My Top 10 Favorite Fire Emblem: Awakening Official Arts

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite YouTube channels, Ghast, made a video talking about his favorite official art pieces from Fire Emblem: Awakening. If you’re interested in watching the video to get his thoughts, you can check it out below.

Awakening is, as I’ve said before on this blog, far and away my favorite video game. Despite its shortcomings and plot holes, it’s an incredibly fun game with an insanely high replay value. Beyond that, the art in the game is breathtaking, even now with the game just having passed the six-years-old mark1I unintentionally started writing this post on April 19th, which just happened to be six years to the day after FE:A was released in Japan.. My brother-in-law got me the Fire Emblem: Awakening official art book for Christmas a few years ago, and I’ve gone through it a few times since then. In addition to having some wonderful art in the book2Which will be part of the focus of this post., the cover is pretty stellar too.

In the book, you get to see the official character art for all of the characters in the game itself. Much like how some of the characters in the game are written much better than others, there are definitely some characters whose official art is more striking than other characters. It’s worth pointing out that there isn’t necessarily overlap between these two lists, as two of my favorite characters in the game – Noire and Morgan — have some of the worst official art.

With that, I decided to follow Ghast’s lead and write a post sharing my ten favorite official character arts from Fire Emblem: Awakening. I likely will get into spoilers here, so if you don’t like those, don’t read. All official art comes from fireemblemwiki.org. Except for Virion’s which comes from a different Fire Emblem wiki which I won’t link to as it tends to have scummy ads.

Before I hit my actual top ten, I’d like to point out that this list was difficult to cut down to just ten. My final cuts from this list were Kjelle3Let’s talk about how inconsistent the official art work for the children characters is for a moment. For some characters like Cynthia, the official artwork has their mother’s hair color. Which totally makes sense, considering all children characters are tied to their mother in Awakening. But for other children, they have seemingly random hair colors. If you go off of official art, it seems like SullyxKellam or SullyxLon’qu is canon because of Kjelle’s hair color. Be consistent. Also, I’m fairly sure a major reason I don’t like Noire’s official art is because in my headcanon, she’s a redhead thanks to TharjaxGaius., Basilio4Good art, despite being the warrior class, which I can’t stand the look of. Ghast calling out the fact that Basilio is basically wearing a wrestling championship belt made my day., Sumia5Arguably the best fit of character to official art in the whole game.Sadly, it’s because Sumia’s character is basically the Mary Sue trope that dreams of love and horses., and Chrom6Chrom’s amiibo is badass. His art is good, but not quite as good., in that order. Think of them as 11-14 on this list.

10. Gregor

As long as you don’t support him with Nowi, Gregor is one of the most entertaining characters in Awakening. He’s fun, he’s lighthearted, and he’s a flirt without being obnoxious about it like some other characters7Looking at you, Inigo and Virion.. Gregor’s official art captures his easygoing nature really well between his baggy clothes and his mid-laughter smile. He’s not my favorite art by a long shot, but he is one that I think anyone who has played the game can look at and go “yep…typical Gregor”.

9. Lon’qu

Lon’qu is very much the silent assassin archetype with a heart of gold underneath8I would have gone with tall, dark, and handsome, but Lon’qu is decidedly pale. Though he almost qualifies as tan by Awakening’s standards. There’s not a ton of racial diversity in Awakening, but we’ll get to that later in the post.. His paralyzing fear of women combined with the fact that he’s a hell of a swordsman keeps people from getting too close. But when you read into his supports, Lon’qu is just a gentle protector who never wants to fail at keeping someone he loves safe ever again. The butterfly on his scabbard is a nice touch, as it symbolizes the kindness Lon’qu has without overtly stating it.

8. Cherche

As Ghast said in his video, Cherche is muscular as all hell. While many of the female characters in Awakening are demure or have relatively petite builds, Cherche is one of two female characters in the game to be well-toned. Even the notorious tomboy Sully isn’t as muscular as Cherche, which is goes to show how much better the writing in the game could have been had the built out the fact that Cherche looks like she could complete an American Ninja Warrior course without breaking a sweat. The goofy wyvern wing collar is offputting to me, which is really the only thing that keeps Cherche outside of this list’s top five.

