My games of the year 2017 (GoTY 2017)

Best Action game

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Fire Emblem Warriors (Switch)

For a first Switch game, Fire Emblem Warriors has been an awesome pick. Omega Force delivers here one of the best Warriors game ever : the ferocity of the fights blows everything that has been done before, and general direction was quite good. Loaded with the best characters and clever maps, it was an amazing experience all the way.

Runner-up : Nier Automata (PS4) & Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash (PS4)

Best Shooter

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Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered (PS4)

Generally I don’t agree with the « it was better before » whole narrative. But when it comes to FPS, well, that works. The multiplayer in Infinite Warfare is garbage, so you ought to come back to what’s good. And here we must admit that « before », Call of Duty mutliplayer was remarkably well-designed and provided a lot of fun. What else then than embracing this excellent remaster?

Runner-up : none

Best Fighting game


Tekken 7 (PS4)

While having an underwhelming solo, Tekken 7 does things right on the important part : online. Matchmaking is effective, music options very nice, costumization as good as ever, moves are over the top and gameplay still is an absolute reference for the genre. Clearly a must-have to enjoy figting once a while.

Runner-up : none

Best Racing game

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Gran Turismo Sport (PS4)

Gran Turismo Sport scared me at release : without any solo championship, I wondered if the IP wanted to commit suicide or something… Fortunately, solo leagues came via update about a week ago, a necessary addition to the driving challenges, which are a cool part but insufficient alone. With trickier driving than before, GT Sport has of course a dream-like concentration of models and an awesome photo mode for car lovers.

Runner-up : Wipeout Omega Collection (PS4)

Best RPG

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Atelier Firis, the Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey (PS4)

I spent January 2017 on Atelier Firis and that was absolute delight. The series had recovered everything that had made it great (limited time, alchemy challenges, hidden bosses…) while adding a massive innovation : an astonishing open world that transformed management. 70 hours of exploration, wonders and surprises. Atelier Firis is probably going to be unique.

Runner-up : Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel III (PS4)

Best Puzzle game


Shin Yomawari (PSVita)

Unable to trigger another revolution (because basically copy/pasted from the original), Shin Yomawari still gets its deal of searching and puzzles. Gameplay is a bit more irritating than the in first one, but the game is loaded with intense secquences than will put you on edge.

Runner-up : none

Best music

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Great Ace Attorney 2 (3DS)

No hesitation in this category this year : I’ve been listening to Great Ace Attorney 2’s OST for 4 months now! Capcom’s game is never ending greatness for your ears, the entire soundtrack going from good to magnificient. Joyful melodies, dark themes, epic orchestrations, there is nothing that Great Ace Attorney 2 doesn’t do well.

Runner-up : Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana (PSVita)

Best narrative

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Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel III (PS4)

I’m still shaking. My heart almost couldn’t take it at the end of Trails of Cold Steel III. Falcom obviously wanted to make it spectacular, so that the slightest information on Trails of Cold Steel IV is pure gold. Of course, even before that, writers placed several key reveals and intense secquences. A clear intensification of Trails of Cold Steel story-telling.

Runner-up : Death Mark (PSVita)

Best atmosphere


Death Mark (PSVita)

I cleared Death Mark over a long week-end. That was fortunate, because I couldn’t imagine myself dropping the game to go to work. I was completely hooked by Death Mark’s hypnotic atmosphere. Experience’s game is the darkest I’ve ever played, it was even difficult to breathe given the fear of what could come out. Music and sounds reached perfection.

Runner-up : Shin Yomawari (PSVita) & Iwai Hime Matsuri (PSVita)

Best design


Death Mark (PSVita)

Death Mark is memorable for a reason : its design perfectly fit the horror genre. The look of the environements alone scares you to the bone. Terrifying details are rife, atrociously mutilated bodies too. And I don’t even mention the Ghosts : after chapter 3, I couldn’t even turn off the lights at night…

Runner-up : Nier Automata (PS4)

Best game you might never play

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Great Ace Attorney 2 (3DS)

Notice that I won’t mention Death Mark here. I’m confident that NIS America or some other company will bring it to the West. Regarding Great Attorney 2 though, that seems toasted… A shame, because that second part of the Victorian spin-off had super great story and humor.

