To celebrate a new Fire Emblem crossover game with the Warriors formula, this time based on Three Houses in the same fashion as Age Of Calamity was from Zelda Breath Of Wild, let’s rivisit the older (and first) title, simply titled Fire Emblem Warriors, released back in 2017 for the Nintendo Switch and the 3DS… as in, only the New 3DS models, yep, it was one of those very few exclusive titles for that 3DS revision-upgraded restyling, arguably the only title of notice alongside Xenoblade Chronicles 3D in terms of New 3DS Only packaged retail releases.
I’m gonna review both versions as i first sunk 50+ hours on the New 3DS release (i didn’t had a Switch at the time) and then a little less once i got hold of a Switch and that version, and by that i mean i will just make a specific comparison in terms of performance and overall looks between the two versions, no need to review both separately, as in terms of contents they are 99 % identical.
Aside from that, prepare from a lot of comparison to Hyrule Warriors, it can’t be helped.
Also (as already explained in the hands-on on the demo for Three Hopes), don’t expect a review of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes anytime soon, for the same reason of Persona 5 Strikers, i gotta play the main game, Three Houses, first, even though this is described as an alternate story in that world. And i’m never gonna finish that game and then start, finish and have a review of that out in any timely fashion.
Time is not on my side. 😦
In terms of story and premise, it’s a fairly typical old school Warriors crossover affair, as it has a plot involving dimensional portals in order to justify having characters from various titles in a series all together (especially if the title from the series are not connected whatshowever) fighting a common threat. A darkness dragon, shit like that.
In terms of original characters and the premise itself, it’s about the kingdom of Atolys, which just held the funeral for his fallen king but it’s suddendly ambushed by monsters coming out of portals and rifts, forcing the twins princes to escape from the hordes with the Fire Emblem their mother gave them before also perishing. The royal siblings Rowan and Lianna then meet various heroes that also were teleported there and know of the Fire Emblem… yeah, it’s honestly pretty throaway.
It’s about what you would expect for this kind of crossover, but honestly after Dragon Quest Heroes managed to pull that off better, i did expect better. Still, at least the original characters are mostly ok (the twins can be a bit annoying), but i RECOMMEND playing at least Fire Emblem Awakening, as Fire Emblem Warriors liberally drops a HUGE SPOILER pertaining a plot element and some characters. Aside from that you can play it without needing 200 hours knowledge of other games.
Talking gameplay, it’s quite similar to Hyrule Warriors, it’s pretty clear Omega Force looked at that game to make this other Nintendo musou crossover, and i’m glad they did, because Hyrule Warriors it’s great, just great. So this means it play more like Samurai Warriors, but – again – in a similar fashion to the original Hyrule Warriors, it plays emphasis on an Empires style base capture system but it’s a bit less reliant on the bases themselves than Pirate Warriors 3 was.
And here the bases have a sort of self healing property, as in their energy it’s tied to the base keeper’s, and allies resting in allied bases recover some health over time.
Fire Emblem Warriors actually goes the extra step compared to Hyrule Warriors, as it takes even more elements from the Nintendo series it “uses/borrows”, and for the better since Fire Emblem it’s a tactical turn based rpg, so even more tactical systems can be used to improve the base formula.
Seriously, this game also serves as a good template of what you can do when you inject lots of proper and proven tactical elements from the genre, and make the prospect of a Disgaea Warriors one i will always vouch for.
Heck, even a FF Tactics musou would be great.
The FE triangle system regulates weapon types strenght-weaknesses (in a similar way to DW 8 Earth-Man-Heaven system), but there’s more to that, so archers are able to always land constant critical hits to flying units, monsters are weak to magic but not critically so, there are armored units, and combinations of the various types of classes, which makes worth grinding for weapons with specific abilities, like an axe with a “flying unit triple hit” or a “dragon slaying bow”.
Obviously you can still land damage on your enemy if your character is at a class disadvantage, but it not’s negligeable, unless you’re quite overleveled it does make a huge difference, especially since you can issue more advances orders to your dispatched playable units, so it’s worth having them well equipped and re-organize if some of the units are struggling.
Also, having the class advantage helps in decreasing the enemy “fatigue bar” that shows up after some successful combo or after they do some attacks, like in Hyrule Warriors it pays to wait for a window to chip away at that bar so you can land a powerful strike on officers and bosses.
In stead of the Zelda items, there are many other Fire Emblem systems, like the ability to group together two units, letting you swap between them and giving you access to an automatic defensive parry from the rearguard character or an offensive attack, alongside a powerful dual musou if both characters have at least one bar filled.
That and stuff like having a flying unit carry a non-flying on over some paths that can’t be accessed or cause terrain damage unless you use a wyvern or pegasus unit, sometimes you have to activate them from the other side, sometimes there are magical barriers tied to magic users, etc.
It plays more with the terrain, and this is tied to the “dragon veins” system, as in, some bases have a dragon vein and conquering them usually means making some paths available to all non-flying classes as well, or negating effects like “lava damage”. Pretty good map design, overall.
What stops this from being even better than Hyrule Warriors it’s an ugly, old wart that usually plagues already not good or flawed musou entries: character cloning.
Yeah, it’s an issue that regularly plagues some Warriors mainline entries, and one that applies to DLC characters too here, which is even worse since it unevenly affects some classes but not others.
In usual crossover musou fashion, the characters have a specific type of weapon they’re stuck with, which isn’t an issue, in itself. It makes sense even more since the dependency on the triangle system has the balance working in a specific way, as it does having some character with mounts unable to dismount and acting as a single thing.
