Tag Archives: fire emblem

FGC #438 Fire Emblem Awakening

This is the current roster in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate:

Smash it!

Of the fighters featured, I have played games featuring all characters highlighted in black:

I see a pattern

Who did I miss? Well, it looks like the entire Fire Emblem cast. Whoops! Guess I’ll just have to go on not giving a damn about all those stupid sword animes running around.

It's the shieldBut when ROB recently chose Fire Emblem Awakening (reminder: I follow the rule of ROB, but not necessarily in order picked. It takes slightly longer to play Final Fantasy Mystic Quest than Super Contra), I decided it might be time. After all, I have declared repeatedly on this blog that I would follow Nintendo straight into the depths of Hell almost entirely because they have continually created games that are always amazing to play (even if they’re not always the absolute best in the universe). This is the company that is responsible for hidden, super insane Mario stages and the super guide block. Surely I can trust Nintendo to make an enjoyable experience out of a genre I traditionally despise.

And, besides, my Twitter feed at any given moment is about 80% Lucina fanart, so I was kind of curious about her deal.

So, how did baby’s first Fire Emblem experience go? Well…

Casual Mode is my new God

Going into Fire Emblem, I knew exactly three things:

  1. It’s a tactical RPG, meaning it’s mostly about moving your little dudes around a map
  2. “It’s like chess, but sometimes you make the pieces kiss”
  3. Perma-Death

Here comes some plotAnd, above anything else, that perma-death factor scared me the hell away from the franchise. I can deal with a TRPG, I can deal with anime sword people kissing, but I absolutely cannot deal with perma-death in a videogame. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: above all else, I play videogames to relax. I play videogames to fool around in a consequence-free digital playground. I do not want to play a videogame where I can kill people. … Okay, I play videogames where I kill people all the time. I don’t want to play a videogame where I get people killed. I can deal with fainting. I am okay with “Chrom will remember this” in a pre-written, novel-esque setting. But I do not want to relax by watching a daring and debonair archer fall in battle to some stupid zombie with an axe. And then playing the rest of the game without that character? Knowing there is always a… a hole in my party? And what if that warrior was married? Or had kids? Oh God! My only options would be savescumming or never playing the game ever again.

But Fire Emblem Awakening includes a casual mode where not only is perma-death completely ignored, but saving in the middle of a battle is completely allowed. Hooray! I can actually play the game, and screw up by sending my Valkyrie into enemy territory as recklessly as I want!

Looking into this detail after completing the game, I discovered that there was some controversy over the inclusion of this (filthy) casual mode. And my response to that? Hey, nerds, this is my first Fire Emblem game. Let me learn the ropes and still make progress with my training wheels on. I don’t want to feel bad for the rest of the day just because I forgot axe beats lance. Casual mode is unequivocally a good thing for starting players and people who want to play videogames to unwind while waiting in an immobile airplane due to “engine troubles”. I know it’s more complicated than that, Judy, we’ve been sitting on the tarmac for two and a half hours, I’m not buying this “we’re just waiting for the paperwork” excuse! … Where was I? Oh yeah, you eliminate perma-death, and Fire Emblem is suddenly about a million times less stressful.

And, yes, I can confirm that I probably didn’t get through a single battle without at least one unit “fainting” due to a lucky critical or a mistaken bit of movement. If every “retreat” was a permanent death, my final army would have contained about four characters and absolutely zero flying ponies.

But even without the punishment factor, Fire Emblem Awakening is still a TRPG, my most hated genre. How did that work out?

Fire Emblem Awakening is Surprisingly Zippy

Our hero!I have literally never played another Fire Emblem title (give or take attempting OG Famicom Fire Emblem for about thirty seconds around the time of Super Smash Bros Brawl’s release), so I have no idea how the actual gameplay of Awakening compares to other titles in the franchise. However, I can tell you one thing for certain: Fire Emblem Awakening is unexpectedly fast. I’ve long said that I dislike TRPGs because it takes for freakin’ ever to do the simplest thing (like, ya know, kill an entire army full of people), and comparing a TRPG to other genres is always going to make a TRPG look like a literal waste of time. If this were Fire Emblem Warriors (which, wow, I guess is a thing now), I’d have about 600 enemy units dead before I finished my first turn in Fire Emblem 4 Realsies. And who has time for that? I have a bunch of really fast, really fun videogames right here. They’re all around me! They will likely one day consume me! I’m gonna go play Mega Man, let me know when this eternal combat turn ends.

But Fire Emblem Awakening moves astoundingly quickly. Combat animations are actually interesting and dynamic, movement placement is as easy as dragging a mouse around the screen, and, if all else fails, you can rely on the AI to round out a turn (and hopefully not get everyone killed). Enemy turns move at an excellent pace, and, even when some random dude has four attacks versus two counters, a turn is over in less time than it takes to grab a shower burrito. Despite my own general prejudice toward TRPG slowness, Fire Emblem Awakening doesn’t feel like a waste of my precious time (that could be spent playing Mario Bros.).

roar!And, interestingly enough, this extends to time spent outside of the battle, too. “Equipment” as it is traditionally defined in a JRPG is limited to simply weapons, and most characters (save our tactician player avatar) are limited to one or two weapon types, max. So you grab your best sword, give it to your best gal, and call it a day. The end. Other stats, like defense, are controlled by consumable “powerup” items that either last for one battle or are permanent. So determine who is the most useful, feed ‘em a few extra magic shields, and we’re good to go. There is no juggling equipment to make sure everyone has ice armor for the fire cave, or investigating every single shop to determine if every female character has their proper Minerva dress. It’s just grab some gear and go. And going is good!

And that lack of extra equipment makes managing item bags a breeze. Everybody got their emergency elixir and a weapon or two? Fast gals got their keys in case of treasure emergencies? Great! Let’s mosey!

And speaking of moseying…

The Grid Ain’t so Bad

I have said before that I hate grids. But I can live with Fire Emblem Awakening’s general movement grid. Why?

I have no idea. Huh.

So many squaresI generally dislike grid movement because it feels completely limiting compared to “real” movement. People do not move in grids. People are loosey-goosey! We left behind the crosspad before we even got out of the 20th Century, so who wants to deal with an entire army that can’t even move diagonally? But, somehow, Fire Emblem Awakening just feels like… it works? It’s probably a side effect of the whole speed thing, but “playing chess” with these characters feels oddly natural. I’m going to chalk this one up to one of those “Nintendo Magic” experiences. Somebody knows how to make a land-bound elf and a tubby, surprisingly acrobatic plumber’s movement feel equally valid, so it makes sense that sword dudes would somehow feel natural being tied to invisible squares. Or maybe I just didn’t notice the grids because I was actually enjoying myself. Hm.

And speaking of enjoying myself…

The Plot is Actually Enjoyable (And Anime)

Full disclosure: I am a sucker for time travel. Lucina is Chrom’s child from an alternate future where a dragon decided to munch on all of humanity? And that dragon is the evil twin of one of your own party members, so there’s a future child and a future alternate bad guy? And there could be an entire literal army of other future children? Hook that to my veins! This hole was made for me! Something about time travel being my waifu!… Actually, yeah, “waifus” are kind of an issue here…

It's sad, reallyFire Emblem Awakening is a TRPG, but you’re also encouraged to… uh… breed your warriors. Practically your entire army can have relationships, and these relationships have a basis in dialogue (general between battle hangout sessions) and actually war gameplay (units teaming up and defending/assisting each other). In a way, this is a transparent attempt to further elaborate on characters that are inevitably not going to be involved in the legitimate plot (since standard mode allows for perma-death, technically every character except the leads could be dead within their introductory battle, so we can’t very well hang plot twists on their potentially limited existences), but it also offers a better way to “get to know” warriors that might be interesting in battle (that one turns into a giant ferret! What’s up with that!?), but are otherwise superfluous to the greater narrative. And it also scratches that visual novel itch that seems to have wormed its way into a number of titles (presumably thanks to one biggie). But one significant side effect of these interactions is that certain soldiers can fall for certain other (heteronormative) soldiers. And then they get married. And have babies. And babies inherit skills, return from the future, and become soldiers. And, oh man, Chrom started a forever war without even trying!

