One thing that most games with character customization have in common is that said customization will not have too much of an effect on your gameplay.
Fire Emblem: Awakening does adhere to this for the most part. But there are small (but potentially significant, depending on how you play and what’s important to you) advantages to playing as male Robin.
The first thing to look at here are gender exclusive classes, and by extension, skills. One of the most heralded skills in Awakening for sure is Galeforce, a skill that can only be learned by female Dark Fliers. It allows your unit to move twice during the player’s turn provided they down an enemy unit on their first move. So, keep in mind that this move is only useful in the situation that your unit can kill an enemy in one move.
On the flip side, the most loved male-only class skill is Counter, a Warrior skill, which makes it so that if you’re attacked by an enemy on an adjacent square, any and all damage they do will be dealt right back. Obviously this move is only useful in the event that you are being attacked (or retaliated against) by an adjacent enemy.
The key question here is: Galeforce (GF) or Counter?
In order to come to a well-rounded conclusion on this, we need to look at the two based on how often they are actually useful. GF, as I’ve said, is only useful if you manage to down an enemy. And there is one part of Awakening where this is pretty much a waste of a skill slot – your Streetpass team.
If one of your Streetpass units manages to down someone else’s on their game, they will just restart the map. GF, on a unit you’re sending out to other players, is therefore absolutely useless. An experience boosting skill would be just as useful in those circumstances. Of course, when you’re playing against a Streetpass team, GF becomes viable again. Counter, on the other hand, is useful no matter what aspect of the game you are engaging in.
Another place where Counter might be a better way to go than GF is on difficult DLC maps. Some DLC is genuinely challenging no matter which mode you’re playing on (unless you’re on newcomer, I suppose). There is a high chance your units will not be able to down an enemy unit in one turn, every turn. In this case, Counter can really shine. Just put a unit with Counter and maybe a healing skill/item like Sol or Nosferatu in the middle of the action and watch as the melee classes drop like flies on the enemy’s turn. Counter is also an excellent defensive skill on tome and bow users (and obviously, MU can be either), since no matter what distance they’re attacked from, the enemy will receive damage back.
One great Galeforce strategy, that really makes it carry its weight for some people, is to pair two GF units together. If you pair one defence heavy unit with one less bulky unit, the tough one can down an enemy, switch to the supporter who will down another one, and then back to the first so that they’re safe to be attacked on the enemy’s turn. This is a really brilliant technique for levelling, and post-levelling it’s great because of the protection it can give defensively weak but offensively strong units.
So after all this, which is better, Galeforce or Counter? Predictably, I say Counter. While GF is great, it is more circumstantial than Counter, and Counter has the potential to down far more units on the enemy’s turn than GF can on the player’s turn.
This is just my take on it. If there’s a hole in here somewhere, or something I’ve missed altogether I’d be glad to hear it.
Now, onto my short and sweet second point on skills. A really great build for a male My Unit is the Vantage/Wrath/Vengeance/+Nosferatu/Aversa’s Night sorcerer skillset. I’m not saying it’s the best, but it’s definitely OP as hell. Wrath is a Berserker (a male only class) skill, so your female My Unit can’t get it. Vantage/Vengeance would work fine too, but without Wrath, I dunno, it just lacks that punch in the face.
Next up, marriage and children. This first point is really simple. The only way for a female Avatar to have two children is to marry Chrom, whereas the male Avatar can be father to any second generation character in the game aside from Lucina. This means a variety of things.
First off we need to understand the best way to optimize the most kids in a single game, and how this differs depending on your MU’s gender. If you are playing as a female MU, then there are two primary optimal ways to go: one, marry Chrom. This makes a great Lucina (depending somewhat on your asset/flaw), and a good Morgan. It also gives Lucina access to every class (aside from male exclusives) in the game. That’s pretty wild. The other way to go is to marry a second generation character. This can give you the best Morgan.
Optimization for male MU’s kids comes about differently, however. The general consensus is that you need to marry either Nowi, Tharja or Sully. Why? Because doing so will open up Dark Flier and Galeforce access for their kids. Whichever one you marry, Gaius and Donnel need to be paired with whoever is left, since they also pass GF access.
Of course, optimizing female Morgan alone is best done through marrying a second generation character as well. But an extra GF unit is pretty sweet, and whether you end up as Nah, Noire or Kjelle’s dad, their skill access will put them above and beyond whatever their other dad’s could do for them (provided you have the right asset/flaw for them).
The number of Galeforce units you can get is the same (18, including Aversa and Emmeryn) for both genders, however the difference here is in how strong those units will be. When you’re male, 10 of those units will be second generation, whereas when female, 9 are. In my experience, your second gens end up surpassing your MU in terms of stats and utility. So while having GF on your unit is nice, it’s actually probably more important that the kids have it.
On the topic of getting hitched, the ultimate downside to playing a woman is that you can’t marry Lucina.
Another thing you pass down to your kids in Awakening, other than skills, is the dad’s hair colour. Through the male Avatar marrying a second generation character, female Morgan can get the hair colours of any of the first generation men.
Male Morgan has a pick between 18 hair colours.
Female Morgan has 29.
This next one is subjective: the men in Awakening just aren’t as cute as the women. And since there’s no same gender marriage here, we have to put up with that.
Just, yeah? All the women in Awakening are total babes. The guys get Aversa and we get Gangrel. I’m sure there is someone, somewhere, who thinks Gangrel is hot, but that person is weird.
I think it’s pretty telling that there are multiple unconventionally attractive men and 0 unconventionally attractive women. Miriel might be a nerd, and Sully might be a little stereotypically masculine in personality, but their appearances are still perfectly within the realm of what we perceive as ideal. But yeah, this post isn’t gonna go into that as such – it does tie into my point though. All these bangin’ ladies and your female Avatar can’t marry any of them.
What this boils down to is, you should probably have at least one save file with a male My Unit. Firstly, because Counter rules; secondly, because male MU sorcerers are stronger than female MU sorcerers, and sorcerers are great; thirdly, etc., because you can have any kid you want, any hair colour in the game for female Morgan, you can have more second generation units with Galeforce and you can marry Lucina.
Lemme get serious for a second, though. It’s really sad that gender has any effect at all in Awakening. Gender exclusive classes have always been as aspect of Fire Emblem that I’ve disliked, but at least there are equally useful exclusives on both sides. Due to the way marriage and children works in Awakening, the game is just generally tailored more towards male players.
All my other points aside, the only one I really need to prove this fact is how the male Avatar can have any kid in the game. The offspring/inheritance system is made with the male Avatar in mind, that much is clear.
I just hope that in the next installment, if they include children again (not sure how they’d fit it into a different story, though), they’ll make it so that it’s equal pickings no matter what gender you select.
Also, they’ll put in same gender marriage and bring back Lucina somehow so that I can marry her, please.