“Choose a god and pray!” Celebrating a decade of Fire Emblem’s awakening

It may be hard to believe, but today marks 10 years since Fire Emblem Awakening was released in the US. The legend behind its creation has been told ad nauseam, to the point where details have become a bit fuzzy and embellished. To simplify a complex situation, the series had underperformed commercially in the past, leading to the expectation that this entry would serve as a swan song on the 3DS.

During a 2015 Iwata asks In an interview, then-President of Nintendo Satoru Iwata spoke to employees who worked on the game, including producer Hitoshi Yamagami.

“To be honest, when we made Awakening, we wanted it to be the final installment in the series,” Yamagami explained. “[Shinji] Hatano-san, who worked as the sales department manager, said, ‘The Emblem series doesn’t do numbers, so this will be the last one.’”

Such a foreboding creed might discourage some, while the team behind Awakening saw it as an opportunity to implement as many mechanics and features as possible onto the cartridge.

“…the members said, ‘This will be the last one, so let’s put whatever we want in it so we don’t have any regrets,'” Yamagami continued. “Then we had a long list of different things, ‘I want to do this’ and ‘I want to do that,’ and the result was Awakening.”

Fire Emblem Awakening Chrome and Marth
Image source: Nintendo

Fire Emblem Awakening is set in a distant future, where the iconic continent of Archanea bore only a passing resemblance to its former self, with Chrom, Prince of Ylisse, whose band of shepherds one fateful day encounter a mysterious fallen figure. Subsequent partnership with this avatar character would see the team travel to neighboring kingdoms and beyond to avert a tragic future.

Several cast members, including Chrom, his daughter Lucina, and Robin (the avatar’s default name) quickly became favorites in Fire Emblem’s story, and the game itself introduced several mechanics that shook the tactical formula in one way or another. These included, but were not limited to, unit pairing to enhance their offensive and defensive abilities, the option to disable the signature permanent death feature, and a clear emphasis on character romances and the resulting offspring.

Although some of these ideas had been experimented with in the past, the thinking behind Awakening was that this would be their last chance to flesh them out. The result was hours of mission planning—not about the battle ahead, but about whether Sumia’s marriage to Gaius would benefit her daughter Cynthia enough to justify their love.

Fire Emblem Awakening Sumia
Pictured: Sumia and Gaius Horse. Image source: Nintendo

Between a narrative that included time travel, 43 playable units and additional content as DLC, it was clear that the teams at Intelligent Systems and Nintendo SPD had given their all. If this was really going to be the end of Fire Emblem, then they had ended in a way befitting its prestigious lineage. It was launched in Japan in April 2012 and all eyes were on the market reaction.

The critical response was glowing, with an overall score of 92% based on the compiled reviews metacritical. More importantly, however, was the fact that it moved more units than they hoped, moved quickly in its early weeks, and ended up among Japan’s best-selling games of 2012.

When it arrived in the US in January 2013, it was similarly well cutwhich moved 180,000 units in its first month – helped by strong digital sales, of which 63,000 were included.

Fire Emblem Awakening lifetime sales are believed to be exceeded 2 million units, leading to a wave of franchise intrigue and ensuring future titles would follow. Using the same metrics, both Fire Emblem Fates on the 3DS and Fire Emblem: Three Houses on the Nintendo Switch would dwarf those numbers.

The legacy of Fire Emblem Awakening simply cannot be underestimated. Had it not brought the franchise back from the brink, Nintendo would not have found its money cow Fire Emblem Heroes; a mobile juggernaut with all times Issues of the global players which has surpassed $1 billion since its launch in February 2017.

Video Game Anniversaries 2020
Image Credit: Intelligent Systems, planning and development by Nintendo Entertainment

More personal, however, Awakening allowed new players to discover why its small but passionate fanbase has been singing the praises for years. It came out twice when Twinfinite editors were asked to list their favorite games of the 2010s.

“One of the most compelling strategy titles I’ve ever played, Awakening literally had everything that made the series great,” said then-editor Hayes Madsen.

The other editor who spoke about his values? That would be me, and it would be super awkward to quote myself. Instead, I’ll just keep thinking about what Fire Emblem Awakening meant; that is, a mainstream strategy game in a genre with a notoriously high entry level. Although some may feel that its concessions lessen its appeal, I reject such notions of gatekeeping.

In case anyone wants to play Fire Emblem incorrect as it suits them, that is their prerogative. Subsequent titles have even gone so far as to allow individual rounds to be reset, allowing players to enjoy the experience without having to worry about every minute of calculation. Since the launch of the Wii in 2006, Nintendo has worked hard to make games more inclusive, and while Fire Emblem Awakening won’t exactly be a hit in retirement homes, it would still serve as a starting point for tactical beginners.

In terms of creative vision, Awakening’s story and characters were ambitious in a way the series had never achieved before. Of course, technical limitations had hampered the scope for dialogue in previous entries, and yet Ylisse’s extended battalion felt so alive and intriguing. A lot of them were tropey-leaning, but there was a lot to like about that approach, especially in support talks that juxtaposed these crazy dynamics.

Fire Emblem Awakening Gerome and Inigo
( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Image Source: Nintendo

Despite the impressive sales, Fire Emblem Fates, the sequel to 2015’s Trinity of Adventures, wasn’t widely acclaimed. Most would cite its weak narrative and tepid main character as its greatest transgressions, but I feel like the main reason it didn’t live up to Awakening’s standards is because of its lack of understanding of the fine line between content and bloating is absent.

Do you like the extended roster? Have 61 soldiers at your fingertips! Do you like the accessibility? Try the Phoenix mode, which revives fallen units in the next turn. Do you like the marriage mechanics? You’re back and now you can share your lock with your ambiguous aged spouse.

For Fire Emblem purists, Awakening might already be trying too hard to appease everyone, though that was very intentional; Go a razor-thin edge that reinforced the series’ strengths for the most part. It resonated with veterans and newcomers alike, boldly embarking on a thankless final quest to keep up the spirit of a flagging franchise.

These days, fans no longer have to hold their breath in nervous anticipation of whether each new entry could be their last. Marth and his ilk are made men, with Musou spinoffs and niche crossovers and cosplay skeletons. The latest addition, Fire Emblem Engage, is fun if unspectacular and has been selling reasonably well since its launch in January. It’s not quite Three Houses characters, but it’s a far cry from the days when titles were little more than obscure oddities for strategy game specialists.

Although Fire Emblem Awakening released in the US 10 years ago today, its rock-solid foundation and defiant ambition make it a must-read. As antiquated as the now-defunct technology of the 3DS may seem, once you’ve started unleashing your militia into action, you’ll shock yourself at how quickly you’ll become engrossed.

Just… please, for the love of God, think carefully about who you end up putting Nowi with. You don’t want to embarrass the whole army, do you?

https://twinfinite.net/2023/02/pick-god-pray-fire-emblem-awakenings-10th-anniversary/ “Choose a god and pray!” Celebrating a decade of Fire Emblem’s awakening

Fry Electronics Team

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