Fire Emblem Engage is the latest game in Nintendo’s popular Strategy RPG series and the second game on the Switch following Fire Emblem Three Houses. While Three Houses expanded on Fire Emblem as a game of thrones style political drama, Engage decided to be Power Rangers, and that’s not a bad thing.
I’m not joking when I say that, from its Ron Wasserman-style opening theme, to its corny writing, Engage feels is a lighthearted shounen anime and is unashamed at being so. That won’t appeal to everyone if you prefer the darker side of Fire Emblem but combined with excellent maps and fun mechanics and it’s quite an engaging adventure.
The Divine Dragon
You are Alear, the divine dragon, believe me, the game will remind you of this fact pretty much every ten minutes. You awaken on a floating island surrounded by four nations on the continent of Elyos. Unfortunately soon after you’re 1000-year nap, it turns out the evil Fell Dragon has also awakened and it causing zombie-like monsters to plague the continent. His followers also just killed your mom. Thankfully, you got a special power, Emblem Rings that allow you to summon the heroes of past Fire Emblem games, together with your army is quirky characters you must scour the kingdoms, unite their leaders and collect all the emblem rings to stop the fell dragons.
I don’t mean to repeat myself but Fire Emblem Engage really plays out like a corny Tokusatsu show for better and for worse. A lot of the dialogue sounds unnatural and much of the cast has devolved back to gimmick personalities similar to FE Awakening and Fates. A lot of them have one quirk and they’re going to make sure you know about it in every one of their supports.
Despite this, however, I still find a lot of charm in Engage’s story. It’s campy but after FE Fates’ confused mess of a plot and Three Houses’ great but dense political thriller, it’s kinda nice to go back to a more straightforward adventure. It reminded me a lot of the GBA Fire Emblem games in a way, just a ragtag group of heroes going out to save the world. It’s not quite as well written as those but it invokes the same feeling.
There were also quite a few characters that I thought were pretty likable like Ivy, Goldmary, Yunaka (Hiya Papaya!), and even Alear themself is pretty solid. I don’t like the way characters literally worship the Avatar character but I love their woefully underprepared personality. The others see them as a god yet they’re just a regular person and react with awkwardness and anxiety you’d expect from someone having to live up to those expectations.
I’ll even say I like the designs for most of the cast. Yes, it may be “too anime” (still a terrible argument) but the vibrant colors and over-the-top extravagant clothing made every character feel more distinct as an individual. The story won’t be for everyone I just had fun with and it was solid enough to get me through the game, even if I was occasionally laughing at the bad lines.
Fire Emblem Engage is split up into 26 chapters plus several Paralogue side missions for those looking for more content. One thing I have to say straight away is that this is one of the best-looking switch games. It may not look like much from the pictures but on the Switch/TV screen, the cell-shaded graphics look smooth and transition well from the map to the battles. The animations are also well done, giving each attack a snappy hit that adds a sense of weight to each blow. The dev team said they were aiming to emulate the GBA games and they certainly pulled it off.
The only real complaint I have is that the load times for the game can sometimes be very long, sometimes up to 15-20 seconds but it’s not that detrimental to the game.
Fire Emblem Engage keeps to the FE’s traditional strategy RPG gameplay where you move characters across a grid map to attack enemies or heal allies like a complex anime version of chess.
Notable features of the game are that it brings back the Swords-Lances-Axes weapons triangle and adds to it. Now using a strong weapon has the chance to ‘Break’ the opponent meaning that they won’t hit back in that turn.
In addition, it’s also way easier to upgrade your units to new classes in the game compared to Three Houses, just get them to level 10, and use an item called a master seal to promote them whenever you want. Overall Engage makes its battle system easy to understand yet with lots of intricacies to help craft your perfect army.
This big change to the game is the new Engage mechanics. The 12 Emblems containing the previous FE heroes can be equipped with any of the characters in your army. Equipping them will not only buff certain stats but will give them an in-battle ability to Engage. This transforms the Unit unit a new powered-up form (complete with a Henshin transformation sequence) that has even higher stats and the ability to use a new super move. These can range from teleporting to firing a magical laser or mowing through a horde of grunts like a calvary charge. The trade-off for this is that they can only transform once per mission, and will transform back after three turns.
The Engage mechanics add a lot of nuances to Engage’s combat. The 12 Emblems offer a lot of unique combinations that and great enhance units into strange and spectacular combinations. You can have a speedy thief like Yunaka also act as a healer with Micaiah, or make the resident tank Diamant even tankier by giving him Ike. There are even a few characters like Clamme and Etie who I thought were fairly meh yet give them Celica or Lyn and they can wreck shop pretty hard. As I found more rings I found myself swapping them around every few chapters just to see how they changed each unit.
Another aspect of the Engage system is bonding and inheriting skills. As a unit uses a specific Emblem more, their bond with the Emblem will level up and by level 5, they’ll be able to inherit skill from the emblem to equip and use permanently. These can range from buffing their speed stat to brand new passive abilities like jumping in front of allies to take their damage. It’s a cool system that encourages players to further experiment with the emblems and move them around to different characters.
Chilling On Your Sky Island
Outside of combat, you can leave the world map at any time to go to the game’s hub world, The Somniel, a Floating Island in the middle of the map. Here you can buy new equipment, items, and costumes, chat with the other characters, give them gifts from the Flea Market and take them out for a dinner made from resources you find scattered around the map after each mission. You can even adopt animals who in turn will give you more resources, including dogs being able to find your metal for some reason.
These, in turn, can raise your characters’ bond and unlock a new support conversation, a scene between to characters’ interaction. As previously mentioned some aren’t that well written being heavily reliant on the character’s personality gimmick to get but others are actually pretty funny or cute. I won’t spoil any but generally, they’re a mixed bag with some being far more memorable than others.
Finally, there are a number of minigames you can play in The Somniel, including Fishing, Wyvern riding, and exercise which can raise stats and get more resources. There’s even a little Dog creature named Sommie who you can pet and feed. None of this is required so if you’d prefer to just keep to the war effort you can but I found it a nice change of pace from the main game that didn’t take up too much time.
Fire Emblem Engage
Fire Emblem Engage may be a little alienating for those looking for more a serious take on turn-based strategy series but if you can accept it for what is it: a campy power rangers style fantasy adventure, it’s a pretty fun time. I can’t deny that the dialogue and writing can often be rushed or outright bad but there were still many times I thought it was charming or at least legitimately funny with how out there some of the characters were.
It also doesn’t take away from the gameplay which has a good balance of classic Fire Emblem tactics spiced up with the Engage system allowing more greater unit customization. Overall, Engage isn’t the most mindblowing game in the franchise but it’s another engaging experience that brings out some of the best aspects of the series, if you can look past all the silliness at least.
|Units are highly customizable and the Emblem systems allow for a lot of experimentation||The writing can be pretty bad even for a more lighthearted game|
|Th graphics look fantastic for a Switch game||Loading times can often be quite long|
|Some of the characters were very enjoyable even with how camp they could get|
Fire Emblem Engage is available for Nintendo Switch.
Discussion about this post