Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fire Emblem Awakening: First impressions.

Fire Emblem Awakening is a strategy RPG that came out last year for the Nintendo 3DS, and it's one of the few games I've bought for full price around the time it came out. So far it has not been a disappointment. The story revolves around an amnesiac being found by the prince, his bodyguard, and his sister while on patrol, and them proceeding to fight undead soldiers across the country, in addition to defending villages from the undead as well as foreign raiders. I've been playing on Hard, with Classic turned on. I set out with the condition that I had to finish the game without losing a single character in battle, and aside from one, I've made good on that.
During avatar creation I didn't change a whole lot aside from the hair, which I made sorta darkish brown. That was partially due to the large and small models looking a little too unnatural. Then there's the voices. I picked the middle one because it sounded the most natural, and least forced. In case you were wondering, I created a male avatar named "GalanDun" because every avatar I create is named GalanDun and I like to think that his last name is "Hammermor" just to make my player-insertion complete...
I wound up turning off voices anyways, because in the regular (non anime) cut-scenes, the input of random reactions, sounds and words tended to distract me from the impact and wording of the dialogue. One example was when the characters were talking solemnly after a battle, and the random interjections was distracting me so much I proceeded to shut off the in-game voices (But not the FMV voices) entirely. In a game like this, they should have taken a little longer and at least recorded the voice actors narrating the lines, rather than just having a small pool of random words and sounds. Even a few more, less intrusive phrases and sounds would have sufficed. Unfortunately, that also turns off the pre-kill and post-kill taunts, which I liked. Personally I thing it's a small price to pay for the dialogue not being interrupted by random words and grunts. 
I like how FEA has an option to see your opponents attack ranges, it's just a shame that they don't let you keep it on between battles. 
This being my first Fire Emblem game, I have nothing to compare it to outside of Growlanser and Final Fantasy Tactics. I'm not sure I like the weapon degradation system, but it does add a certain level of extra interesting tactics to it all, and personally I like tactical anything. Keeps you on your toes, know what I mean?
Something else to mention is the combat, and how during combat it lets you switch between a dynamic camera, a first person view, and a side-view. Personally I really like the dynamic camera. The game also lets you slow down, pause, and speed up the action. I like to combine fast-motion with slow-motion during combat myself. It's interesting the play with and it helps liven up the combat if you ever get bored of it.
Now, the music is something I've left for last here. I like the music. I really like it. It's some good stuff to listen to, but the thing is there's not a whole lot of it. It gets real repetitive real fast. Something I noticed was that it sounds a lot like the music from Zelda. I like the music from Zelda, but since there's so little variety I just popped in The Lord of the Rings soundtrack and cranked down the volume. This is where I'm going to criticize something about the 3DS. I know that the 3DS lets you play music from the music player, but not letting you play custom music in-game means I need to crank up the volume, pause my MP3 player, and remove my headset in quick succession when the anime cut-scenes start. That's a small complaint, but if they'd had more, better music, possibly akin to that of The World Ends With You or one of the Sonic The Hedgehog games I wouldn't have a problem with it.
You can pair units up in battle for many benefits. The more two units are paired up in battle the better they work together, and the better their relationship gets. You can use this to ship your preferred couples together, and I was immediately smitten with Lissa, the younger sister of Chrom. By "Me" I mean my in-game avatar, but she is sort of what I would call "My type." Kind of goofy, and she seems like a person I'd actually like to spend time with. So I improved GalanDun's relationship with her until he proposed.
It's funny that people were raging about the lack of homosexual relationships in Tomodachi Life when there's more than enough homo-eroticism in this game to cover that and more. Seriously. Not kidding. At all.
You can press X to see the maximum range of all your enemies attacks, and I find that heavily invaluable. Unfortunately, you still have to select each enemy to see their individual range. That's kind of petty of me though.
After a while I'd managed to get two of my characters up to maximum level and I upgraded them to the next class. Personally, I'd say you should wait until they hit level 20 (The max) and upgrade them right then, because otherwise you'd miss out on a lot of XP. Since gold is in high abundance if you spend it right, you should be able to upgrade most of your max-leveled characters quickly.
Now, I have something to talk about with the pairing system. You can always pair up any two units to improve their relationship and to increase your ability to cut down more enemies. Although some of them can't have their relationship improved, and it seems fairly arbitrary. I was pairing Chrom up with a high-level Pegasus knight to try and improve his relationship with her until they got married, and I found out I was wasting my time a few hours later, mainly because they work so well together in battle. That just sucks, and there's no real reason why a lot of them can't be paired. I mean, Chrom and his sister is creepy but what's wrong with pairing him with the merchant girl that certainly seems his type? Or the overly serious veteran of the Pegasus Knights who's even more his type? Anyways, I decided to marry her to Stahl since he seems like a nice enough guy.
I haven't played any of the DLC yet since I haven't bought any so far.
So. onto the story. Spoilers inbound, be prepared to skip this review if you haven't finished the game yet, you know the drill.