The problem is that the cloning doesn’t just affect the two new protagonists. They’re both twins, so whatever, and they’re original characters, so no biggie.
This can’t be excused when all the pegasus units in the game (and they’re all in the base game) share the same exact moveset. Sure, they have a different musou attack, some specific ability to unlock and equip eventually, but again, there’s a lot of sword users which have a separate, unique movesets, so this comes off as a lazy cop-out. This is also the issue with archers and wyvern units, but there’s also plenty of other infuriating examples, like Owain being a clone of Ryoma, and he’s not even the only DLC character that should have been free in the base game, since they’re clones,
Monetary reasons aside, it’s not a great reward to unlock this character after hours of progression through the Epic Mode maps, only to find out it’s a fuckin clone of Marth. YAY.
Also, even counting the DLC characters, there are some odd ommissions, like, there’s no infantry axe user, they’re all either cavalry or pegasus-wyvern riders. And there’s only Tiki as the only dragon hybrid playable characters, the entire “gem weapon” category it’s just for her. A bit excessive.
Also, there’s no type of “Heavy armored unit” or “lance cavalry unit” (or a ninja like one), which is kinda odd since the game takes some liberties anyway in order to make some character work in this set-up even if they were a non-offensive/support class in their original games.
While in some way i’d argue it’s even better than Hyrule Warriors and expands on the tactical elements the series should lean more into but never really did with the mainline series (both Dynasty and Samurai ones), doing so quite well… i will admit that comes with the caveat of you being ok with pausing the action often to look at the map, give orders at the other units and then taking direct control or consider if it’s more efficient to leave the IA deal with the battles they’re in.
You do that more than even in the portable 3DS spin-offs like SW Chronicles, thankfully with way better IA, but still, the fact that you have to pause the action more than usual could easily and reasonably be seen as an issue. I argue it’s not, since it helps in making the tactical elements more important and not just window dressing for the most parts, it’s not perfect but it’s meaningful.
In terms of character progression, it’s literally identical to Hyrule Warriors, with you needing money and material to unlock extra combo strings, abilities, extra musou bars, reduce the damage taken by specific weapons or units. The only big difference is that here – taking from the FE book – for the more advanced unlocks/abilities (sometimes even enabling the use of specific healing items to classes/characters that normally can’t) and such you have to upgrade a character class by using a Supreme Seal, which is a rare item that requires moving through the story chapters and getting perfect grades in the various battles of this game’s challenge mode.
This and if you decided to play the game in pure old school FE style (i honestly didn’t, sorry), you’ll have to resurrect fallen units in the plaza/temple. There’s also an interesting blessing (added in one of the later patches) called “strategist” that makes your controlled character deals 0 damage, so you have to coordinate the IA controlled ones to actually defeat enemies and progress. Neat!
Even the crafting of weapons, the battle prep powerup rituals, levelling fast via paying in-game money, unlocking of more stuff it’s handled similarly to the previous Nintendo collab musou, with the puzzle images needed to be filled by completing specific conditions and objectives in various battles, both in Story mode and Epic Mode, the latter basically being a less complex (but with its own quirks and special rules) take on Hyrule Warriors’ Adventure Mode.
So, the New 3DS version is most likely a port from Switch, and it looks just slightly better than Hyrule Warriors Legends did on a New 3DS, to the point i wonder if this being an exclusive to this specific revision of the 3DS was more a matter of marketing more than a necessity due to hardware costraints… but it’s Koei, i’m QUITE inclined to believe the former than the latter.
Obviously, compared to the Switch version it looks like ass, but it’s perfectly playable, if you had no issue in playing the aforementioned Hyrule Warriors Legends (and boy it’s rough on the vanilla 3DS model) or the older Samurai Warriors Chronicles released as a 3DS launch title… you will not be stopped by the “graphical quality” of the New 3DS release of Fire Emblem Warriors.
Though unless you don’t own a Switch yet (or plan to collect/play both) i don’t really recommend bothering with the New 3DS release, despite being really cheap to find nowadays and the dual screen set up working nicely for a game like this, as not only the Switch version obviously looks way better, performs better, but has local co-op multiplayer.
Honestly, i’m kinda surprised they just cut that from the New 3DS port/version, but that makes one ask why they didn’t bother implementing a cross-save function of any kind, or shared the DLC contents, as you have to purchase that separately for both versions, no discount for owning already the Season Pass for the Switch version on the 3DS shop section, or viceversa. Of course not.
Overall, Fire Emblem Warriors i would argue it’s one of the best Warriors game in general, if it wasn’t for how widespread the cloning issue (not helped by DLC characters that are also clones and makes one wonder why they’re even paid DLC) is it would even be better than Hyrule Warriors, which this one clearly follows the mold and structure, all for the better, but also introduces a lot of new elements from the Fire Emblem series and blends them into the Warriors formula with success.
Though i do understand if one would prefer Hyrule Warriors or in general the more straightforward Warriors game, since the more deep strategic elements lead to more pausing to reasses the situation, issue orders and swapping characters, which cuts into the flow of the battle itself, but still, this has most of the stuff a lot of people allegedly wanted from these games… i so don’t get at all how some Warriors fans consider this a “bad one”. Then again, some people don’t know what they want from these games, so i guess it’s “the fandoms” as always. Whatever.
Later this month we’ll have another title in what now it’s a Warriors sub-series, with a spin off based on Three Houses, following the incredible success and sales numbers of Age Of Calamity, and yes, it’s one of those i’m really looking forward to, genuinely so. Don’t know when i’ll actually play it in full, for the reasons mentioned at the beginning of the review, but still, fairly “hyped” about it, even more after tackling the demo.