Fire Emblem Warriors has been a long-time pipe dream for fans of Nintendo’s beloved strategy series, so to witness Koei-Tecmo finally deliver this perfect crossover marriage a dream…or is it? Truth be told, there’s been an air of pessimism surrounding the game’s release, what with it only focusing on three entries (Shadow Dragon, Awakening and Fates) alongside a dash of two others (Blazing Sword and Gaiden/Echoes). With the previous Nintendo collaboration — the Zelda-themed Hyrule Warriors — being lauded by many as the best Warriors game yet, it can certainly be a little disappointing that this dream crossover isn’t everything fans wanted.
Put your expectations aside, however, and you’ll find Fire Emblem Warriors is still a solid entry in Koei-Tecmo’s hack-and-slash series. First and foremost, Fire Emblem does make a perfect match for Dynasty Warriors: the weapon triangle (swords beat axes, lances beat swords, and axes beat lances) is the key for winning battles, mini-maps are often consulted to guide CPU units around, each map must be carefully evaluated pre-battle before selecting units, supports are forged between characters to unlock humorous conversations, the nasal whine of original male lead Rowan and staves remain lifesavers, and leveling up leaves you at the mercy of the stat RNG. It’s all enough to make it feel like Fire Emblem, and on that front, fans can hardly ask for anything more.
And say what you will about the roster: Koei-Tecmo nailed on making the characters themselves fun to play. Yes, it’s also disappointing how certain classes are homogenized (for instance, all three Pegasus Knights — Caeda, Hinoka and Cordelia — play the same barring different specials/stats), but that’s forgotten in the face of Lyn’s flashy swordplay, the adorable axe whirlwinds of Lissa and the nimble arrow-batics of Takumi and Sakura. Of particular highlight are the cavalry units, who can simply plow through entire armies with their loyal steeds (the bulky frame of Frederick produces the most hilarious results; true to his Awakening fame, it’s as if he’s not even trying).
Really, it’s only the Story Mode where things falter. It isn’t terrible to play or anything, it’s just that the story itself is really…bad. Let’s be real here: it’s not as if Warriors games are host to strong stories, as the fun of licensed/crossover games like this comes from watching characters that would otherwise never interact. This is present throughout and thankfully outside through History Maps/support conversations, but one must simultaneously endure the most trite, cliched plot alongside them, and I’m not exaggerating when I say Fire Emblem Warriors is host to the most obviously telegraphed “twists” I’ve ever witnessed. While the voice-work generally strong enough to maintain something resembling a professionally-crafted tale, the nasal whine of original male lead Rowan threatens to shatter this illusion (and while most of the Fates recasts do a fine job, Hinoka comes across as especially miscast).
It’s why I’m incredibly thankful for the existence of History Maps, which recreate battle scenarios from past Fire Emblem games and are where you’ll mostly spend your time otherwise. Whereas Hyrule Warriors went a little overboard with grinding for items, Fire Emblem Warriors requires only battles to move onward. Like the previous Nintendo collaboration, many of these clashes contain unique restrictions (archers only, for example, or limited time) to shake things up, and the map constantly evolves to introduce tougher and tougher fights. Grinding is only necessary for supports and material collection as opposed to actual progression, so things won’t grow so tedious.
I should also mention the soundtrack, which is easily the strongest of any Warriors game I’ve played. The live performances are at their most varied yet, with guitars, flutes and Japanese instruments both arranging familiar pieces and composing spectacular new pieces. Naturally, the arrangements are the star of the show, what with it recalling the best of Awakening and Fates in delivering euphoric remixes of Conquest, Road Taken and No Justice. Even the pause menu renditions are a highlight, morphing into chill pieces that force you to stop and listen (there’s one jazz arrangement I’m recalling — a Fates medley — that was particularly impressive). What a shame they weren’t on the Special Edition soundtrack!
So yes, Fire Emblem Warriors rises above its initial disappointment to deliver conquests all around, and yet…for the praise I can heap upon it, it still leaves me wanting more. While it’s perfectly understandable why the Shadow Dragon/Awakening/Fates focus came to be, it really does feel like a “first entry” as opposed to being a full-fledged game in its own right. The relative lack of Shadow Dragon characters does hammer in its identity as a Fire Emblem Awakening + Fates Warriors, and with how much of the future DLC are guaranteed to copy existing movesets — sadly, that’s not even getting into how a number of them are already NPCs in the base game — and you have a game that wasn’t quite allowed to reach its full potential.
Still, if this iteration must be a stepping stone for an inevitable sequel, so be it. That it’s still this solid on its own right is something to be commended, and it’s not like I have many other avenues to watch my Awakening Waifu (Lissa) swirl about in a maelstrom of axes and magic. I look quite forward to the new DLC maps, but I’ll anticipate a playable Ike even more. Get on it, Koei-Tecmo!
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Released on: Nintendo 3DS (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Nintendo ; Developer: Koei-Tecmo; Players: 1-2 ; Released: September 20, 2017; ESRB: T; MSRP: $59.9
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Fire Emblem Warriors purchased by HeyPoorPlayer.