"If I could only play one Warriors game for the rest of my life, Fire Emblem Warriors would be the one, hands down."
If you had asked me near the beginning of the year what one of my most anticipated games was for 2017, I would have responded with Fire Emblem Warriors. Hyrule Warriors was an extremely fun crossover on Wii U, and it left me hungry for more. When I saw Fire Emblem Warriors revealed during Nintendo's big Switch presentation in January, I actually teared up a bit. I thought, "What possibilities! There are so many great characters that would work in a Warriors game. The franchise is filled with such a huge cast of loveable characters! How could this go wrong?" Well, fast forward nine months, and most people that were interested have tuned out. With the announcement that the game would focus primarily on Shadow Dragon, Awakening, and Fates, Fire Emblem fans were justifiably upset. Even Fire Emblem Warriors' DLC would focus on those three games, angering even more people. Despite all of this, I have remained cautiously optimistic. After all, the two franchises are a nice fit, and I love both of them. I've also seen this story before. The Fire Emblem community reacted the same way when Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE was announced, and that ended up being a great and underrated game. I wanted to keep an open mind and let Fire Emblem Warriors speak for itself.
The story of Fire Emblem Warriors stars Rowan and Lianna, royal twins that are heirs of the Kingdom of Aytolis. The kingdom is attacked by an unknown entity, and the twins are forced to flee along with their friend Darios, a prince from the neighbouring country of Gristonne. In order to counter the threat to their kingdom, they are told by the bishop of a temple to gather heroes from across dimensions to fight for them against the invading Chaos Dragon's forces.
Unless you're playing the historical versions of the Warriors games for the first time, the franchise's stories have usually been nothing to write home about. The same goes here. Fire Emblem Warriors' story is serviceable, but a bit disjointed at times. It plays it very safe, and never evolves much past the standard Fire Emblem formula. If you've played Fire Emblem games before, imagine every single trope in their stories. Put it all together, and you'll probably have Fire Emblem Warriors' story exactly as you imagined. There are twists and turns, but all are predictable. In addition, they choose to borrow heavily from the storylines of Awakening, Fates, and Shadow Dragon. So if you've played those games, you've already seen half the story.
Support conversations are one of my favourite parts of Fire Emblem and, unfortunately, Fire Emblem Warriors doesn't have very many of them. There are not support conversations for every rank: there is only the A+ support conversation, and A+ is unique between specific characters. For example, Rowan and Lianna can have an A+ conversation, but Rowan can't have an A+ conversation with Chrom. The benefit of support ranks in this game is that it nets you unique character materials that are used to upgrade a unit's skills, which I'll talk about later. The higher the rank, the better the materials you get. The support conversations that are in the game are pretty long and fully voiced, so at least there is that.
The gameplay of Fire Emblem Warriors in right in the title. This is Omega Force and Team Ninja's take on merging the Warriors games with Fire Emblem. While the two series are very different in terms of their gameplay styles, their similar themes make for an easy crossover. There are two modes in the game: Story Mode and History Mode. Story Mode is self-explanatory: progress through the story and unlock characters. Story Mode takes around 15-20 hours, roughly. History Mode is more interesting. In History Mode, you play through a stage resembling a famous Fire Emblem map. Enemies are spread out throughout the map with varying difficulties, and varying objectives. Some maps might be timed, some ask you to kill as many enemies as possible within a time limit, protect allies, or lock you into using specific classes or units from a particular game. History Mode will also rank you based on your performance (time it took to complete the map, number of enemies killed, and damage taken). There are 5 maps in History mode for you to fight through. History Mode is where you will most likely spend the majority of your time, and is the way you unlock other characters like Celica and Lyn.
If you tired of the Warriors games during the last console generation (as I'm sure many did), you may have missed out on some of their most recent releases. The Warriors series has vastly improved in the last three years when it comes to the combat and the ability to kill hordes of enemies. Combat in Warriors games is smooth as butter now, and Fire Emblem Warriors is a good example of this. It's pretty easy to work your way across the battlefield, knock down scores of enemies, and get off specials that can wipe all of your enemies away. Combos are easy to execute and flashy to watch. Specials are also a spectacle to behold. Each character has a unique Warrior Special, and there is also Awakening Mode. Awakening Mode grants you weapon triangle advantage over everything as well as increased stats. Awakening Mode can be extended by killing more enemies, and also grants bonuses based on your kill count. However, this isn't all that makes Fire Emblem Warriors great.
