The Fire Emblem series rules.
From the mainline tactical RPGs, to the mobile cutdown Tactical RPG, to the cheesy spinoff Warriors games, I love this franchise.
As such I am always pumped when a new game is released, and so 2023 is starting with a bang thanks to Fire Emblem Engage.
Fire Emblem Engage starts on a weird note.
The opening cutscenes throw us into a battle where our new protagonist is in a massive battle. Alongside her are a bunch of allies including ghostly looking versions of protagonists from previous entries in the series. It culminates in a battle with our protagonist Alear, who is a divine dragon, and the big bad Fell Dragon. Here we go through a basic battle to introduce us to the game’s mechanics including the new Engage function.
More on that later.
The battle happens and Alear falls asleep. 1000 years later she wakes up to find some people have been keeping watch over her for generations. I won’t go too much more into the plot, because well there isn’t too much more.
In short, the Fell Dragon is awakened and so Alear has to stop it.
To do this she needs to visit all the kingdoms, collect all the Emblems, and battle the big baddie. The plot is relatively thin, but to be honest that’s totally fine with me. The story is just interesting enough to get you through the story, but the supporting characters are awesome to learn more about, and I’m here more for the battles.
Speaking of battles, Fire Emblem Engage has still got it. For newbies to the series / tactical RPG genre, basically the battle is set on a grid. Each character can move so many spots in a turn, and if in range of an enemy you can attack them.
Once everyone on your side has had a turn, the enemy’s troops get their turn, and you back and forth until the battle is finished. There are nuances like abilities that characters can use on troops positioned by them, and sometimes they can even help with attacks depending on their placement on the field. This core gameplay has been perfected with the series and they don’t deviate from what is fun about the game.
What is new is the aforementioned Engage mechanic. Basically you earn Emblem rings throughout the game.
Equipping this to one of your troops gives them a boost in stats and some help with fighting. During a turn you can even get them to Engage with the Emblem which merges them into a new look with some new abilities. Your character may be able to travel further, use a different attack / spell, or even use their ability to do a more powerful move.
This has a bar that depletes as you use it, and can be filled up throughout the battle. It’s the kind of mechanic that is perfect for a game like Fire Emblem Engage, where it’s new, but fits the old mechanics so naturally.
On top of this the game is an absolute looker. Fire Emblem has for a long time pulled away from the battle scene to show a little battle animation which has been getting more awesome as the series has progressed. They have taken a step up here with the occasional attack including showing the character moving through the scenery which is a minor thing but really adds to the vibes.
The beautiful anime scenery, characters, and animations are a real treat, both in handheld and on my big TV.
If you pick up the expansion pass it initially comes with some handy items, but also some new Emblems. To not mess with the number of Emblem rings in the story they are presented as Emblem bracelets. The initial release gives you one for the characters from the Three Houses with a neat little mechanic where as the fight goes it changes which house head will be selected until you engage which locks one in. The other bracelet is for the series icon Tiki, where you need to go battle here to earn her bracelet, and when in use you can transform your character into her dragon form. There are more bracelets incoming in later releases as well as some story DLC.
Fire Emblem Engage may not have the best story, but holy crap it is a fun game.
The use of old characters as Emblems gives the right balance of fan service, without alienating new fans. You don’t have to know who these characters were in their respective games, some I didn’t even know, but it’s an added slice of awesome for older fans.
It is everything I needed from a new Fire Emblem game, jump in!
Released: January 2023
Platforms reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Intelligent Systems