7. Cordelia

Let’s start with the frustrating thing — this isn’t even Coredlia’s best official art. Her Warriors art, while clearly designed for a higher power system, is so much better. Maybe it’s because she’s less pink-themed in the Warriors art. That said, of course the prodigy of the game is going to have a Brave Lance in her default art. She can do everything perfectly, so why wouldn’t she carry the lance that takes the most experience to use. Cordelia’s story pre-child is one of the most frustrating of Chrom’s army9Her unrequited love for Chrom wouldn’t be so bad if Chrom’s supports with all of his marriage partners aside from Robin weren’t garbage. That said, the what little bit of the Cordelia/Severa relationship we get once Severa is born is amazing., but her art and usefulness in the game more than makes up for it.

6. Say’ri

I get that at a certain point you have to stop having marriage-capable characters. And yes, Say’ri joins three chapters after you get your last marriage-capable adult character (Cherche). But that art though. It’s like a L’Oreal ad spontaneously started in the middle of Mulan. The gale force winds that Say’ri has to be standing in during this shot are clearly not pushing enough hair into her face to be realistic…but come on. This is art is a main character waiting to happen. Instead, we’re stuck with Say’ri being a character that moves the plot along because she just happens to be yet another minor-role noble that isn’t Chrom10Between Say’ri, Virion, Flavia, and Basilio, you recruit a surprisingly high number of nobles from other kingdoms besides Ylisse..

5. Gerome

I get it. He’s Batman. Clearly he’s a walking, talking Batman motif11Just like Batman, he doesn’t talk much.. But good lord, do I love it when good guys wear black in films and video games. It really messes with people who expect good guys to wear white while bad guys wear black that was once a huge deal. Gerome was going to make this top 10 anyway because he’s well designed, but that fact by itself vaults him over some of the other art on this list. Even if he’s forced to wear his backup mask because he gave his real one to Lucina for her Marth cosplay.

4. Lucina

Lucina has a lot of official art. Not only that, she has a lot of good official art. That said, of all of the art that’s been officially released of her — and even if you include most of the fan art I’ve seen — this is still one of my favorites of her. Despite the fact that you have to use Chrom on every map and despite the fact that your avatar character is in the game, Lucina is the real hero of Awakening. This pose manages to combine the regal nature of Lucina’s background and status as heir to the Ylissean throne with the innocence of her youth at the time of the game. It’s not my favorite official character art for the game, but it is one of the most emblematic.

3. Virion

Virion is a TERRIBLE character. He’s almost Azama levels of bad12And Azama is cringeworthy. Seriously though, Azama’s only redeeming factor is that he has the most entertaining kid in Birthright.. I mean, yeah, he’s a fine archer, blah, blah, blah. But I skip every dialogue where he talks. He’s just that grating of a personality. And yet his official art is amazing. He’s a pompous nobleman who thinks he’s god’s gift to women who deserves a date for tea with any attractive woman he sees. And you know what? This art captures that. Bravo on the art. Still skipping his dialogue.

2. Cynthia

Of all the official art for Awakening, Cynthia’s feels the most real to me. I could definitely see this ball of energy young woman bounding around on a pegasus acting like a super hero trying to save the day. She’s just so happy at all times and that comes through in the art. Beyond that though, she’s one of the few characters that really still feels like she’s trying to cling to whatever little bits of her childhood she has left, if only because it keeps her sane. You know you have great art when all of that can come through from your official photo. Yet, it wasn’t quite enough to get the top spot on my list.

1. Flavia

Flavia can kick your ass. Period. Remember how I said earlier that Awakening doesn’t do a terribly good job of having a racially diverse cast? I mean that in the sense that their main characters really aren’t. Yes, you have the taguel and manakete species represented, but they’re not human. And you do have some minority race villain characters. But the only two minority race characters that have any positive importance to the story are largely NPCs for most of the game. Yes, you can get Flavia and Basilio in Chapter 23, but you’re limited to marrying them to your Avatar then. And that’s unfortunate. Wouldn’t you want your main character’s child to have a mother who looks like she can kill a dragon with her bare hands, yet still uses her sword just because it’s fun? Her art practically screams hero13And not just because she is part of the Hero class either.. It’s so good. How isn’t Flavia a bigger part of Awakening?

