own character.
The fact Awakening was going to bet the last fire emblem let the development team be extremely ambitious, and it shows in almost every facet of the title. It’s a success story and whatever people’s personal favorite fire emblem games, there is no doubt that ten years later Awakening remains the best and most important entry in the franchise.