Fire Emblem’s relatively recent jump to the forefront of Nintendo’s roster has been a delight for long-standing fans like myself. The leap forward that Fire Emblem: Awakening brought with it was a huge surprise in itself, but that 3DS gamers took it to heart was fantastic to see. While the main tactical RPG thrust of the franchise’s successes have continued through Fates and Echoes, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems have seen fit to hand the keys over to Omega Force and Team Ninja to bring the Fire Emblem world to life in an entirely new way, as a Warriors game.
There are all the hallmarks here of a Musou title, with accessible, gratifying combat tied to a bodycount in the thousands, while you’re tasked with maintaining the flow of battle across the whole map. However, this is no mere re-skinning of their previous games, and just as with Hyrule Warriors they’ve seen fit to bring in a huge number of elements from the Fire Emblem universe, making it feel like it truly belongs.
Unbelievably there’s the option to choose Casual or Classic game modes, with Classic supposedly taking the original Fire Emblem route of permanently killing off any of your allies that fall in battle. It’s a feature which loses its edge a touch when you’re then able to resurrect them at a Temple further down the line. That said, I still found myself trying to look after my characters far more than in any previous Warriors game, as losing someone at the wrong time can seriously scupper your next mission. You can also choose between a Slow and Steady mode, where you take more time to look at strategic information, or Quick and Efficient which keeps the action flowing above all else, doing away with all but the most important updates.
There’s almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the Fire Emblem elements that have been brought in, from the weapon triangle which dictates whether your character’s weapon is stronger or weaker against that of your opponents, to the ability to team up on the battlefield for spectacular special attacks that in turn improve the relationship between your characters. It really makes the Warriors formula feel refreshed, and as you take multiple characters into each battle you find yourself jumping backwards and forwards, trying to gain an advantage wherever possible.
Those characters are drawn from throughout the Fire Emblem canon, though perhaps unsurprisingly there’s a focus on the modern Awakening and Fates era. They appear here as you’ve come to know them, from Chrom’s self-doubt to Camilla’s delightful insanity. They’re joined by the royal twins Rowan and Lianna, whose kingdom Aytolis is the location for Fire Emblem Warriors’ fairly standard crossover story, where dimension hopping and a bevy of misunderstandings are the order of the day. While Lianna fits well, Rowan just doesn’t feel quite like a Fire Emblem character and would probably be more at home in Dragon Quest Warriors. It’s a small thing, but if your tolerance for stock anime characters isn’t that high he may well begin to grate.
While it’s fantastic to see these characters escaping the tactical trappings of their long-running franchise, the main narrative does away with the relationships and events of the Fire Emblem series, having it sit uncomfortably outside the established canon. As much fun as it is, it would have been nice to build from where the world stands as we know it. For those purists that balk at the idea of leaving what they know behind there is also History Mode, which enables you to play through pivotal moments from the previous games, tying the whole thing nicely together while messing with the Warriors formula in different ways. It is still largely about smacking lots of enemies in the face though.
One of the best features Fire Emblem Warriors on Switch includes is the option to change the game’s performance when docked, so in Quality mode you can have it display a 1080p image at 30fps, or move to a 720p output with a 60fps refresh in Performance mode. It’s an approach that we’ve seen more recently with titles on the PlayStation Pro, but there seems little reason not to give all console gamers the same choices that PC players have enjoyed forever.
It has its limits though, the first of which is that it’s a TV-only option; there’s no tinkering with the game performance setting when you’re out and about. Secondly, while it is nice to have the option to change these settings, no matter which you go for you’re going to be faced at times by some fairly severe pop-in of both enemies and level details. My personal preference would have been for 720p at 30fps and with a better draw distance, but that’s not an option. It’s not massively detrimental to the action, though you’ll have to get used to referring to your map to work out where you’re going next rather than rely on the visuals. The cutscenes though look fantastic, matching up well with what we’ve seen before from the series, but the central game as a whole is a spot on the rough side, even if you’ve opted for Quality mode.
It does perhaps highlight the lack of oomph that the Switch has, but the most obvious example is if you jump into local multiplayer, particularly in handheld mode. I’ve been a great promoter for the system’s ability to allow multiplayer shenanigans wherever you are, but Fire Emblem Warriors tells us that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The draw distance sinks down into what feels like mere feet, and that’s assuming you can even tell where you are or what you’re doing on your shrunken half of the Switch’s screen. Things fare better on your TV, though there are still obvious concessions to having to split things between two players. You can still batter baddies with your mates, but you’ll have to be prepared for the loss of clarity while doing so.
Like its Hyrulean brethren, Fire Emblem Warriors is a joyous action packed romp through hordes of faceless enemies in the company of some well-loved characters and all the trappings of a Fire Emblem game. It’s not going to convince anyone who’s unsure about the well-worn Warriors template, and it’s far from being a technical showcase for the Switch, but it is raw, unadulterated fun packed with bags of fan service.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch