The most compelling feature of Fire Emblem: Awakening isn’t the action nor the drama...

By: Jason Johnson

Filed Under: Adventure Editorial Role-playing

If you’ve heard anything about Fire Emblem: Awakening for 3DS, it’s likely all been good. The eleventh in the series, the game is acclaimed and worthy. If the internet at large had a tongue and could speak, it would tell you that the greatness lies in the game’s colorful and robust band of conscripted characters. Members of your crew can make friends, hook up, have kids, and pace around the dojo in dejection if left behind during a battle. Fewer people rave about the terse rounds of strategy, comparing them to an unholy coupling of Pokemon and chess, but that’s good, too.

Yet I take issue with both. You see, the times I’m completely engrossed with Fire Emblem are not when I’m counting squares on a battlefield, and it’s not when I’m speed-tapping through garrulous conversations on the subject of polished cutlery. It’s when I’m doing something incredibly routine and infinitely mundane. It’s when I’m poking around in the game’s layers upon layers of menus. Yep, M-E-N-U-S, those unexciting pages of icons and text that have been around since Xerox PARC days.

I realize that probably sounds fairly ridiculous. After all, isn’t the point of user interface to keep the time we spend with menus to a minimum? I’m pretty sure there are lectures being given in game design school right now about how to make games without menus.

Fire Emblem, however, couldn’t exist without menus. There is an opening menu, which leads to a secondary menu, that connects to seventeen other menus. Likewise, in battle, each and every action is chosen from a list of commands. A sketch of all the menus on paper would approach the complexity of the descent of the British throne. And speaking of, menus are used to convince the more coquettish characters to conceive. Forget foreplay and tax incentives. You open a menu and level up their relationship to S ranking. At first, I found it ludicrous to have an option that controls emotions, but as I was incessantly making sure each member of my party were equipped with three health potions, it dawned on me that the menus are fucking brilliant.

At least, I know I’m not here for the story. Who cares what my ensemble of quirky cartoon denizens are up to as they rove across a universe where the Middle Ages and Feudal Japan have been slammed together? Though I admit that I’m not very current on Japanese pop culture, there is doubtlessly some long-running anime based around the franchise, which contains a.) a swain who shape-shifts into a baby dragon when she’s angry, b.) an impostor grown-up Sailor Moon on a unicorn, and c.) a pedantic woman who resembles Sarah Palin dressed like the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s doubtful that anyone who has seen this hypothetical anime, which I repeat is pure conjecture, has figured out what the “fire emblem” is. I’m three games in and am clueless.

The battles aren’t the main draw for me either. Though heady and often stimulating, they tend to stress me out because a character you’ve nurtured from level one for fifteen hours can die and be lost forever. There are many moments when I wait with baited breath and pray a prayer that a dense decision won’t come back to bite me. A heedless lunge into a crowd of brutish grunts will end with my rider keeled over her griffon, and I’ll sigh and crush the reset button in frustration. This is absolutely the worst after you’ve skillfully deconstructed a formation of cretinous foot soldiers, only to have the most decorated member of your cavalry gutted by the parry of a mad centurion. I’m forever debating with myself on whether to take thirty minutes to replay the stage or sacrifice a cheery but pretty harmless Pegasus Knight so I can move on to the next chapter. It’s one Sophie’s Choice after another.

So it’s not the story nor the strategy that does it for me, and the only thing left is the menus. The truth is I feel perfectly content when organize my stuff, but also vaguely aware that I’m wasting my life with miniature swords and bows and arrows. The inventory screen is strangely pleasing, like opening a box of glinting lures, in which my units are cubbyholed. My white-gloved cursor selects a dancer. I’m exchanging worn copper axes for axes of freshly-kilned silver. Next, I’ll take a stave, sell it, and buy a feather that improves her speed by two. I do this or that for twenty-one different characters. Then, I look in the convoy, I guess which is a type of wagon, and marvel at a shiny bijou called the Master Seal, an item which will transform a petulant brat or bumpkin into a demiurge or goddess. I give it to several of my characters to see what they’ll turn into. This is somehow captivating. This is what you care about once you get deep into Fire Emblem.

The only fault with the menus is they can be time-consuming, and to be fair, this isn’t a fault of the game but with me. The last Fire Emblem I really delved into was for Wii. It got to the point where I’d easily spend over an hour shopping at the apothecary, sharpening hatchets, trading magic tomes, and regulating special-ability medallions. Eventually, I snapped out of it and never touched the game again, thinking, “What the hell, man?” Something about those menus get the best of me.

Filed Under: Adventure Editorial Role-playing

About the Author:
Jason Johnson is a freelance writer. His work has appeared in Kill Screen, Gamasutra, Unwinnable, GameSetWatch, FingerGaming, WSJ Speakeasy, and The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures. He owns 27 Sun Ra albums.

