By Alexander O. Cuaycong and Anthony L. Cuaycong
FOR LONGTIME GAMERS, a new release with the Fire Emblem badge invariably means yet another foray in the turn-based-strategy genre. While some titles have admittedly branched out and sprinkled some light RPG action, it’s fair to say the series has stayed true to the roots that made it an institution — until, that is, Fire Emblem Warriors, which signifies its first step out of its comfort zone and into the realm of fighting games.
Fire Emblem Warriors is a 3-D action brawler in the vein of Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors, albeit with mechanics that Fire Emblem fans will be familiar with. And for the most part, it succeeds in straddling the line between two seemingly incongruous genres. The characters are quite fleshed out even if the story itself isn’t; taken from the previous Fire Emblem games, each of the 20 or so characters distinguishes himself or herself in terms of personality and flashiness. All of them are also able to dodge and weave and slash on a dime, and even the bulkier characters in the game are directed with ease via the Joy-Cons or the Pro Controller.
Fire Emblem Warriors’ gameplay is fairly standard (run around, kill enemies, and complete the primary objective), but nonetheless manages to present spice via the incorporation of the Rock-Paper-Scissors foundation of its parent titles. And with the Weapon Triangle intact, characters fighting an opponent with the appropriate equipment get damage bonuses and wind up plowing through enemies even faster. Conversely, characters with the wrong weapon type do less damage, often fail to stagger or stun enemies during attacks, and are more easily staggered themselves.
In Fire Emblem Warriors, players are given the ability to direct allied units through a tactical map screen, adding to the proceedings a much-needed layer of depth that most hack-and-slash games lack. It not only lets players cut down on the idle time of running around, as this can now be accomplished by the AI; it also makes them more effective vis-a-vis the norm, at times even allowing them to defeat opponents while outnumbered as long as they’re matched to the right unit types.
As good as the innovations are, though, their implementation could be better. Musou offerings are meant to provide a smooth, fast-paced, and enjoyable experience. Because Fire Emblem Warriors tries to incorporate strategy elements, however, the resulting product comes out seeming unpolished and clunky. For example, character switching, while admittedly fun, is awkward and disorienting. For gamers predisposed to changing characters on the fly for matchup purposes, there is the danger of immediately getting hit without a chance to fight back. Meanwhile, selling and forging equipment is tedious as heck; the game likes throwing a ton of weapons at players, but doesn’t let them handle more than a piece at a time.
Moreover, the highly touted “permadeath” system is rendered moot, as, depending on the mode, fallen characters either recover after the battle or are just knocked out until revived at the temple. And then there is the problem of order issuances, which must be done via an entirely different menu altogether, and which frequently stop the action as the brain-dead autobattle AI oftens sends allied forces to bad areas or against stronger foes, compelling players to either micromanage or face the consequences.
Even the cute homage Fire Emblem Warriors pays to the series through its level-up system is flawed; it manages to take away from the action by throwing players into a separate screen for every single level-up event. Even as there is an option to take this out, the lack of polish speaks volumes of the challenges Omega Force and Team Ninja went through in striving to weld two distinct disciplines. For all the importance is places on dishing out adrenaline-pumping sequences, it necessitates frequent stoppages in action.
Not that these issues are deal breakers. Often, Fire Emblem Warriors feels like two completely different games. The Warriors aspect, with its arcade-like vibe, plays perfectly. The Fire Emblem aspect, with its character commands and level-up requirements, is a slog at best. Still, they make for an interesting, if at times annoying, combination.
For all its blemishes, Fire Emblem Warriors still manages to be an engrossing romp. It boasts of a lengthy story campaign and a free-flowing History Mode with tons of maps and even more enemies to cleave through. Tight controls, creative character configurations, and smart design choices make it extremely enjoyable to pore through.
Overall, followers of the Fire Emblem series will find ample reason to pick its latest title up. Fire Emblem Warriors is not a perfect blend of genres, but in the moments where it works, players can appreciate the vision of the developers, and a few minor concerns shouldn’t stop them from enjoying it. Likewise, Musou fans will find plenty to enjoy, as the characters are appropriately flashy and entertaining, with controls tight and crisp and technical issues virtually nonexistent. In short, it’s a can’t-miss release worthy of at least 20-odd hours on the Nintendo Switch.
Video Game Review
Fire Emblem Warriors
• Tight controls
• Plenty of content with tons of unlockables to go through
• Continued support via downloadable content
• Ample character variety
• Ability to co-op and play with friends
• Can be a grind at times
• Weapon Triangle effect leads to imbalance (especially when using or fighting slayer weapons)
• History Mode maps are hard to play through and border on unfair