As one of the more divisive layouts in gaming today, Dynasty Warriors has never quite resonated with players outside of its niche audience. Still, there’s something inherently appealing about the large-scale battles and trademark hack-and-slash gameplay of the Koei Tecmo series that lends itself well to several different intellectual properties, with a pair of noteworthy Nintendo franchises standing out as ripe for a crossover. The Zelda-based Hyrule Warriors was the first such venture, but now it has now been followed up by the hotly anticipated Fire Emblem Warriors.
The core premise of capturing bases and dismantling immense armies is still as strong as ever within Fire Emblem Warriors, albeit with several twists that honor the Nintendo-owned series. These alterations to the formula all stem from the turn-based, tactics-heavy gameplay of Fire Emblem, and the end result is a product that pulls in players with a much more engaging layout that does a wonderful job at quasi-blending the titles to create something that feels very unique. It may not be perfect in its execution, but the fan service and resulting gameplay will satiate followers of both franchises – although it will still remain an uphill battle for those unsold on the Warriors way of things.
Quite a few things have carried over from Intelligent Systems’ Fire Emblem that will immediately strike aficionados of the Nintendo property with a sense of déjà vu. For example, the tried and true support system returns, as characters will build bonds based on their time spent fighting together on the battlefield as a means of unlocking items necessary to level up certain heroes as well as improve their combat efficiency as a unit. The pair-up mechanic ties into this and works by approaching an allied hero on the field and hitting the corresponding input to have them join the player-controlled character to boost their stats – allowing for some additional off-the-cuff strategies and devastating tag attacks.
Meanwhile, the command-based map (something present in previous iterations of Warriors) and resulting battles have been revamped with a rock-paper-scissors combat system that plays into the strengths and weaknesses of any given unit. Truth be told, it’s a simple layer of additional depth that sees the likes of flying units share a weakness against archers and a weapon triangle being formed between lances, swords, and axes. It may not seem like much of a leap initially, but those that throw their units into the heat of battle without analyzing the weapon matchups will quickly find themselves losing heroes to their opponent’s militia.
Indeed, these benchmarks of FE fold into the large-scale battles of Warriors in a noticeably more natural way than Hyrule Warriors‘ various nods to its respective origins. Where unlockable armaments played a role in fighting massive bosses in the Zelda spin-off, the finer bits of this strategy franchise have swapped out attempted puzzle solving for aspects of a system that better integrates into the gameplay of the final product. While hacking and slashing is still very much the name of the game, continuously monitoring the combat, swapping between on-screen heroes, setting up winning weapon-type matchups, and building chemistry amongst troops all come together to weave a rich tapestry of flagship mechanics.
It doesn’t hurt that the title looks stunning on the Nintendo Switch either. Clocking in at a resolution of 1080p, the cutscenes and on-screen action provide fans with a visual smorgasbord that plays well into the anime aesthetic of Fire Emblem. There is a sacrifice for the resolution and it comes at the cost of fluidity, as the game hits 30 frames per second in its default mode. Fortunately, the developers have added in a way for players to swap over to a 60 FPS option in Fire Emblem Warriors at the cost of being knocked down to 720p. Even then, each and every character present in this spin-off has never looked as good as they do here, and that makes the interactions of these warriors from across the Fire Emblem series all the more rewarding during the game’s narrative.
Kicking off the adventure are a pair of original heroes in Prince Rowan and Princess Lianna. The newcomers act as an anchor to unite all of the existing heroes that have been swept off to the kingdom of Aytolis after a number of portals are opened up by a group of baddies from several realms. The story itself is based entirely on appeasing fans by providing them with interactions between some of their favorite heroes from the Fire Emblem series, so there’s certainly not much of a captivating narrative. Truthfully, that’s not the purpose of this title though, and those willing to acknowledge the fact that the premise of the game involves classic heroes like Marth teaming with newer faces like Chrom and taking out thousands of troops in a single sitting will be able to appreciate it for what it is.
Having said that, there are some bizarre character omissions from the game that will leave many Fire Emblem fans scratching their heads. The most obvious heroes that are missing in action are Ike and Roy of Super Smash Bros. fame, both of which are adored by fans. Meanwhile, other favorites like Tharja are inexplicably absent from the battle. Perhaps the developers didn’t want to feel pressed to include these characters, instead focussing largely on the more recent Fire Emblem: Awakening and Fire Emblem: Fates games. Whatever the rationale behind leaving out fan-favorite characters may be, their presence is still sorely lacking from the final roster.
Try as it may, Fire Emblem Warriors may not convince gamers still unsold on the Warriors formula, but it’s sure to come pretty close after expertly implementing trademark mechanics of the renown Nintendo series. Add in local co-op multiplayer, nods to the source material’s permadeath option via Classic Mode, and even a History Mode that allows fans to replay key battles from the franchise’s past and it’s clear that developers Team Ninja and Omega Force were able to deliver some impeccable fan service to Fire Emblem fans.
Fire Emblem Warriors arrives exclusively for New Nintendo 3DS, New Nintendo 2DS XL, and Nintendo Switch on October 20, 2017. Nintendo provided Game Rant with a copy of the game on Nintendo Switch for review purposes.