Fire Emblem Awakening
|Fire Emblem Awakening|
Packaging artwork released for all territories.
(with some regional variations)
Fire Emblem Awakening (ファイアーエムブレム 覚醒 Faiā Emuburemu: Kakusei?) is a tactical role-playing video game, developed by Intelligent Systems and Nintendo SPD for the Nintendo 3DS, and published by Nintendo. The thirteenth game in the main Fire Emblem series, it was released in Japan in April 2012, and respectively in North American and Europe on February and April 2013. The gameplay, like previous Fire Emblem games, focuses on tactical movement of characters across a battlefield fighting enemy units. Other features include the ability to build relationships between the characters to improve their abilities, adjustable difficulty levels, a mode that disables the permanent death of characters, and multiple camera perspectives in battle.
The story is set on the continents of Archanea and Valm from the original Fire Emblem, focusing on a group of soldiers from the kingdom of Ylisse. The player controls a customized Avatar suffering from amnesia. The Avatar is taken in by Chrom, the prince of Ylisse, and his personal army. During the course of the story, the Avatar aids Chrom's army in defending Ylisse from monsters called the Risen, and attacks from the hostile nation of Plegia.
Development of Fire Emblem Awakening began in 2010, with multiple veterans of the Fire Emblem series filling key development roles. Development was handled by Intelligent Systems with supervision from Nintendo. As the series had seen declining sales with previous installments, Awakening was designed as the possible last entry in the series, with elements from all the previous Fire Emblem games incorporated. The game was the first in the series to be developed for the 3DS, with the team's decisions on content and graphics influenced by the fact that the platform was still undergoing fine tuning. Some new gameplay ideas, such as the option to disable permanent character deaths, caused controversy among the team.
Upon release, the game received critical acclaim and strong sales worldwide, with many critics praising the new additions. After release, the game was nominated for multiple awards from video game publications, has frequently been cited as one of the best games for the 3DS, and is credited with helping increase sales for the platform. Awakening 's commercial success ensured the continuation of the series, and a new game by the same development team, Fire Emblem If, is set for release in 2015 in Japan and 2016 in western territories.
In Fire Emblem Awakening, the player begins the game as one of the central characters, a customizable Tactician Avatar: the Avatar's gender, hair color, feature types, and voice can all be customized. There are two modes of play: Casual Mode and Classic Mode. In Classic mode, characters defeated in battle are permanently dead, unable to be used for the rest of the game. Casual Mode enables the player to disable permanent character deaths, carried over from the Nintendo DS remake of Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem. With permanent death disabled, fallen units are restored after the completion of the level. Should Chrom or the Avatar die in battle in any mode, the player receives a "Game Over" message and must restart the battle. The game has multiple difficulty levels: the three standard modes are Normal, Hard and Lunatic. A fourth difficulty level, Lunatic+, is unlocked after completing the game on Lunatic mode. The playing mode and difficulty level are selected at the beginning of a new game.
After the player is given access to a party of characters, they can travel across a world map both to new locations and revisit old locations. The time of day on the world map is synced to the player's time zone and time of day. New locations can contain main story missions as well as side stories where new characters can be recruited. Previously visited locations have shops where the player can acquire new weapons. They also can contain random enemy skirmishes. Between missions, players can go to a customizable central base called the Barracks, where the player can watch scenes between characters and perform other activities. The player can recruit approximately forty characters, not including characters included in downloadable content. The game features multiple uses of the Nintendo 3DS-exclusive SpotPass and StreetPass functions via the world map. During navigation, the player can encounter other players and interact via StreetPass. The player can do battle with a party of up to ten characters from another player's world. Whichever player wins the battle gains access to the party. Avatars can also be either befriended or defeated in battle, and loaned out to other players using this function.
