Since first coming to North America on a wave of unexpected buzz thanks to Super Smash Bros., Fire Emblem has always stayed true to its hardcore roots. The turn-based strategy games are tough; they demand dedication to complete, and team members that fall in battle are gone forever. That’s why fans love FE and why others have been slow to embrace it, but Fire Emblem: Awakening, the first 3DS entry, attempts to satisfy both groups, and thanks to a variety of new additions, it might pull it off.

When we first dove into an early map in Awakening, we wanted to experience FE just as we had on the GBA and GameCube. The core Fire Emblem experience seemed completely intact. We moved our character around the tiled map; we attacked enemies while noting the offense advantages certain weapons have over others; and we racked up XP until our squad members leveled up. Still, some of the changes quickly became clear once we left the initial battlefield.

Fire Emblem games have always been very practical, limiting storytelling to a collection of talking heads on static backgrounds, and using the simple graphics to keep the gameplay front and center. Awakening turns that around in a big way, including the gorgeous CG cutscenes and in-game visuals that--while not ostentatious--do take advantage of the handheld’s horsepower and give some real depth when using the 3D functionality. Both in and out of battle the game looks better than even the Wii entry from a few years ago, partially due to character designs that aren’t as straightforward as previous FE art.

After digging a little deeper into the demo, some long overdue gameplay updates were obvious. Characters now aren’t just limited to their class, but instead can grow and learn new skills in a class system similar to other strategic classics like Final Fantasy Tactics. You can equip up to five skills to a soldier, though you can earn many more than that through class leveling. Adjusting the skill loadouts of each team member to fit the upcoming battle has the potential to pack way more adaptability into your crew than was previously possible.

The same spirit of adaptability is in the cards for the game’s overall challenge. There are multiple difficulty levels available at the outset, but no matter which you pick you can also switch on the Casual mode to omit franchise traditions like permanent death for teammates and the inability to save during a battle. Hardcore FE fans can still enjoy those conventions in Classic mode, but having the option to forgo those retro limitations might finally open up the series to new people.

No matter the game’s difficulty, Awakening has a lengthy campaign that covers more than one continent, and the map is often dotted with side quests and optional battles to hone your skills and unlock new characters. Awakening also promises a large amount of DLC (at least by Nintendo standards). Starting with a launch day pack that adds franchise star Marth to the title, Nintendo promises a steady, weekly stream of new DLC every week for months to come.

Nearly out in the US, Fire Emblem: Awakening looks to keep many of the franchise’s cherished traditions, but softens the edges for fans that want to enjoy the tactical gameplay without all the quirks that may have put them off previously. We’ll see how well the title appeals to both potential audiences when the game hits stores and the 3DS eShop on February 4.



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  • GoldenEagle1476 - January 11, 2013 12:39 p.m.

    Oh man can't wait!
  • Pruman - January 11, 2013 11:13 a.m.

    I'll probably end up buying this, but would it kill Nintendo to make another Advance Wars game? If Fire Emblem is like chess, Advance Wars is like chess crossed with Risk, minus the dice.
  • BladedFalcon - January 11, 2013 2:15 p.m.

    Hear hear! Seriously, a post 2000 Nintendo hand held without the holy trifecta of castlevania, Fire Emblem and Advance Wars is not a good Nintendo Hand held in my books XD
  • shawksta - January 11, 2013 7:20 p.m.

    The fact that were even getting Fire Emblem is a miracle, here's hoping Advance wars is next
  • obviouslyadouche - January 10, 2013 5:12 p.m.

    It's good there is difficulty levels but honestly I think character death should always be able to happen, it's a staple of fire emblem for pete's sake.
  • Cyberninja - January 11, 2013 4:03 a.m.

    which is why you can leave it on, personally I am going to play without it because that why I can take more risks like I would in other games since when you are afraid to let someone usefull die it hampers strategy.
  • masterjoe123 - January 10, 2013 2:09 p.m.