What’s your favorite character art from Fire Emblem: Awakening? For that matter, who’s your favorite character from the game? Drop by the comments and talk Awakening with me…it’s a damn good game.

What’s My Pokemon Team?

I haven’t been in the mood to write fiction lately. Really, I haven’t been in the mood to write a whole lot of anything1For context, I wrote this post back at the end of November. I was struggling to write ANYTHING at that point. I just didn’t post this until now because other stuff took precedence.. That’s not to say I’m not writing. I’m writing plenty for work. I wrote a 35+ page outline for my next story project that only one set of eyes besides my own has seen. But I just haven’t felt like writing.

At the same time, I’ve been watching/listening to a ton of videos on YouTube. While some of those videos have been for the aforementioned writing project, a large portion of them have been video game videos — in particular Pokemon and Madden 18 videos. As I mentioned in a few of my previous posts, I like taking concepts from Poketube posts and trying to write them up to see how I’d answer them, albeit in non-video format2I did the whole “let’s talk on YouTube about things” gig. It wasn’t my thing. Podcasting, on the other hand, I really loved..

This post was inspired by a pair of videos, the first of which is a video from a Poketuber named Ace Trainer Liam. His form fight series is one of my favorite series to watch on YouTube, however the premise of this post follows the video below.

As the video indicates, the four components of my post are to be as follows:

  1. What trainer class would you be?
  2. How many Pokemon would you have on your team and why would you have that many Pokemon?
  3. What Pokemon would you have and why?
  4. What would their moves/abilities/etc be?

You’ll notice that I took a slight deviation from the original format in the post, if only because I believe the idea of why I have a certain number of Pokemon on my team is less interesting than the Pokemon themselves. So, let’s get right to it.

What trainer class would you be?

To make a relatively accurate estimation of what trainer class I’d be, I needed a better understanding of all of the various trainer classes in the Pokemon games. I’ve played a high percentage of the main story games at least in part, though there’s a few generations I haven’t played all the way through3I’ve played about 50% through both Gen IV and Gen V, while I haven’t played Gen VI at all. to know every trainer class that’s out there. As such, I relied on a series of videos made by one of my favorite Poketubers, TamashiiHiroka to gain a better understanding of the various classes. The video below is long, however, you can just watch from about 1:37 to 2:05 to hear about the class I picked.

This video is the third of three videos talking about all of the trainer classes. Watching all three videos led me to realize there’s so many more Pokemon trainer classes than I thought there were. I was originally debating between the Ace Trainer/Veteran4A class featured in the first video in the series. class and Pokemon Ranger, however I ultimately landed on the Pokemon Ranger class as my choice. It’s a relatively flexible class, which I like as I tend to have pretty fluid teams. Rangers tend to be protective of Pokemon, both wild and not, as well as other trainers. Considering the fact that I’ve gone out of my way to avoid hitting even the smallest animals while driving — as well as the fact that I’m pretty protective of people I’ve trained at my job (especially when they’re newer) — I think this class makes a lot of sense for me.

How many Pokemon are on your team and why?

Six. The answer here is always six in my mind. While trainers in the game don’t always carry six Pokemon, I feel obligated to do so, as it’s rare that I make it to the first gym of a Pokemon game without a full team of six Pokemon. So that’s what I’m doing.

What Pokemon would you have and why?

I’ve decided to pick the six Pokemon I enjoy battling with the most in the main series games rather than any other specific Pokemon types. By doing this, I’m leaving off some of my favorite Pokemon5Alolan Vulpix/Ninetales remains one of my favorites in so many ways, but it just misses the cut off here., as well as Pokemon I’d use if I were creating an all-generations Pokemon team6Jynx was the hardest cut from this team., and even Pokemon with my favorite gimmicks in the game. That said, I present to you the six Pokemon that’d be on this team, as well as why.

Toxapex
Along with Chandelure, Toxapex was my favorite Pokemon to use in Pokemon Moon to run around Poni Island with to level up my lower level Pokemon for evolving. It’s the tankiest of tanks, particularly if it has time to get set up, and manages to be one of the few Poison Pokemon I’ve ever carried on my team for the majority of a main series game.

