Since I picked up Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones from the 3DS Ambassador program, I’ve been enthralled with a certain aspect of the series, one that is truly able to set it apart from the rest: relationships. Despite the cold, heartless rigidity of grid and number-based combat, Fire Emblem has been able to connect to players through its many colorful characters and their interactions. More than any other game in the series, relationships and romance are truly at the heart of the recently released Awakening, making it the perfect “romantic” game for this Valentine’s Day.
In the Fire Emblem series, the Support system, the driving force of character relationships, is fairly simple. When the right units stand next to each other for long enough during battle, they gain the ability to unlock support conversations. Revealing backstory and often humorous, these support conversations not only help to gain insight into beloved characters, but they also give the pairs bonuses in the fray should they be standing near each other. The more support conversations a pair has (up to three), the closer they are and the better the benefits. Sadly, in terms of actual romance, there were a couple problems- namely, not every relationship is romance.
In Awakening, everything has changed. While Supports were little more than slight bonuses in previous games, they are integral to success in this newest 3DS entry. In addition to what seems to be an unlimited number of connections, the change most apparent from the start is a new “S” level of relationship, available (unforunately in the eyes of many) only for characters of opposite gender. Yes, folks, this level is marriage. Barring blood relations and pure incompatibility, the possibilities for romance are vast and varied, especially in the case of your self-created avatar. That playa can enter a relationship with any fellow warrior of the opposite gender. The routes may vary, including antics involving pies, sweaters, personal grooming and who knows what else, but the end result is the same: a ring on dat finger.
Complementing relationships beyond simple support, Fire Emblem: Awakening’s revamped combat system has an impossible to ignore focus upon teamwork and camaraderie. If two units are even standing next to each other when a battle commences, the second is right there, selflessly providing combat bonuses and occasionally even stepping in to join in on an attack or block an enemy’s assault. In an even greater departure from previous games, units can pair up, occupying the same space while the passive soldier gives the controlling unit significant stat boosts. Just as with adjacent units, double attacks and blocking come into play. The result of all this? The feeling of a living, fluid army.
By literally pairing up units and watching them fight together, an incredibly profound bond is formed, which only strengthens as time goes on. I can’t say how many times Prince Chrom has helped his beloved Sumia take down an enemy, but I can vividly remember a scene where he leapt in front of her, deflecting an arrow and saving her life from my woefully inadequate tactical skills. By watching pairs grow closer outside of battle and seeing them become amazing fighting duos in the fray of war, a connection is made that goes deeper than what I thought was possible, especially with over twenty unique units to watch and play matchmaker with.
Even I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve invested emotionally in these characters. I never quite realized it until recently: for the entire game, my avatar had been paired up with Chrom’s cleric sister Lissa, but I made a decision to separate them. Lissa was lagging behind in combat applications, and the new Anna girl was fantastic! Considering that my army effectively shrinks to half of its size on the first turn, the lone wandering sprite of Lissa came close to wrenching at my gut. How could I have so easily tossed her aside when they had been through so much?
What’s written above can only scratch the surface of the emotions I have felt thanks to Fire Emblem: Awakening. As my five (and counting) happily married couples can attest, love can bloom, even on a battlefield.