Fire Emblem marked its 30th anniversary in 2021 and since then fans have been teased with leaks and rumors of a new game. In this review we look at the celebration of the series, Fire Emblem Engage. Being a complete departure for the series stylistically coming off Fire Emblem Three Houses how does it shape up in comparison? What about standing up on its own legs even without all the FE fan service? Grab your Emblem Rings as we Engage onwards!
Fire Emblem Engage is available now only on Nintendo Switch, you can pick it up on the Eshop for $59.99. If you want the full experience make sure to also pick up the Expansion Pass for $29.99, this will add more content such as more Emblem characters and story to the game throughout 2023!
Want even more of our engaging reviews? Have a read of some of our 2022 Switch reviews here-
- Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes Review: Three Repetitive Wars (Switch)
- Splatoon 3 Review: Chaotic Refreshing Fun (Switch)
- Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope Review: A Galactically Refined Adventure (Switch)
Story – The Tale Of Elyos
The story of FE Engage follows the tale of the classic Fire Emblem plot of defeat the Fell Dragon. It takes place in the land of Elyos a land split into 5 major countries which either worship the Fell Dragon, an evil malevolent force or the Divine Dragon, the sealer of the Fell Dragon and keeper of peace. In order to seal away the reawakened Fell Dragon you must travel to each country and collect their rings. There are 12 Emblem Rings in total
As for protagonist this time around we follow the Divine Dragon, Alear. With blue and red hair, Alear really feels like quite the outlandish design at first, however, as the story unfolds you learn more as to why they have been designed this way. Being the Divine Dragon means you have “Privileges” and sometimes this does make the narrative feel repetitive. Every place you go its just “I’m the Divine Dragon” and then characters reply “Here take all our rings”. The later half of the story is where things start feeling more interesting and in the end I do like the plot. It just feels empty and boring sometimes.
The Anime Emblem
This is where the name of this review comes in, the “Anime Plotline”. The game often feels like it really isn’t trying to tell a grand narrative but instead a fun compelling story. A lot of the dialogue comes off as more humor focused and this isn’t a bad thing. The humor is one of the main reasons I even got it, after seeing some of the character supports I was hooked and sold. If you come into Engage expecting a fantasy masterpiece of storytelling you won’t get that. But if you just want a playable Sunday morning cartoon then Engage delivers!
I love the way they meshed story and character design into one with Alear, but having the players decisions affect their story could have made the design choice more interesting. They could have made Alear become monochromic with their hair and eyes depending on what path you take.
This is one thing that I do have to commend the game on and that is the single route story. The past two entries in the FE series have been well known for their multiple route structure. This involves the game having more than one story that depends on what the player chooses. For example Three Houses has 4 routes each of which taking potentially one hundred hours each to complete. The entry before Three Houses, Fates had 3 routes and the worst part was that you had to pay for the two that you don’t choose!
This route structure meant if you wanted to get all the lore and story and everything the game had to offer you would have to replay it over and over. This just ends up being more pain than it’s worth. That’s why I am so glad Engage goes back to having one core focused story. Even if the plotline is a generic FE one.
Gameplay – Strategically Addicting
This is the spotlight of FE Engage as while the story may be lacking in strong points, the gameplay is FE’s best yet! The gameplay loop consists of choosing units to deploy to battle then moving these units on a grid to position them or attack others. There are many different classes, weapons and skills all of which mesh together to allow you to make your characters the way you want. The customizability available is fantastic as you really aren’t limited to each character’s role. Everytime someone levels up they gain random amounts of stat increases so this means that everyone has the chance to be powerful or awful. One good feature is that you can reset your level if you get awful stats.
Landing those 1% critical hits still feels as satisfying as ever, even without the little cut in animation. If anything, without that it’s now so much cleaner as each character has a special attack animation for when they get a critical. That’s one thing the game does so well, animations. Doing things such as attacking an enemy from the side of a fence causes your character to smash through it and break it. This level of detail is very immersive.
The game’s main gimmick is the Emblems. This entry seems to be a late 30th anniversary title for the series with past characters returning as a take on the Pair Up mechanic. The Emblems are rings that each character can equip to obtain unique skills abilities and even weapons. These more powerful Emblems, the 12 Emblem Rings, contain the spirits and personalities of heroes from other FE games such as Marth, Lyn, Byleth and Lucina.