And, yes, I had heard of this aspect of FEA before playing the title. And, frankly, I was downright terrified of having to properly manage my relationships and “breeding” for perfectly tweaked future children that have all the best skills and advantages and hair colors. But you know what? It didn’t matter. I didn’t have to micromanage the relationships of these characters, and, give or take a bad ending for one of my luminaries that apparently became a sad drunk without a woman to keep him in line, there were no real consequences to this anti-waifu decision. Like “real”, non-casual mode, there was this entire facet of Fire Emblem Awakening that I could focus on if I wanted to, and it would always be there, but I could ignore it and still have a fun time. A few of my chess pieces hooked up, most of them didn’t, and that was just fine by me.

And you know what else is fine?

Class Changes are Always Cool

Look at this:

POWER UP

Damn, that’s cool.

Okay, I like this franchise now. I can finally say that I officially, uncompromisingly like a TRPG. Way to go, Fire Emblem Awakening.

FGC #438 Fire Emblem Awakening

  • System: Nintendo 3DS, though, given this was apparently the Fire Emblem that revitalized and popularized the entire franchise, I’d expect a rerelease of some kind in the future.
  • Number of players: Can we please, please get a 2 player TRPG battling game? Has this happened in other Fire Emblem titles? Were they any good? I want to know!
  • Yay!  Marth!Anime gonna anime: Of course there is a character that looks like a 12-year old girl but is actually a millennia old dragon person. Other than that, the “anime” of Fire Emblem Awakening isn’t really all that bad, and, with a more Western paintjob, the majority of this title could actually be closer to Tolstoy than Sword Art Online. Okay, that might be pushing it a bit, but this is a surprisingly brutal (re: high body count) story for what I was expecting to be a lot more bubblegum.
  • Mistakes were made: Apparently I wholesale murdered that one dark magician girl everybody is always talking about. I regret nothing.
  • Favorite Soldier: It’s weird, but I wound up gravitating to Lissa. She’s just involved enough in the plot to be present for notable events, and her general personality is an excellent counter to many of the more dour or incidentally blood-thirsty characters. And she can become a pretty competent red mage sage, which is always helpful. Oh, and she has an inferiority complex thanks to a magical tattoo, so that’s also fun.
  • Favorite Future Child: Chrom wound up with Sumia in my playthrough (remember: I do not care), so we wound up with Cynthia, Lucia’s little sister that apparently wants to become a hero… without any real idea of how to do that. And that works surprisingly well! Lucina is all doing the mysterious knight routine and cutting a swath across her own past… and Cynthia can barely figure out how to properly wear pants. They seem like siblings to me.
  • So now do you better understand why these characters are in Smash Bros? Not really. Okay, Robin is pretty damn cool, and surprisingly friendly for her “cool tactician” role… but she’s otherwise fairly unremarkable. Chrom is a generic hero that fights for his friends, so there’s not much there. And I'm so tiredLucina is a goddamn bad ass that bends the laws of time and space to get exactly what she wants and incidentally save the world… but she winds up being the lamest clone character in Smash? Dammit! The coolest one got the worst treatment! I suppose the camaraderie between Robin and Chrom is commendable/memorable, but, having just finished Awakening, I’d rather just see Lucina kicking ass and taking names in a role wholly her own.
  • Did you know? There are a lot of DLC and Spotpass scenarios available, and that appears to be what is intended as the “post-game” of Awakening. But did you know this was the first Nintendo title to feature DLC in any significant form? And the first Nintendo game to feature a DLC swimsuit scenario, because J/TRPG fans are horny as hell? The more you know!
  • Would I play again: I would be curious to see how a more “informed” playthrough of Fire Emblem Awakening would shake out, as I now know many things I did not know before (like who to avoid murdering). But I don’t think I will be doing that for a while, as, now that I have a Fire Emblem “base”, I can try a few other titles that have been recommended over the years. Awakening appears to be a great jumping-on point for the series, and I’m curious to see if this cast/gameplay holds up elsewhere…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Trials of Mana! Yeah! I’m sure that was a random choice! Time for the grand trial of the Goddess of Mana! Please look forward to it!

I admit it

FGC #166 Project X Zone 2

Hi, everybody!Today’s post is brought to you by the little voice in my head that doubts everything!

So what’s this game about?