Awakening uses a turn-based tactical role-playing battle system. The terrain is displayed on the top screen of the 3DS, while unit information is displayed on the bottom screen. Before each battle, the player selects a limited number of characters from their roster for use in battle. The player can either control each unit manually or activate an auto-battle option. Character movement is dictated by a tile-based movement system. During combat, player-controlled sprite characters and enemy units controlled by the game's artificial intelligence (AI) each get one turn where they position their units. An additional turn is added when unaffiliated AI-controlled units are in the field. Playable characters positioned next to each other in the field will support one-another, granting buffs, and performing actions such as blocking attacks. Two characters can also pair up as a single mobile unit, enabling both units to attack at once. As the relationship between characters strengthens, they gain greater bonuses to their strength and effectiveness when paired up in battle. During combat, the perspective switched to a 3D scene between combatants. Optional camera angles, including a first-person view through the eyes of playable characters, can be activated using the 3DS stylus.
During battles, characters earn experience points (XP) through successful actions during battle. When the character has reached 100 XP, their level is raised by one, increasing various stats including health and attack power. New skills are also learned by each character. The game includes a character class system, with approximately forty classes available. Each character, including the Avatar, has a starting class. The Avatar's starting class is the Tactician, but they can change to any other class later in the game. When a unit reaches Level 10, they can either upgrade or change their classes using special items called Master Seals and Second Seals. A Master Seal upgrades the character's class, improving character stats and giving access to a new move set. A Second Seal allows a character to change a class when they are either at Level 10 or have reached their current Advanced Class. Which class a character can change to is limited, and their experience level is reset to Level 1 while retaining their stats. Regardless of future changes, characters retain learned skills from earlier classes. A character's class effects both their attack capabilities and their mobility on the battlefield: for example, mages and archers can attack at greater ranges than melee units, mounted units have more powerful attacks than foot units, while flying units have greater mobility and range.
Relationships between characters are built up through Support conversations between chapters. The normal rankings of relationships are C to A, with A standing for a close friendship. For characters of opposing sexes, an additional S ranking is available, in which the characters fall in love, marry and have children. Relationships also have a direct impact during battles, with certain character pairings granting positive effects such as increased mobility or an automatic guarding action. A couple's children can be found and recruited in optional chapters made available by the parent characters' marriage, with their appearance and in-game abilities varying depending on who their parents were. Most characters have a specific list of units which they can have Support conversations with; the Avatar can build a relationship with all characters, and (depending on their chosen gender) marry any unit from any generation as long as they are not a direct descendant.
The game takes place on the continents of Archanea and Valm, approximately 2000 years after the events of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light. A millennium prior to the events of Awakening, when the nations of the continents were being formed, the Fell Dragon Grima attempted to destroy the world. To halt Grima's plan, the Divine Dragon Naga chose the ruler of the Halidom of Ylisse (known as the Exalt) and granted him her power through two magical objects: the Falchion sword, with the power to slay dragons, and the Fire Emblem, a magical shield. Using these, the Exalt struck down Grima, sending it into a long slumber. By the present time, the land of Archanea is divided between Ylisse, which continues to worship Naga, and is ruled by Queen Emmeryn and defended by her brother Chrom; the kingdom of Plegia, which worships Grima; and Regna Ferox, a country whose rulers periodically fight for dominance. Fifteen years prior to Awakening, Plegia and Ylisse waged a religious war which greatly damaged Ylisse and only ended with the death of the previous Exalt, leaving bitterness on both sides.
After having an ominous premonition of killing Chrom, the Avatar wakes up in a field and is found by Chrom and members of his personal army, the Shepherds. They realize that the Avatar has amnesia and a strange mark on their hand. The Avatar joins the Shepherds, exhibiting the qualities of a tactician when they defend a nearby town from Plegian bandits. After gaining an alliance with Regna Ferox, the Shepherds move to fight both Plegia's forces and monsters called the Risen; and are helped by a person calling themselves "Marth". Emmeryn, Chrom's older sister and the current Exalt, is almost caught in a plot to assassinate her. The plot is foiled with aid from "Marth", whose disguise is shattered, revealing she is a woman. Soon after, Plegian forces capture Emmeryn when she went to parley with King Gangrel, Plegia's cruel ruler, and prevent another war. Gangrel demands the Fire Emblem, Ylisse's most valuable treasure, in exchange for Emmeryn's life. Though Chrom almost surrenders to Gangrel's terms, Emmeryn stops him by throwing herself over a cliff, becoming a martyr to both Ylisse and Plegia. Eventually, the Shepherds triumph over Plegia, defeating Gangrel and restoring peace to Archanea.