These Emblems can be Engaged with to combine the powers of both characters. Engaging does not mean you can get married to your Fire Emblem crush! This whole fusion-like mechanic is super interesting and I love that every character can use every Emblem. Meaning that if you have a favourite you can just give them the most broken Emblem and watch them plow down anything in their path.
The Emblems do tend to break the difficulty of the gameplay though. Thankfully there is some balance with a gauge needing to be filled to Engage. You only get a few turns of power before needing to recharge it. So even with their power gameplay still holds a strong challenge for the most part. My favourite part of the Emblems is just seeing each character with different hair colors and outfits. It is such a minimal thing yet so cool to see.
Relax and Take It Easy on the Somniel
Each chapter is broken up into one main chapter map with some paralogues that you can complete in between each. This means that side story content is weirdly missing… or is it? Outside of battle you can visit your home, the Somniel. This base acts as a place where all the classic social elements of the game take place. Here you can interact with allies, buy new weapons, do training, care for your pet Sommie and play mini games.
These minigames are very simple and while fun at first eventually feel very repetitive as not much changes between each difficulty. There are a few of them but they rarely give you worthwhile rewards worth playing them. At least there’s a fishing one… Doing the button mashing workout mini game definitely doesn’t make me tired. You have no proof!
While being on a much smaller scale than the monastery in Three Houses, the Somniel is much easier to explore and the smaller scale is much better. At least now you don’t have to spend half an hour running around trying to find that one character you haven’t spoken to yet. There is also convenient quick traveling if you do really want to speedrun your relaxation time.
This is also something I want to touch on, character dialogue in the Somniel and after battles. Note that after each battle you can explore the map you just fought on and talk to allies. This is honestly such a nice touch. In previous titles these little home base areas often provided chances for your large cast to each have their chance to chip in about the current story events but Engage seems to suffer from what they did to Three Hopes. This is that oftentimes characters will have nothing meaningful to say and just talk like a generic NPC. Has a certain character just died? Well what a lovely day it is here on the Somniel!
This also leads me into talking about the support conversations which also feel have been tainted by Three Hopes. They are now much shorter and many characters lack supports between each other for no reason. I always enjoyed seeing the most opposite of personality characters interact. But now only a few members of your army even feel connected to one another.
Graphics – Ring Shining Visuals
During the build up to the game’s release one thing personally had me on edge for buying it, the graphics. At first glance the visual style the game has seems very stock standard Japanese animation graphics. On closer inspection the designs with all their detail and uniqueness really let the game shine. From the bright environments to the stylish characters everything just screams visual treat. That is as long as you like the more anime-esque artstyle.
From Three Houses to Engage there was a dramatic art style change. The reason behind the style change is due to Vtuber + Manga artist, Mika Pikazo taking the lead as the character designer. The models perfectly shine as 3D versions of her style. Usually dialogue has art portraits but now they have shifted to just using the models. This works so incredibly well with Pikazo’s style shining through. The cutscenes and visuals look outstanding for a Switch title, everything is vibrant and full of color. Completely contrasting Three Houses more bleak muted artstyle.
All the characters that Pikazo has made also are some of the series most creative. Their designs are very original while also having the usual FE troupes blended in. Take female Alear, she looks like a carbon copy of Lucina if she had only blue hair and eyes.
Sound – A Heavenly Soundtrack
The music is one of the many strong elements that sold me on Engage. The dynamic music is incredible and all the tunes just sound great. Even when listened to outside of gameplay! Before picking up the game I listened to the OST and the battle themes really stood out to me. Just like previous FE titles there are intense and calm versions of each track.
The calm soothing tracks that play in the Somniel make me feel like I’m at peace. The love fest of fan service also slams right into the music too. There are a bunch of remixes of some of the most iconic FE tracks. Hearing some incredible medleys for each game really adds that gem to the ring that is this game’s soundtrack.
Then there’s the intro movie. It has a vocal track and it screams cheesy 90s anime intro and I love every ounce of it. Despite its nature it is still super catchy. Honestly it is one of the few game intros I can watch time and time again. Law number 1 in my mind, never skip the Engage intro.
Fire Emblem Engage was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.