Project X Zone 2 is a crossover title featuring characters from Capcom, Namco, Sega, and a few special guests from the Nintendo stable. This is ideal, as beloved characters like Mega Man X get to do something, hidden gems like Axel Stone get a little more exposure, and the Virtua Fighter cast gets to pretend they have personalities. A surprising amount of care went into balancing how these characters react to each other, so Erica Fontaine of Sakura Wars and Felicia of Darkstalkers have a lot to talk about, what with being randomly catty members of the clergy an’ all. Oh, and someone remembered that Resonance of Fate happened, and that’s always good.

So this is another crossover fighting game?

Well, no, this is a tactical RPG. Each “unit” is a pair of characters, usually from the same game (like Chris and Jill of Resident Evil), genre (like Chun-Li of Street Fighter and Xiaoyu of Tekken), or “theme” (Strider and Shinobi are ninja bros). Additionally, each unit may have a supporting “solo unit”, which is a lone character that may be randomly assigned. Want to have Captain Commando team up with Dante and Virgil? Go for it! Though he might be more at home with the .hack team…

Wait. I thought you hated TRPGs?

I do! I really do!

Look, I’ve got this theory about videogames, and it goes like this: I’m lazy. Wait, that isn’t a theory at all. Take two! My theory about videogames is that any game that takes too long to do something that would be really easy in another game is kind of crap. Easy example:

  • Super Mario Bros: walk forward, see goomba, jump, kill goomba, move on.
  • Super Mario RPG: walk forward, see goomba, jump, initiate battle, choose commands, defend against attack, attack, kill goomba, earn exp, move on.
  • Super Mario TRPG (nonexistent, thank God): prepare unit, map route, move forward, see goomba, goomba advances, initiate battle, watch combat, hopefully win, kill goomba, earn items, move on.

See how there’s a lot more involved in the (J)RPG and TRPG than the basic action game? It is draining to get the same result (dead goomba) out of so many more steps. And don’t get me started on the fact that it’s impossible to have a “no hits” JRPG run. It’s all about minimizing damage, not avoiding it. How does that make sense!?

You obviously enjoy JRPGs, so why single out TRPGs?

NOOOOOPE!Because they take forever! I can deal with the typical JRPG party of three to five dudes and dudettes fighting through a single battle, but a TRPG “army” of pieces traipsing around a map, waiting for enemy units to move, battling only when everyone involved is within proper ranges… it takes forever! Who has time for that!?

So it’s just a matter of time spent?

That’s a factor, yes, but the problem is tension. If a Super Mario Bros. level takes a maximum of 300 seconds, that means you can only, at absolute maximum, waste 300 seconds if you die inches from the goal. Meanwhile, in a JRPG, you’re limited by save points: you can lose all your progress thanks to a difficult monster mob, but every time you save, you’re “safe”, and that counter begins again. In a TRPG, you’re generally not allowed to save until the end of the battle, and, with every unit moving and fighting and whatever, some “battles” may take an entire hour. That means everything you do for a full hour could be for naught if you made some dumb moves during round one… and that gets pretty damn frustrating pretty damn fast.

So if you could save/undo every round, a TRPG would be fun?

No, because then there wouldn’t be any tension. Like calling a mulligan on every golf swing, the “sport” wouldn’t mean anything, and you’d be moving pieces around with all the anxiety of a game of The Sims. Frankly, I don’t enjoy TRPGs because I feel like I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. This isn’t to say I can’t identify good TRPGs (I pretty much have Ogre Battle Stockholm Syndrome), just that it’s the genre I’m pretty much least likely to get excited about.

So does Project X Zone 2 do something new with the TRPG genre to get your interest?

Also NopeNot… really? If anything, with its pre-configured units and the fact that the different characters barely have dissimilar attack attributes, PXZ2 is easily one of the dumbest TRPGs out there. Like, say what you will about Wild Arms XF, but its variety of classes and configurations allowed for at least an appealing selection of options for combat. Here, you’ve got nineteen different chess pieces, but they’re secretly all pawns. Some units may be a little stronger, and some may be able to move a few more squares, but it barely matters anyway, because each level seems to randomly toss the pieces onto the board. Got Team Yakuza up to a powerful level? Too bad, they’re not involved in this skirmish, better luck next time.

So you can’t customize your units at all?