Two years after Gangrel's defeat, Chrom inherits the throne of Ylisse, marries, and fathers a newborn daughter named Lucina. Chrom leads the Shepherds again when Emperor Walhart of Valm threatens to invade Archanea. During the campaign, "Marth" returns, and reveals that she is Lucina from an alternate timeline from more than 10 years in the future, where Grima has been resurrected. Lucina used a time traveling spell devised by Naga to return to the past and attempt to prevent the events leading to her future. To combat Grima, Chrom must perform the "Awakening", a ritual that grants him Naga's power, by combining the Fire Emblem with five magical gems divided among the nations. During and after the war in Valm, the Shepherds manage to retrieve four of the gemstones. They are then ambushed by Validar, the new king of Plegia and the Avatar's father, after offering them the last gemstone. Validar takes control of the Avatar and steals the Fire Emblem from Chrom. He also reveals that the Avatar was born as the ideal vessel for Grima, signified by the mark on the Avatar's hand. Lucina realizes Grima used the Avatar to kill Chrom in her timeline, and attempts to execute them; Chrom forces her to stand down, remaining confident the Avatar can overcome Grima's control because of their friendship. The Shepherds then manage to track down Validar, who uses the Avatar to attack Chrom, similar to the events of their nightmare. However, the Avatar reveals that they used their foreknowledge to prevent Chrom's death, allowing the Shepherds to kill Validar and recover the Fire Emblem.
At this point, the possessed Avatar from Lucina's future appears, revealing that the Avatar's amnesia was caused by Grima's unsuccessful attempt to possess them. The future Avatar then uses the power gathered for Grima's resurrection to restore its dragon form. In a race against time, Chrom performs the Awakening and summons Naga. Although Chrom now has the power to stop Grima, Naga reveals that she only has enough power to put Grima to sleep for another thousand years. Naga explains that the only way to destroy Grima is to have him destroy himself through the Avatar, which could come at cost of the Avatar's life. Naga tells them that the Avatar will only survive if their bonds with Chrom and the Shepherds are strong enough. In the final battle, the Shepherds manage to weaken Grima. Chrom, already set against the sacrifice of the Avatar, will attempt to deliver the final blow to the fell dragon. Depending on the player's final choice, the game will reach one of two different endings. If the player lets Chrom deal the final blow, Grima is put back to sleep for another thousand years, though The Avatar is left with regrets. If the player does not let Chrom deal the final blow, the Avatar will kill Grima, causing both to vanish. Chrom and the Shepherds refuse to believe that the Avatar is dead, and vow to find them and bring them home. In a post-credits scene, the Avatar wakes up in a field similar to the beginning of the game, where Chrom and Lissa finally find them. If the player achieves the second ending, the Avatar will no longer bear Grima's mark, and Chrom will welcome the Avatar back home.
The original planning for Fire Emblem Awakening began in 2010, when Nintendo SPD director Genki Yokota was finishing his work on Xenoblade Chronicles. The game was co-developed by Nintendo and regular Fire Emblem developer Intelligent Systems. Among the staff members were veterans of the Fire Emblem series, including project manager Masahiro Higuchi, who had first worked on Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, and Intelligent Systems producer Kouhei Maeda, who first worked as a scenario writer for Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade. Development was very slow for the first year, during which time producer Hitoshi Yamagami organized the game's development structure. Once this was completed, he handed the main production duties over to co-director Genki Yokota. The art director was Toshiyuki Kusakihara. Character designs were done by Kusakihara and Yūsuke Kozaki. Kusakihara was brought on board to offer a fresh perspective on the Fire Emblem series and new ideas for the team, while Kozaki was brought in to help create a distinctive art style that would be well received overseas, as had his previous work for the Wii title No More Heroes. During development, Kusakihara and Kozaki had lengthy meetings about various aspects of the game. These meetings became so time-consuming that Kusakihara compared his situation to the legend of Urashima Tarō.
