Developer: Omega Force, Team Ninja
Publisher: Nintendo & Koei Tecmo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Action & Platformer
Release Date: 28th of September, 2017 (JP) & 20th of October, 2017 (EU & NA)
Calling all Heroes from all known and unknown worlds, the Kingdom of Aytolis is under attack and you are its only salvation!
Just like last week when I did my Fire Emblem Warriors preview article, the time has come once again for me to publically speak out on Fire Emblem Warriors, only this time around, I’m allowed to disclose almost everything I could possibly want to mention, only instead of doing this Switch version focused review like another other review I have written, because of Fire Emblem Warrior’s subject matter, I’m also going to take the time to point out the similarities between the Fire Emblem the Warriors game and Fire Emblem the series. Sound good to you? Then let’s begin!
Story, Setting and New Characters:
Much like with any FE game, FE Warriors has its own unique setting as its world predominately takes place in the Kingdom of Aytolis and its surrounding territories and with the new location, comes two new protagonists. The first of which is the clever Aytolisian Princess Lianna, the older twin sister of Prince Rowan (the other playable protagonist in FE Warriors,) who has no desires whatsoever to inherit the throne and encourages her brother to take it instead when the time comes. Only Rowan has no desire to claim it for himself as he would rather his sister would take it, as he’d much rather become a Knight and fight on the battlefield.
Now unlike with Hyrule Warriors where Link is the sole main protagonist, when starting a new game, you will actually need to choose between Lianna and Rowan, with regards to who will be your main character and take into battle. Should you regret who you chose as your main, changing them will not be possible once Story Mode begins, but you could always create a second save file with the other character as your main, or wait until you progress far enough into the game to unlock the other and then use them in Free Play of story levels you’ve beaten before and in History Mode on the levels that allow you to play as whoever you want. (Some History Mode levels have certain requirements that limit you as to what kind of character you can pick, such as Hinoka because she can ride a Pegasus, or just characters from a certain game like Fates, but more on History Mode later.)
Another new character is, of course, Queen Yelena, the mother of Lianna and Rowan and sole ruling monarch of Aytolis, due to her husband, the King, having passed away. Only while the Queen does pop up now and then and sets our Heroes on the path of which they follow, she’s not really a pivotal character, one that is however, is Darios. Darios is something of an older brother to Lianna and Rowan, who taught Rowan how to use a sword, and taught Lianna the academic arts. Only unlike the siblings, Darios is not from Aytolis as he is actually from the Gristonne Kingdom, of which he is the Prince of and his father, King Ozosid rules over.
On what starts off as a normal day in Aytolis, Darios is visiting and sparring with Rowan in a practise match, only Rowan loses and just as soon as it is Lianna’s turn, the proverbial you know what, hits the fan. The Gates of the Other World open and monsters spill out, and begin to invade the castle. As part of a Prologue level, the player, with the assistance of Darios and the other sibling must attempt to escape with their lives intact, only during the escape, although the siblings are reunited with their mother, they are soon separated due to a cave in, and ordered by Queen Yelena to escape whilst they still can, but not before giving them the Shield of Flames as a parting gift.
Now the Shield of Flames, is the very same shield as seen as part of the game’s logo and visible on the game’s icon when on the Switch home menu, but it is also a very important piece of kit as it is Fire Emblem Warriors version to the Shield of Seals, aka the companion piece to the Falchion, which makes an appearance in quite a few Fire Emblem games under different names, including the Sealed Sword Falchion that is used by Chrom in Fire Emblem Awakening, which becomes the Exalted Falchion. It’s also for the best part of the game’s Story Mode, the sole salvation to stopping the Chaos Dragon Velezark and the reason as to why Heroes from Fire Emblem games such as Fates, Awakening and Shadow Dragon are making an appearance in the first place.
Only in the Shield’s current form, it lacks its full power as the 5 required Gleamstones are missing, but that’s where the Heroes like Chrome come into it. As well as being great allies in battle and unlockable playable characters, they are also key to acquiring all 5 Gleamstones, only in typical Fire Emblem fashion, nothing turns out as it is supposed to and although Lianna and Rowan are able to build an army of their own, with Heroes to help lead it and a completed Shield of Flames, there’s more than just the forces of Grinstonne and the Chaos Dragon to fight as there are also old enemies like Gharnef and a whole lot of twists.
