Sunday, July 26, 2015

Fire Emblem Awakening: Part 2

So, it's been about a year since I last talked about Fire Emblem Awakening... I suppose I should follow up on it finally. By the way, for those of you who missed the first part of this review, click here.
At this point I've clocked about seventy-five hours on my main save-file and over a hundred and eleven hours in the game as a whole, and I've reached chapter nineteen in the main story mode. I've unlocked about forty characters, and recruited six legacy characters and about twelve avatars from Streetpass hits. I've married off almost every first generation character, and I've spent a good deal of time finding out who among the second generation had the best chemistry with whom.
Aside from Story of Seasons, I don't think I've ever poured anywhere near that much time into a game. Super Mario World might come close for the amount of time spent on a game in a single save-file, and Ocarina of Time could possibly come close for total amount of time spent on a single game, but that's spread over three different save-files and almost two years of play.
Think about that. One-hundred and eleven hours, and I'm already planning what I'm going to do on my next playthrough! That says all kinds of positive things about the game right there!
Recently, I've spent a lot of time grinding my lower-level characters up to higher levels. I'd heard that some of the characters I'd neglected, like Donnell, had the potential to become very powerful.
Up until that point, I'd been blazing through story missions and paralogues fairly easily, having stuck with a group of tank characters like Chrom, Kellam, Stahl, GalanDun and Frederick. So I decided I might as well jack up my lower level first generation characters so I could build relationships between those characters and unlock more second generation characters.
Now, I've probably neglected the second generation worse than I did the first, since I tended to just keep them alive past their paralogue and then dump them into my army database safe and sound, never to be used for fear that they would die when I tried to level them up, like Donny kept doing so many times, whenever I tried to grind him higher early on in the game.
But what could I do? I couldn't bring them on story missions, since they'd have to be paired with one of my main units to survive more than one or two hits. The problem with that is that they wouldn't be able to get more than maybe one hit in before the enemies died, which would mean that they would get hardly any experience.
So what I did was summon a team of Legendary Heroes from the Bonus Box that was a low enough level that the weakest among my army could take them on and have a fighting chance.
For those of you who don't know what the Bonus Box is, it's a place where the game stores a bunch of free DLC that Nintendo sends out via Spotpass.
They haven't sent out anything new in a very long time, but what they did send out is invaluable. You get a handful of free weapons that are very powerful. You get some bonus maps, and most importantly, you get infinite access to a ton of elite squads from pretty much every Fire Emblem game ever made.
You've got characters from Shadow Dragon up to Radiant Dawn, with their levels ranging from one to thirty, and you can summon them up as many times are you want.
Which, naturally, makes grinding neglected characters up to higher levels a lot easier. So I went ahead and used the lower-level teams from Shadow Dragon to jack my lower level characters up a bit in case they ever needed to be in combat.
This was about the time when I turned off battle animations. Even though I liked them for dramatic purposes at the beginning, they started annoying me after a while. Despite the fact that they're fairly short, I decided they were taking too long as a whole, and interrupted the flow of battle. So I turned them off.
While you can use a button to skip the combat animations you don't want to see at a whim and let others that you do want to watch play, more often than not I'd forget, and the animations would just annoy me.
It's not much, but it's a small positive, the ability to turn off the elaborate combat animations. I can tell you, if I couldn't turn them off once I got tired of them, I would have been a little annoyed.
And the sad thing is that I didn't miss them after I got rid of them. I turned them off months ago and I've never felt the need to turn them back on.
Anyways, in the 96 or so hours I've spent on the game since my last article on Fire Emblem Awakening, I'd reckon that about twenty to thirty of those hours have been spent on grinding.
And even though I'm the kind of person who tends to hate grinding in RPGs, I had a lot of fun.
It was great pairing off both first and second generation characters. Testing to see who has the best chemistry with whom, and building relationships between units that can had relationships? It was awesome. Plus, the combat is still fun even after a hundred hours of play.
After I leveled most of my low-level characters up to the level cap and then upgraded them to stronger classes, they started becoming more useful. My avatars darling wife, Lissa, became a Sage, since a pure healer is hard to deal with in combat. Their daughter, Morgan, went from a Tactition to a Grandmaster, to a Grandmaster again, because it's just easier to reset a characters level to one than it is to try and adapt to a different class, at least for me. Then I spent time upgrading their weapon skills to maximum so they'd hit a little harder.
I've spent so much time grinding characters now that I've burned through almost all of the weapons I'd acquired. The good thing is that my army has a ton of gold in its treasury, so I can just walk up to any shop and buy silver weapons for everyone who can wield them and still have enough to buy more later.