Runner-up : Iwai Hime Matsuri (PSVita)

Most disappointing

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Cyberdimension Neptune 4 Goddess Online (PS4)

Compile Heart needed to fix years of IP mismanagement with Cyberdimension Neptune 4 Goddess Online, and they failed miserably. This Action-RPG is poor in every departement and doesn’t inherit the Neptunia spirit. The Neptunia IP is weak now, the lack of ideas eventually ended up being lethal. Tsunako is being out-fashioned by Nanameda Kei, and producer Mizuno is ridiculous compared to other teams at Compile.

Runner-up : Nights of Azure 2 (PS4/PSVita)

mini Platinum-trophy Game of the year

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Atelier Firis, the Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey (PS4)

The king of RPG-Management was back this year. I could feel once more the delight of adeventure, the heat of battle and greatness of never ending frontiers. The alchemy challenges in an open world is something that had never been done before, like a wave which you need all all your might and wits to resist to. The Golden Age of Atelier was back.

mini gold trophy Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel III (PS4)

mini Silver_Trophy Death Mark (PSVita)

mini-bronze_trophy Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana (PSVita)


E3 2017 Nintendo – The Longest 25 Minutes

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The Nintendo defense force has faith. Despite a tiny launch line-up and a cloudy future, Switch entered the gaming market with a bang. Stocks issues keep being recorded in all continents, the situation being extremely serious in Japan where costumers have to earn the right to purchase via lotteries organized in stores. As the demand seems to be never ending, observers wonder if we might be witnessing a Wii-like phenomenon.

Before entering the (dramatically important) analysis of Switch’s debut, let’s have an overview of the firm’s yearly financials. Here, we must stress that despite the 2.74m Switch shipments, the fastest-selling Pokemon game ever and the greatest Zelda of all time”, revenues still go down 3%. Operating result melted 10% in the wake of new expenditures. The net result, however, skyrockets by 521% and this is where it gets interesting. Those profits comes from 3 items : minority interests bring 20 billion yens (Pokemon GO dividends, no doubt), the exchange market was 13 billion more favorable compared to 2016, and the company earned no less than 60 billions by selling securities. By doing the maths, you realize that video games actually don’t make more profits than last year. Those artificial profits hides the truth, which is that the business is flat due to the fact that Switch cannot compensate WiiU’s rapid collapse. On the next fiscal term, 3DS shipments should go down, increasing the pressure on the new system.

The big question is : who’s buying Switch ? Who are those who frantically throw themselves on the first Switch in sight ? With 2.76 millions copies sold, Zelda Breath of the Wild has over 100% attach rate. Mario Kart 8 DX also has a high percentage, with half of Switch owners getting it at launch. 1,2 Switch is stalling, and many ports achieve mediocre sales. My interpretation is that Nintendo fans become increasingly radical : they want more Nintendo, as soon as they can grab the stuff. True, some core gamers at large join them in the Switch install base, the offer being a lot more attractive than WiiU in its time. But data is lacking to give solid conclusions. August 31st will be key in ascertaining Switch’s attractiveness as Nights of Azure 2 hit PS4, PSVita and Switch at the same time. FIFA Switch eventually came to be FIFA18 but will come in a weaker version, lacking Forstbite engine and story mode. The only question will be whether Nintendo fans quit playing Splatoon 2 to embrace EA’s football.


