Fire Emblem Engage preview – ‘starting 2023 strong’

I can’t blame anyone who is put off by Fire Emblem: Engage’s art style. 

The lead character, Alear, is designed by well-known VTuber designer, Mika Pikazo

New character designs in Fire Emblem: Engage may be divisive.

VTube characters don’t have to conform to classic anime designs that demand simplicity in order to be drawn and recreated time and time again, so Alear’s striking two-tone hair and loud costume is going to be divisive. 

But you can’t let the extremes of pop-art anime distract you from what is shaping up to be a solid Fire Emblem entry.

Engage follows a typical story – the land of Elyos has been free of the Fell Dragon for 1,000 years, but the beast now awakens along with our protagonist, and so on.

But the new gimmick is that classic Fire Emblem heroes from the 16 previous mainline entries can make an appearance to aid you in battle.

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This is the kind of gimmick we’ve seen in plenty of other games, but luckily it doesn’t fall into all of the same traps that other crossover games do when they bring together heroes from other worlds. 

There’s no convoluted premise as seen in the mobile game Fire Emblem: Heroes, or Final Fantasy’s Dissidia series. 

Heroes from other worlds can be summoned using special rings. 

Those heroes themselves, thankfully, take a backseat for most of the ride, allowing the new main cast to shine through.

And they do get their chances to shine, when not fawning over Alear. 

Alear is the Divine Dragon and has been sleeping for millennia. 

Being a holy figure in Elyos, pretty much everyone is desperate for Alear’s attention and approval, which means you simply spend too long with characters that are far too complimentary. 

It’s a far cry from older games where every encounter with new characters is an opportunity for danger.

While bonding with Fire Emblem’s cast of characters has become a central part of the series, it’s still secondary to that battle system. 

You’ll be working through a variety of stages – most of them grassy villages or castle ruins – and coordinating your team to take down tough foes.

The classic weapon triangle is back, with axes beating lances, which beat swords, which beat axes. 

Bow wielders have an advantage against flying foes, while terrain can also offer up movement penalties and evasion boosts alike. 

It’s Fire Emblem as you remember it, but now Gauntlets have an advantage over magic, bows, and daggers. 

On top of all that, the new Break status can be inflicted by an advantageous weapon, disarming your foe, making them unable to strike back. 

It goes both ways, of course, meaning you’ll need to think harder about putting your units in harm’s way – especially if you’re playing with the classic permadeath mode turned on.

Another thing to factor in when positioning your units is passive bonuses, which can be applied when standing next to some characters. 

Alear will offer up a blessing, while other character combinations will have units deal extra damage for you during your attack phase. 

Fire Emblem: Engage has retained both its simplicity, and its tactical depth.

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How the story pans out remains to be seen, but thus far Engage feels like a lovingly crafted entry in the Fire Emblem series – one that hopefully won’t get ignored so late into the Switch’s life.

Fire Emblem: Engage still has plenty of tactical depth.

Fire Emblem: Engage still has plenty of tactical depth.

Written by Dave Aubrey on behalf of GLHF.

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