2013 has been quite the year in gaming, especially for me. We finally got the sequel to a game that I’ve been waiting to play for over a decade. Another game went from being one of the franchises I was least interested in to one I think is a fantastic franchise. Other games let me take character from completely different franchises and put them into scenarios only your imagination could have dreamed of. New consoles have been released. Handhelds have proven that they still have what it takes to compete with the up and coming cell phone market.
Regardless of what type of games you like to play it’s been a great year for gaming. Digital markets have been growing to the point where the games you find on places like XBLA and Nintendo’s eShop are undistinguishable from the games you get in retail stores. I played a bunch of games this year, but here are the ten titles that I think stood out above all the rest this year.
To let you know how I came about this list. I started by putting down all of the games I played for the first time this year (as that’s the criteria we have for our End of the Year Lists on the site). I played 65 different games for the first time this year. I whittled that down the to the list of games that I would have considered for a spot on my GotY list and that brought it down to 23 titles. Of those eleven were 3DS games, eleven were Wii U games, two were Xbox 360 games and one was a Wii game. Then I whittled that down even further by going over any that I reviewed, thinking of the experiences I had playing those games and which ones stuck out with me most.
Fire Emblem: Awakening has ended up being a much better seller than Nintendo and Intelligent Systems expected. It’s shattered the level of sales that Nintendo said was needed to really justify the game. Now fans are saying that they want more and that they want an HD version of Fire Emblem on the Wii U. The developers would be interested, but Intelligent Systems’ Hitoshi Yamagami said that a Wii U version of Fire Emblem would need to hit sales of 700k to make sense.
That’s not an unattainable goal, but considering the slow start that Wii U has gotten off to it might be hard to reach that, at this point. Of course, no game would be able to come out until at least next year and by then, presumably, Nintendo’s biggest sellers will be available and the install base of the system would be much greater. It’s no surprise that the Wii U needs more games in its library and considering how well the franchise has done on 3DS this could bolster that system and give it another solid title for people to latch on to.
Fire Emblem needs to sell 700K to be justified? Sign me up. I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Compared to other games I think that’s doable. I think it also shows how Nintendo compares sales to other companies if a game like Tomb Raider sold six million units and was deemed a failure. I think it also shows that smaller budgets can still produce high quality games.
The Fire Emblem franchise hasn’t had a huge following here in North America, but it’s been sort of a big thing in Japan. It’s one of those Nintendo franchises you just expect to come around every few years, but apparently that almost wasn’t the case. The franchise has been seeing declining numbers over the years, with each release selling fewer and fewer copies, according to series producer Hitoshi Yamagami; so much so that Nintendo almost pulled the plug altogether.
He had the following to say in an interview with Spanish magazine Hobby Consola:
“Truth be told, sales are dropping. The sales manager of Nintendo, Mr. Hatano, told us that this could be the last Fire Emblem. Due to this progressive descent in sales, they told us that if the sales of this episode stayed below 250,000 copies, we’d stop working on the saga. I remember when I came back from the meeting and told the team, ‘My God, what are we gonna do?! The end has come!’ Our reaction was clear: If this was going to be the last Fire Emblem, we had to put everything we always wanted to include.”
According to unofficial numbers through VG Chartz, the latest entry, Fire Emblem: Awakening, has sold over 500,000 units in Japan, having been on sale for over a year there. Here in the US it’s sold around 250,000 units and a little over 100,000 in the rest of the world with retail sales sitting at over 880,000. Nintendo has mentioned over the last few months that the game has sold very well through the eShop as well, mentioning it anytime they release statements about digital sales, but never giving firm numbers.
The game has had a very good reception being praised in numerous reviews, including ours. I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to see another entry into the franchise and maybe Nintendo wasn’t quite expecting the reception this game received, and that’s a good thing.
As big a fan as I am of the Fire Emblem series, there’s another turn-based strategy system that Nintendo has been publishing that I like even more, and that’s the Advance Wars series. Intelligent Systems is the company behind both of those franchises and they’ve expressed interest in doing another one. According to an interview posted on Nintendo’s Fire Emblem page, Masahiro Higuchi says the company would like to take another shot at the more light-hearted war game.
Well, whether it’s Fire Emblem or the Advance Wars, we never want to put an end to any series we’re involved with. We always want to make games that provide a lot of fun to gamers, so if we have the chance, we’d certainly like to make another [Advance Wars] title.
Days of Ruin, the most recent entry in the franchise on DS, took the series in a little bit more of a dark direction. I hope they steer away from that somewhat and get back to making the cheesy, funny style of game. That seemed to work better.
The company has already done two of their three big names on the 3DS (Fire Emblem, Paper Mario). They’ve even created a new franchise with Pushmo. It’s time that Advance Wars has its turn in the spotlight.
While the numbers themselves aren’t actually huge, compared to other big name releases, Fire Emblem: Awakening did have the best first month of sales the franchise has ever seen. According to Nintendo, the strategy RPG sold 180,000 in its first month of availability in North America. 63,000 of those sales came courtesy of the Nintendo 3DS eShop.
To put that into perspective, the most recent handheld release in the franchise, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon has sold 250,000 in the five years that it has been available. Overall the sales of Awakening seem to be doing pretty good and are going to easily surpass those of its predecessor.
I “grew up” playing games like Warhammer, its sci-fi equivalent 40K, Piquet and more recently Flames of War. Those games are all essentially turn-based-strategy games where you and an opponent face off on opposite sides of a tabletop battlefield with hordes of painted soldiers at your command. Much like chess, those games require strategy, the ability to react quickly to opponents and a little bit of luck.
Intelligent Systems are the developers behind the Fire Emblem series that has been around for more than 20 years now, mostly in Japan. The game is basically the video game version of a tabletop strategy game. It’s known for its punishing difficulty, relationship building and most importantly the dreaded “permadeath.” Until now the series has been mostly unknown in the United States, but could Awakening truly live up to its name?
What You Need to Know
Fire Emblem: Awakening is a strategy-role-playing game where you take groups of fighters on a quest to save the world. You, as the Avatar, awaken to find you have no memory of yourself, but you do know the people who find you. It’ll be you and your party’s job to rid the world of Risen, save the kingdom and maybe get married along the way. Battles take place on a grid and turns bounce back and forth between your party and the enemy. Actions are chosen from menus, multiple weapons will be available to many characters and the battles play out in real time on the 3DS top screen.
If you’ve downloaded or bought a physical copy of Fire Emblem: Awakening for the 3DS then you may not know exactly what to expect when you first play the game. If you’re a veteran of the franchise you know that things are going to be difficulty and there are some strategies to keep you alive. If you’re new to the series then you probably have no idea what to expect and need a little help giving yourself the edge in battle.
This game is definitely one of the more hard core strategy games available to players. It utilizes a permadeath form of play, meaning that if a character dies in battle then they’re no longer available to you. If you’re worried about the time you invest in those fighters and you don’t want to lose them the developers, Intelligent Systems, have given you the option to play in a more casual mode that will bring all fighters back after the battle. I like to play with permadeath on as it makes you more aware of what you’re doing and forces you to come up with some really solid strategies that you can take into battle.
With that in mind I’ve come up with a few tips that I use on the battlefield. Read more…