I have a ton of unfinished second or third playthroughs of Fire Emblem games lying around, but for my next Fire Emblem endeavor I finally got around to giving the DLC of Fire Emblem: Awakening some focused attention, even though I'd played its hard mode just a few years ago. At the time of its North American release way back in February 2013 it wasn't clear if the DLC would end up being bundled and rereleased physically with the game as is common with other games, but as time has passed it's become clear that that's not Nintendo's MO and that DLC pretty much always stays as full-priced DLC. (The most notable exceptions are Hyrule Warriors, a collaboration with Koei Tecmo, whose DLC has been tacked on to its two rereleases, on 3DS and then on Switch, and also some of the games that made the leap from Wii U to Switch, such as Mario Kart 8.) Anyway, I'd dipped into the DLC before, mainly the conversation-focused "Scramble" pack of three maps, but this time around I bought and played through pretty much every map.
It's interesting going through the DLC after seeing what Intelligent Systems has done since. A lot of the DLC features characters from previous Fire Emblem games that you can recruit. Unlike the SpotPass versions of these characters who come with standard skills and old artwork, the DLC versions come with unusual skills and brand new artwork, many from famous Fire Emblem artists, which in hindsight feels like an early germ of what Fire Emblem Heroes is. Aside from the aforementioned conversation-focused DLC, the most story-heavy series of DLC is called "The Future Past" that provides a look at the ravaged future timeline that Lucina came from and focuses on the children characters. Most of the other maps have a set of one-liners where if someone from your list of characters battles against a particular enemy or next to a particular non-playable ally he or she will exchange a line with the other character. Completist that I am I plan on getting all of those bits of conversation in-game eventually, but although it's a fun little bonus they're pretty disposable and forgettable.
Dialogue-wise the "Scramble" and "The Future Past" (both packs of three maps) are definitely the highlight, but other maps provide some unique bonuses that help you with grinding for gold, experience, or supports, and there are also two unique classes (Bride and Dread Fighter) and skills that I'm looking forward to trying out on my next regular playthrough. The maps range from trivially easy to tediously relentless and drawn out, and at $53 for the entire set of 25 maps it's a pretty big investment for all but the most die-hard Fire Emblem fans. Considering how much I've spent on the smartphone game has put this DLC in perspective for me, and so even though it would be nice if it were cheaper I wasn't too put out about showing my love for the developer and the series, and I'm definitely going to be working my way through the DLC that was put out for subsequent releases as well.
It was fun to reacquaint myself with the whole Awakening cast and the DLC does provide a nice opportunity to finish off some supports that I hadn't quite completed on my regular playthrough. In looking through some of the discussion at the time of its release, it's been nice to be reminded of how successful Intelligent Systems was in rescuing the series from potential demise. The game got tons of acclaim when it was released, and it's also been entertaining to read people's reactions for whom this was their first Fire Emblem game. I actually started a grind-less run on Lunatic after playing through the DLC, and the difference between that and the Hard mode is huge. Lunatic just seems to be a fairly pointless exercise in continuously rolling the RNG and resetting, and it honestly hasn't been much fun. Not sure when I'm going to pick that up again, but the game in general has gradually crept up in my esteem after my initial lukewarm reaction to it (no doubt helped by repeated references to it in subsequent Fire Emblem releases), and I'm looking forward to adding to my 172+ hours and counting play file by finishing that playthrough and then revisiting the main game on a more palatable setting, and also replaying through the DLC in the future.