With regards to the introduction of previous Heroes from other games, it’s done in the similar fashion as to how any new character is introduced, usually by you joining them in battle to assist them, or having to battle them first and then they join you, but while I would like to applaud its story for the way it does mirror that of one you’d expect from a lesser Fire Emblem game, but there can be no denying that despite the approach taken, it’s story does feel like that of Fire Emblem Heroes and Hyrule Warriors slapped together with some of the names, items and minor details changed to something else. Oh and just in case you’re interested, certain maps even have Terrain Effects like lava, Poison Fogs and more, which require using Dragon Veins to dispel them, only you’ll need to capture the fort they’re present in.
Classic Mode, Casual Mode, General Gameplay and The Weapon Triangle System:
While Fire Emblem Warriors is a game that does try to be Fire Emblem in nearly every aspect, at the end of the day it is still a Warriors game, which means if you played Hyrule Warriors, then expect more of the same. Still, for the sake of saying it, the turn-based combat seen in previous FE games is swapped out for some real-time hack-and-slash action and things like dodging, base capturing, camera lock-on targeting, button mashing combos, Special Attacks (aka Warrior Specials) are present as is a Magic-like mode known as Awakening. Awakening can be activated once the blue Awakening bar has been filled due to consuming enough Awakening Tonic and allows you to earn a series of perks the more people you kill during the empowered states. (More gold, more EXP & more item drops being a few examples.) Then once the bar is empty, unless Awakening is ended early, a hi-def finishing move is administered and the player returns back to how they were before Awakening.
Only as well as being able to have your own character do things like that, via the game’s start menu, the player can give orders to their units to move to certain locations, like the enemy’s fort, to the aid of another unit or even to where you are on the field, just to give yourself a hand. But if they are one of the 4 characters in which you’re allowed to operate during the mission, when they are surrounded, you can just swap over to them, kill whoever it is who needs to be killed and then swap back to your preferred character. After all, we wouldn’t want an ally to fall in battle now would we? Especially when playing Classic Mode. (When choosing between Lianna and Rowan, you will also be promoted to choose between Classic Mode and Casual.)
Classic Mode is Fire Emblem Warriors’ way of implementing Permadeath and guess what, if a key ally falls in battle, they will not be coming back for the next battle. They don’t actually die, as they just get severely wounded and unable to fight anymore, but no one wants to lose their best character like that, especially if they are your highest levelled Hero like my Level 82 Lianna. So if Classic Mode isn’t for you and you would rather play a mode where if one of your character dies, they’ll come back for the next Chapter, than Casual might be the better way to go. Only just know if you do want to try Classic, if at any time it does get too hard for you, you can of course cop out to Casual, but you can not change from Casual to Classic.
Last but not least for this section, the Weapon Triangle also shows it’s face, which means while it’s all well and good using the same character over and over again, it’s not when you’re on a tough to beat level and you insist on using a unit that is weak against the unit you are fighting like using Chrome against Hinoka, or Cordelia against Takumi as Archers can take down fliers in no time at all, but I have to admit, there really is nothing quite like flying around a battlefield, waiting to strike on an unsuspecting victim, even if that victim is an archer. But with regards to characters like Leo who is a Mage upon a horse, I’ve got to say, I’m not a fan of the horseplay and yet, slap some wings onto a horse and play as Hinoka and suddenly you are playing with power because that Princess is almost as much of an assassin as Princess Lianna is, who is also a much better character than her brother in all aspects.
Class Changes, Master Seals, Levelling Up and Improving your Units:
One of my more favourite aspects of Fire Emblem games, is the ability to take a character you’re not particularly fond of and making them become a character you can depend upon and a similar thing is at play for Fire Emblem Warriors. As well as being able to level up your Hero, upgrade their stats and even create a whole range of crests that work a lot like the badges from Hyrule Warriors, as they can be used to allow your character to learn more combos, take less damage from enemies of various types and even learn skills, they can also be promoted to new classes. Thanks to the implementation of Master Seals, any character in Fire Emblem Warriors can be upgraded to a superior second-tier class, like Lianna becoming a Great Lord, only in order to first trigger such a promotion, the character you wish to elevate will need to be Level 15 or higher and you’ll need a Master Seal in which to use as a material to create the Surge Crest.
Not only will a promoted character boast better states, but they’ll also be able to learn more skills, have more crests and even get a new costume, which is usually a more elegant version of what they’re wearing already, or what they were wearing, but now with a lot more armour, but getting the Master Seals will not be easy as some can only be achieved by getting S Rank on certain levels in History Mode and meeting certain requirements like opening specific treasure chests with a key that you can only get by saving a certain NPC as part of a Sub Mission, or killing a character who happens to be carrying one, like a Thief.