Oh, you can, but it’s horrible. You may purchase two equippable items for each unit, and, between rounds, you may powerup the individual moves of each unit, but… it’s just a pain in the ass. While there are all sorts of stat parameters for each item and attack, all that ever matters is your attack power (to make sure battles go a little faster) and your HP/DEF (to make sure you don’t die). These are stats that level up with every, ya know, level up, so the extra “go to the shop now to buy crap” step doesn’t enhance anything. It’s just one more time wasting chore to perform between stages. And, yes, if you ignore this “step”, you will be stomped into oblivion during your next battle. Joy.

So the gameplay sucks. Playing it for the story?

That's gonna stingOh, God no. The story is so damn stupid. The entire story could be condensed to “bad guys are doing bad guy thing”. Why are they doing it? That’s mysterious. Where did they get the ability to nearly destroy the world(s)? Nobody knows. Why is one of the villains a bunny girl that speaks in broken English? Nobody wants to know.

And every level starts and ends with, “Oh no, bad guys are doing bad thing, we’ve got to stop them… but how!?” And then every stupid issue is solved by beating thirty or so enemy units and a boss or two. Like, okay, I’m not expecting Shakespeare here, but this is the most pointless plot since Seymour the Slug Sloshes Through Salt. We knew what was going to happen! There was a picture of melted slug on the cover!

So it’s just the crossover aspect that is appealing?

Man, even that is a giant disappointment. It’s kind of fun when there’s a new enemy or ally every level, but even then, it seems like every dumb action has to get a reaction from about half the cast. I counted four different occasions when the party had to make a “scary jump”, and about half the players had to contribute some inane drivel about heights being frightening or whatever. Newsflash, there’s no tension in a TRPG when combat units have to do something during a cutscene, and pressing A over and over again is only fun for so long.

Then, past about Level 20, the game doesn’t introduce any new characters, and just recycles the same old scenarios and characters. It’s not a bad thing that your party is done and “complete” by that point, but the designers seem to revel in reusing the same old bosses continuously, and, frankly, that bunny with a tank wasn’t threatening the first six times he was defeated.

It stops being interesting at Level 20? How many levels are there?

42.

Jesus Christ.

I know.

I assume you quit well before the end?

Nope, cleared the entire game.

WHY?!

And that's all!If I’m being honest? Because the game doesn’t try.

It’s a TRPG, but it’s on a portable system, so I can play it while watching TV. If I waste an hour on a failed mission, then at least I watched some Bojack Horseman while doing it. If I keep my equipment and abilities up to spec between battles, then I should have no trouble plowing over monsters during the campaign. If I keep an eye on my counter gauge and use items liberally, I should be able to stomp any rivals. Protect the areas that need protecting with my extra units, and send the big guns up against that big gun boss. Sure, I might not completely be paying attention to the scintillating dialogue, but I’ll keep an eye out for any time a favorite character it speaking. That X is the Abraham Lincoln of reploids.

And, in that fashion, I finish a 30 hour game I don’t even like. It… didn’t really bother me too much, so… hooray?

That’s kind of sad.

Hey, I’ve got a lot of videogames. They can’t all be winners.

FGC #166 Project X Zone 2

  • System: 3DS. This would be unbearable on a television.
  • Number of players: Just one. You’d think there’d be more two player TRPGs. I mean, people have been playing chess for years, right? It’s not that different, and now that we have online play…
  • Favorite Unit: It might be the most boring choice, but having Jin, Kazuya, and Heihachi of Tekken all working together feels oddly satisfying. Three generations of kicking ass! Woo!
  • Lucy on the battlefield with diamondsFashion Faux Pas: It seems like every other female character has an excuse to change into another costume during attacks. It’s to be expected with the cast of Sakura Wars, but it’s more than a little weird that Fire Emblem’s Lucina dons a bridal dress, or that KOS-MOS produces a sailor fuku. The men don’t seem to have the same problem, though a few dudes transform into demons because… why not?
  • Popular Culture: The localization team obviously had a blast wedging as many eclectic references into the script as possible. You know that when a reference to Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom drops into the script that things have gone well and truly insane.
  • Did you know? Star Gladiator is a game that happened, and Project X Zone 2 remembers that. Maybe that’s all I need to be entertained.
  • Would I play again: God, I hope not.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Adventures of Lolo 2 for the NES! Blocks must be pushed, and there’s only one little blue guy to do it! Please look forward to it!

So much fanfic