Due to declining sales for the series, the developers were told by Nintendo that Awakening would be the last Fire Emblem game if it failed to sell above 250,000 units. This caused panic for the team, with them considering including a high number of elements new to the game. Among the concepts were a modern day setting or using the planet Mars as a setting. Eventually, the team decided that these elements would alienate rather than attract players and stuck to the medieval setting and style of previous Fire Emblem titles. As a compromise, the team decided to make it the "culmination" of all the games in Fire Emblem series to that point, incorporating gameplay elements from multiple titles. This approach was approved by the team and the proposal was completed within a month, though the decision also created difficulties with choosing which elements to include, and how to balance them so they did not clash with one another. The game's final title, "Awakening", was born from this concept of an ultimate Fire Emblem game. It was initially just casually suggested by Yamagami when discussing ideas for a title with Yokota, and Yokota liked it. As development progressed, the team continued to come up with ideas that increased workload, but they maintained a positive attitude and pushed forward in spite of the consequent pressures.
Maeda was mainly responsible for the original scenario, thinking out the rough outline before the team created the events of each chapter in detail. Some plot points, such as the true identity of "Marth", were planned from an early stage, while many of the other plot twists came about during its development. Many of them were added at the suggestion of team members from both Intelligent Systems and Nintendo. Two key story themes while developing the game were the love for the characters, and the bonds characters developed over the course of the story. The latter theme was expressed in gameplay through the cooperative behavior of adjacent characters. While voice acting was included, it was limited to snappy lines meant to evoke a certain feeling. This was because the team had concerns about the amount of content in the game, which would increase a great deal with full voice acting, and its effect on the pacing. The team also used multiple well-known Japanese voice actors for the characters. Special voice overs and visuals were created for the character "confession" sequences. All the main characters had a personalized back story, and appropriate personalities were chosen for them. A large team of writers were employed to create the character dialogue, and a story bible containing the characters' personality traits was created for the writers to work from. While developing the playable and enemy characters, the team used feedback from fans saying they should name all the characters, including foot soldiers. Wanting to give the impression of every character having their own lives, they created full artwork for all characters. While designing the characters, Kozaki took their backstories into account: for example, Gaius was drawn with a sack of sweets as he had a love for them.
Once Nintendo gave the go-ahead for development, Intelligent Systems formed a small internal development team to handle the project. Awakening was the first Fire Emblem game for the Nintendo 3DS. The platform was as yet unreleased and still undergoing final development. Because of this, the team had a large number of ideas for features to include, but they also only had a limited idea of what the system was capable of. Consequently, they had difficulties deciding how the 2D sprites and 3D environments would interact with each other, and ensuring they did not clip through objects. One notable feature missing from in-game character models was their feet. The original idea was to add a unique and uniform deformation to characters. As the team did not have much knowledge of the platform's CPU strength, the amount of character bones they could include were intentionally limited. This meant that the bones needed for the operation of ankles and feet were omitted. Later, it was discovered that ankles and feet could be included, but the team decided to leave that for a future game if it came to pass. The concept for character graphics on the map underwent changes. Initially, some of the team felt that accurately displaying a character's equipment and class would be enough, but later it was decided to give them all individual characteristics. For the full-motion cutscenes, the team wanted to create a sense of grandeur and spectacle, using the openings of Taiga drama series as inspiration. The cutscenes were co-produced by animation production company Kamikaze Douga, and animation studio Anima.
The first part of the game to receive full attention from the team was the gameplay. As a test map, the team used the opening map for Mystery of the Emblem. One of the early options was switching between 16x16 and 24x24 pixel characters depending on the camera's overhead distance. In the end, the team used a hardware-based scaling system instead of switching between graphic types so as to keep the frame rate consistent in battle. While designing the levels, the team created both maps with a plot-driven structure and maps that allowed for player freedom. An aspect of the battle system new to the series was the inclusion of an optional firs-person viewpoint during battles. This was done with western players in mind, as developers wanted to both give players an option on their perspective in battle and demonstrate the platform's 3D effects. The difficulty levels proved a point of debate amongst the team, ranging from the naming of difficulties to whether to include the ability to adjust it on the fly, which some felt was contrary to Fire Emblem traditions. There was also debate about both the inclusion and mechanics of the marriage system. While some aspects went smoothly, there was contention about the ability to marry any of the characters, and Kusakihara's suggestion of having characters kissing at the conclusion of each romance was vetoed by the team. An effort was made to make the interface and graphics easy for players to understand. An example of this was the cursor, which in previous games had been a triangular shape and for Awakening was changed to a pointing hand. One of the more controversial ideas that made it into the final game was the "Causal Mode". Initially opposed by staff members at Nintendo and Intelligent Systems, Yamagami and others successfully defended the feature. Yamagami's stance was that modern gamers would not be pleased with needing to invest extra time because a character had died.
