Fire Emblem Awakening: The Hail Mary

It can be hard to believe that Fire Emblem was once a niche series. It’s a household name these days, a pillar of the Nintendo first party stable, a game that has a dedicated fanbase and one that always moves millions of copies whenever a new series comes out. You would have thought that was always the way things were, but no. In fact before 2012, Fire Emblem was a series on its literal last legs, in danger of cancellation if the last game didn’t sell. That game however did sell, and not only saved the entire franchise, but became one of the greatest tactical RPGs of all time. After the cut, let’s take a dive into Fire Emblem Awakening.

As always, with anime inspired games, these posts are always divided into two sections: Story and Gameplay.

The Story

Now I’ll be honest. I don’t play Fire Emblem games for the story. I find they mostly all just blend together with the idea of kingdoms, wars, betrayals, sinister dark forces, and nameless heroes. It’s all good stuff, but not something that has kept me at the seat of my pants. I have always preferred the tactical combat and I’ve more often than not just skipped through the cutscenes. That said however, I won’t deny that Awakening has some great moments. The in-game cutscenes are some of the best ever produced in the series, and there are a few moments that can get your heartstrings tugged.

It’s incredible the quality of the cutscenes from the 3DS. Just breathtaking.

Every character, regardless of their importance to the plot has their own character arc and story with an part in the epilogue that show where they end up. Of the cast, I found myself enjoying Chrom, Lucina, Emmeryn, Miriel, Olivia and God, sorry, Donnel the most. Robin the main player character is really just a blank slate There is something for everyone here and the support system will get you very invested in how they end up. I enjoyed how the idea of the child characters is directly tied to the plot (something later entry Fates replicates to less success), and doesn’t just feel like a gameplay gimmick. And damn if that final scene isn’t a heartwarming one if you make the right choice. Overall I would say that Awakening’s story is enjoyable, if forgettable and if something that will tie the missions together as you delve yourself into the oh so obsessives gameplay.

Awakening has something for everyone and you’ll grow to love a bunch of them.

The Gameplay

Fire Emblem is a tactical game at its core, and what you see in Awakening is what you’d expect from this genre. You have a grid map where you move singular units around. Characters have their own classes, that can be leveled up and change, weapons are part of a ‘rock-paper-scissors’ sort of triangle. There are secret abilities, mixing and matching types, and plenty of plenty of battles. It’s all classic Fire Emblem and even on the 3DS, it looks, plays and feels great.

Simple, but deep is the way Fire Emblem has always been and you’ll lose hours in the combat.

However, what made Awakening stand out was two important things. The first was the introduction of a casual mode. Veterans of the series will know that Fire Emblem can be ruthless in its difficultly, and older games never had an alternative option to perma-death. With Awakening and the ‘hail-mary’ approach, instead decided to add this in and in turn, made the game way more accessible. Instead of wasting hours training your characters only to have them die to an unlucky crit, mistakes are much more forgiving and you are able to pick and choose your units with much more variety. It was a good decision, one that did irk long time fans, but considering the sales, you can see why it worked.

This new mode lets you rest easy when your characters dies and is great for beginners.

But the most important thing, was…simply put: the shipping.

Introduced in this game, the bond system involves pairing two characters together to build up their support ranks. As the rank climbs from D to S, character pairs can benefit each other in battle. Whether it was extra attacks, blocking enemy ones, increasing power. The power from this game came from the endless combinations you could have from the units. Want two mages? Go for it. Want an archer and knight combo? Fucking do that. Want a swordsmaster and dancer to run through stuff? Have at it! It is an endless pool of experimentation and fun that leaves every playthrough feeling different. However the support system goes further as the characters who reach S rank will end up getting married and having kids.

Mixing and matching the characters through battle and romance makes the game endlessly re-playable.

Now I don’t need to talk about ‘shipping’ and the online fandoms obsession with it. That said, as someone who doesn’t care (most of the time) who ends up with whom in a story, I found myself getting very attached to the couples I ended up making and wanting them in my party as much as possible. Furthermore the romantic pairings actually have a gameplay reason, with the child characters inheriting their parents abilities, which can lead to some really cool unit combinations. It’s just a damn fun mechanic and makes yourself become far more attached to who you play with, doubly so if you have perma-death enabled.


I’ve said before, but there are only a handful of video games that I’ve played ‘to the bone’. Games that I’ve adored and that have formed a cornerstone of my experiences. The first two generations of Pokemon, the Mass Effect Trilogy and World of Warcraft are those games, and Fire Emblem Awakening is another. I love this game to the very depths of my soul and I have sunk countless upon countless hours into it. It was my first entry into the series, and one that never let me go. While the story is indifferent to me, the gameplay is just so fun, so gripping, so compelling that just thinking about the game makes me want to play it again. I know this game has some old fans as detractors but the truth is in the text. This was the entry that not only saved Fire Emblem from cancellation, but catapulted it to top tier status among Nintendo’s gallery. We live in such a bright future for this franchise now, and that is solely because of this entry. There would be no Fates, no Three Houses and no Engage if it wasn’t for this hail-mary of a game. Give it a look if you are so inclined and surrender yourself to the addiction.

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