It's the old, familiar story: Fire Emblem coulda been a contender, and it had one shot to impress the world again! So Intelligent Systems poured their all into Awakening, which launched to rave reviews and very strong sales (around 2 million). Not only that, but FE fever exploded afterward, sneaking in cameos in games like Codename STEAM, featuring no less than six playable characters in the latest Smash Bros, and even being a part of its own crossover with Tokyo Mirage Sessions.
And, like anything that becomes popular with a big hit, a number of original fans are irritated at Awakening. And a big reason why is because of how it handles relationships. The Support system from previous games makes a return and gets implemented even deeper in Awakening and its sequel, Fates. Instead of simply making your units best friends, they can now marry each other and have kids. What's more, a character in the game who represents "you" (the player) can marry any unit in the game that you'd like! This has led some to derisively describe modern FE as a "waifu simulator."
It's tough to say how much that element effected sales; I don't think it was particularly prevalent in Awakening's early marketing, but there's no denying that the fanbase grew significantly after Awakening. Either way, Fates ramped the romance angle up further, letting you hang out with close-ups of the player characters in your quarters (and...pet their face?), or do goofy anime tropes like going to the base's spa and spooking all the ladies with your lecherous self.
Apparently, Awakening was going to be the last FE game if it wasn't a home run. So I guess we can thank Tharja's cleavage for our six Smash Bros. characters! What do you guys think of these additions? Do they hurt the series' integrity, or are they harmless fun? Does the fact that these elements probably contributed to Awakening's success make a difference?
The children mechanics are much more interesting. Ignatius kind of became probably one of the most useful units I have for in game stuff because he became a Wyvern Lord with the same absurd amount of defense as his father and I buffed his movement to the maximum as well.
He can kind of just go wherever he wants and generally hold his own against anything, especially if you pair him up with a unit who can cover his weaknesses to bows and dragon slayer weapons. It's amazing.
Supports have been part of the series for awhile. I don't have a problem with them in general. I actually think Awakening's implementation, mechanics-wise, is much more reasonable, since there's no artificial limit on who you can or can't support with, and you don't need to go out of your way and waste time during one of the handful of missions in the game in order to get a pair of units to their fullest support rank (like was the case in games like FE7). On the other hand, some of the writing for the support conversations in Awakening is extremely cringeworthy and painful to read. I haven't played Fates yet, so I don't know if it improves on Awakening in that regard.
I thought the dating sim elements were pretty fun extras in Awakening. To me, it was kinda like getting to meddle in your friend's love life, which is always fun. "Hey, I think this guy and this girl would go great together." And tactically it was pretty fun to add the strong support features to battles.
I mean, if I think about it too much, it could sound really sad and creepy, getting invested in the imaginary love lives of a bunch of cliched anime characters. But I was never particularly invested in it. And that makes it seem pretty harmless in practice, and a nice little added value to a good game design.
Still haven't played Fates, though, so I might have different opinions of that.