The game was first announced in September 2011 as part of Nintendo's 2012 lineup for the 3DS, alongside titles such as Monster Hunter 4 and Bravely Default. As part of its release, Nintendo created a limited edition Nintendo 3DS bundle with Awakening pre-installed. The game's localization and western release was planned from an early stage, hence the inclusion of multiple aesthetic and gameplay elements meant to appeal to a western audience. The localization process was handled collaboratively by independent video game localization company 8-4 and Nintendo of America. The localization process took approximately one year. The game was first announced for release in Europe in February 2012, with the stated release period being that year. In April of the same year, Nintendo of America registered a web domain for Fire Emblem Awakening. Its North American release was confirmed in June through Nintendo's Twitter account. The release windows for western regions were announced in December. For its western release, the game included both the English and Japanese voice tracks. Like in Japan, a limited 3DS bundle with Awakening pre-installed was created for North America and Europe, with Europe also receiving the 3DS XL model as part of the bundle. There was some confusion upon its release in North America: on the day of release, while it was available through Nintendo's online store, multiple online retailers did not have it stocked. While Nintendo was fairly non-committal on the incident, they did state that due to variabilities in shipping, retailers could received stocks on different days.
Fire Emblem Awakening was the first packaged title released by Nintendo to receive downloadable content (DLC) after launch, taking the form of additional maps and characters from previous entries in the Fire Emblem series. The idea for DLC content came up when the game was close to completion. Due to this, the team could not do anything that would invalidate the main story. For the additional playable characters, the team focused on the main cast, picked out the most suitable, and left the final choice to Maeda. Starting from the game's release, over twenty different playable maps were released over several months at the rate of one map per week. Nintendo decided to release downloadable content for the game in all available regions. After it becomes available, the DLC can be accessed using the game's SpotPass system: within the context of the game's world, after a certain point in the game, the characters can access an area called the Outrealm Gate, being transported to the DLC maps. Various artists have contributed illustrations for the downloadable characters, including those who have worked on previous titles, such as Senri Kita, and newcomers, such as Kimihiko Fujisaka. One of the DLC maps received censorship upon release in North America and Europe, with a shot of a female playable character altered to hide her knickers.
Fire Emblem Awakening has received widespread critical acclaim, holding scores on GameRankings and Metacritic of 92% and 92/100. based on 52 and 72 reviews respectively. After its release, Awakening was placed on GameSpot's list of the best games on the 3DS, and reached second placed on a similar list by GameTrailers. IGN included the game on two different lists: it reached #2 on their list of the top 25 Nintendo 3DS games, and #21 on their list of the top 125 Nintendo games of all time.
Famitsu said in its review that the game could be enjoyed by hardcore fans and newcomers alike, as it made accommodations for both, and particularly praised the new gameplay features. IGN's Audrey Drake called Awakening "the most fluid and stunning strategy RPG experience available on a portable, and features the best storytelling and production value of any 3DS game to date." Jeremy Parish, writing for 1UP.com, said that though the Fire Emblem series had changed little over the years while holding a place of respect within the genre, the changes Intelligent Systems implemented made Awakening "an engrossing title that should enjoy impressive shelf life." His main criticism was against the enemy AI, which occasionally unbalanced the gameplay. Ray Carsillo of Electronic Gaming Monthly, while sharing Parish's opinion on the lack of a restart option, called Awakening " probably the best Fire Emblem to come to the States yet." While Eurogamer's Rich Stanton, giving the game a perfect score, called it "a special game", praising its story themes and how it made him care about his characters.