38 Responses to “Pigeonholed”

  1. hey

    Taxi moto line
    128 Rue la Boétie
    75008 Paris
    +33 6 51 612 712  

    Taxi moto paris

    Hello, Neat post. There is a problem together with your website in internet explorer, would check this?
    IE nonetheless is the marketplace chief and a good part of folks will miss your fantastic
    writing because of this problem.

  2. joker123

    each time i used to read smaller articles or reviews which as well clear their motive, and that is also
    happening with this paragraph which I am reading here.

  3. 0mniartist

    I do trust all the ideas you’ve offered for your
    post. They are really convincing and can certainly work.
    Still, the posts are very brief for newbies. Could you please lengthen them a bit from
    next time? Thanks for the post. 0mniartist asmr

  4. http://j.mp/3wUiqHi

    Hey there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could find a captcha plugin for my comment form?
    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m
    having problems finding one? Thanks a lot! 0mniartist asmr

  5. j.mp

    Good blog you have here.. It’s hard to find quality writing
    like yours these days. I truly appreciate people like you!
    Take care!! asmr 0mniartist

  6. this gamefly

    We’re a bunch of volunteers and starting a brand new
    scheme in our community. Your website provided us with
    useful info to work on. You have performed a formidable task and our whole community will be grateful to you.

  7. where asmr

    Wow, incredible blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is great, as well as the content!

  8. asmr it

    What’s up all, here every person is sharing such knowledge, thus it’s pleasant to
    read this weblog, and I used to visit this website everyday.

  9. asmr my

    Hey! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout
    out and say I really enjoy reading your posts.

    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same topics?

  10. of gamefly

    Superb site you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics discussed in this article?

    I’d really like to be a part of community where
    I can get suggestions from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
    If you have any recommendations, please let me know.


  11. and asmr

    Hello there! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect
    against hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on. Any suggestions?

  12. bitly.com

    obviously like your web-site however you need to take a look
    at the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with
    spelling problems and I to find it very bothersome to tell the reality then again I’ll
    surely come back again.

  13. on asmr

    I used to be recommended this website by my cousin.
    I am not positive whether or not this publish is written through him as
    nobody else recognise such unique about my difficulty.
    You’re incredible! Thanks!

  14. Rowena

    Link exchange is nothing else but it is only placing the other person’s website link on your page at proper place
    and other person will also do similar in favor of you.

  15. an asmr

    I wanted to thank you for this good read!!

    I definitely loved every little bit of it. I’ve got you saved as a favorite to check
    out new things you post…

  16. http://bitly.com/

    It’s actually a nice and useful piece of info. I am satisfied that you just shared this useful info with us.
    Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  17. http://j.mp

    This is really interesting, You’re an overly skilled blogger.
    I have joined your feed and stay up for in quest of extra of your excellent post.
    Additionally, I’ve shared your site in my social networks

  18. http://t.co/

    If you are going for best contents like myself, only go
    to see this web page daily for the reason that it gives feature
    contents, thanks scoliosis

  19. of asmr

    constantly i used to read smaller posts which as well clear their motive, and that is also happening with
    this paragraph which I am reading now.

  20. free dating sites on

    magnificent publish, very informative. I’m wondering why the other specialists of this
    sector do not realize this. You should continue your writing.

    I’m confident, you have a great readers’ base already!

  21. an free dating sites

    I was curious if you ever considered changing the structure of your website?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could
    connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of
    text for only having one or two images. Maybe you could space it out

  22. surgery scoliosis it

    Just wish to say your article is as amazing. The clarity in your post is just great and i could
    assume you’re an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep updated
    with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the gratifying work.

  23. scoliosis your

    Hi there everybody, here every one is sharing these kinds of experience, so it’s nice to
    read this web site, and I used to go to see this web
    site daily.

  24. dating sites an

    I am really loving the theme/design of your weblog. Do you ever run into any
    internet browser compatibility issues? A couple of my
    blog readers have complained about my site not operating correctly in Explorer but
    looks great in Safari. Do you have any solutions to help fix this issue?

  25. http://tinyurl.com/y3wg6poz

    I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you create this website yourself or did you
    hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply as I’m
    looking to construct my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from.
    thank you

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

The Latest:

  • Originals

    Swan Song

    This is a tough one to write. For those of you who know me, in person, by my writing, or…

  • Originals

    The Fool and the Villain, Part II

    (Warning: In Second Life, pixelated tits and dicks abound. Abandon all hope, all ye who enter this article at work.)…

  • Commentary

    The Edge Of The Ocean

    The problem is to plot the map. My sense of geography is spotted with black holes. There’s the Chinatown and…

  • Originals

    Play Everything

    Play everything. No, I’m serious, play everything. Play that game of hopscotch those kids drew up on the sidewalk with…

  • Commentary

    Genre In Question

    Why are there so few video game comedies? At least twice in the past year I’ve bumped into conversations trying…