Matchmakers these days may find themselves in for a rude Awakening

Fire Emblem Awakening (2013)

I saw a chart the other day which suggested that, as of 2018, almost 40% of people met their partners online, up from the 0.1% of high-tech loonies who did so in 1990. Of course this increase has taken a chunk out of the figures of those couples who met through mutual friends, a figure which has declined to 20% and is still plummeting.

This is a bit of a shame for me, as I’ve always seemed to have a knack for matchmaking. There seemed to be a time when I was always the bridesmaid and never the bride, setting up relationships but never getting an old consolation snog myself, a sort of sweetener for the deal. Don’t they say that the art of good business is being a good middleman? That’s where the returns are, or so you’d think.

But perhaps I’m better off, because matchmaking in my early twenties was really just about helping two willing dumb teenagers or young adults getting their rocks off together. There was no guarantee of long-term commitment, and so any ensuing fallout was easily contained and managed. These days, pairing people up might end up in marriage, which is terrifying. I’d be directly responsible for kicking all that off. And, God, what if it ended up in a classic, messy divorce?

You know, the type of divorce that would cause anyone to wake up in the middle of the night, blankets dripping wet, while bank account goes bone dry. I’d be on the hook for that as well, and eventually those divorcees who I put together would end up with nothing to lose. Inevitably they’d come and track me down, their supposed friend, their matchmaker, the one who sent them down this path to misery, and give me the most grisly, gruesome end imaginable.

I shudder at the thought. No, I don’t want that kind of heat. I’d rather leave it to Tinder, or other similarly dreadful apps which I’ve looked at before. I presume those apps are what the chart was referencing, when it displayed the amount of couples meeting online. Well, bully for them, but I never found “sliding” into DMs, as they say on Instagram, to be particularly successful. Still, I wonder how any couple could meet on Tinder, given the gender disparities – for women, it’s like online shopping. For men, it’s like online job applications.

When my attempts at matchmaking did pay off though, it was a terrific feeling. I put several dateless people together for our Debutantes Ball, an Irish rite of passage that is a lot less salubrious than it might sound. I became a butterfly of amour, someone who could reliably put two numbers together and stand back to watch the sparks fly. And I never once asked for a fee, did I? I never answered my phone when those relationships eventually blew up, of course. But you know, like Brick Top says, when you throw a dog a bone, you don’t wanna know if it tastes good or not, right?

I’ve been put out of a job, or a hobby moreso, by Tinder. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still flex my Cupid muscles in the world of gaming, and no better place to do this than Fire Emblem Awakening for the 3DS. Oh sure, you might look at the gameplay or read the back of the box and think that this is some sort of strategy RPG game, like the other Fire Emblem titles. It’s a reasonable assumption. But the real fans know that this is just a cover, a distraction, from the true point of Fire Emblem Awakening which is to take your units, male and female and beasts among them, and pair them all up together.

You might think that, with the war going on and a grandiose plot unravelling, you won’t have any time to be making your avatar character get their jollies, but trust me, you’ll definitely have the mental capacity to do it. You won’t need to worry about too much difficulty here, because it’s easy to turn your precious units into feral beasts – you can quite literally pair them up and have them fight together, in some cases doubling up on enemies, two to one.

It’s not the most difficult Fire Emblem game, that’s for sure, but I’m not knocking it either because there are several difficulty levels here, up to Lunatic and I believe, Lunatic+, and I understand that Lunatic+ is about as difficult as Fire Emblem gets. The game also, for the first time in the series, offers you a choice between a Classic and Casual Mode. Obviously you would never choose Casual, would you? They might as well have called it Wetty Mode. 

In Casual Mode, it doesn’t matter if you lose a unit, because of your incompetent tactics, because they’ll cheerfully come back for the next battle as if nothing ever happened. That’s not true Fire Emblem, so you’d better save your pride and choose Classic. But then, you could tragically lose a husband-to-be out there and see your matchmaking end in a bigger tragedy than Romeo and that other girl…

But no matter, all you have to do is go back to that tried and tested Fire Emblem technique of resetting the game if you lose somebody due to your dumdum strategy. You’ll want to get acquainted with the soft reset button combination, because strangely the game doesn’t make it easy to restart a battle, outside of squealing and reefing the still-running game out of the 3DS as quickly as possible when your blushing lonely heart Pegasus Knight cops an unfortunate arrow and snuffs it.

There’s plenty to do outside of the main battles as well, and I’m not just talking about trying to spur two characters into getting it on, even though that’s a big part of it. You can do lots of side-battles and missions, although you should be careful not to grind too much – or march your army into an essentially unwinnable battle. Some of the difficulty can be strangely uneven here, especially when you download some of the DLC Battle Maps. Actually, I think this could be the first Nintendo game to have offered paid DLC – how bad a precedent is that?!

You can also look at the other support conversations and take a trip through the barracks, where there are hundreds, if not thousands of lines of dialogue here for you to read. Watching YouTube videos will probably be a better use of your time here then keeping characters next to each other in battle for a billion turns, but I want to say that all of the dialogue and character writing is quite good.

You might think Fire Emblem is everywhere these days; just ask any Smash Bros fan. And it’s true that Nintendo have given the series some pretty big pushes since this game came out. But did you know that Fire Emblem Awakening represented a sort of last hurrah for the series? If it had failed, it might have become difficult for the series to continue. Ultimately it sold and reviewed well, and now look, it’s waifus galore.

Well, in fairness, I should also point out that this is the point in the series before the waifu stuff really began in earnest; we’re not too far off, but this is the relative calm before the anime storm. Really my point is this – Fire Emblem Awakening proved that the strategy RPG wasn’t dead, that it still held gamers’ interest. The series became revitalised, a bit of life in the old dog yet. So, who’s to say we won’t see a similar revitalisation in matchmaking and meeting partners through friends? Believe me, after approximately fifty enjoyable hours with this game, I’ve been getting in plenty of practice.

9 August 2022

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