In the world of video game crossovers, none seemed stranger then Hyrule Warriors back in 2014. Koei Tecmo took the fantasy adventures of Zelda and merged it with the Warriors franchise, a fast-paced hack-and-slash series that had players fighting to take forts and complete missions against waves of enemies. These two franchises seemed worlds apart, but it worked. Hyrule Warriors was a fun and frantic change to the traditional Zelda franchise, offering a different type of experience for Zelda fans.
Fast forward to 2017, and Koei Tecmo is at it again. They have a license from Nintendo and have built it into a brawler. This time we enter the world of Fire Emblem, a great fit for the war aesthetic. Fire Emblem Warriors is a wonderful twist on the series with a nice change of pace and some thoughtful changes to the Warriors brand.
Similar to their work with Hyrule Warriors, Fire Emblem Warriors brings a brand new story to the world of Fire Emblem, and this time the difference is the focus on two original characters as opposed to franchise characters. Hyrule Warriors did feature original characters, but the story still focused on Link. Fire Emblem Warriors focuses on Rowan and Lianna.
Twins Rowan and Lianna are the prince and princess of the kingdom of Aytollis, and are forced into a war to save their kingdom when the Chaos Dragon sends the land into turmoil. In doing this, the twins must seek out the gleamstones, mystical gems carried by heroes, to restore the shield of flames and gain the power to destroy the Chaos Dragon. As part of the Chaos Dragon’s doing, heroes from various Fire Emblem games end up in Aytollis working with the twins to help them grow and save their kingdom.
This brings many fan-favorite characters into the fray, such as Marth from the original Fire Emblem, Chrom, Robin, and Lucina from Awakening, and the entire royal families from Fire Emblem Fates. All these characters seek to put aside their differences to help stop the greater threat that has whisked them away from home. The coolest thing about this is seeing characters that generally hate each other in Fates work together so happily. Hearing the casual comments of Xander and Ryoma as they team up to take down a big enemy is wonderful.
Sadly, this does mean that many characters were left out of Fire Emblem Warriors. Some of them do show up in the main story but they only have connections to the games previously mentioned, although some other characters such as Echoes' Celica are available through the game’s history mode. Unfortunately, fan favorites such as Ike are left out of the fray, not even being included in future additional content, which may be disappointing to some players considering the abundance of Fates characters in the game.
The gameplay of Fire Emblem Warriors is a huge departure for the franchise. Warriors switches out Fire Emblems' staple turn-based tactical gameplay for fast-paced hack-and-slash. It isn’t as bad as it sounds; this move is refreshing for the franchise, offering a different way of play and providing an approach that will appeal to a slightly different demographic.
Fire Emblem Warriors revolves around large-scale battles, and you often find yourself surrounded by hundreds of foes that you must tear through. While fighting through foes you will often need to take keeps to gain control of the battlefield, and eventually you'll have to defeat a major boss.
During each mission, events happen that will often require you to take a character and slice through huge enemies to save a random person, or to close a portal that powers the boss and summons more enemies.
There is a great sense of camaraderie because, like in recent Fire Emblem titles, you can have characters pair up to topple bigger foes. Your partner character can block hits as well as preform massive combination attacks when the respective warrior bars are filled up from fighting. It's satisfying to see this bar fill up and then have two characters unleash a devastating attack on a giant foe that makes even the weakest character seem powerful.
At its core, Fire Emblem Warriors is simple, but it is a lot more than button mashing through waves of foes. Its premise is expanded through the use of a major Fire Emblem mechanic: the weapon triangle. This mechanic alone makes enemies more difficult to take down if you aren't using the right weapon to counter them. For those unfamiliar with Fire Emblem's weapon triangle, it is as simple as sword beats axe, axe beats lance, and lance beats sword. It’s possible to beat an enemy that resists your character's weapons, but it’s often harder with reduced damage opportunities and more damage taken.
This is where another mechanic is most welcome: Hyrule Warriors' 3DS incarnation introduced the power to switch characters on the battlefield, and Fire Emblem Warriors carries this over. Most battles allow you to have four characters on the field which you can control, allowing you to balance a team around the enemy situation. Using the pre-battle outlook, you can see what enemies will be on the battlefield and which weapon types will have advantages and where. Through this you can plan the characters you use, balancing out your team with a character of each type as well as a magic user or archer who hold their own advantages on the battlefield.
Being able to switch on the go is really helpful to avoid needlessly putting a character in harm’s way, especially when some missions fail if certain characters fall. As such, the game gives you chances for tactical opportunities - it is based on a strategy game, after all. Not only do you control characters directly but you may order them to certain positions. All major characters may be sent to different points on the battlefield, which help you take over keeps and control the battlefield. The strategic options change the game and make Fire Emblem Warriors a better experience.
You can move characters out of harm’s way when they stupidly take on a boss they aren’t prepared for, or tell them to guard or heal another character. This option feels in line with Fire Emblem's typically strategic approach as you play tactician in the middle of battle directing your troops to their optimal location. Even jumping to this screen mid-fight doesn’t break the flow; it arguably builds more momentum as you know characters are off helping where they are needed.
Warriors also uses another classic Fire Emblem mechanic: when a character dies in Classic Mode, they're permanently dead. Having Classic Mode adds a level of complexity to each battle as you fight to maintain your characters’ lives by not letting them fall on the battlefield. This makes battle tougher but all the more satisfying when each character survives a tough fight. Although players can choose to play the game in Casual Mode where characters fall in the battle and return for the next, it is nice to have an option that adds real challenge to the already difficult gameplay.
Outside of the story there is the much lengthier History Mode. This mode allows for choice of battle and has brilliant nostalgic art. You play on maps reminiscent of previous Fire Emblem games and see the standard sprite art that represents the main character of the battle while you choose from a series of different fights, moving towards the goal. Better yet, these are lengthy campaigns that you may use any character you have unlocked in, making some fights much easier.
History mode brings great campaigns to players with varying battles with an assortment of different goals. In some missions you are focused on capturing forts while maintaining control of your main one, while in others you are trying to take down as many enemies as possible within the time limit. The variation keeps this mode refreshing as you move toward completion. This is where Fire Emblem Warrior's long-term enjoyment is found - take the skills you learned in the campaign and work toward completing historical wars in the Fire Emblem franchise.
Fire Emblem Warriors takes the framework of the Warriors franchise and expands upon it with attributes familiar to Fire Emblem fans. The fact that the developers decided to focus on building more strategy within the gameplay as well as add the weapon triangle makes this one of the most enjoyable Warriors games to date. The Fire Emblem universe serves the game well.
If you own a Nintendo Switch get Fire Emblem Warriors, whether you like Fire Emblem, the Warriors franchise, or even dislike both, this is not a game to miss. Fun definitely comes in waves.
This review is of the Nintendo Switch version only. Fire Emblem Warriors is also available on the New Nintendo 3DS.
The first and third screenshots are from Heavy.Com. The second is from Dualshockers. The fourth is from Nintendo Wire.