So, let's go ahead and talk about everything I can remember about the plot so far. After the death of the Exalt, Chrom has taken over the throne and has managed to keep the peace for about the length of a year. His people love him, and he rules well. Then Virion shows up and starts talking about his back-story.
We never really found out anything about him in the beginning, when he showed up. He was just the randy French archer who was crushing on Sully.
So what's his story?
Apparently he's the duke of a country that's been taken over by some whacko dude, and he's brought along one of his retainers, Cherche. They tell Chrom about the dude and about how he's running around the continent of Valm taking countries over. And now he's apparently set his sights on Ylisse.
And even though his forces vastly outnumber the Shepherds, guess what they decide to do?
Yeah, you got it. They hop onto a fleet of ships with some help from their allies in Regna Ferox and Plegia and sail off to kick his ass to kingdom come.
Before we address the epic battle on the high-seas, I'd like to talk about what happens in Plegia.
You see, the current ruler is a guy named Validar. And he just happens to be a guy that my avatar personally slayed in the initial assassination attempt against Emmeryn early on in the game. So that's weird.
What's weirder is that he's palling around with a guy who looks exactly like my avatar. He looks the same, sounds the same and has the same name. And guess what? Validar claims to be the father of this weird duplicate
The problem is that he's got a completely different personality. Namely, he's a secretive and probably evil person who seems to revel in the suffering and annoyance of others. Diametrically opposed to my avatar, who stands against evil in all its forms. Who would give his every last breath to defend the helpless.
This started to get me thinking.... My first hypothesis was that we've just encountered some sort of stable time-loop.
The guy who looks like GalanDun (Which is what I called my Avatar if you don't remember) is in fact him from his past, and that duplicate will at some point travel back in time, through some method that winds up erasing his/my memory, and the actions of my avatar are what lead to him/me traveling through time.
The weird thing about that is that nobody except GalanDun and his daughter, Morgan, have amnesia. So that would mean he either had his memory wiped after he traveled through time, or before. Before doesn't make any sense, but there's no evidence that he did so afterwards....
The second hypothesis is that my avatar has found some way to destabilize a stable-time loop and escape from it, and whatever bad future the second generation came from is going to be averted through the actions of my avatar.
The third hypothesis is that my avatar has been faking his memory loss and he's really still an evil person.
This leads me to an idea I had early on about the plot.
The prologue shows you, the avatar, and Chrom killing Validar. And then it shifts to a first-person FMV from the perspective of the avatar, where they kill Chrom, who tells them that it wasn't their fault.
Then it cuts to you waking up in a field, being found by Chrom and the Shepherds.
In the case of my avatar, I married Chrom's sister, the princess of Ylisse. And I routinely have Chrom's life in my hands. With Emmeryn dead, and Chrom in control, all GalanDun would need to do would be kill Chrom and his wife, Sumia, and he'd essentially be in charge of Ylisse. Lucina isn't legally old enough to claim the throne, and while Future Lucina might be old enough, this is where time travel becomes tricky. Legally, Lissa is next in line, and GalanDun seems to have won over pretty much everyone in the Ylissean army, to the point where they would follow him into hell itself. And if he killed Chrom in secret, I would bet the country would take his word for it if he said that Chrom was slain by an enemy. He probably wouldn't even need to kill Lucina.
Now, knowing what I do about my avatar through interactions with other characters, I doubt this is true. I just thought I'd share this little headcanon I came up with last year with you guys.
Now, let's go ahead and talk about that navy battle, shall we?
The issue with it is that you've got no agency in it at all until the fighting starts. That might not sound like much of a complaint, but the avatar makes a pretty major decision on their own during the cutscene before the battle starts. Yeah, the decision that the avatar made was pretty brilliant, but it'd be even better if I could have been the one to make that decision. As it stands, not knowing what the character that's supposed to be your avatar is going to do is a little annoying.
What your character does is fill all of the ships with skeleton crews since they can't crew them all to their fullest, and then have them all set the extra ships on fire when they meet in combat with the enemy and hop onto the adjacent ships, effectively halving their fleet, but destroying most of the enemies vessels.
Thing is, as a player, I'd have liked to see if I could have made the journey from Ylisse and Valm with the entire fleet intact. That's pretty much all I have to say about that. It would've been cool to see if I could wipe out the enemy without suffering any casualties in either the form of personnel or equipment.
I'm not saying I could have, but I love having options. That's what I love about tactical RPGs. You get to move everyone around the field instead of just standing friend and foe on opposite ends of the screen and hitting each other in turn. Again, Intelligent Systems seems to have either forgotten to put an option in where one should be, or they possibly cut something out that they couldn't finish.
Considering they were under a crunch to make this the best game they could, I wouldn't be surprised if it was the latter. The surprising thing is that that's the only thing so far that I would reckon as having been cut for time. Aside from maybe the little thing we talked about last time this game came up, but that just seems like they only had one option in mind for how that scene was gonna go.
Unfortunately, I can't remember what happens next, and I don't want to look it up for fear of spoiling the game.
Yes, I've been playing this game for over a year now and have owned it for two years, and I haven't finished it. I've gotten a lot of stuff in for review, and I didn't really have a deadline to reach for this game.
So that's all the things I did in the game since my last article. I know this is going up pretty late, but I've spent all day working on it and refining it until I thought it was good enough to be read. If I missed anything, or if I made any mistakes with spelling or grammar, feel free to point them out in the comments.
Since I haven't finished the game yet, I won't be giving it a rating right now, but it's looking at a perfect ten-point-one right now. See you next week!

By the way, I scanned the above image from the cover of my personal copy of Fire Emblem: Awakening, and I edited it myself. The scanner washed out the colors a bit, so I had to deal with that, and then I had to mess with the logo and stuff, converting bits and pieces of the cover to grey-scale and then recoloring it to make it look good. I also made a rather obvious edit to it, moving some text over and adding some more.