Fire Emblem: Awakening   Leave a comment

Which is a JRPG but with a game bolted on.

Nobody in Fire Emblem: Awakening has any feet. Seriously. They all look like they’re tiptoeing in ballet shoes. Even the horses. Apparently it’s deliberate.

But it does make the interminal, extraneous guff between missions more amusing.

I’m not sure why the habit of presenting game text one line at a time, demanding a button press after each one (or, too often, after a single ellipsis), was ever invented. That it became not merely popular but the accepted standard is utterly daft. If your frustrated novelists – at least it makes a change from frustrated film-makers – must inflict mountains of tedious fantasy cliché and made-up words on the player, can’t they at least do so in a format that’s efficient to read, and allows for more than people you don’t care about yammering at each other? Making the speaking character squark with almost every box that pops up is just adding insult to injury.

Don’t get me wrong, I like reading. In the last few weeks I’ve finished Game of Thrones, The Long Earth and The Hunger Games (all are ace, but in at least two of those cases I’m the last person on the planet to the party). But I read them as books, which is quite a good format for reading. You can see why it caught on. Imagine how tedious even Twitter would be if you had to reload the page between each and every tweet.

Even more importantly, when I go to a book, I want to read. When I go to a game, all this nonsense is actively obstructing me from doing the thing I want to do, which is play a game. Not read an overly-wordy treatise on nothing at all relevant. One finger-exhausting mission set-up required the dismissal of dozens of boxes of phonetically spelled country bumpkin, but could have been summed up:
“Help! Bandits have kidnapped everyone!”
“Lead the way! We’ll save them!”
And even that would be over the top, because the alleged kidnapees don’t make any appearance in the mission. You murder some bandits, loot some chests, and if you level up the bumpkin you get to keep him. None of the text you have to press A to skip is worth anything.

I wonder if the words for “brevity” and “garrulousness” are very similar in Japanese? A single mistranslation in Hamlet could explain JRPGs.

And if that weren’t bad enough, there are two menu options that demand you dismiss more boxes of nonsense – even more inconsequential and irrelevant than the rest – or you don’t get actual gameplay benefits. One of these was a conversation between two women complaining they were getting fat, perhaps just to poke fun at the Bechdel test.

Oh, and on that theme, at the start of the game you’re given two burly guys and a little girl to play with. Swordsman, knight… “I bet she’s the healer” …Bingo. She’s labelled “cleric”, but clerics crush undead with maces. She doesn’t even have an attack.

One final thing: game writers! If you kill off a character in a way that’s out of my control, you are, at worst, going to annoy me that a unit that I’ve ploughed time, effort and equipment into was arbitrarily taken away from me. At best, I won’t care. You kill someone whose stats I don’t even understand in the prologue and pretend it’s all dramatic? You’re going to get scorn and sarcasm. And then rewinding time afterwards? Well, that makes it all worthwhile.
(But if I do have control over it, it’s a totally different matter. When Dogmeat and Ian got killed in Fallout, and they were not only gone but it was my fault – I still remember that.)

But how’s the actual game? I’ve not played it that much so far, but yeah, when you get to it it’s quite good.


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