Hypno
As a kid, I didn’t have friends to play Pokemon with. Since the Psychic type was broken as hell in Red/Blue and my lack of friends meant no access to Alakazam, Hypno was regularly my difficult Pokemon killer. Though I tried using Hypno again in later generation games — with little success — this spot is a throwback to a time where I made due in Pokemon with what I could find.

Sylveon
I love the versitility of the Eevee line, particularly when the Eeveelutions can do things you wouldn’t expect them to do. Prior to Gen VII, I didn’t realize that Sylveon’s hidden ability was Pixilate, which converts Normal type moves to Fairy type moves. This opened up a new world for me, making Sylveon the Eeveelution I have the most fun battling with…even if I do love Vaporeon the most.

Scizor
Hi. I’m a bug and I’m broken as hell. Scizor was the first Pokemon I learned any sort of competitive Pokemon strategy with and, though I don’t battle online often, it’s almost always on my teams as a result. My in-game Pokemon Ranger trainer would use the non-Mega Scizor version that I learned first, though I tend to go between the set you’ll see below and a Mega Scizor set somewhat commonly, depending on which Scizor I want to bring in.

Chandelure
This spot almost went to Tsareena or Victreebel, as the Pokemon Ranger class historically carried at least one Grass type Pokemon with them. That said, I generally don’t carry Grass types aside from using Cut and the ones I do carry (Parasect, Venusaur, Lilligant) aren’t ones I really like fighting with. Instead, I went with the ghostly chandelier and all the chaos I can cause with it. Oddly enough, I run a relatively similar setup to what Ace Trainer Liam runs in the video at the top of the post, though with some differences you’ll see in the next section.

Articuno
I don’t care that Articuno is garbage competitively. It’s my favorite legendary and I love using it in the main games. A bit earlier this year, I managed to complete the Pokedex in a Pokemon game for the first time ever, which involved me trading away an Articuno for Tapu Lele to fill my next to last slot. It made me a little sad to do so, but the bird of the North is showing up on my team here to make up for it.

What would your team’s moves/abilities/etc be?

For each Pokemon below, I’ve listed a name, gender, ability, nature, held item, and moveset I’d have them use on my team. Names come from what I’ve actually named these Pokemon in game. I’m not picky about natures when I actually play, but since I’m putting together a full team for this exercise, I figure why not. Links go out to Bulbapedia if you want to learn more about these Pokemon/their moves/whatever.

Toxapex
Name: Salacia
Gender: Female
Ability: Merciless
Nature: Modest
Held Item: Black Sludge
Moveset: Stockpile, Toxic, Venoshock, Surf

Hypno
Name: Rolex
Gender: Male
Ability: Inner Focus
Nature: Quiet
Held Item: Lum Berry
Moveset: Psychic, Shadow Ball, Substitute, Dazzling Gleam

Sylveon
Name: 8-Bit
Gender: Female
Ability: Pixilate
Nature: Modest
Held Item: Pixie Plate
Moveset: Echoed Voice, Hyper Beam, Psyshock, Calm Mind

Scizor
Name: Frank
Gender: Male
Ability: Technician
Nature: Careful
Held Item: Metronome
Moveset: Swords Dance, Bullet Punch, Fury Cutter, Roost

Chandelure
Name: Hololight
Gender: Female
Ability: Infiltrator
Nature: Timid
Held Item: Firium Z
Moveset: Will-o-Wisp, Hex, Flame Charge, Confuse Ray

Articuno
Name: Skaoi
Gender: Genderless
Ability: Pressure
Nature: Bold
Held Item: Leftovers
Moveset: Roost, Ice Beam, Hurricane, U-Turn

Fire Emblem: Heroes Review

A few weeks back, I did a recap post of all of the information coming out of Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Direct event. Since that post, the first of the four games mentioned in the Direct event — Fire Emblem: Heroes — has released on mobile devices. I downloaded the game’s iOS version and have been playing it since launch day. Now that we’re almost a month into the game’s existence, I wanted to share some thoughts on FE: Heroes and my experience with the game.