Let’s stress that those will be the only occasions in which Switch and PS4 will directly face each other : despite the stupefying sales pace, 3rd parties around the world do not care about the hybrid system. NIS America may have shipped 100K units of Disgaea 5 Complete, NIS Japan disregards that and is making all its next games for PS4, PSVita and PC. Not even a little port for Switch ! Very surprising given the business opportunities that were proven by Disgaea 5 Complete’s good reception. BandaiNamco, who’s regularly provided Dragon Ball Z games for 3DS, and who’s porting Xenoverse 2 on Switch, ditches Nintendo’s new system in the case of Dragon Ball Fighter Z, one of the best games of E3. Code Vein, Namco’s brand new post-apocalyptic action IP, is skipping Switch too. The last direct that had revealed Nights of Azure 2, Fate Extella and Senran Kagura for Switch shook the web. But after this E3, we can conclude that Nintendo merely reactivated old alliances, KoeiTecmo and Marvelous obeying the Big N every time a fat check comes from Kyoto. In Japan, the balance of powers has yet to turn in Nintendo’s favor.

In the West, no one will be surprised in seeing large publishers shunning the Switch. Bungie was recently saying that Destiny 2 on Switch would be “unrealistic” because the idea behind the Switch doesn’t fit with always online. Bethesda is not doing more than the Skyrim super late port, and is almost being cynical in the way it keeps all its new games for PS4 and XboxOne. Despite outsourcing the development of Mario + Rabbids, Ubisoft has no big game to give in exchange of borrowing the Mario franchise : Switch ends up having the usual Just Dance, and Starlink Battle for Atlas, a shoot’em up based on toy models. One after the others, AAA titles shine at E3, and for none of them Switch gets the spotlight. In the mid/long term, Switch can only choke form the lack of AAA, not even having AA titles to resist. In fact, the situation hasn’t really changed compared to January 13th : Nintendo is trying to find its way alone and the line-up is as weak as before… As I said last year, the “perfect Zelda” achieved nothing in the console war.

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Nintendo intends to ship 10m Switch by next March, but that would merely make it reach WiiU’s final figure. Once every Nintendo fan has the system (adding some core gamers interested in some Nintendo IPs), how will Switch extend its influence without any of the big names that dominate today’s gaming market ? After this E3, Switch welcome a mere 10% of upcoming titles and no 3rd party developer came up with something new in the tiny Direct of just 25 minutes. And on the 1st party side, nothing big enough to threaten Sony’s and Microsoft’s market share. True, we got a glimpse of the ever returning Yoshi and Kirby, but no doubt they’re quicly developed low end games aimed at luring the masses. Xenoblade 2 received a new, improved design by jumping on the bouncy harem RPG bandwagon and Fire Emblem Warriors seems to have quite an effective casting. But those two seem isolated, not mention that their release window is still vague. To Call of Duty WWII and Far Cry 5, Nintendo hasn’t got more than a simple Metroid Prime 4 logo to oppose. The competition must be stricken with fear… Only Mario Aliasing Odyssey got a definite release date, which leaves room for many delays. In the current state of affairs, the Switch is trying to conquer the world with an army of late ports, a flurry of indies and a 500-yen Senran Kagura application. Not sure it’s gonna be enough…

By the way and if Sony and Nintendo both achieve their objectives, Switch would be largely dominated by PS4 in its first full year, Sony expecting no less than 18 million PS4. The gap would only grow whatever the reason (no enough supply or loss of interest). That said, there is no doubt that Switch will eventually sell several times more than WiiU. It’s the most powerful handheld on the market, which gives it a potential market of at least 25 million costumers in Japan alone. Even without 3rd parties to support it, the mainstream public (who still buys 3DS) should guarantee continuous sales. It will also get a main Pokemon game and a main Fire Emblem strategy-RPG, so that’s millions more clients in the bag. And with no successor for PSVita, many Japanese developers may need Switch to tap the handheld market. This is the major subject of the next few years : will Japanese 3rd parties make sufficent profit on PS4 alone ? Will their technological level improve to the point Switch ports would become impossible ? Monster Hunter World and Code Vein already signify their PS4pro/XboxOneX optimization : even before releasing, Switch was out of the league. If that becomes a general trend, then the current divide of the Japanese market will continue : older core gamers playing on PS4 in cold war with a mainstream majority focused on casual experience. At best, Nintendo can aim at peaceful coexistence with Sony, both system being complementary and a decent number of gamers playing on both.

