Fire Emblem Awakening: Classic vs Casual

fire_emblemI’m still playing turn-based, tactical, strategy-RPG Fire Emblem: Awakening on the 3DS. Have been, off and on, since it launched. Suffice to say I love the game.

I’ve actually got two games running at the same time. The one I started first is in “Classic Mode.” Fire Emblem traditionally has had a perma-death feature. If a character dies in a battle, that character is dead forever. The only exception to this (in FE:A) are two of the main characters. If either of them dies it’s an immediate Game Over. If a character who dies is important to the story, he or she will still appear in cut-scenes (when they ‘die’ they leave with a snippet of conversation saying something about needing to withdraw) but you can never use them in battle again.

This, we’re told by the nebulous entity known as gamers, is how we “should” play Fire Emblem and I agreed with that. Perma-death definitely adds a lot of weight to the decisions you make in the game. Of course the reality is that if a truly beloved character falls in battle, you can always reset the 3DS and avoid the dire consequences. I suspect many people play this way. In fact at times I think you have to. Losing 1 character is heart-breaking, yes, but if a battle goes south and you lose 4 or 5, you’re going to be in a world of hurt trying to advance through the game.

At one point in my first game I felt like I had played myself into a corner, so I restarted in Casual Mode. As of now I’ve put about 17 or 18 hours into my Casual game and 10 in my Classic game.

And *drum roll please* I’ve determined that Casual is (for me anyway) actually a more exciting way to play! And here’s why.

In my Classic game I am EXTREMELY cautious. I grind constantly, taking on easy challenges over and over again to level up my characters so every ‘real’ battle is a cake-walk. I haven’t lost a character since Ricken bit it back in February. It’s all rather boring but I can’t help myself; these are my friends, I can’t needlessly risk their lives in battle!

In my Casual game, though, I take chances all the time. I’ve had battles where I went in with a dozen warriors and came stumbling out with 3 barely standing, but victorious. The fights sometimes come down to the wire and I find myself almost holding my breath. I think for me having to re-play the battle if I lose is enough to make me really want to win.

Now on the other hand…in my Casual game I have too many characters. I really only need a core team. With no risk of death there’s no reason to have ‘spare’ characters, so to speak. But for me, I find leveling these characters to be fun so I’m still doing extra quests to level everyone up. But the game is clearly designed around the idea that you’ll lose characters and will need to replenish your army, so there are way more characters than you ‘need’ (or at least can be…many of them come from the DLC or the random armies that pop up via the Wireless menu).

I think if I was King of the World I’d decree that Fire Emblem had some ‘middle road’ mode. Basically it would be Classic Mode but the player would have some kind of (onerous) way to resurrect fallen characters. It’d either be expensive or would incorporate a mini-quest-line that you had to play through, or something. So that when that character who you really, really love fell in battle you could decide to overcome the required obstacle to bring him or her back. But when Vaike fell, you’d just move on. Because really, nobody likes Vaike.


Disconnected, but here’s what I’ve been playing lately

I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the line I hit a point where all my gaming was being tracked by someone, somewhere. If I played an Xbox game, my Xbox Live friends knew it. If I played a PS3 or Vita title, my PSN friends knew. On the PC, Steam and Raptr both paid attention to what I was playing and let my friends know.

But when I start playing a 3DS game it’s like I drop off the radar. Sure, I have exchanged Friend Codes with some of my 3DS owning friends but Nintendo kind of shuffles the Friends stuff off to the side. I do think I can see when a friend is online but I don’t think I can see what they’re playing. I’m not 100% positive though since it’s so cumbersome to check that I’ve never bothered to do so.

All of which is just a rambling waste of space before sharing the fact that I’m still playing Fire Emblem: Awakening and still loving it. I’m moving through the story very slowly and spending a lot of time leveling up my troops via bringing in Bonus Armies and fighting on DLC maps. I realize it’s only March but Fire Emblem is an early contender for my personal game of the year. If you have any interest at all in strategy-RPGs, get this game, even if it means buying a 3DS to play it on. Yup, it is a system seller, in my opinion.

I’m still poking at Ni No Kuni too. I sometimes let it sit for as much as a week before I go back in and grind a little bit more. It’s such an un-even game. Long passages of mindlessly grinding mobs followed by short bursts of interesting boss battles. I seem to remember there was some kind of a story but it’s dished out in such tiny, infrequent morsels that I kind of forget what it was all about. Probably if I could stomach boring grinding night after night I’d remember.

I’m not against grinding, really. I’m grinding in Fire Emblem honestly. The different is that Fire Emblem has a combat system that makes grinding fun, while Ni No Kuni has a combat system that just feels sloppy and imprecise to me. Most of the time spent in grinding battles is taken up in getting into and out of the battle system. The actual fights take seconds and usually I just spam the attack key until everything falls down. Mana potions are so expensive that I rarely use magic unless I’m right outside town (so I can hit the Inn and recharge my mana).

Part of this is my own fault. I switch up Familiars too often so now my characters are in their 30s but my highest level familiars are closer to 20, which means I have a lot of work to do catching them up. And random mobs tend to run away now which adds to my frustration.

But I’m going to keep soldiering on! I’m determined not to give up on this game!

Fire Emblem: Alas, poor Ricken

I was really looking forward to the release of Fire Emblem: Awakening and so far I haven’t been the least bit disappointed. I’m loving it!

This time out Fire Emblem has two modes: Classic and Casual. In Classic mode, any unit that is killed in battle is gone for good (unless it’s one of the main two characters in which case it’s Game Over). In Casual mode, they’re just out for the battle and bounce back up after you win. I first started playing in Classic mode but got to a point where I couldn’t get through a fight without losing a ‘major’ character. I thought I’d spread my experience around too thin and that I didn’t have a powerful enough party to get through the next fight, so I decided to start over.

And in so doing, I decided to go with Casual Mode. I knew if I picked Classic mode and got in the same jam and had to start over a third time, I probably wouldn’t. So I restarted, got to the same point as in my Classic game and beat the battle I was stuck on, even though my characters were about the same level.

So then I went back to my Classic game, tried one more time, and got through the battle without losing anyone. So now I have 2 games running concurrently, which makes me feel a bit more brave about my Classic game. I decided I’m going to move forward with it and if a character dies, he or she dies. No more bailing out on a game because a soldier has fallen.

But I can’t just let them die without commemorating them in some way…but that’s what my blog is for!

He shouldn’t have been with us. Chrom had ordered him to stay back at Headquarters to guard it, but young Ricken had other plans. When we accompanied the Exalt to confront the King of Plegia, Ricken secretly followed us, and it was a good thing he did. It was Ricken who rescued Mirabelle, though in truth we nearly lost them both, cut off as they were. But our forces prevailed, the Plegians routed, and we headed home.

Had we only stayed true to our path.

Instead we wandered the countryside a bit, visiting shops in an attempt to restock our gear. It was while doing this that we came upon a Merchant Caravan being attacked by Barbarians. We rushed in to help. It was a chaotic battle, with some of our troops headed to the entrance of a nearby village to help a lone defender and others picking off straggler Barbarians in preparation for confronting their boss. In all the confusion, Ricken paused for a rest within range of several enemy archers. They skirted past our armored defenders and peppered him with arrows. Tragically, Ricken fell. The archers paid the ultimate price but alas, that won’t bring Ricken back. His youthful enthusiasm will be missed.

At least the village, and the mysterious woman who was defending it, were both saved. Ricken would be pleased to know that much, at least.

Your sacrifice will be remembered, Ricken! You were the first of us to fall but I fear you will not be the last. We have a long and bloody war ahead of us.