Story

Like most Fire Emblem games, Heroes gives you a story about how you’re trying to save the world you’re in from bad guys. Granted, in almost all of the previous FE games, you’re trying to save the world from an evil dragon, but we didn’t need an evil dragon for this to feel like a Fire Emblem game. Instead of a dragon, you’re tasked with saving the summoning gate from the evil Princess Veronica.

To be clear, you’re tasked with saving the summoning gate — the place in the game where you can buy your units — from a bad guy trying to stop you from being able to summon.

On one hand, I get the point. Veronica wants to stop you from summoning great heroes who could defeat her. Her motives make sense. Meanwhile, you want to defeat her so that…uh…you can summon more units to defeat her again? I mean, your ulterior goal is to save Alphonse and Sharena’s kingdom (Askr) from Veronica, but the ultimate objective is to save the summoning gate. Which could cause you spend money. Is Nintendo trying to teach you that fiscal responsibility is bad[1]?

That all aside, the plot seems very thin, both at time of release as well as now. While the paralogues get you into the history of Fire Emblem games a bit, the main story is extremely linear. On top of that, the dialogue pre-chapter is very slow. Your only options for the dialogue are to wait it out or to skip it entirely. I found myself skipping it entirely from chapter 3 onward, then going back and finding it online to read it myself.

Also, why is it that the most badass original character introduced in Heroes (Veronica) isn’t a playable character?

Gameplay

The primary game play focus of Heroes is similar to the grid-style, turn-based combat featured in most Fire Emblem games. You’re limited to 4 units per map, which feels perfect on most maps. You’re generally tasked with facing 3-5 units in story mode, so it’s rare you’ll feel crowded by anything other than terrain. Though the permadeath feature that most early Fire Emblem games are known for isn’t present in Heroes[2], there are quirks in the game that force you to be creative with your game play style in other ways. As an example, if a unit dies mid-battle, you lose all XP and stat growth that you’ve gained throughout the battle. This prevents players from charging headlong into battle with no regard for strategy, particularly on Lunatic difficulty in the story mode, as well as in the PvP arena.

Story mode itself seems like it’s going to be an in-depth experience at first glance. You have 9 chapters with 4-5 parts each, as well as three different difficulty levels you can play each part on. The rounds go relatively quickly though, meaning you can blow through your limited player energy in 10-15 minutes, particularly on higher difficulties. Though stamina potions are plentiful, this only makes the story mode feel shorter.

Arena mode is painfully disappointing. Similar to the story mode, arena allows you to compete in a 4 vs. 4 battle, though your opponent is another player. The battles themselves are generally harder than story mode, adding a challenge to the player experience. That said, arena mode is majorly flawed thanks to the bonus points you can receive for using certain units in the arena. If you’re able to use one of the 6-10 bonus point units for that arena “season”[3], you’re all but guaranteed to receive the maximum prizes possible that season. If you can’t use one of those units, you’re relegated to 60-70% payout in a best case scenario.

Other side modes like the training stratum and special quests are merely for materials or unit farming. Nothing really to write home about, though it’s pretty standard fare for mobile RPG games.

Summoning and Leveling

As mentioned earlier, to get new units for your teams, you must summon via a gacha-style summoning gate. Fortunately, the in-game currency (called orbs) are pretty common to get, even when ignoring the app release bonuses currently ongoing. I’ve summoned or acquired[4] somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 units to this point, with 5 of those units being top rarity units. Considering I’ve been free-to-play the entire time, summoning new units is not an issue.

Nor is there an issue with the actual leveling of units, at least once you recognize that if a unit dies mid-level, you lose all their XP and stats obtained that level. It took me 3-4 days to realize that was happening, so be aware of that mechanic. Unit experience seems to scale at a comfortable level from level 1 to level 40 regardless of the unit’s rarity, so that’s a positive as well.

The major gripe I have here is with the promotion functionality of Heroes, which is referred to in-game as Unlock Potential. For units of a very low rarity (1 or 2 stars), the resources required to level the rarity of a unit up are pretty minimal. However, once you try to level a 3 star or 4 star unit up, the acquisition of one of the two items (hero feathers) needed to raise the rarity of a unit is unsustainable. The only way to obtain large amounts (read: more than 10 at a time) of hero feathers at this time is through weekly arena rewards. The best case scenario for arena rewards is 7,100 feathers in a week, though that would mean you would have to be the top player in the entire game. A more realistic value is that you finish unranked among all players, but still get full rewards for the other milestones. If you do that, you get 2,100 feathers in a week…or just over 10% of the amount you’ll need to raise a 4 star unit’s rarity to 5 stars. You’re either stuck grinding for literal weeks on end or hoping you get good luck at the summon gate.

