A trip down memory lane with Fire Emblem Awakening.

Fire Emblem Awakening is a special game for me, as it was the first I’ve played from a series that would quickly grow to be one of my favorites. Awakening released in Europe on April 19th, 2013 and I picked up my copy on release date after much deliberating.

Back in 2013 I just came off age and discovered the joy of those few years in your 20’s where you have enough money to pick up a game on release day, but also still had enough game to enjoy those games right away. Fire Emblem Awakening was one of the first games I’ve ever preordered after hearing a lot of praise for the series from friends.

Awakening had a lot of features that I, as a beginner in the series, desperately needed, like the option to turn off permadeath (which is something I didn’t use for my first playthrough of Three Houses, and I can tell you; I still need it). Characters that I fell in love with the moment I saw them, despite them not having feet.

Seriously Intelligent Systems, what’s up with this? Why don’t they have feet?

but what’s arguably the most important thing of all I that Awakening was very beginner-friendly and slowly eased me into the Fire Emblem series, getting me used to its mechanic and slowly cementing the series as a favorite of mine for years to come.

Fast forward a few years, and Awakening has helped the series change its fate from being canceled due to a lack of sales to being one of the most anticipated games selling 800,000 digital units in its launch month alone. I was beyond excited for Fire Emblem: Three Houses to the point where I canceled all my meetings for the afternoon of July 26th, 2019 and continued to play until I beat my first route. That didn’t leave me completely satisfied, however. playing Three Houses had only ignited my love for Fire Emblem further, and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the series just yet. That’s why I decided to buy myself a new copy of Fire Emblem Awakening after losing it in a burglary years prior and experience my first Fire Emblem all over again.

Playing Fire Emblem Awakening after Three Houses

After Three Houses I honestly suspected Awakening to be tough to get into due to the 6-year step back in technology and Awakening being the first 3D Fire Emblem. I was honestly surprised to discover that this wasn’t the case at all; the cutscenes were beautifully animated, welcoming you (back) to the game right away.

Beautifully animated cutscenes welcome you right away.

Sadly, these cutscenes are held back by the resolution of the 3DS (just 400 x 240 pixels) when viewed on a bigger screen (while the XL’s 800 x 240 pixels still looks fine, anything bigger than that looks incredibly blurry). Not all the cutscenes in Fire Emblem Awakening are animated, as the cutscenes that play out right before missions use the 3D models that are also used for the fighting animations.

Due to the technical limitations of the 3DS, these models didn’t age well in the current day and age. And while the models look fine in the fast-paced battle animations, they look very rough compared to never installments (even echoes, which also released on the 3DS) in the cutscenes.

While I understand re-using these models for saving memory, sadly they didn’t allow for showing emotions in these cutscenes where the characters are mainly standing still and having a conversation. This makes these cutscenes feel very stiff and boring, despite them giving us important information to Awakenings overarching plot.

The presentation

Despite the 3D models not having aged the best, the presentation of Awakening is still incredible with hand-drawn portrait sprites during support conversations and gorgeous 2D sprites for the battle overview.

Both these decisions have improved the presentation of the game tremendously, leaving more than enough space for text boxes and the battle UI on the 3DS’s small screen while still maintaining a good overview over your units in the battle and being able to read into the expressions of the characters during supports. The game isn’t completely voice acted, but the parts that are truly enhancing the experience of the game and of incredibly good quality. The cast is incredible with names that’d quickly become known in the industry like Laura Bailey, which voiced Sarah Farron in Final Fantasy XIII and went on to voice Rise Kujikawa in Persona 4 and Cheria Barnes in Tales of Graces.

Gameplay

Awakening was the first Fire Emblem on the 3DS and introduced a lot of mechanics that have since been incoörporated in the following instances. Awakening was the first Fire Emblem released internationally to feature the split between Casual and Classic mode, which made it a lot more approachable for beginners of the series. Another major addition was the possibility to pair up your units, giving you another layer of strategy and methods to approach a battle.

The battle UI gives you a forecast of possible outcomes.

Comparing the battle system of Awakening to newer installments barely show any aging. Even after having played Fire Emblem: Three Houses right before this installment, the battle system and UI felt very complete and with his own unique options.

Conclusion

Despite being really excited to experience Awakening all over again, I was completely ready to be disappointed by its aging and lack of features that have been introduced in later installments. What I found however is that the game still holds up very well to the point I’d absolutely still recommend it for new players and players that are looking to re-experience the game alike.

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