As suprising as it may seem after 3 months of massive success of its new console, Nintendo is still a tiny player on the world stage. Not a single publisher has faith in Switch even though it’s flying off shelves, and the manufacturer itself isn’t strong enough to match ambitious and innovative rivals. This E3 is further proof that Nintendo is leagues behind and isolated from everyone.

Review – Fire Emblem Fates

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3 years have passed since the global success of Fire Emblem Awakening. No surprise then in saying that Fire Emblem Fates is highly anticipated by RPG fans all over the world. Not only this, but this time they have 3 different games to consider.


Fire Emblem Fates Birthright has two particularities. The first thing is that it gets a purely Japanese design. Whereas Fire Emblem Fates Conquest offers your regular western heroic-fantasy-inspired jobs and weapons, this episode innovates completely in that aspect by including weapons from Japanese history. Axes don’t exist and are replaced by sticks, spears are naganitas and of course, swords are katanas. As for classes, samurais and ninjas fight alongside merchants and onmyôjis (sorcerer, kind of). Big novelty of this version, the Phoenix Knight is a flying unit equipped with a bow : a trump card of high strategic importance you’ll want to make the best use of! There’s also a brand new maid class (or butler for men) that exists in both versions. Despite her peaceful and polite look, the maid is a real murderer! A change of universe achieved with great mastery and it gives the player a real pleasure of discovery.

The other big thing of Fire Emblem Fates Birthright is that it’s more accessible than its counterpart. Like Fire Emblem Awakening, you can look for a random encounter on the world map a level up your characters as you see fit, or search for some gold (which is theoritically impossible in Fire Emblem Fates Conquest). The victory conditions are also fairly straight because most of time, you’ll just have to wipe out all the enemies, or beat the enemy general in rare cases. This version is extremely generous for war funds and items : you never lack gold and items meant to boost characters’ stats are rife. Last advantage and maybe the biggest one, healing scepters have a reach up to 2 squares instead of one, which is wonderfully convenient to keep your healers out of enemy archers’ reach.


But do not be fooled by its “easy version” status. Even here, difficulty has been raised a lot compared to Fire Emblem Awakening. Opposing units sometimes possess unbelievable strength, making assaults really complicated. An average unit can survive one or two confrontations, but not three. A character taken on its weak spot is likely to be killed at once. The support system is of course still here but it has be rationalized : you have the possibility to form an attack duo or a defense duo. The attack duo allows two characters to strike instead of one, while in the defense configuration the second character will cover the first from time to time, nullifying the damage. In both cases, characters that have a high level of friendship together will boost their evasion and critical rate. A very rich and well-thought system but be careful, because your opponents will do exactly the same! All gives Fire Emblem Fates a way ore exciting challenge than its predecessor, i.e. battles that will make you sweat and that’s the best thing that could happen.


Let’s elaborate on Fire Emblem Fates Conquest a bit. Yes, it’s harder, it’s freakin’ harder. The pressure you feel in this version is something else, the challenge is overwhelming. The objectives do change from Fire Emblem Fates Birthright but not that much. True, you have a couple of missions with a limited number of turns or a very tense defense mission, but that’s about it. Most of the time, it’s still beat the boss or wipe out the enemy forces. No, the big difference is that the enemy units really mean business : in some places, even my characters with the highest defense attributes needed a miracle to come back in one piece. The strength of the enemies in the second part is just insane, and they have some crazy weapons, and they receive reinforcements all the time… And yet I haven’t mentioned the high-range, multi-target ballista, or the flying units that double their area of movements, or the fuckin’ bastards who GO THROUGH YOUR DEFENSIVE WALL! (Horrible, the motherfucker went straight to Aqua and one-shot killed her with a headbutt). In classic mode, it drives you crazy in no time. Now I think about it, you were probably told that gold and experience were limited in Fire Emblem Fates Conquest. That is WRONG : DLCs that respectively allow you to level up at wish and collect gold do work with this version, and you’ll probably need them.