Replay Value

For free-to-play players like myself, games like Fire Emblem: Heroes need good replay value, otherwise grinding for resources is pointless. The replay value so far isn’t good. That in and of itself is concerning, as I’ve found myself getting bored with the game less than a month after its release. Though Nintendo has done a good job of releasing new content since launch[5], the amount of effort and/or luck needed to get a top-tier team is disheartening. I got lucky in one of my very early unit pulls and managed to get two units that seem to be meta-defining in the arena at this stage of the game (Takumi and Cordelia). Had I not had that luck, I think I would have lost interest before now.

Furthermore, unless you intentionally handicap yourself by using lower level units, most of the story mode is simple. I finished Normal mode in less than a day, Hard mode in about a day and a half, and Lunatic in three days. The only reason any of those modes took as long as they did was the energy limitations — even Lunatic mode would be easy when compared to other Fire Emblem games.

Final Thoughts

I had pretty low expectations for Fire Emblem: Heroes prior to its launch. Despite all of its flaws — and there are quite a few — Heroes has exceeded my expectations pretty comfortably. The game is enjoyable in small bursts and it makes me nostalgic for previous editions of the Fire Emblem series. With that said, I’ve taken multiple day breaks from the game twice already in the first month. There’s just not enough content to make a casual gamer, especially one that isn’t familiar with Fire Emblem canon, care about the game.

If you’re a Fire Emblem fan, Heroes is probably worth playing through for the nostalgia. It’s a good time waster in small bursts, and its familiar game style will be easy to pick up on if you’ve played previous games in the series. That said, unless Nintendo comes out with more content, more difficult content, or both, I don’t see Fire Emblem: Heroes being a long-term success.

Lists Full of Favorites

It’s 2017. That means the seemingly neverending global shitshow that was 2016 has finally come to an end. Granted, there’s a lot that 2016 did to mess up 2017 (and beyond) for a lot of people, but hopefully we can work together as a society to ensure that people who deserve rights (read: everyone) receives them accordingly.

Whenever I take a day off from work, I leave a paper letter on the door of my office. While I’m not a big fan of printing things out[1], it’s a tradition that started almost three years ago, so I keep it alive. While the letters started out as completely serious, work-related instructions, they’ve since morphed into a hybrid of that and a place where I just ramble because I can.

More often than not, those letters also includes lists of various things. Usually, these lists are totally random, but sometimes they’re lists of my favorite things of some type or another. There likely won’t be a ton of context in these lists. After all, I’m giving you multiple of these lists at once while on my office door there’s one at a time. If there’s enough caring in the comments/via Twitter, I’ll go back and add context later.

Ten Most Underrated Songs of all Time

10. Bayside – The Walking Wounded
9. Flobots – Panacea for the Poison
8. The Lonely Island – Spring Break Anthem
7. Mumford and Sons – Thistle and Weeds
6. Sia – Chandelier
5. Louis Prima – Sing, Sing, Sing
4. Ram Jam – Black Betty
3. Gwen Stefani – Rich Girl
2. Rise Against – Re-Education (Through Labor)
1. Straylight Run – Hands in the Sky (Big Shot)

Ten Favorite Video Games of all Time

10. Tropico (2001)
9. Madden 96 (1995)
8. Mirror’s Edge (2008)
7. Rogue Trip: Vacation 2012 (1998)
6. Catherine (2011)
5. Super Smash Bros 4 (2014)
4. Brave Frontier (2013)
3. Pokemon FireRed & LeafGreen (2004)
2. Civilization V (2010)
1. Fire Emblem: Awakening (2012)

Ten Favorite End-Stage Gen I Pokemon Evolutions

10. Starmie
9. Blastoise
8. Alakazam
7. Victreebel
6. Jolteon
5. Fearow
4. Cloyster
3. Hypno
2. Dewgong
1. Vaporeon