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Video game review: 'Fire Emblem Warriors' is a fantastic action/strategy game

POSTED November 23, 2017 7:16 a.m.
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Even though Omega Force’s “Warriors” video game series has been hit or miss over the years, its bright spots tend to be crossovers with other media franchises.

“Fire Emblem Warriors” is no different. By marrying Fire Emblem’s strategy trappings with hack-and-slash battlefield combat, Koei Tecmo has delivered a satisfying and addicting action experience for the Nintendo Switch. While fans of Nintendo’s strategy series will obviously find a lot to love, gamers new to the series should also be adequately entertained, despite the nonsensical story.

At heart, “Fire Emblem Warriors” is a shiny, fast-paced game of rock, paper, scissors. Like in the core Fire Emblem series, swords beat axes, axes break spears and spears best swords. Added to the mix are bows, magic and mounted units, which reside in a gray area in the weapons triangle. Fortunately, the game bypasses any awkward learning curve or confusion by placing special arrow icons next to opponents’ names. If your opponent is weak to your current character, a downward-pointing arrow will be present, while an upward arrow indicates that a unit will perform well against your warrior. By strategizing character placement on the map, you can maximize your army’s effectiveness and truly turn the tides of battle. The strategy element is light but extremely satisfying and encourages you to try out different characters.

Aside from two main characters made for the game, each warrior in “Fire Emblem Warriors” is pulled from the series’ past installments. Fans of “Super Smash Bros.” will likely recognize Marth, Robin, Corrin and Lucina, who are among the standouts in this game. Unfortunately, other recognizable fighters like Roy and Ike don’t appear anywhere in the game.

Each character is given a moment to shine in an otherwise generic story. Each introductory cut scene serves to introduce the legendary characters through small re-enactments of classic Fire Emblem moments. These scenes, which are beautifully animated and well-voiced, are the true emotional draw of the game, and I found myself looking forward to them over and over again.

In addition to the base story mode, “Fire Emblem Warriors” offers a historical mode, which features battles from past Fire Emblem games. Newcomers to the series will likely find themselves a little lost, but fans of the series will love seeing these climactic battles play out from a new perspective. Each battle offers bonus objectives, which test players’ abilities in exchange for new characters, costumes and weapons. Additionally, individual character skill trees and a weapon refinement mechanic add a lot of depth and encourage replayability. There’s a lot of game in “Fire Emblem Warriors,” and it manages to stay engaging after dozens of hours' worth of battles.

Aside from their personalities, each character features unique abilities while still adhering to a basic, easy-to-learn combo system. If you want to dive into battles and mash buttons with the same warrior, you can do that to varying degrees of success. Character abilities range from flight to midcombat healing, and players will need to learn and master each character to truly defeat each enemy army. At its base level, it’s a treat to watch any given character chew through thousands of enemy soldiers before unleashing a special attack on a boss, and it’s only made better through each warrior’s skills.

One important item to note is the game’s two performance options. In docked mode, “Fire Emblem Warriors” offers a “performance” and “quality” mode. “Quality” mode locks the game’s frame rate at 30 frames per second and increases the game’s resolution to 1080p. In contrast, “performance” mode bumps the frame rate up to 60 fps but caps resolution at 720p. Players with a smaller TV might appreciate the faster, smoother frame rate, but the lower resolution makes the game appear slightly blurry on a larger screen. In contrast, 30 fps runs consistently, and the higher resolution provides a clear view of the action, even on a larger 4K TV. Handheld players don’t benefit from these modes, just playing the game at 30 fps on the Nintendo Switch’s 720p screen. Fortunately, the smaller screen keeps the action looking smooth and crisp, with only a few minor drops in resolution.

“Fire Emblem Warriors” is an absolute treat, from its satisfying combat to its rock-inspired soundtrack, which features themes and songs from past Fire Emblem titles. Each character is lovable and entertaining and provides unique abilities that help to turn the tides of battle. Deep systems, modes and replayability keep the game engaging and offer a great value for both newcomers and fans of the series.

Game: "Fire Emblem Warriors"

Platform: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 3DS (Not Reviewed)

Cost: $59.99

ESRB Rating: T for suggestive themes and violence

Note: “Fire Emblem Warriors” offers a season pass for $19.99. Season pass holders will receive three content expansions, each of which includes three new characters, costumes and new historical maps to play. If players wish to buy packs individually, they will be available for $8.99 each.

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