The end is less idiotic than Fire Emblem Fates Birthright, but the story in a whole is no better : the main character will stick to fighting in honor and stuff, while his/her brother and sister keep asking to massacre everyone like a kid deprived of its toy. It is ridiculous and embarrassing. That said, I do recommend this version given how intense the maps are.


However, the game becomes so unforgiving that is doesn’t really seem made to be played in classic mode anymore : I had to reboot the 3DS more tiems than for all the past Fire Emblem games combined! Maybe I was just tired, but the some positions are awfully difficult to hold. My feeling is that Fire Emblem is getting increasingly closer to standard tactical-RPGs like Disgaea. Not only this, but some bosses also use the ryumayku (see below) which can severely damage several of your units, or even your entire team. Moreover, the game has the bad habit to have you play two chapters in row without saving, that is to say 2 or 3 hours of risky play. Too much is too much, I draw my joker card : casual mode, which allows you to keep fallen allies after the battle, can be used as insurance when the maps drives you mad. Not to mention the fact you can save whenever you want, too. Fire Emblem Fates also introduces a Phoenix mode absolutely astonishing to look at : your dead character comes back immediately on the square he has fallen with full HP! A blatantly ridiculous option that makes game over… impossible!


Fire Emblem Fates overhauls the armory and finds a different balance. This newest game introduces assassin’s weapons and their Japanese equivalents, shurikens. This brings certain changes in the triangle of weapons, and spell books and bow are also part of it now. You therefore have 6 types of weapons, divided in 3 color codes for more readability : blue weapons are strong vs red weapons, which themselves are stronger than green weapons, the latter having an advantage on the blue. Other revolution, the weapons do not wear down anymore (except healing scepters), but receive some positive and negative effects. It makes the inventory a lot easier to manage as you don’t need to go to the armory every 5 minutes. When you get a weapon, you have it for ever. Besides, there never has been that many weapon in the series, because very special and rares ones can be randomly found at the base. Still, weapon doesn’t disappear because you’ll have to consider a large array of possibilities when choosing your gear. For example, the steel naganita gives a small boost of defenses : ideal to have it equipped when you need to withstand an enemy offensive. On the other hand, the silver spear is very powerful but causes some stats to diminish after the turn, so it’s best to use it when enemy counterattack is not likely to happen. In the same way, some weapons modify speed and evasion, so your strategy actually begins here, in making the cleverest use of the various options.


Other novelty, Intelligent Systems’s latest game lets you wander within some lively and recreational headquarters called My Castle. You can have all sorts of buildings erected, some very important like the armory where you can acquire better, and the cantina where you can boost your characters’ stats for one chapter. Many others are purely for fun, like the library where you can listen to the soundtrack and re-watch cutscenes, the accessory shop, the hot springs etc. The place is also the center of the multiplayer via Streetpass because that’s where you’ll battle others players’ teams. You can also set traps to slow the progression of invaders. More peacefully, you can also pay a simple visit to your neighbour, use their installations and pick some of their ressources (which very often gives exclusive items). Don’t put too much faith in this picture though, it is impossibe to move while in third-person view.

Building and improve structures has a cost : one or more points (given after each map) of what is called ryumyaku. This concept, which could be roughly translated as «Dragon’s vein», is of utmost importance in Fire Emblem Fates’s universe since it allows the main characters to modify the topography of the environment to their advantage. There are countless ways to use it : activate/deactivate traps, create a typhoon to block air units, change sand into grass etc. A brilliant innovation which further adds to the strategic side of the title.


A little word on amiibos. My Lukina figure worked like the following : I had to speak to her thrice (and complete a map in-between, each time) to have her join the party. Her stats were not really sufficient (I was past half-game) but her progression margin is superior since her growth doesn’t stop at level 20. Therefore I do recommend to use your amiibos as soon as possible if you want to get the best of them.

