Looking Back at Fire Emblem Awakening

This is something that's really hard to believe. Seven years ago on this day Fire Emblem Awakening was released in the US. It was a game I waited a long time for, and one that remains pretty special to me. You see while many people just see it as a game, for me it marks a series of events that changed a lot in my life forever. I've mentioned this story in pieces in the past, but today I wanted to take the time to explain just what this game means to me, why I like it so much, and the events that took place as it released. This is my story of returning to Fire Emblem, and the start of a new chapter in my life.

My Introduction to Fire Emblem:

Fire Emblem was a series I knew very little about when it first came out. In fact I only saw it's name in passing online, and never knew much more about it. It wasn't until the day my mom let me buy Smash Bros Melee that it fell within my radar, and even then I never planed on playing it. I still can remember playing the game with my cousin as we waited to go see Spider-Man 2 in theaters, and right before we left Marth popped up as a new challenger. "Oh my friend likes that game!" Was my cousin's response. Back then I didn't know who this "friend" was, but funny enough he was the one who would eventually teach me about the series. During that time however I had no way of playing Fire Emblem myself, and I didn't think I would like it due to the fact it had magic in it. I wasn't for the whole fantasy thing, and my parents especially didn't like me being exposed to such things.

Jumping ahead a year or so and thanks to MSN group chats I finally met this friend of my cousin's. He used the username of "Erk" and used the Fire Emblem character of the same name as his avatar. He'd tell me about the game and show me different things about it, but I wouldn't actually touch it myself until a few years after that. All I knew is the characters looked cool and the story did sound fun, but I still wasn't sure about the whole tactical gameplay it had. Another friend of mine named Keith would play Advance Wars with me quite a bit, and I still wasn't sure how I actually felt about that -- yet alone the same type of game with perma death and RPG elements. So I avoided it for awhile, but eventually I did get Fire Emblem 8. And yeah, I was bad at it. I never finished that game because I let all my characters die, and I never had the will to go back and play it. Some time after I would go back and play "Fire Emblem" (which was actually Fire Emblem 7), and when I did so I ended up playing it along side Keith. We would talk about the story and stuff at school, and discuss how we handled different things, but once we finished it we kinda stopped there. Sure we'd bring up the game once in awhile, but once we graduated high school that all stopped.

Although I liked Fire Emblem, I still didn't care to go back to FE8, and it wasn't until at least a couple of years after finishing 7 that I played through 6 (which 7 was a prequel to) along side Erk. I never did check out the Game Cube or Wii releases, but I mainly used characters like Ike when I played Smash Bros. At one point I wanted to check out some of the other older Japanese exclusives, but I was never able to get them for myself or even find the time (or money) to do so. College had me busy non stop for the last two years, and my only free time was between classes (which I used to work on this blog). So while I was still interested in it, I didn't really keep up with the series at all. That is until Fire Emblem Awakening was announced.

Road to Awakening:

I first heard about Awakening in one of Nintendo's official trailers. It looked really cool, but honestly the only reason I wanted it so badly was because it was on the 3DS. At the time I had basically finished every other game released for it, and Fire Emblem was something that would give me a reason to pick the console back up. So I started doing more research into the game, and that's when I realized it would include a lot of features that I'd like. First of all it had a "My Unit" system where you got to create your own character. This was seen in past Japanese Fire Emblem games, but "Fire Emblem" only had the unseen character of "Mark" who you played the role of as you issued your commands. So this was something new and exciting for me, and the fact that an "improved" world map system from FE8 had also returned was even more of a selling point. While I did like the linear stories of the other games, I wanted something I could spend time with just messing around once the story was finished. With all the customization Awakening seemed to offer, and the ability to replay stages as much as you want, the game was already giving me exactly what I wanted. Then there was the relationship system which allowed your units to team up and even have kids. I liked the idea of time travel being a part of the story, and that the characters could get married before the game's ending. (It used to be confined to the game's epilogues where we got to read about our character's futures.) Then to top it all off, the game also featured a casual mode if perma death scared you off, and it had multiple difficulty modes you could choose from. This meant I could play the game however I wanted, and make it easier or harder based on my experience with it. I know this is against what a lot of Fire Emblem fans consider Fire Emblem, but I liked the addition. Bottom line is everything I saw about the game had me excited, and I couldn't wait to play it. Of course it would be awhile.

