|This is life. This is death. This is Fire Emblem.
Fire Emblem looks and plays greater than ever in the new demo on the 3DS e-shop. All game elements are neatly incorporated and grounded into the game play experience. You will be able to customize your character in the full version, but in the demo you can only change their name. You also have to be male in the demo. You can set his birthday, asset and flaw. You pick from the qualities of strength, speed, skill, luck, resistance, magic, defense, and health points for your asset and flaw. Of course, once you pick one as an asset, it cannot be selected as a flaw and vice versa. As the game begins you are suffering from (surprise!) amnesia that allows you to be rather clueless as you engage in your first battle. Your party finds you, a stranger, lying unconscious in a field. Somehow you know their leader’s name, but not your own.
You are helping a band of fighters called “Shepards”. You can pick from three difficulty levels at the start of the demo. You are not allowed to pick classic mode, where your units that perish in battle are permanently lost. Feeling overconfident, I tried on lunatic difficulty and died many times. I eventually went to beginner so that I could just see the demo to its end. The basic game play is the same, with the addition of enhanced support roles. Fighting next to other units, or even teaming up with them gives you bonuses as you fight.
Don’t let the familiarity confuse you: this is an all new game, built for the 3DS. I rarely play my 3DS in 3D, but I was stunned at how gorgeous this game looked when I pushed that slider. Smoke and embers flicker in the foreground. The tilted top down view is accented by the surrounding buildings stretching towards you in perspective. To be clear, the game still looks great in 2d, but the depth in 3d is staggering.
The maps are smoothly integrated into the surrounding environments. The characters aren’t completely isolated as they fight, but instead blended into realistic streets and surroundings. I’m not crazy about the random words and noises the characters make during the cut scenes, especially when they just repeat the same grunts. While I’m listing minor grievances, they also have very tiny feet. This has no bearing on the game whatsoever, but I find it a strange design choice.
After the prologue the first chapter beings, in which your party camps for the evening. Chrom awakes to a strange feeling, and as he explores the surrounding woods with his sister, the earth splits, fire falls from the sky, and a blue orb poops out some enemies. A mysterious stranger appears and saves Chrom’s sister, and the others come to helps fight as your second battle begins. Though the stranger disappears, Sully and Virion come to help. The former is a gruff warrior, the latter is a skeevy archer.
When you are choosing an enemy to attack, you are offered a wonderfully simplified preview of the battle that summarizes the result of the encounter. You can choose the full view instead, which gives classic battle info. As the video of the fight happens, you have a variety of viewing options. You can change the view of the fight from an auto camera to first person as your fighter, or as a fixed battle clash (classic mode). You can fast forward the action or skip it altogether.
After learning that the mysterious character goes by Marth, and that the world is teetering on destruction, the demo concludes. It’s just enough game play to make you annoyed. You get a good feel for the game, and certainly become interested in what will happen next. I would have liked one more level to try. I planned on renting this game, but I think that is foolish. I cant imagine ever wanting to return it.
Fire Emblem is a great game to play on the go. Since the game play is turn based, you can abruptly put it down without even needing to pause or close it. However, I suggest you clear your schedule, plug in your 3DS, sit down at your desk with the 3D slider up as far as you can handle and give this game your full attention. If the demo is an accurate indication, this game will be challenging, engaging, and beautiful.