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In terms of story, Fire Emblem Fates really fails. For a reason I won’t spoil you here, your character is related to both royal families. This brings a rather awkward tone to the scenario in a whole, including «villains» that are in fact good guys, so they never seem aggressive or evil and can’t be taken seriously. Dialogs often turn like a lunch break family argument… Bosses never die and just retreat pathetically, to return a couple of chapters later. In the same way, let’s stress that you can no longer «talk» to an enemy unit to have him/her join you. In Fire Emblem Fates, any recruitable-looking character must be defeated and will leave the battlefield as if nothing had happened. To play the opposing characters, you have only one solution : buy another version of the game. We can only lament that this long-lasting feature in the series would be ditched for marketing and profit reasons. Beyond that, the main story is neither deep nor is it coherent, with a lot of disconnected chapters to inflate the duration of the game.


Another disappointment is the lack of dubbing : as the series took off economically speaking, we could reasonably expect more this time than bits of phrases here and there. It’s really a shame because the Japanese voice actors have been very well chosen, it would have been cool to listen to them more. Sad for you unlucky guys, you won’t listen to them at all. Side conversations are as good as ever, sometimes fun, sometimes moving, they perfectly translate the variety and the genius behind the character design, which once more will drive everyone happy. Still, those who weren’t convinced by the story in Fire Emblem Awakening surely won’t be satisfied here.


Despite being one generation behind the best PSVita games, Fire Emblem Fates is quite OK technically speaking given the efforts made by the developers to offer a superior rendering compared to Fire Emblem Awakening. The character modeling is still unappealing (faces are especially ugly) but animation has been refined to the maximum. Combat scenes show lots of little details, movements, gestures so good that you never have enough of it. The soundtrack adds to the art tour-de-force : numerous background or combat musics have a beautiful heroic or dark feeling in them. I’ll mention 正義は此処に (seigi wa koko ni), which brought me to tears. Better yet, the rythm accelerates when a battle begins, reinforcing its emotional power.


While Fire Emblem Awakening was introducing a bit of fan-service, Fire Emblem Fates goes full moe and sexy. Besides characters created in that aim (Camilla, Elise, Sakura, etc.), the game has cut-scenes and a mini-game 100% kawaii. It’s all about patting the characters’ head, like in Pokemon but here it’s actual humans, of both genders and various ages. Also, the accessory shop allows you to gaze at your characters in inner clothing.

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But all that is nothing compared to the big surprise hidden in the game : this Fire Emblem directly borrows Senran Kagura’s costume break! In fact, you randomly receive rare weapons that can tear off the clothes of the enemy unit in case of advantage in the triangle of weapons. The character you face will have to keep fighting in underwear! Needless to say, given the censoring frenzy at Nintendo’s these days, those features will need a miracle to stay untouched in the western version. But let’s be serious and talk about the main point of this «trilogy».

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The Cold War had the non-aligned, Fire Emblem Fates has Invisible Kingdom. This 3rd DLC only scenario changes everything in the flow of events because your character will choose neither side and flee almost alone. From there, the player will have face both kingdoms and convince them to form a great alliance to defeat a common threat, the cruel Invisible Kingdom. In fact, the traditional format of a Fire Emblem. It’s far better than Fire Emblem Birthright (the narrative of which is sluggish and the ending awful), and probably what should have been done from the very beginning instead of dividing the story for financial purposes. It’s still pretty far from the glorious narrative we had back in the GameCube/Wii era but we’ll have to make do. Invisible Kingdom has other qualities like its maps, which are astonishingly clever : one for example is fully covered by ice, and you have t break the ice to progress, the war fog comes back more or less, and another one will have you create clones of your characters who reflect every change of status! (note : after finishing both base games, quite some of those are rehashed). Including all the characters from both versions, all the second generation characters and side missions, Invisible Kingdom clearly is the canon story of Fire Emblem Fates, making the base games almost useless and certainly obsolete.

