Fire Emblem. It's the talk of the town right about now, but I'm not too familiar with the series. About a decade ago, I played FE: Path of Radiance and FE: Radiant Dawn. I don't remember that much about it, really. Now that I have a 3DS I figure I'll give the series another shot. I never played Awakening and I haven't been following the news for this game all that closely, so what I know about it is limited mostly to a few blog site posts and reading the backs of the game preorder boxes. This run may be embarrassing.
So, the first question of course is - Anya or Byakuya version? Black box or white box? Nohr or Hoshido? When I first heard about this choice I was interested. Okay, so Hoshido is clearly Japan here, and it appears that their country is being invaded by the evil Europea-, er, Nohr folks. The box text suggests that Anya Kingdom is plainly evil and Byakuya Kingdom is plainly good, if you side with Hoshido you're fighting against the forces of evil, but if you side with Nohr you're 'being a glimmer of light in the darkness'. Okay, whatever, but then I heard that Nohr side will have some interesting mechanics about not being able to grind levels, and having more strategic goals than Hoshido. Also, I'm already a white guy living in Japan who blogs about JRPGs, so if I sided with Hoshido from the start I might hit critical weeaboo levels and have a meltdown. Nohr it is.
Forcing me to make one tough choice wasn't enough though, and the game immediately makes me pick the game difficulty, my character's gender, appearance, and class. Fem Kamui is cute but I decided to go with M Kamui for my first run. Maybe next run I can play cute lesbian Kamui on Hoshido side, but for now I'm going with this. What kind of person would try to change a warring country from the inside when given the choice of fighting them directly? That's the impression I was given of my role in Nohr, and it sounds like something that you'd have to be either incredibly smart or incredibly stupid to attempt. I have a feeling it's going to be incredibly stupid, so I made my Kamui an intelligent Sorcerer because he's going to need all the smarts he can get for this task. For difficulty, I went with Hard. I've heard Normal is too easy, but I'm too out of shape from the series to try the Lunatic difficulty right from the start, so Hard it is.
The game starts with Kamui having a dream - the pure and innocent Hoshido are being attacked by the cartoonish villains of Nohr. Kamui is with some Hoshido folks who call him their brother, and some mooks wander one at a time into our area so that we can have a tutorial battle. Cut to a battle between a prince of Hoshido, Ryouma, and a prince of Nohr, Marx. Ryouma wields a giant katana whose steel has been folded a thousand times through superior Hoshido smithing and it crackles with electricity powered by pure bushido. Marx rides in on a horse wielding some really evil looking sword crackling with dark magic that some dirty, unholy sorcerer probably enchanted. Marx gets a good hit in on Ryouma, but then Ryouma flips out and slices Marx a thousand times, and they're evenly matched.
Kamui wakes up, this time with the Nohr princes and princesses calling him their brother. It turns out the royals of Nohr are actually pretty nice folks, they're all big softies when it comes to Kamui and doting on him. I do some sparring with Marx to hone my swordsmanship - wait, wasn't I supposed to be a sorcerer? Oh well. Kamui has been declared ready to venture out of the castle he was raised in and go out into the world! Before that though, he has to go see daddy. Daddy Nohr is scary and everyone knows it.
Earlier I mentioned that I made sure intelligence was my Kamui's strong suit, but the game doesn't seem to care, because Kamui is a complete moron and decides that despite training his sword skills for years, he's a pacifist and he refuses to finish off the Hoshido captives that daddy is having him fight to prove himself. One of his brothers covers for him by teleporting the Hoshido folks to safety and pretending like he actually killed them, and daddy Nohr is pissed, but he still gives Kamui a ridiculously evil looking sword - again with the swords, I'm a sorcerer! Why let me choose when everyone will treat me like a swordsman? Maybe it'll change later? Kamui meets up with the Hoshido folks he spared and tells one of them, Rinka, that he doesn't want to fight them and would instead like to become friends with them. Huh? Isn't there a limit to how naive someone can be? These two kingdoms are supposed to be at war, but Kamui is already laying the "let's all just talk it out and be friends" JRPG protagonist act on thick. Better hope his plot armor is just as thick.
Daddy Nohr gives Kamui a new mission to prove himself, and a reminder of what a lovely kingdom Anya is by assigning a mass-murdering lunatic to accompany him on the trip. Fortunately we also have our reliable mentor-type old man figure Gunther, and a maid named Felicia coming with us. In the first real battle of the game, I immediately failed when Felicia got wrecked by archers. Now, when I started the game, I was given the choice of casual mode which makes characters never die for good, and the other option which means if they die once they're gone. I picked casual and I immediately felt like a tool when Felicia let out a dying scream and the game zoomed in on her like she had just suffered a critical injury, but then she just said she was withdrawing from the fight anti-climatically. It shamed me so much that I reset and restarted on hardcore, and Felicia immediately got picked off again by archers, permanently, muttering about how sorry she was for being clumsy to the end. Whoops. I can't be losing characters this early, so I reloaded and had Gunther and Kamui form up and take point for an easy win as long as Felicia stayed way back.
Nohr bros and sis come to save the day and send Kamui and Gunther back home, but on the way back, crazy mass-murderer guy drops Gunther off a bridge into a ravine for what looks like a fatal fall, and attacks Kamui, who sprouts some dragon appendages and smacks crazy guy around with it, but not before he also falls off the bridge. Some girl from the castle turns into a dragon and carries Kamui to a safe zone, and I come back to the real world to get smacked upside the head by Rinka and taken in front of the Hoshido royalty. They claim that Kamui is actually their long-lost brother and was abducted as a child by daddy Nohr. Someone who claims to be Kamui's mom hugs him. Now look mom, I don't want to be rude, but my Kamui is pretty close to the default art, and Kamui clearly looks, how to put it, not Japanese? He looks just like his Nohr 'brothers and sisters'. Were you messing around with some Nohr man behind your husband's back? I look nothing like big bro Ryouma. Next up I'm being taken alongside Ryouma and to go save our Hoshido sisters who were selflessly helping evacuate civilians in a village when the dastardly Nohr folks attacked it. I get it game, I get it!
So about the game itself, coming to this from playing Stella Glow is interesting. It's hard to get used to the ultra-low quality battlefield graphics at first, but it clearly must be a stylistic choice because the rest of the game is so high-budget - gorgeous cutscenes, character portraits, and usage of 3D. I'll get used to it, I'm sure. I'm looking forward to continuing playing it, I hope it surprises me and Kamui isn't just a naive pacifist-turned-killing-machine like I expect he will be.
Random JRPG blogging about the games I'm currently playing.