    After the disappointment that was Shadow Dragon, it looks like Nintendo is finally turning this series around.
  • BladedFalcon - January 10, 2013 1:25 p.m.

    Basically this, and Castlevania: Mirror of Fate was basically what pushed me to finally give, and get a 3DS, so needless to say, I'm frigging pumped. I like hearing more details about the animated cutscenes, and the character progression. Having an extra layer of customization of each character's skills sounds just what the series needed to make each unit feel properly unique. I do still wish they had stuck with the old school (GBA style)sprites, loved how those moved, but oh well, at least these 3D models look far more better than the awful mess of those Shadow Dragon ones.
  • slimjim441 - January 10, 2013 12:31 p.m.

    Mein Gott... Every time I hear more info about this game, I practically shit my pants in excitement. More people need to be excited about this so we don't have to miss out on half the series. Come on, people, get with it. And don't forget to pre-order at Gamestop, only because you get some art book with it.
  • Letter11 - January 10, 2013 10:56 a.m.

    Wow, it's finally time for me to get a 3DS. I'm so ready for this.
  • shawksta - January 10, 2013 10:04 a.m.

    Fire emblem was harsh with it's strict system, this could really make it less stressful to play and still kickass I frankly love the new designs, some people complain but frankly it's because their less Japanese designed, I like new ike, if you don't have the thought that he's holding a sword his artwork looks like he has a blade hand XD
  • BladedFalcon - January 10, 2013 1:16 p.m.

    I like the new designs themselves, In THIS particular case though, i am kinda more fond of the 2D sprites the series used for their GBA games, over these 3D models.
  • shawksta - January 10, 2013 5:03 p.m.

    they made the map screen on sprites atleast XD, wouldve been interesting to see them attack in sprites considering that they can still be uprgraded, Project X zone especially shows this and there are still some games on DS (gundam i believe) that show one hell of an amazing animation with sprites.
  • BladedFalcon - January 10, 2013 6:25 p.m.

    Yeah... it's just. i dunno, I find a certain kind of charm and personality found in the attack animations of those 2D sprites. The way each unit felt unique in their approach, their criticals... And there was a certain amount of spectacle in them you didn't see at all in, say Shadow Dragon. The critical animation of the Hero (my favorite unit, btw.) for example, was just magical. Also, don't remind me about Project X Zone, it makes my blood boil to think they won't bring it over here -.-
  • shawksta - January 11, 2013 7:19 p.m.

    I know how you feel, who knows, sometimes it just might works, take Ace Attorney 5 for example, they basically went for 3D Models, except they are still based on the sprites and at times when still, they look like they still ARE sprites when their actually 3D Models, you might fall in love with the 3D models of this game when you see it yourself, but i wont make anything official, i said Might. Considering how Capcom loves advertising, its possible, and given the demand it might aswell, Capcom made it official that Ace Attorney 5 will come worldwise because they know about the fans, same goes with Layton vs Ace Attorney, its not confirmed yet but Level 5 is known for localization and the game is highest rated for wanting to get localized. It depends if Sega, Namco and Capcom are willing to risk it for the advertisement if we get it, especially if their planning new games for the characters in them, Capcom has a big chance considering most of their cast are already in MVC3/UMVC3, so its basically Namco and Sega who will probably decide. Heres hoping we get it.
  • BladedFalcon - January 11, 2013 10:40 p.m.

    I read in a tweet from Brett Elston, that the call is basically made by Namco, who are the main publishers of the project, it seems >>; Soooo, let's go harass namco? :P
  • shawksta - January 12, 2013 5:13 p.m.

    Namco huh? given the demand hopefully they will, i dont recall that many games from them that didnt make it.
  • BladedFalcon - January 12, 2013 6:22 p.m.

    How about the precursor from Project X Zone? :P
  • shawksta - January 13, 2013 12:13 a.m.

    Oh yeah, Namco X Capcom. Well, shit LET THE HARASSMENT BEGIN XD
  • samsneeze - January 10, 2013 5:50 a.m.

    I can't wait to play this and flunk out of school as a result.

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