Somehow I got sucked into a playthrough of Fire Emblem: Awakening, even though it's not my favorite Fire Emblem game. The reason was because of the release of The Art of Fire Emblem: Awakening, which came out a few months ago after a long delay. The book isn't essential, but the full page character artwork, concept artwork, and all the support conversations is nice to have. Although I enjoyed Fire Emblem: Awakening overall when I played it four years ago, as a long-time Fire Emblem veteran there was a lot that seemed a little unbalanced and unrefined due to Intelligent Systems' efforts to make the game more casual overall
My original post on the game goes through my catalogue of complaints in gory detail, but time and familiarity has reduced my adverse initial reaction in many cases. My main issue this time around is that the Dual Support mechanics are pretty overpowered. In my first playthrough I didn't pair up units much because I thought it was sort of a waste. This time around I played on hard classic mode, and pairing up becomes pretty essential. Pairing up units makes them more powerful and able to withstand waves of enemy attacks, but at the expense of giving more experience to the main unit and not getting to use the supporting unit very much. In the best cases you can pair up two powerful units and switch back and forth between them, but in most cases I had a weak unit supporting a powerful unit in order to build up supports, and then the weak unit never had a chance to go solo. There was generally no reason to separate units once they were paired up, and often separating them meant certain death for the supporting unit. These mechanics were really refined and improved in Awakening's immediate follow-up, Fire Emblem Fates, which separates out the advantages for fighting separately but adjacent (a Dual Strike), and pairing up to defend together (Dual Guard, which requires a meter to build up before activating rather than activating randomly).
Despite this, I enjoyed the game overall. The first time I played through the game I blitzed through it on a fairly easy setting in order to get through the story. This time I used almost entirely different characters (possible because the cast is so big) and a more difficult setting, which made the game more interesting overall, although even on that setting the game wasn't that hard. As with many games in the series, you can restrict yourself to make the game more difficult and interesting (for example, don't grind for experience with the optional maps, spend as little gold as possible, etc.). I'd completely forgotten the story, and it wasn't that bad. Some characters definitely pale compared to others (for example, Stahl continues to be entirely forgettable), and on the higher difficulty there is still little reason to use the children characters since you're only able to recruit them relatively late in the game. [Once again I have to give a shout-out to my MVPs this playthrough, who were Chrom (as usual), Panne/Lon'qu, Kellam, and Say'ri/Anna/Tiki.]
Fire Emblem geek that I am I've already started planning out my playthrough on the next, "lunatic", difficulty setting, although that's probably going to be a while unless I get sucked into the game again for a particular reason. In any case, I'll probably play through the DLC first before tackling another playthrough. Despite not being among my favorites in the series, I'm happy that this game brought on a new era of Fire Emblem games due to the number of new Fire Emblem fans it drew in, and I'm super psyched for all the Fire Emblem games announced last week in Nintendo's Nintendo Direct. It's a great time to be a Fire Emblem fan, and it's really looking like this year is going to be the best year for Fire Emblem yet.