One of the biggest joys I find in doing these challenges and selecting a video game that’s in progress but waiting to be finished is rediscovering how much I enjoyed playing a game. I typically wonder why I never just continued with the game and finished it once and for all. Actually, I do know why I stopped but the reason is never really important. As long as I’m playing the game again with the commitment to finish it this time, that’s what really matters. I’ve encountered a close call with this month’s video game challenge and this is one game that has called upon me to exercise a lot of perseverance just when I was ready to throw in the towel.
Fire Emblem: Awakening is a tactical RPG game where you have a playable avatar who, at the beginning of the story, is suffering from amnesia and is found and taken in by Prince Chrom of Ylisse. As the story progresses, you gradually uncover the missing memories and identity of your character while helping Chrom and a whole cast of other companions from evil forces taking over Ylisse. Like any other RPG, you can play as a male or female and you get to choose from a subset of default looks for your character.
What I particularly like about Awakening is you get to build relationships with the people you meet along the way. You can choose which characters you want to marry or you can simply build a friendship. Certain pairings will give you better stat boosts than others, which can come in handy on the battlefield, or couples can have children. The ones with children can also join and support you in combat. The amount of possible pairings you can have in Awakening makes this easily a game worth replaying again and again. I played as a female mage married to Chrom, and I loved that her kids were Lucina and Morgan. It made the game feel really personal and had me fully invested in the journey of my avatar, who I named Hope. Even having the other characters address my avatar by the name I gave her made Hope more than just an instrument to reaching each successive point in the story. She was just as important and as fully developed as a character like Chrom or any of the other supporting characters in Awakening.
I always look forward to going into the main menu and seeing there are new conversations in the Support section of the game between characters who you consistently pair up in combat. You begin to see growing bonds of love, friendship, and family in these moments. The conversations continue to add to the story and character building in the world of Awakening. You get a better sense of each character’s individual personalities outside of the battlefield and how they react to other characters who you decide will be working together during the combat portion of the game. Some may have a love/hate relationship with each other in the beginning, which the player may decide these characters will eventually get to know each other and have that relationship really turn into love all along. Or some characters may start off with a bit of miscommunication and misunderstanding in their earlier interactions with each other until they eventually get to the heart of the matter and clear the air. It’s these kinds of game mechanics that make the game an endlessly entertaining one to play.
Combat isn’t particularly difficult in Awakening. Whether you’re a pro at strategy or not, you can easily go from one battle to the next without too much difficulty. I’m about average when it comes to strategy in games. Sometimes I’ll have an idea of how I want to play out a certain battle to reach the end goal and other times I’ll just wing it. The most I had to repeat some chapters in the game is about twice. This largely had to do with using characters who are too weak for particular opponents out on the field or readjusting my tactics to come out with better results on the second try. I’ve been told by others that the older Fire Emblem games, which I’ve never played at all, are much less forgiving on those who don’t have a knack for tactics and strategy than Awakening does. I’m quite grateful for the ease Awakening affords to players like me whose first encounter with any Fire Emblem game is this one. Of course, there’s only so much flexibility a game will allow until you have to count on your own thinking to get you out of sticky situations.
I’ve progressed really well in the game and managed to make time where I could to play it during my month long challenge. I reached the final part of the game, which is the final showdown with Grima. I thought it’d be a fairly simple battle with a reasonable amount of challenge, but nothing excruciatingly hard. In my case, I found it damn near impossible for me to beat to get the final scene of the game. Grima’s army units put the pressure on and keep respawning new ones after defeating one wave. Getting to Grima quickly is easy to do when you bring in your best fighters to the combat. The hardest part is getting Grima’s HP low enough and keeping it at low levels to have one of my characters deliver the final blow. Grima has plenty of healers and is often healed to near full health. This makes all the work you put into whittling down Grima’s health at a decent level feel like it’s for nothing. A lot of my characters kept dying, and keeping Chrom and Hope alive is also a huge struggle. It’s instantly “Game Over” when one of these two die. This is really the only chapter in the game I replayed several times over, trying different strategies and swapping out other characters for different combinations, and nothing worked. It’s frustrating to get stuck at one part of the game when the end is nearly within your grasp. The worst is being stuck at the final level or chapter of the game. This isn’t the first time this has happened to me either.
What do you do when you’ve hit a wall and have replayed the chapter over and over again without getting any measurable results? You rage quit and leave the game to sit untouched for about a week. I sincerely considered giving up on finishing the final chapter and writing my progress report as a woeful failure. Luckily, I’m stubborn and I hate quitting anything I know I can accomplish if I just find another way to get to my goal. This is where my insane ability to exercise perseverance at all costs comes in. I spent one day of the long Memorial Day weekend going back to the game and doing some minor readjustments with my unit. I retried some tactics that seemed to work before I rage quit and left the game alone. I died on my first try, but on the second try, everything lined up just right to ambush Grima and have my best fighters give everything they had. I won, picked the character to deliver the final blow to Grima, and the final cutscenes of the game played out.
I think my success this time around could be credited to luck or just taking a break from a game that was stressing me out more than it should. By coming back to Awakening with fresh eyes and in a calmer place, I kicked Grima out of Ylisse screaming in agony. I squealed in excitement and gripped my 3DS hard as I realized I actually finished Awakening. It was done! Another video game from my backlog checked off my list.
I was thoroughly pleased with my choice at the end of the game because it felt right to me and it was something my character Hope would have wanted to do to eradicate Grima from the world once and for all. The epilogue during the game’s end credits also gives you a nice sense of closure and finality in knowing where all your other companions in Awakening end up. Life is good and everyone is living in peace. The characters all deserve it and it’s a fitting end to an epic game. I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to replay Awakening again, but I’d love to give the perma-death feature a whirl sometime. Remaining unaffected from permanently losing a character and seeing how it changes your tactics and strategy with this feature on will certainly give me a whole new gaming experience I’m not going to find easy to play through but in a good way. I think.
Next month’s video game challenge will be slightly different due to upcoming events I have going on. Rest assured, I will be playing something for that month. Check back next week to find out what it is.