The Fire Emblem series is one of the most beloved second party franchises in Nintendo’s repertoire. The newest game, Fire Emblem: Awakening, offers deep strategy RPG elements, a story that pulls you in (especially if you are new to the series), and a unique challenge that is too often missing from most handheld games. In addition to all this, there is good news for most disabled gamers, who will have very little problem enjoying this game to its fullest.
Players with visual disabilities will be the ones who struggle the most with this game, since it relies on color-coded squares to distinguish between movement zone (blue) and attack zone (red). We at DAGERS originally considered rating this game as partially or thoroughly accessible for the visually impaired because of this feature, but the reality is that Awakening doesn’t use only color to communicate this information. For example, if a player accidentally tells a character to move into the attack zone (which is one square past the movement zone), the game will beep to signal that it is an illegal move. Also, the game allows players to take back any movement that they make prior to attacking, simply by pressing the B button, which will allow visually impaired players to figure out exactly where they should move with little difficulty. But the main reason why this color coding does not affect the game’s accessibility is because each battle is laid out using the same consistent mechanic, meaning that after they have played a battle or two, it should be easy to determine which squares are attack zone and which are movement zone, without using the color coding at all.
It is a pitfall of other strategy RPGs that they often clutter up the battlefield view with vital information about characters’ stats and weaknesses. A plus for Fire Emblem: Awakening is that it moves all of that vital information to the 3DS’s second screen, allowing both for bigger fonts when communicating this information and for an extremely uncluttered battle interface. The result is it’s much easier to read the important stats for characters in Fire Emblem: Awakening than it would be in a similar game, such as Final Fantasy: Tactics. Finally, all of the fonts which communicate character dialogue are easily readable, and the cinematics (which are one of the high points of this game) are presented using an easy-to-see art style.
Players with fine motor disabilities should have absolutely no problem playing Fire Emblem: Awakening, if they can access the 3DS. The game is turn based, which eliminates any time requirements or need for quick reflexes. It also makes very little use of the 3DS’s shoulder buttons. The main controls use the D-pad for movement and the A, B, X, and Y buttons to execute commands. As a result, the control scheme is highly accessible. In addition, this game also features customization which in a normal game would help compensate for disability, but in this game is no help at all—because there’s no need to compensate for physical disability, and the customization simply functions as an element to help strategy. Ever better news for this type of disabled player is the fact that this game can be played not only with one hand, but even with just one finger if necessary, and it won’t compromise the enjoyment of the game or make the game overly difficult. In fact, one of the largest selling points for Fire Emblem: Awakening for any disability is that it is a challenging game in which the challenge is not affected by a player’s disability. And that kind of experience is one that disabled gamers are hungry for.
Finally, players with auditory disabilities will be able to enjoy everything that Fire Emblem: Awakening has to offer. The story is told using dialogue, and a vast majority of this is communicated using offset blocks of text similar to those in the Pokémon series. The one area that does not use text is the game’s expertly crafted cinematics—which give the player a reason to turn the 3D up on their system! When the game starts out these are not fully subtitled, but as soon as the player has access to the options menu, they can turn on movie subtitles. As a result, players with hearing disabilities may miss the beginning of the story, but it should be easy to tell what’s going on just by watching the cinematics. It would have been nice if the game was designed to have this feature turned on to begin with, but this is such a small complaint that it shouldn’t hinder anyone from playing Fire Emblem: Awakening.
On the whole, Fire Emblem: Awakening is a good example of what an accessible 3DS game should look like—not only because anyone should be able to play it, but also because it offers a challenge that is not affected by a player’s disability. To put it bluntly, Fire Emblem: Awakening is a hard game, but not because of its inaccessibility, simply because of its high quality.
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The Bottom Line for Disabled Gamers: Fire Emblem: Awakening
– The game uses the second screen on the 3DS to communicate information such as unit weaknesses, which allows for minimal screen cluttering since very little is overlaid over the actual level display.
– Text is offset in speech boxes and features large, readable font.
– The game features beautiful cinematics, which (thanks to the art style) are clear and easy to see.
– The game allows players to rethink their moves after they have moved which compensates for any problems they may have distinguishing between blue and red.
– The game uses to sound to tell the player if the square they have selected is not a legitimate move.
– The way the combat system is implemented allows players who cannot distinguish between red and blue to easily figure out where the movement zone ends and the attack zone begins.
– The game uses blue and red squares to distinguish between where a character can move and where they can attack.
– The game is turn based, meaning there is no time element or need for quick reflexes.
– The game allows players to undo their moves, if they wish, before attacking.
– The game can be effectively played with one finger.
– The game communicates most vital information in text.
– None of the elements within the game (such as battle or support conversation) use sounds solely to communicate ideas.
– Even though the game features fully-voiced cinematics, there is a “movie subtitles” feature that can be turned on, which fully subtitles these scenes.
– Movie subtitles are not turned on at the beginning of the game, by default.