I got my copy from Amazon.com directly a couple of days late, but hey, I'm patient. (I noticed that it is still listed out of stock from Amazon, but I did get mine from them - $39.99 and free Prime shipping - and not a marked up 3rd party seller). It did score a 9.6 on IGN (my recommended game review site), but has garnered top scores from most major video game publications and ratings sites. I count this among the three MUST buy 3DS games: Mario Kart 7, Super Mario in 3D Land, and now Fire Emblem Awakening. This is not a remake of an earlier Fire Emblem game, and this shows the amazing potential of this handheld system when developers put forth the effort.
And patience is being rewarded. Over the years I have played this series, mostly fan translated versions on various emulators on phones, PCs and Tablets. I actually started replaying the old titles in anticipation of this one.
So, I'm not too far in the game, but I wanted to give a few first impressions. First of all, man up (or woman up) and select the regular difficulty and do not set the option to revive dead characters. Part of the fun of Fire Emblem is trying to keep your players alive despite overwhelming odds. If you are itching for some bruising, then up the difficulty for the first time through. There are two ways this changes the gameplay for me. If I play through on the higher difficulty setting the first time, then I lose more characters. So then when I play through again, I try to keep more of them alive, OR I pop the difficulty down a bit and try to keep more folks alive. On the other hand, if you play through at a lower difficulty, you probably keep more characters alive, therefore seeing their stories progress, thereby giving you a more rounded out experience. And then on subsequent plays through you can up the difficulty. But then you already know how some characters' stories pan out, so you might be tempted to save the ones that have the 'better' stories or the ones that you may have lost on a previous play through. It's really up to you. And you can unlock even tougher settings beyond the already insanely tough 'Lunatic' setting.
The battle system is solid Tactical JRPG. I would say this game bears some similarity to Shining Force (Sega Genesis) and Advance Wars. But it also bears some similarity to the classic TRPGs such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea. Battle is carried out on a top down grid. When you enter an attack, it cuts to a special attack screen. The cuts look AMAZING. And battle is fluid and fun. You have to plan ahead, and if you don't then you're going to get owned. Especially on higher difficulty settings. But the old battle style is similar but with some tweaks, such as the partner system (much like Disgaea, Gungnir, Ragnarok Tactics and others) where you get an assist from a nearby unit.
The graphics are jaw dropping for a system that weighs only a couple of pounds and has tiny little cartridges. The 3D scaling is simply perfect in this game. Not like some of the other lazy games that are remakes or obvious budget minded developments. Instead of just layers of 3D, this game has visual depth. You have to see it to believe it.
There is a ridiculous amount of customization in this game. You can pretty much tweak the settings to achieve whatever game play style you want.
If you haven't played a Fire Emblem game before, then do yourself a service and get this game! It's tougher than a lot of other Tactical RPGs out there, but also have fast gameplay which sets it apart from Ragnarok Tactics and even Gungnir. The gameplay and story will keep you glued to this game for hours. And you WILL want to play it over again. It's the most replayable SRPG series since the old Ogre Battle / Tactics Ogre titles. I'm not through it yet and I am already looking forward to changing some things up on my next play through. And unlike Ragnarok Tactics, the game is fast and fun and really great to play through!