Fire Emblem Fates is exhilarating both by its near-perfect tactical gameplay and its artistic merits. It’s like drugs : it gives an immense pleasure you want to enjoy for ever. Lucky you, because, you have something like 150 to 200 hours of play to discover its universe completely. It is very unfortunate however that it had to attempt some marketing wizardry, which completely ruined the story.

Review – Fire Emblem Awakening

I generally consider three basic needs in life : sleeping, drinking and playing Fire Emblem. Needless to say that when a new entry comes out, my whole body goes wild for it.

In some occasions in the series, the player was actually a character in game (the strategist), but never deeply involved in the story. In Fire Emblem Awakening (FEA), Intelligent Systems proposes much more. Not only do you create your own character (hype+10), but he will also take part in battles (hype+100). Much to my delight, the devs inserted a not-so-discreet skin of Lightning to please FF fans (hype+500’000’000).

A first, the game left me dubious : the graphics are clearly poor and remind me of Nintendo 64. Games like Senran Kagura have proved that 3DS is capable of much better, and I’m angry at Nintendo for holding it off again (after the Radiant Dawn dismal graphics). Worse : the characters don’t have feet! In a story that calls itself serious, this gives to most terrible impression. The animation of the characters and the CG sequences, both very good, helped me get over it, sort of. The story didn’t fully convince me, despite some really outstanding chapters. We’re far from the epic narrative and the coherence you find in Path of Radiance.


But Awakening has a few advantages of its own. Character design is one of them, and it’s where FEA really makes the difference. Intelligent Systems ditched the good old 80’s to offer us something much modern and mature, close to what can be seen in modern anime/manga. It also affect the little chat between your characters, which becomes less childish but still remains extremely funny. I could also lament the fact that dialogs aren’t fully dubbed, as only the first word of a sentence is voiced. But the result is actually extra-cute and I can’t get enough of it.

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The game system evolves and innovates. For starters, you now have the choice to have fallen characters «survive» their death and be back in party after the battles. This mode called «casual» (I didn’t invent that) is distinct from the difficulty level that goes from Normal to Hard, and then Lunatic. I do understand that some people might be reluctant to press reset after 1 hour of heated conflict, but once you’ve ticked this «casual» box, you’re not playing Fire Emblem anymore. Anyway, letting the player choose is always a good thing and the hardcore fans will keep to the classical mode. I cleared in Normal, and the difficulty was uneven. Some missions are hard as hell, like the last one in which enemy reinforcements keep coming from every direction, but the rest is child’s play, partly because you have plenty of occasions to grind. The game is never boring though, because the new mechanics keep you entertained. Your current character can now be supported by a adjacent one (you can also «combine» them for the same effect), and the higher the friend level between your characters, the more efficient the support will be. Evasion, precision and critical rate will improve temporarily and the support character may even cover the fighting character or deal an additional blow before your foe can react. This has a HUGE impact on the gameplay because you will permanently try to build united micro-groups that can withstand countless attackers.


FEA has an insane number of characters. The base characters were already more than enough, but the game goes further. Two characters of the opposite sex who get along particularity well will one day marry and have a child. By a convenient time travel sort of thing, you will be able to recruit the above mentioned child in your party. This is where the game becomes particularity nasty, because the difficulty of those extra missions is punitively high. But gamers always want more and Intelligent Systems therefore came up with brilliant StreetPass & SpotPass features. 

Elincia 2012 version!

The Nintendo Network sends you free extra scenarios including extra characters that you couldn’t get in the main story. More, every person you Streetpass sends a team in your game, team whose leader you can recruit provided you defeat him/her. As a consequence, you also send your team to other 3DSs, and you can customize it to make a classy entrance in other FEA cartridges. If you still don’t have enough but have enough money, you can purchase some DLCs. Those ones are unfortunately terrible. Expensive (3-4$/€), you don’t even get a real character but a kind of Magic card of that character. The additional stories are quite ridiculous for most part, and some difficulty spikes make it near impossible to succeed if you play in classic.