Fire Emblem is a tactical RPG series, which you would assume means nothing in a Warriors game. That's where you would be wrong. Strategy is really important in Fire Emblem Warriors. Much like the Warriors spinoff series, Empires, you are able to give orders to your army. With Fire Emblem Warriors employing the weapon triangle, and with class advantages/disadvantages factoring in, you have to make sure you are efficiently controlling your army. Micromanaging your army helps immensely, since doing everything yourself would take an eternity. The weapon triangle deals increased damage on enemies you have an advantage over, and also more of a chance for the stun gauge to appear. If you drain the stun gauge, your character unleashes a Critical Hit. While you can get the stun gauge to appear on an enemy you don't have a weapon triangle advantage over, it takes longer to drain the stun gauge and the Critical Hit won't be as powerful. You can't get the stun gauge to appear on enemies that have a weapon triangle advantage over you unless you dodge one of their powerful attacks and immediately attack them.
You can control up to four characters at a time, and if there are any more units in your army, they are computer controlled. You can still give them orders as long as they're a part of your own army. There are Sub Missions that usually eat up your time too — another reason you should be making sure your army is doing what you want them to do. Sub Missions improve support between characters, generally, as well as making the battle easier. There are allied units you can't control, and they're frequently units that you have to protect. Fire Emblem Warriors is, thankfully, pretty generous when it comes to protecting allies, but there is a catch. Classic Mode (permadeath) does exist. While it's not "permanent," there is a hefty price to pay to revive units. Reviving allies costs 10 gold materials (extremely hard to come across) and 300,000 gold. Given that price, it is important to protect your allies at all times and ensure they're going into favourable matchups.
You can obtain improved weapons by either finding new ones after killing higher level enemies, or upgrading. While you cannot upgrade a weapon's power, you can upgrade it with "skills" that are attached to weapons. These will upgrade your strong attacks, increase the chance for rare materials, increase the chances for better weapon drops, and so on. "Crests" are the main way you upgrade your characters' skills. Crests are upgraded by spending materials, which are gained by killing enemies and named characters. Crests grant things like a longer weapon attack combo, increasing your special gauges, or reducing damage. Master Seals also make their way into Fire Emblem Warriors, allowing your characters to change to a higher class and granting massive stat increases. Unfortunately, there is only one class to upgrade your units into, unlike the two options presented in most Fire Emblem titles.
Since the Warriors games involve killing hordes of enemies with your overpowered characters, the need to have a lot of minions on screen and run smoothly is essential. Unfortunately, the Switch is not capable of handling the frenetic action all at once very well. Thankfully, the Switch version does have options. If you prefer the game looking better as opposed to running better, you can choose Quality mode. If you prefer the game running better, you can choose Performance mode. Quality mode gets the game up to 1080p but runs at 30 FPS, and Performance mode gets the game up to 60 FPS, but at 720p resolution. It's unfortunate we can't have both, but at least that option exists. I found that Quality mode was actually sufficient, and while there was slowdown, it was never when it was really important (usually occurring during specials, which are automatic).
Speaking of options, there are also dub options. Once you download the initial update, you can download the Japanese dub, which is offered for free. For English dub fans, this might come as a relief. In recent Warriors games (aside from the Dragon Quest Heroes series) the English dub has been largely absent, as Koei Tecmo usually chooses to stick with a Japanese dub. I found both worked pretty well, but I'm not a fan of Rowan's English voice. Given that he is one of the protagonists, it makes it worse.
Whenever the Warriors games cross over with another series, Omega Force usually chooses to remix music from the series. Thankfully, the Fire Emblem series has fantastic music, and that only makes the job of creating some awesome tunes easier. While some tracks sound better in their original games ("Twilight of the Gods," "Requiem," and "Chaos: Ablaze"), most of the music sounds twice as awesome given the Warriors remix. Themes like "Prelude (Ablaze)" and "Alight (Storm)" benefit a lot from the Warriors treatment. There is also some great original music too, like "Resolute Heart" and "This Precious World." The best part is all of the music in the game can be played from the main menu for your enjoyment at any time.
While Fire Emblem Warriors doesn't pay tribute to the series as a whole, it is still worthy of attention from the Fire Emblem community and especially the Warriors community. This is, without a doubt, the best Warriors game I have ever played. If I could only play one Warriors game for the rest of my life, Fire Emblem Warriors would the one, hands down. This is the near-perfect union of Warriors action and Fire Emblem strategy that is only marred by the cookie-cutter Fire Emblem story and lack of support conversations that would have made for some great dialogue between unexpected characters. The Fire Emblem franchise is now 2/2 when it comes to its crossovers.