So many different opinions, who do I listen to?
Any Blazing Blade fans want to speak to this game? And I mean the sorts that REALLY hated Awakening (I'm not one of you, I liked Awakening, but I am very very sympathetic toward your opinions).
FE7 (Blazing) is my 2nd favorite in the franchise (after Path of Radiance), and Awakening is in my bottom three (alongside Shadow Dragon and Fates: Birthright), and I absolutely love this game. The world building and story are on par with the Radiant games, and the character writing might be some of the best in the franchise. Honestly some of the side characters have more depth than the MCs in Fates did and for my first five hours or so I found myself just reading through in-game lore and character bios to learn more about the cast. The high school setting is rather deceptive...this game really takes the medieval setting seriously and touches on topics like genocide, racism, political marriage, and doesn't shy away from taking a more gray perspective on war, something the games used to really excel at but lost touch with over the 3DS generation.
In terms of gameplay depth, I'm playing on Hard Classic mode, and I find the challenge to be worthwhile. Nothing mind-blowingly hard, but it keeps me invested throughout the fights. The cast is relatively smaller, I'm on chapter 7 and have only 10 characters so far, and so you'll want to be more careful, but since most of the characters are a blank slate that you can experiment with to achieve desired classes (within reason), you won't break the game unless you lose a significant amount of them...in which case I would question how you've been playing in the first place.
Battle saves return from Radiant Dawn normal mode, but I almost never remember to use it since it works the same as a suspend, and the game brings in the turn reset feature from Echoes to fix any dumb issues or RNG luck...which of course is completely optional and shouldn't affect your experience. Overall as someone who's been into the franchise since 2003, I've been having a fantastic time with it, and it'll likely make my top 3 FE titles when all is set and done.