Talking of items that can only be collected in a certain way, Fire Emblem Warriors also has its own answer to the Gold Skulltulas from Hyrule Warriors. The item in question is Anna’a Momentos, which come directly from Anna the Merchant, who for the first time on certain levels appears when the player (or players as Fire Emblem Warriors does feature local co-op,) kill 1000 enemies, whereas her second appearance has different conditions. For example, in History Mode, to get her to appear a second time can require you to do things like capturing a certain number of keeps, killing specific enemies before any of your allies get injured, whereas in Story Mode, you could be tasked with doing one of the things I’ve mentioned, but also have to do it when playing a mission on Hard or even Lunatic mode.
As for the purpose of Anna’s Momentos, they help fill in the game’s available 5 panels, which when one panel is complete, a new level is unlocked on one of the game’s 5 scenarios (which are unlocked by progressing through Story Mode,) unlocks a new high stacks level, but if you beat it, say the one from the first scenario Invisible Ties, than guess what? You’ve just unlocked Anna as a playable character! Although they also have another purpose, which is by collecting a certain amount of them, you can upgrade your camp and get more blessings, but more on that in the next segment.
Preparing for Battle and amiibo:
While the battles are a huge part of any Fire Emblem game, (even the mobile game), as well as the story, it’s also important to prepare for battle and while Warriors may like the Kingdom Fates had, where players can build, farm and prepare, Warriors has a simpler approach, as instead of building, you just have Camp and Convoy. With Camp players have access to the Crest Market, which is where players can make the crests I spoke about earlier with the dropped materials they get from certain enemies. Go to the Smithy, which is where you can sell the weapons you acquire via weapon drops and playing, as well appraise and remove attributes (skills on the weapons like Rainstorm, Strong V and Healer.) You can also reforge weapons, which is pretty much combining two weapons together (the one you want to keep and one you want to lose,) just so that you can get a certain skill on your preferred weapon.
Other things you can do with Camp is attend the Training Grounds, which isn’t anything like what it sounds like, as no training actually happens there, but it is the place to go to level up your weaker Heroes with all the gold you’ve accumulated from your battles and it comes complete with Level up windows, but they can be seen any time your character levels up, unless of course you opt to take it off in the settings. As for the final thing to do with Camp, there’s Temple. With Temple you can get Blessings by using materials once again to boost the rate of weapon drops, make the Warrior Gauge fill overtime and even boost the amount of experience gained.
It’s not all just Camp though as there is also Convoy and with Convoy, you can check out your complete list of Heroes, inspect their states, sort out their skills, optimise your equipment like arming yourself with a more damaging weapon and even change their outfit (*Possible Spoiler Alert! Female Robin and Male Corrin are not separate characters, but costumes that can be acquired through History Mode, as well as a number of characters like Anna and Celica.)
But if you still require something else to do when in-between battles, why not check out the game’s Extras menu. With Extras you can check out the Records Hall, which consists of Warrior Gallery (the means of viewing character models, wielding different weapons and in different costumes,) but you can only look at models of characters you have unlocked. There’s the Illustration Gallery where you can see the illustrations you have completed by collecting the required Anna’s Momentos.
Then there’s the Sound Gallery and Movie Gallery, which is a gallery where you can listen to any of the songs and cut-scenes you have unlocked by encountering them and Badge List, which actually look more like medals and are part of Fire Emblem Warriors’ achievement system and encouraging you to do things like complete the Story Mode and completing an illustration and so much more. There’s also a Guides section where you can look over any of the guides you’ll have encountered, which concern character information, moves and every other detail you could possibly need to know.
Out of the Records Hall section, but still in Extras is Presents. If you own amiibo, both non Fire Emblem related and ones that are, like the newly released Chrome and Tiki amiibos, then this is the place to go as Presents is the part of the game where you can tap up to 5 amiibo a day to get things like weapons, materials and gold and just in case you’re still thinking about the Guides I mentioned in the paragraph above, Extras also has a game Manual that comes packed with even more information, but even cooler than the Manual are the Settings.
In case you did not know, Fire Emblem Warriors features a whole lot of voiced dialogue and in the game’s Game Settings, provided you have obtained the voices of certain characters, you can actually select which character’s voice you want to be the voice of the game and while you may not think too much of that feature just you wait! A couple of times I made the mistake of playing Fire Emblem Warriors at half one in the morning and Lucina would say to me “You’re up late, is something troubling you?” Now it’s one thing to have a character’s voice tell you that it’s important to take breaks when gaming, but what Lucina said, is something on a whole other level!
