Despite its incredible popularity in Japan, Koei Tecmo’s Warriors (or, if you prefer, Musou) series has never really captured western hearts and minds in quite the same way. To the outside observer, the series appears to be little more than mindless button-bashing, with no tactical nuance or depth. As fans of the franchise will tell you, this couldn’t be further from the truth and despite the odd bum outing (what series doesn’t have those?), we’ve seen some addictive and compelling adventures over the years – the most obvious of which (from a Nintendo perspective) is of course Hyrule Warriors, which arrived on Wii U and was later ported to 3DS.
Despite being a solid game, Hyrule Warriors didn’t seem to change the western perception of the Musou franchise all that much; when Fire Emblem Warriors was confirmed there were a few grumbles and complaints within the Nintendo ranks about “another” Musou crossover title. However, having played the game over the past week we’re happy to report that such scepticism is largely unwarranted; in fact, by fusing Intelligent Systems’ famous turn-based strategy universe with the combat action the Warriors series is famed for, we could finally have the game which shows the doubters just how deep and involving it can be.
True, the seemingly mindless but incredibly enjoyable hack-and-slash action is present and correct, aided immeasurably by some impressive performance on Switch, even when played in handheld mode. Everything shifts along at an urgent pace, with attacks filling the screen and enemies scattering like rag dolls. This much we expect from a Warriors game, but Omega Force and Team Ninja haven’t lazily slapped the Fire Emblem name on this in the expectation that the characters and lore alone will sell the concept; they have thoughtfully taken elements from the franchise and adapted them into the core mechanics. So it’s possible to issue orders to units from the grid-based map screen, switch between active characters at the push of a button and even team-up for more potent attacks, building your bond level as you go. The all-important weapon triangle appears too, and must be taken into account when attacking certain units.
Fan-service is everywhere in this title, and while it’s great to see so many famous faces and observe how they interact in the bonkers dimension-skipping storyline, it does feel somewhat forced at points; this zany plot was the only reasonable way in which the developers could possibly have Chrom, Marth and Corrin all inhabiting the same battlefield at once, but it pushes the realms of plausibility at more than one point, even for a game set in a magical fantasy realm filled with dragons and monsters. Thank goodness then for the bonus History Mode, which allows you to revisit classic battles from past Fire Emblem games without having to put up with all the portal-based hokum seen in the main Story Mode.
Another big talking point with Fire Emblem Warriors is that it’s the first Switch title to offer players the opportunity to select the kind of performance they want. “Quality” improves the visuals at the expense of frame rate, while “Performance” drops the detail in order to hit 60fps. Having experimented with both we found ourselves favouring the latter, as smoothness always trumps visual fidelity in our book, but it’s nice to have the option all the same. Even when playing with “Quality” mode enabled, the 30fps frame rate is acceptable; however, when playing with two people in splitscreen things become noticeably choppier.
We’ll save a more detailed analysis for the full review, but at the moment Fire Emblem Warriors is effortlessly soaking up the majority of our spare time, which is no mean feat when you consider the abundance of amazing Switch games on offer right now. Hopefully this entry will help the Warriors series gain some semblance of respect amongst western players, because it’s certainly shaping up to be one of the best instalments we’ve ever played.