It's finally coming to America, and we're gonna give you all of the juicy details.
After months of waiting, pining, and speculation, North American 3DS owners will have the chance to play the thirteenth game in the Fire Emblem series, FE: Awakening.
Though an original game in the turn-based strategy series, Awakening reportedly borrows elements from previous entries, while offering improvement in other areas. Perhaps the most notable inclusion in Awakening is its new "dual" system, which acts as a refinement to the rescue commands of the past. Initially, rescuing was used to effectively move units around the map, but at the cost of lower stats and greater susceptibility to attack. In Awakening, units can join forces, and receive stat boosts for doing so. Additionally, attacks can be conducted with both joined party members at once, as can dual blocks, which have the ability to occasionally negate enemy attacks. Even if two units aren't doubled, they can perform dual attacks and blocks if they simply stand adjacent to each other.
Plenty of versatility exists within the dual system. Units receive different stat boosts depending on who's doubling up on who: using a general can offer a defense boost to another player, while a sword master can buff fellow units with a speed increase. Units can also trade items, and the player can drop, swap, and change the position of characters at will.
Apart from its deep new feature, though, the game is still Fire Emblem, and, supposedly, still hard as nails. With three difficulties (and an unlockable fourth for those especially skilled few), Normal, Hard, and Lunatic, the game is said to challenge even the most weathered of series veterans to some extent over a 40-chapter campaign. The ultimate difficulty tier, Lunatic, reportedly requires near-perfect mastery of the mechanics, and the risk of immediate and utter defeat.
In past iterations of the series, grinding acted as something of a difficulty softener, making the challenge more manageable to the uninitiated. Such grinding is almost entirely absent in Awakening, which features a far more limited number of skirmishes available between chapters. Another alteration comes in the return of the generation system, a feature prevalent in the Japan-only Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu. The premise: when female units build a strong enough bond with a partner, their children later become recruitable as soldiers. The mechanic is especially deep since which two parents originally partnered up influences the skills of the children.
Perhaps the coolest thing in Awakening is its position as the first 3DS game in Japan with paid downloadable content. Among that content (offering new characters priced between 250 and 400 yen) is Marth (who was originally free for a month), Roy, Leaf, Alm, Micaiah, Erika, Celice, Ephraim, and Elincia.
Returning from the seventh Fire Emblem game (released on the Game Boy Advance in 2003, and the first Fire Emblem to come to both Europe and North America) is the "My Unit" class, which allows the player to use an avatar of him or her self within the game, and offers the ability to marry and have a (recruitable) child. Of course, players can also expect plenty of new classes to choose from in Awakening.
Like its predecessors, Awakening is built around a narrative of war and relationships. Fire Emblem-focused site Serenes Forest summarizes the plot of the game:
"The story focuses on the trials of Krom, the prince of the Holy Kingdom of Iris, and his companions during a turbulent era. When the neighboring nation of Perezia starts acting suspiciously, Krom commands the vigilante force to keep his country at peace. Soon, he encounters an unholy force plaguing the lands and a masked swordsman claiming to be the Hero King of legends."
Of course, from the presence of downloadable content, Awakening looks to include many crossovers from throughout the series.
The title features a dynamic music system, which shifts in correspondence to the playerâ€™s position on a map, as well as in battles. For instance, as a battle starts, the relatively calm, piano-focused track for a given map would quickly shift to a more intense percussion and bass version of the same arrangement.
Following the divisive graphical style of Shadow Dragon and its Japan-only follow-up, Awakening combines smoother 3D sprites in battle with simple yet traditionally charming units on the map. In the case of character designs, the game somewhat adheres to those of past entries, but carries a slightly more anime look.
Although a release date hasn't been pinpointed, the game could come out this year. With three major Nintendo releases coming out and the game not being featured at the recent software showcase, though, I would place my chips on Awakening hitting stores early 2013.