Cinematic Quality Cut-scenes:
With regards to graphics and the scope of the cinematic cut-scenes, while Fire Emblem may not have always been as highly polished as it has been with later games, Fire Emblem Warriors takes everything we’ve seen before to a whole new level. The animated cut-scenes are so gorgeous and flawless that they look and play like an anime movie and while the graphics may not completely carry over to when actually playing, the details are still HD and better than anything we have ever seen in a Fire Emblem game and even puts Hyrule Warriors to shame. But as well as boasting great imagery and action, Fire Emblem Warriors is also a Switch game with a difference. If you want to play with Quality, then you can play the game at 1080p at 30FPS, but if you favour Performance, you can always go for some 720p action at a solid 60FPS and whatever one you choose, the moves and combos look great regardless.
Support Conversations, Bonding and Paring Up:
Another true blue Fire Emblem staple is Support Conversations, they’ve been around for years, in various games and with Warriors, they’re back in an interesting way. While it is possible for players to fight alone, if they wish to take another player or AI controlled character with them, then they can and by doing so, Health is increased and when both characters Warrior Gauge is full, they can perform a Dual Special, which is like a Warrior Special, but even more devastating.
The character you pair up with will also be able to gain EXP and level up a lot quicker and even defend you at times when a rival unit strikes you and while it won’t work every time, when it does work, it works like a dream and then when the battle is won, performance has been evaluated, a MVP character revealed and items/weapons collected, bonds can be made. While the chats might not seem all that great at first, they do get better when the maximum rank has been attained and a hilarious conversation can begin (which can be relived in Extras.) But even then that’s not all because while you would think it ends there once you’ve reached the highest rank, you can either start binding with other characters, or you continue to play and Pair Up with them, just so that the two of you can work even better when out slaying Monsters and defeating Dragons.
Additional Content other than Story Mode:
DLC is no stranger to the Fire Emblem series as it has been a huge part of it as far as the recent instalments have gone and just like with them and Hyrule Warriors, Fire Emblem Warriors is to also receive its own extra content in the form of 3 packs that will add new maps, new costumes and characters, with a Season Pass available to purchase the day it releases, but before the first pack arrives in December, as well as Story Mode, there is of course History Mode.
A couple of times already in this review I have referred to it, but now I’m going to properly talk about it. History Mode is made up of scenarios that are of certain key events from the Fire Emblem series, only now they’re a little bit different as the events have been given a Warriors twist and in order to reach the “ending” a lot of requirements are going to need to be met. Requirements like completing certain levels in a certain way to dispel walls of darkness, defeating reinforcements who can appear at any time and even tear down walls. But while it is a lengthy process trying to complete each and every level, since S Ranking them all often requires you getting 2,000 kills on the levels where a specific number of defeated enemies isn’t stated, but History Mode is worthwhile nonetheless.
It can help you get more Master Seals, rare items that can be used to craft the rarer crests and unlock alternate costumes for Corrin and Robin and get new characters as well. But even when you beat a scenario, post-game content is then playable as part of the scenario as even more levels become available, such as space-time distortion levels, which conclude with an alternate ending, so if you fancy experiencing a story twist you haven’t experience before, then it really does pay to give History Mode your all. Much like with everything else in the game and because I have let this review and my words run on way longer than I needed to, I’m going to do us all a favour and wrap this up by moving onto the conclusion.
Fire Emblem Warriors has all the makings of being both a great Warriors game and the Nintendo Switch’s best hack-and-slash game as it bests Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star in every way, but despite doing everything right and being a decent Fire Emblem spin-off, I fear it has been released at the wrong time and as such, will go greatly unappreciated. Granted it was out earlier in Japan, but in the West, it releases exactly one week before Super Mario Odyssey rolls out and while some might pick it up, for a lot of the players who are interested in picking it up, they won’t be in a hurry to do so as their attention could instead fall to Odyssey, DOOM and then Skyrim before Switch owners then find themselves having to decide between Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Fire Emblem Warriors. But as a final, final thing that needs to be said, even though Fire Emblem Warriors is a Warriors game and a Fire Emblem game, you do not need to be a fan of either to enjoy it. You just have to be a fan of hack-and-slash games in general and have a willingness to give Fire Emblem Warriors a chance!
THE VERDICT: 9/10
*Review Key Provided by Nintendo