GameTrailers said that the game "takes positive strides forward with new additions like enhancements to the social system and battle mechanics, and the series’ established formula is all the better for it." Despite feeling mixed about the interface and multiplayer, GameSpot's Heidi Kemps called Awakening the best installment in the series for some time. Alexa Ray Corriea, writing for Polygon, said that the development team had "added just enough to the time-tested Fire Emblem formula to bolster its challenges without cutting away its roots." Game Informer 's Kimberley Wallace said that "[Awakening] made me scratch and claw for victory, and I savored every moment." Chris Carter of Destructoid, similar to Famitsu, recommended it to old and new players, saying: "If you've been itching to get into a Fire Emblem game, this is a great place to start. If you've been playing them all along, you'll feel right at home."
Awakening was nominated for multiple awards after release. At the 2012 Famitsu Awards 2012, Awakening was among the games awarded the magazine's Excellence Award. In the west, it was nominated in the "Best RPG" category at the Spike Video Game Awards 2013. It was nominated in multiple categories in Destructoid's 2013 Game of the Year awards, including Game of the Year, Best Role-Playing Game, Best Story, and Best Soundtrack. It was also nominated for GameSpot's Game of the Year 2013 in the Nintendo 3DS category. In IGN's Best of 2013 awards, it won in both the Best 3DS Strategy Game and Best 3DS Story categories. At the Game Developers Choice Awards 2014, it was nominated in the Best Handheld/Mobile Game category.
The game's Japanese version sold exceptionally well, with it being the fastest selling entry in the series since detailed weekly tallies began. During its opening week, the game managed to sell 242,600 units, reaching the top of the sales charts and beating the debut sales of the previous three Fire Emblem releases. It sold through 81.63% of its initial shipment, causing sell-outs in some stores. Japanese sales tracker Media Create attributed the initial high sales to Nintendo's promotional campaign. Demand for the limited Japanese bundle also exceeded Nintendo's expectations, as the pre-order website crashed from the amount of people trying to buy it. As marketing the game as any product other than a limited edition would have violated a Japanese commercial law, Nintendo were unable to reopen the pre-orders after the initial sales period despite complaints. By the beginning of 2013, the game had sold 455,268 units, placing it among the top 30 high-selling titles for 2012. In addition to the main game, Nintendo reported that 1.2 million units of downloadable content had been sold by September 2012, bringing in an additional 380 million yen (about $4.8 million).
Sales in the west were equally good. During its first month on sale in North America, the game sold 180,000 units, with 63,000 units of the total sales being eShop downloads. These figures gave Awakening the best ever first month sales for the franchise in North America. Sales of the title continued to rise in the coming months, with the total figure reaching 240,000 units by April, including a further 20,000 digital sales. By September, total sales in North America had reached 390,000 units. In the UK, Awakening debuted in third place on the charts behind Injustice: Gods Among Us and BioShock Infinite. The game and the hardware bundle collectively boosted sales of the 3DS and 3DS XL by nearly 50% over the previous week. As of December 2014, the game had sold 1.79 million copies worldwide.
The game's strong sales, well exceeding the figure set by Nintendo during development, saved the Fire Emblem series from cancellation. In January 2015, a new Fire Emblem title created for the 3DS by the same team as Awakening, Fire Emblem If, was announced for a worldwide release.
Awakening 's success has also resulted in characters making appearances in other Nintendo games. Lucina and the Avatar, under their default character name "Robin" and using their default male and female appearance, were featured in the crossover fighting video game Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. Chrom was considered for the game, but was deemed too similar to other Fire Emblem characters in the game, so his appearance was relegated to a small non-playable cameo. Lucina and the Avatar were also made available as playable characters in Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. for those who purchased their Amiibo figures and connected them to the 3DS. Costumes based on Chrom and Lucina are also available in Capcom's Monster Hunter: Frontier G video game, in a cross-promotion done with Nintendo. During promotion for Fire Emblem If, a Fire Emblem-themed trading card game was released. A set themed after Awakening includes a code to download Lucina as a playable character in If.
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- Official Japanese website
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- Fire Emblem Awakening at Fire Emblem World (Japanese)