Developer: Intelligent Systems
Fire Emblem Engage marks Nintendo and developer Intelligent Systems second Fire Emblem game for the Nintendo Switch, following 2019?s release of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. While Three Houses placed a much heavier emphasis on social links and different storyline perspectives offering up some unique reasons for multiple playthroughs, Fire Emblem Engage dials that back a bit, making this more of a traditional Fire Emblem experience akin to the 3DS titles like Fire Emblem: Awakening.
That said, there?s a lot to like with Fire Emblem Engage. The strategy-RPG mechanics are as satisfying as ever, featuring multiple classes and class upgrades, plenty of battles to participate in, lots of gear to find, equip and upgrade, along with plenty of new characters to recruit. Fire Emblem Engage also leans on the classic Fire Emblem games that preceded it, by introducing the new Engage mechanic. This allows for a party member to equip a ring that represents the spirit of a former Fire Emblem character, so favorites like Ike, Roy, Marth, and more will show up and effectively lend their skills and abilities to the character they?ve been equipped to. There are 12 of these Emblem Rings in all throughout the game, and they represent most of the major fan favorites across multiple prior Fire Emblem titles.
Outside of the Engage function, Fire Emblem Engage also employs some online modes to help freshen up the series. Relay Trials are a new mode that allows you to start a challenging battle on a variety of maps, and throughout the battle you can activate nodes that will allow other players to deploy additional units once your round of the fight is finished. Once the map is completed, regardless of which player completes it, you?ll all gain rewards that can help bolster some of the unique Engage weapons that are attached to your Engage Rings. Unfortunately, the matchmaking component of this wasn?t working as intended during my review, so you?re currently stuck having to share passwords with other people in order to join a Relay in progress, but it is something that Nintendo is aware of and actively working to fix.
While there might not be a lot of other new features to discuss with Fire Emblem Engage, it?s still a really enjoyable entry in the Fire Emblem series. A lot of that comes down to how absolutely satisfying the strategy-focused battles can be, which remain a core feature of the Fire Emblem series here. Gaining new units, each with pretty specific weapon abilities and at least one unique skill per unit, and then deploying those units in battle and seeing how their various abilities and attacks work in conjunction with one another, is a consistent highlight here. The triangle combat system, represented by the three major weapon types in the game, is a staple of the series and remains so with Fire Emblem Engage. The map layouts are generally pretty great throughout, and the throwback maps that are culled from prior Fire Emblem games are good representation of memorable battles/maps from older titles.
As far as complaints go, I don?t have anything major, other than the economy of Fire Emblem Engage is a little annoying if you?re wanting to upgrade multiple weapons. Gold is scarce in the game, and outside of a few missions that will net you a large increase in funds, it?s pretty hard to come across gold without partaking in skirmishes that feature a gold bonus, but even then your gains rarely feel worth the effort. It?s easy enough to make a mistake early on and pour your gold into upgrading various regions of the game, which in turn is meant to net you additional items throughout that region when completing battles, but those items are rarely worth the cost of the upgrade. Instead, you are better off holding onto your gold for weapon upgrades, which have far more use towards the latter half of the game than the region upgrades do.
I also grew bored of the various mini-games available in your hub world pretty early on. They aren?t vital to engage with constantly, but they do tend to net you either support gains for increasing your bonds between units, or temporary stat increases, so there is some value in engaging with the mini-games. There are three exercise games, which are effectively timed button pushes, button mashing, or analog rotation games, but there?s not enough variety between them, even with increased difficulty options that appear later in the game. Also, there?s not a lot worth interacting with in your hub world overall, but thankfully you aren?t forced to transport back there after every battle, and can just continue on from the world map if you want to.
The story of Fire Emblem Engage is pretty entertaining, I?ve seen some people online that are kind of down on it, and I?d agree that Three Houses told a better tale. But Engage seems to be in line with most of the modern Fire Emblem stories, and the individual snippets of story you get from each companion is generally worth seeking out by increasing your bonds with each character. I will say that everyone seems to get pretty forgiving towards the tail end of the game in a way that doesn?t strike me as realistic, I?m not sure that certain characters should get the pass that they do for their actions, but it?s a pretty common trope to see charismatic villains turn into heroes, and not that unusual for Fire Emblem in general.
All in all, I think Fire Emblem Engage is worth checking out. It?ll be a pretty appealing entry for both long-time and new Fire Emblem Fans, the Engage mechanic adds a fun layer to the already excellent combat system, and the bevy of new characters introduced are all generally entertaining. The look of the game is fantastic on the aging Switch hardware, bolstered by the excellent character designs, and the music is really well done. It might not be the best Fire Emblem on the Switch, but it?s still a really solid adventure regardless.
Note: Nintendo provided us with a Fire Emblem Engage Switch code for review purposes.