Text by Kalani Goda Newman. Translation by Alex Pareja.
While playing Fire Emblem Engage, it felt great to be returning to the classic turn-based strategy combat that we haven’t seen since 2019’s Three Houses. What immediately caught my eye was the visual upgrade to the game’s overall presentation – it looks very clean in 2022. Also, the deeper I got into the only chapter I was allowed to play, the more I realized how fun and innovative the gameplay has become with each new installment in the franchise. However, what I wonder is if the developer studio, Intelligent Systems, relies too much on a nostalgia that may not exist among many fans.
What seemed evident to me when playing an almost final version is that the game is practically finished, or rather, everything you’d expect from a finished Fire Emblem is there and, to say the least, it looks gorgeous. There is an attention to detail in the game’s presentation that is new for the series. There’s something about the animation when your units gear up for battle that’s a nice touch compared to previous game stills, and the action creeps further into anime fighting territory every time I watch it. I also loved that all the stats, abilities, etc. of your units are visible at the bottom of the screen, instead of having to navigate through various menus. This makes the tactical aspect of combat easier to plan by knowing immediately, for example, who will outspeed whom.
The most announced novelty are the twelve Rings Emblem, which summon Lords of the Past from Fire Emblem to aid in battles by providing stat boosts, weapon options, and much more. In practice, it is reminiscent of the “matchmaking” mechanic introduced in Awakening, but this time as an equippable item. All units get a different skin when you “combine” with the Lord of the Ring, and the ones I saw made me want to try every possible combination. This may also be good news for those who have very strong views on the main character design. The way the Crest Rings affected my overall strategy was familiar to me, but different enough to make it a welcome change to the core of Fire Emblem’s combat.
The way the Crest Rings affected my overall strategy was familiar to me, but different enough to be a welcome change to the core of Fire Emblem’s combat.
Since these Emblem Rings summon different main characters from the Fire Emblem story, the question arises: Will people play specifically for this concept? A Fire Emblem game didn’t arrive in the West until the seventh, The Blazing Blade, but Intelligent Systems seems to be hoping gamers will rejoice at the return of old characters like Sigurd and Leif. Beyond those who play the mobile version, Heroes, and those who have browsed the extra modes of the last two installments, these names are most likely not familiar to you. As a fan of the series, I liked the concept and use of the Emblem Rings, so perhaps this is the introduction to the vast history of Fire Emblem characters (who aren’t just sword wielders) that a wider audience needs. .
I managed to get through the whole of Chapter 5 in the time I was allotted to play. And my conclusion is that if the rest of the gameplay is like this demo, Fire Emblem Engage will be one of the best-played modern games in the franchise. History, on the other hand, remains to be seen. At least I can assure you that I am looking forward to catching up with the rest when it arrives on Nintendo Switch on January 20.