So anyways, it's started out kinda strange. The intro seems to have absolutely no connection to the game as a whole outside featuring GalanDun and Chrom, the other main character. I have a feeling that the events of that opening are going to have some kind of relevance later on, but who knows? I don't have much in the way of plot criticisms other than one I will get to in a moment. When Marth shows up for the first time it's to defend Chrom and the party from a random zombie that was ambushing them, but his presence wasn't exactly necessary considering that I'd just wiped the field of an entire squad of those things a few minutes prior. I've been going out of my way to recruit every character I can, and while Donny is apparently supposed to be one of the most powerful characters in the game, he's hard to level up without leaving him open to death, and during his paralogue to recruit him I lost Sully. Not exactly an uneven trade-off, but I was hoping to pair her up with the French bowman who was so smitten with her. At that point in time though, I was almost done and I had two different horseback units that were better than her, so I just went on with the game because I was tired and I didn't want to have to replay the mission ten more times just to save one worthless character that was honestly a liability in combat. In one mission, where you have to defend the Exalt, there's a somewhat unreasonable number of enemy forces you have to defeat, and that chapter alone took me about ten tries to get right. It was an XP goldmine though, so I'm not really complaining, more like giving a synopsis. After a while my brain clicked with the specific system Fire Emblem Awakening has, which is a lot more advanced then the one from Growlanser 2. The plot so far is interesting, but there are a couple of things I need to bring up. Right before that mission where you defend the exalt, you run into Marth again. His mask gets cut off, and it's revealed that he's a girl. The strange thing is that her voice actress seems to have used a deeper voice for the female Marth than she did for when she was disguised. That just strikes me as kind of odd. Later on in the game, after Chrom's older sister was kidnapped by an enemy army, we've rounded up our allies and a large party of badass hard-hitting killers from both sides of the border. Mercenaries that switched sides, random people who we picked up from around the country who can destroy things, etc, etc. So we go on and destroy the enemy army and recruit two more people into our elite team of special-forces shepherds. AND THEN!
After stopping the mad king, who kidnapped the exalt in the first place from, in order of occurrence, assassinating and executing her, his pet necromancer raises about five over-powered zombie archers from the field and took out three of my allied Pegasus Knights in a total of three hits. Okay, that's reaching, but not too hard to believe since archers do get advantage over flying units. But then there was that one little thing. The thing that made me close the 3DS, sit back in my chair, and say aloud "Nintendo, you bastards."
You see, the game give you two options. Hand the Mad King a priceless artifact of untold power, or let the one person keeping the country from falling into chaos die. And at this point I had three thoughts. One is that he's probably going to kill her anyways, since he is "The Mad King." 
Two, is that THEY. ARE. ARCHERS!
Even if their luck is cranked up to maximum, they still can't hit if you're in a square adjacent to them. At this point in time all of the characters I'd be hitting them with could wipe them out in a single hit. I have enough units to take all of them out, and I could easily gank the mad king and his scantily-clad necromancer girlfriend without breaking a sweat immediately after rescuing the exalt.
Third thought: WHERE THE HELL IS MARTH!?
I'm serious, she's been here to keep the characters from being killed three or four separate times in the past, so either she's gonna step in and save the day no matter what, or she's gonna wind up showing up late for one of them.
So that's where I stopped, sat down, and decided to write my first impressions up. It's the 22nd, and I started this on the 21st. This is actually the second article I've written in a two day period, because contrary to the usual, I didn't have a lot to do last Saturday.
It's now the 24th, and I selected not to sacrifice Emm, so Chrom offered the Fire Emblem to Gangrel, but Emm decided to sacrifice herself so that Chrom wouldn't try to save her. Guess where Marth was? She was late. It's heavily implied that she's a time-traveler so why would you EVER be late for anything?! So I decided to save to an empty slot and restart the chapter to see what happened when I chose to not offer the Fire Emblem to Gangrel. I figured that since choosing not to let Emm die killed her, I figured that choosing to sacrifice her might have her live, right?
Wrong. There's a different exchange between GalanDun and Chrom, and then Chrom decides to do exactly what he did when I chose the other option! I think Nintendo missed the whole "Role-playing" part of the role-playing game. Marth shows up late, as in the other option, and the same anime FMV plays out as before. But funny thing, I found that even though I watched it three times trying to figure out how to save her, the cutscene only got sadder.
Afterwards, I set up my units for the next chapter, and I have to say that the music in it was so tremendously sad. The whole chapter was sad. There was a conversation between the general and one of his men, about how he was having qualms about the rightfulness of fighting us, about how he had no will to continue risking his life in the service of a king that cared naught for their lives. The general said that he and anyone else with doubts could leave, and that he would take the burden of punishment. The soldier said that he'd fight for his commander before his king, and it was really touching. Then at the very end, when I killed the general his last words were a plea to spare his men now that he was dead. And I burst into tears at that, because I'd killed every single member of his army on my way to him. Throughout that entire chapter, I felt worse and worse throughout. At the very end, I felt like a terrible person. The very enemies that I'd taken glee in killing throughout the entire last fifteen hours of gameplay, I felt sorry for. They had families and friends, and hopes and dreams and lives and loves and hates and imaginations. They were people, unique people. And I ended their lives.
So, I've just realized this is really bloody long and I should probably get around to stopping. I'll see you next week with either Mockingjay or another Pirates of the Caribbean review. Or possibly another double feature like I had last week depending on what I've got bouncing in my head. See you around.

Here's part 2 of the review.