Leading up to release I would spend long hours online at night looking up information about the game, watching videos, and even reading articles published in magazines. This was the first time Fire Emblem was getting this much exposure, and for me it really helped add to the hype. A lot of others were becoming interested in it too, and it was pretty easy to find discussions related to it online. Heck even most of my friends who typically didn't care for Fire Emblem were waiting to play it -- something I never expected! Although all of this made the wait for the game harder, it was also a lot of fun for me. Before I knew it the release date was rapidly approaching, and finally it was the night before. Super Bowl Sunday.

The Night of Tragedy:

Super Bowl Sunday of 2013 was strange for me. For once I actually watched the game (I typically don't care about sports), but I also spent a lot of it playing my new Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward game. I was addicted to that game, and was pretty much playing it every chance I got. I was done with college at this point so I only had to worry about working at my family's bakery, and because of that I had a lot more time to play games while I looked for a "real job." VLR ate up most of my time from the beginning of the year up until then, and although I was going to take a break from it to play Fire Emblem that next day, I knew I would quickly be coming back to it. The strange thing about all of this is, as I was playing the game that night I arrived at a puzzle that heavily focused on robots and eyes. I didn't think much of it at the time, and the puzzle itself ended up giving me some clues about the overall mystery, but other than that it was just another part of the game. I was completely unaware of the upcoming tragic, completely coincidental, event just around the corner. Because you see, as soon as I finished that eye puzzle I went to bed so I could get up early the next day. I wanted to get to the store as early as possible to pick up Fire Emblem, and to do that I couldn't stay up too late. So the moment that story section ended I sat my Vita on the night stand by my bed, and went to sleep.

The next thing I remember is the phone ringing, and my mom answering it. It was my grandma. She had woken up in the middle of the night, and as she got out of bed to go to the restroom she noticed something funny. She couldn't see as well as she could before, it was almost as if half her vision was gone. The more she looked around the sooner she realized it WAS in fact gone, and it wasn't coming back. She called my mom first since we only lived a few blocks over, and my mom quickly got dressed to take her to the emergency room. I was going to go with them, but my mom insisted I went back to bed instead. My grandma was scheduled to work at the bakery early in the morning, and I would have to cover for her. She then assured me if anything happened she'd give me a call, but thankfully that didn't happen. I woke up that next day at 5 AM, and I went right to the bakery.

Everyone there was pretty upset when I told them the news. The regular customers all liked my grandma (some even called her "Mom"), and they were all hoping and praying that she would get better. I heard an update from my mom, and found out nothing had changed. My grandma's vision in one of her eyes was still gone, and the doctors were pretty sure it wasn't coming back. This was pretty hard to hear, and especially hard on my uncle, but there was nothing we could do. Eventually my mom came back from the hospital to rest for a few hours, and the moment I got off of work we both ran up there. The hospital was at a much larger city roughly an hour and a half away from home, so it took awhile to make it. By the time we got there my grandma was already going in for more testing, so that's when I stopped by a Target store to see if Fire Emblem had come in. I actually arrived as the guy was unboxing it at the counter, and shockingly they only had a few copies in stock. That was the good news of the day.

After my grandma returned to her room I was there to see her. At this point it was pretty much confirmed to be a mini stroke, and there was nothing that could be done. Thankfully it wouldn't happen to her other eye, but she would have to live like this for the rest of her life.

