I finished Fire Emblem: Awakening yesterday, and let me tell you: that is one fine game. My first impulse was starting over and playing it again, only with a strict ‘no reset’ policy (I admit I cheated a bit here and there the first time around). There’s also a comprehensive selection of DLC and post-game content that will keep me occupied for quite a while.

I love this series, and played the hell out of both [Fire Emblem][emblem] and [The Sacred Stones][stones] back in the day on my GameBoy Micro. These games are perfectly polished little pearls. The animations are silky smooth, the story and characterization is surprisingly deep, and the combat system is as engaging as it is unforgiving.

Compared to the older games in the series I felt that the story of Awakening was a little meh. Not bad, just a bit too generic fantasy for my taste. As soon as you heard Grima, the Fell Dragon mentioned in the beginning you pretty much knew where the story was headed. Granted, there is some very interesting stuff happening before that, but overall I wasn’t too impressed.

However, gameplay-wise the polish has been taken to a new level. Characters will help each others out in combat as long as they stand next to each other, so you have to consider who to put where. You can also let two characters pair up on the same square, which makes them stronger and also provides shelter for weak units like healers and fliers when there are bowmen about. Another big thing is the abundance of disposable enemies that start popping up a bit into the game. This makes levelling up weak characters a lot more doable than in earlier games, and you don’t have to worry about ‘wasting’ XP on characters with a low payoff (i.e. Marcus in Fire Emblem).

This was a lot of fun. We’ll se what happens when I get my hands on Etrian Odyssey 4, but right now Fire Emblem is Game of the Year for me.