In one game, they went from a dying franchise, to one of the must have games on the 3DS, and a game that helped and continues to help sell the system. I won't lie, that's an achievement. Now with Fire Emblem Fates released in the US, and a release still unknown here (which gives me time to get the money for the special edition so that I have the three on the one cartridge), let's see the previous game in the series, Fire Emblem: Awakening.
In an attempt to stay spoiler free, the basic plot is hard to summarize. The basic jist is that you play as Robbin, a customizable character who is the Avatar. You have amnesia as a result of future events, and meet up with Chrom, and his personal army, known as the Shepherds, who protect the land of Ylisse. All you remember is your name, and that you're a tactition with knowledge of a sword and tomes. You side with Chrom, and this is where I stop, as I'm now going into spoilers. What I will however say is that on paper, the plot is a complete mess, time travel does that to stories. Yet, somehow, in the game itself, it flows rather well, not gracefully, but better then just reading a summary. I don't know how they did it, but they did it, and as a result, in game the story is great, and one of the best parts of the game.
Another great part is the characters, I LOVE THESE CHARACTERS, for the most part. Each of them have great personalities and great writing to them, leading to some great interactions, especially when the voice acting is allowed to be used, as each of the characters have great voice acting. What flaws I do have with characters come down to personal tastes, some will like them, others won't, which is fine. But there is a particular reason the characters have strong personalities.
For that, we need to go to the gameplay, which is a top down strategy game, akin to chess if you would. On your turn, you can move as many members of your army as you want, with the goal of taking out the enemy army in each "board". A simple gameplay style that works, and with the little changes thanks to other mechanics, is really deep and compelling. However, here is where I go against Fire Emblem fans. For you see, Fire Emblem has always had a Permadeath mechanic, and Awakening is no exception, for the most part. There is a Casual Mode that dissables it. To those who have no idea what that is, Permadeath is the short hand of Permanent Death. There are no lives, when you're dead, you're dead for good, and you have to reset. If members of your army die with Permadeath on and you win the match, they're still gone for good. If you are getting into Fire Emblem for the first time, PLAY ON CASUAL MODE! That is, unless you like the idea of constantly restarting every time someone dies, something that, to me, almost killed the experience. Feel free to have your "FILTHY CASUAL SCRUB" rants all you want, but I think the best way to play the game for newcomers is to play on casual first, then activate Permadeath for a replay of the game, the reason being because of another flaw with the game for me.
Members of your army level up and become stronger, that's not a problem for me, never has, never will, however with opposing armies constantly getting stronger, I found myself sticking to the one selection of characters, as everyone else just got weaker and weaker as the game went on, and I personally didn't find any places to do actual level grinding on those weaker characters. I will admit a art of that is my play style, but it does become a bit of a shame as the game goes on. This will be something you love or hate, and for me, I can let it slide, because it does better fit the gameplay style, and unlike something like Pokemon, where I think this kind of leveling style doesn't work as well, FE:A gave me everything that I needed to take on any opposing army either early on, or when I needed it in the case of specific weapons and seals, so I'm never having moments like "Oh, here's a ground Gym, what's that? You don't have a Pokemon that has the type advantage, then GTFO of here and get one, so that we can show you that just having the type advantage isn't enough because screw you", which was my biggest issue when it came to level grinding in that game, something I should have made clearer at the time.
Aesthetically, the game looks and sounds gorgeous. Visually, it might not be the best the 3DS has put out, but it fits the world they've set up perfectly. When the one "complaint" people have been raising is the lack of feet on characters, you've done your job visually. Sound wise, I've already praised the voice acting, and the music is just as, if not better then the voice acting. As an example, look up Id (Purpose), one of my personal favorites from the game.
While I do agree that it is one of the best games on the 3DS, I don't see it as a game without faults, most of them being in the gameplay, with things coming down to personal preference. There are also a lot of things about the game I've intentionally left out because I want to save them as a surprise. This is worth purchasing though if you have a 3DS, well worth the price. Next week, we begin a DC movie marathon, with Batman Begins.