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Fire Emblem Engage Review: Switch Gameplay Impressions, Videos

Brandon GalvinJanuary 17, 2023

Nintendo

Fire Emblem Engage is a celebration for one of Nintendo's longest-running franchises.

Engage is extremely rewarding for all fans, whether they've been following the series since the 90's, early 2000's or as recently as Three Houses in 2019. However, it is also perfect for newcomers to the series because it is a streamlined experience with excellent tutorials, engrossing turn-based strategy gameplay and phenomenal customization options.

Fire Emblem is one of the most accessible strategy games available on Nintendo Switch and meets expectations as a follow-up to the fantastic Three Houses.


Story and Gameplay Impressions

Fire Emblem Engage manages to strike an ideal balance between story, character relationships, gameplay and optional tasks at the hub base, The Somniel. The story is a straightforward romp compared to the multiple arcs in Fates and Three Houses. Engage feels less daunting thanks a traditional, linear path and is certainly one worth experiencing.

There will be no story spoilers here as the character developments are essential, and arguably the best part of any Fire Emblem story is seeing which characters join the party throughout the campaign. This installment sees the Divine One and their allies battling against the Fell Dragon and their force. What separates Engage from other stories is the inclusion of characters from previous entries, which is sure to be among the most beloved and talked-about aspects of the game. Engage feels like a love letter to previous games while still carving out its own path by introducing entertaining characters. The relationship building that many adore from previous entries returns, but for many gamers, it's the gameplay of Fire Emblem that reigns supreme.

The excellent, familiar system of Fire Emblem returns, featuring characters "breaking" each other based on different weapons. For example, swords have an advantage over axes, axes over lances, and lances over swords. Arts have advantages over bows, tomes and knives. Each character has an icon near them to display which weapon they are yielding and then an icon will appear if an enemy is able to be broken during an attack.

With Engage, gameplay is arguably the best in the series because of the new engage mechanic that sees party members sync with legendary heroes from previous games to expand skills and weaponry. The engage mechanic is an amazing way to incorporate previous Fire Emblem heroes, who are called Emblems in Engage. Fan favorites featured in Super Smash Bros. like Marth, Roy, Ike, Corrin and Byleth, are among those to return, but they are just a few of many. Even better is that this mechanic allows synced characters to have more powerful skills, enhanced attributes and additional weapons. It is important to use the engage mechanic in order to increase the bond with the Emblem and gain Bond Effects. These Bond Effects are important because they provide passive attributes and additional skills in battle.

The maps in Engage may be familiar at first glance, but they are great at expanding upon previous entries. There's different aspects of the terrain that add another wrinkle to the battlefield, such as placing a unit in bushes to manipulate certain attributes. There are areas with breakable barriers or doors to clear paths to enemies or treasure chests, plus maps where enemies are hidden by darkness and only visible near light or the active player. One of the most intriguing aspects allows for bow users to enter a ballista on certain maps for massive range and damage.

It's important to explore maps after battles for items, but an amazing quality-of-life feature is that you don't have to talk to the other characters in this section to still gain bond fragments because they will automatically accumulate when departing the area. Bond fragments can be gained in this post-battle section, found on the battlefield or earned after accomplishing achievements during gameplay, and they are essential for enhancing a character's bond with an Emblem in the training area called the Arena at The Somniel.

The Arena also allows characters to gain experience, though that part is limited to only three times per day. However, there are skirmishes, training battles and side missions called Paralogues to help characters gain experience to level up their attributes and weapon proficiencies.

The menu contains some excellent quality-of-life options, such as speeding up the pace of battles, automatically advancing conversations and skipping combat animations. This is extremely helpful for keeping up the flow of the game considering Fire Emblem is a lengthy experience. That's not to say the presentation of the battle scenes isn't worth watching—because each looks fantastic on the Switch OLED screen or on a television—but more that it's a great option to have for gamers who might be limited on gaming time. Another fantastic quality-of-life feature to speed up battles is to press start when the enemy phase begins, as the game will immediately jump to the player's turn or if a character levels up or faints.

An amazing quality-of-life feature is that players can do almost everything they need directly from the World Map. Players can watch conversations unfold between characters to raise their support rankings or converse with Emblems to increase their bonds when that is available. Players can also manage their Emblem Rings, optimize equipment, manage inventory and purchase items directly from shops without having to go back to the Somniel.

Overall, Fire Emblem Engage keeps an enjoyable pace throughout its experience, with plenty of exciting battles, gameplay mechanics, story beats and quality-of-life features. It all runs smoothly on Switch with great design choices and fun gameplay. There's an incredible amount of customization options at the player's disposal between all of the playable characters, emblems, weapons and upgrades that enhance replayability as they test which combinations they prefer most.

Conclusion

Fire Emblem Engage is a must-play game for fans of the series and an ideal starting point for gamers who want to finally experience one of the best strategy franchises available on a Nintendo console. It's a nostalgic blast for people familiar with the series and an excellent way for newcomers to learn about these legendary characters and compelling gameplay.

This game enhances the gameplay with endearing characters, pleasant art style and a plethora of customization options. Gamers can customize tons of characters' classes, weapons, emblems and outfits. This game seemingly has infinite replay value because of the amount of customization, skirmishes, trials and online multiplayer battles.

Engage feels like a 'Best of' for the Fire Emblem series because of its callback to previous heroes, streamlined story, relationship building and phenomenal gameplay. Nintendo kicks off what should be a stacked year for Switch with a game that is sure to be remembered as one of the best strategy games available in 2023.