Fire Emblem Awakening nevertheless becomes my favorite 3DS game so far and by far, and for a long time I think. Long (I’ve spent 80h on it), addicting, rich and funny, it totally lives up to the series.

How 3DS ended up casual

When 3DS was released in February/March 2011, Nintendo had already undermined its relations with harcore gamers by years of casual policy. The 3DS line-up was thus the perfect occasion to make a new start and regain the gamers’ confidence.

Nintendo did fairly good at that time, because games like Street Fighter IV 3D, Zelda the Ocarina of Time 3D, Dead or Alive Dimensions or future releases like Resident Evil Revelations or Metal Gear Solid 3D were put at the forefront of the manufacturer’s communication. The launch was a big success and everyone seemed to be happy… But an unexpected problem appeared : money. Nintendo has grown heavily dependent on casual dollars and can’t afford to rely on a slowly progressive hardcore base. They had probably expected casual DS owners to jump on 3DS by simply saying the magical words “glasses-free 3D”. At 250€, that just didn’t happen.

During the summer 2011, the Kyoto-based firm had no choice but to take a U-turn. The first emergency measure was to drop the price, by 33% in the west and 40% in Japan. The second thing was to rush the development of mario games to make it on time for the holidays, when casual gamers do their Christmas shopping. Nintendo had resisted providing a mario game at launch so as not to hamper the sales of third party games (most of them bombed anyway, since Nintendo fanboys weren’t interested), but the alert bells were already ringing. From that moment, hardcore gaming ceased to exist on 3DS : the mario games crushed the competition on the system along with all hopes from the third parties. Games like Ace Combat Assault Legacy, Metal Gear Solid 3D or Shinobi went totally under the radar.

Earlier this year, Nintendo tried to save the day by funding advertising campaigns and securing air time for third party games such as Resident Evil Revelations, Tekken 3D or Heroes of Ruin, but you don’t buy the public’s interest. Nintendo likes to remind people that Revelations got stellar reviews and is unanimously appreciated by RE fans, but what they fail to remember is that it doesn’t even make it in the sales top 100 in the US. Similarly, Tekken 3D and Heroes of Ruin plummeted just after their (failed) launch : Tekken 3D currently manages 80K worldwide, Heroes of Ruin only 50K. On the other hand, Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 have been on top ever since they were put on shelves, selling respectively 6.27 millions and 5.79 millions, which represents 12 times what Revelations managed globally.

Things are totally different in Japan where despite a similar mario-monopoly, some hardcore games do perform well. Monster Hunter 3G is one of the few million sellers, Fire Emblem Awakening cruises towards 500K, Harvest Moon cracked 200K and RE Revelations finally gets decent sales.

What is Nintendo going to do now? You just have to turn on the TV : currently here in France, every TV ad for 3DS shows some retarded kid playing Mario 3D Land with his father. Gamers got the message : don’t expect any further effort. The line-up for the 2nd half of 2012 also speaks for itself : more mario (New Super Mario Bros 2, Paper Mario, Luigi’s Mansion), Disney games (Kingdom Hearts, Mickey Castle of Illusion), more casual stuff (Art Academy, Dr Kawashima’s brain training) and a new Castlevania to keep gamers happy. No new 3rd party project is planned for the west in the near (or the long) future whereas Japan gets tons of them. Nor the publishers neither Nintendo seem to care very much about localizing Senran Kagura, Beyond the Labyrinth, Project X Zone, Bravery Default or Monster Hunter. Even Fire Emblem was delayed to 2013. Nintendo never mentions it during presentations and generally sends tweets to keep fans posted on the extra-slow localization process. Some are losing patience.

The Fire Emblem case shows one thing : gamers are second-rate costumers to Nintendo. The manufacturer needs massive amounts of money to make up for the recent losses, and massive amounts means mass market. Innovative IPs and costly projects are not an option, since only sure-fire hits will secure the necessary income. Nintendo did try to reclaim the gamers’ faith, but it was clearly too much work for them.