That night I remember playing Fire Emblem on the way home. It helped keep my mind off of the things that had just happened that day, and I was happy to see it was pretty much everything I wanted. I was invested in the story (which helped me stay focused on it), and I couldn't wait to start building my team and unlocking all of the different classes and skills for my party. This is eventually what drew me in the most, and what I would spend a lot of time doing for the next few months. To top off the bad news however, that night we got back from the hospital we discovered a mouse had got in somehow... So we had that mess to deal with for a few days, but we weren't actually home much during that time anyway. There were multiple trips up to the hospital to see my grandma, and even when she came home there was a lot left to be done. She was scheduled to see quite a few eye doctors over the coming months, and she was also advised not to drive. Being the part time worker that I was, a lot of driving her around fell on me, and so I would spend quite a bit of time in waiting rooms with nothing to do. Except to play Fire Emblem that is. I brought my 3DS with me pretty much everywhere I went (or sometimes my Vita), and Fire Emblem was always my go to game. I'd sit there for long hours just grinding out my character's and their classes, and do whatever I could to build a perfect team. It didn't take me long to "beat" the main game, but all of the extras kept me coming back for more. At one point I became so obsessed with this aspect of the game, that I actually wrote multiple guides on how to maximize different characters and skills (one of which I would go on to post here). In a way it was busy work, but again it helped keep my mind off of things.

Looking at the Brighter Side:

Although I got it at a bad time, and my grandma losing her vision is something that can never be reversed, not all of the memories were bad for me. I mean I did get to spend more time with my grandma during all of this, and she adapted to the loss surprisingly well. In fact it didn't take long for her to completely stop noticing it and move on. I still remember her laying there in the hospital laughing about it with my grandpa about it, and despite what had just happened, she didn't let it drag her down. Sure she struggled (or rather still struggles) with her depth perception (being as she has none), but other than that she ended up being fine. She still needed help from time to time with things, but I didn't mind it at all. Again I got to spend time with her, and those will always be good memories for me. Playing Fire Emblem in the waiting rooms was just a bonus.

Between the time of going to the eye doctor, and helping my grandma out in other ways, there were other things that came about because of Fire Emblem. Mainly the current version of this blog. My Fire Emblem Awakening review was the first thing I wrote for the new version of Netto's Game Room, and Fire Emblem in general became the focus of this site. I moved everything off of Capcom-Unity, assembled the main members of our Unity team on Skype, and the three of us got to work on creating something new yet old. Awakening became the base for a lot of my future posts, while everyone else kinda did their own thing, and was something that stuck with me for the rest of the year. It was a lot of fun setting up the blog really, and it was something that would eventually evolve into a (possibly) life long project. I mean here we are 7 years later after all. While Awakening wasn't the actual inspiration for the new NGR, it played a huge part in turning it into what it is today. So when I think of FEA, although I have bad memories from it, it brought me a lot of good ones as well, and it's those happy memories that help outweigh the bad. I'm still very thankful that things didn't turn out worse for my grandma, and I'll never forget how scary it was to go through something like that, but the good memories will always remain some of my favorites. Everything that happened with this blog and the time me and my friends spent together working on it will always be memories that I'll treasure, and Awakening will continue to remind me of them.

Really Awakening just came out at a perfect time for me, and it was one of the few times a video game helped me get through a rough time while also helping shape my future. I think it's because of this that Awakening will always be my favorite in the series, but really it's because of the gameplay as well. It's the game that ended up making me a "real" Fire Emblem fan, and why I continue to buy as many games from the series that I can. But again, Awakening remains my favorite. Along with this blog, the game became a summer long project for me, and it's one of the last games I played through before my life completely changed. As I've mentioned in past blogs, 2013 was a hard year for me, and Fire Emblem is one of the few lights from that dark time.

Anyway, Awakening remains special to me, and I still can't believe so much time has passed since that day. A lot has happened over these last seven years, but I still remember so much like it just happened yesterday. Man...
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