When Koei Tecmo partnered up with Nintendo and it’s Zelda franchise to make Hyrule Warriors, it was a match made in heaven. Can they go two for two with the Fire Emblem series?

For a start, the gameplay is instantly familiar to anyone who’s played a Dynasty Warriors game before. You’ll be carving through endless hordes of enemies like butter, with the occasional officer or named character to divide thing up. By now, Warriors-style games are already well-established as rather simple hack-and-slash affairs, so if you’re looking for something complex, this isn’t for you. Otherwise, the game is a blast to play most of the time, as you carve through the competition with ease. The AI can be a serious roadblock to your enjoyment in this game however, as they have a way of frequently getting themselves in big trouble. In one mission, I was tasked with keeping three different characters alive, and decided to assign my other characters to guard them. However, they would sometimes, without warning, just drop these orders and run elsewhere, leaving the VIP to run headlong into a boss and die. What makes this worse is that, while you have healers available to you in this game, this also means your mere presence does not revive the character like in previous Warriors games. Combined with the fact that the game will not stop alerting you to injured characters and VIPs, you’ll be steaming mad by the time you’ve heard Xander and Ryoma cry out for assistance with the exact same voice line several times in the same mission.

One thing that came as a pleasant surprise was the variety in combat styles between characters, in spite of the amount of people that use similar weapons. To explain, in older Dynasty Warriors games, characters that had the same weapons would nearly always share the same movesets, with one or two EX moves added on to make them unique. Here, the characters actually tend more towards having their own ways of swinging their swords, spears and lances, allowing for a better variety in gameplay for each. However, while the characters that are there do have a good amount of gameplay distinction, there simply isn’t enough of a variety of characters represented in this game. Only three games from the entire franchise get any kind of place in the story, despite there being many other games for them to draw characters from. Anyone who’s played Smash Bros will notice the absence of characters like Ike and Roy, and the very high number of characters just from Fates, which makes this feel less like a crossover game, and more like Fire Emblem 3DS with Marth thrown in.

Another thing that stings is how you will meet characters in the game that are unplayable at the moment, as many are planned to be released as paid DLC down the line. There are at least fifteen characters in this game that cannot be played, compared to Hyrule Warriors which had a far smaller number in this regard (and also did not have on-disc paid DLC) so right off the bat I feel like I’m being shafted by Nintendo here. This isn’t uncommon for Fire Emblem, sadly; Shadows of Valentia and Fates had some pretty horrible DLC systems, so I feel more like Nintendo is to blame for this than Koei, though this is purely speculation at this time. Still, regardless of the other content included in the DLC packs that are to come, you shouldn’t have to pay for content that is already there, so this feels like a rip-off.

In short, Fire Emblem Warriors is a decent game, but knowing what these two companies are capable of working together, this feels like a letdown. What should have been an easy win turns into a big ‘meh’ for the Switch, considering the material they had to work with. And while another Fire Emblem game is planned for the Switch next year, allow me to remind you that the translation team for Fire Emblem is Nintendo Treehouse, who seem to not be aware that an age rating of sixteen does not mean ‘write it for infants’.

Still, if you can catch it on sale, it’s a decent time-killer if Mario isn’t your idea of fun.

++ Fun Warriors gameplay
++ Interesting crossover interactions
+ Good combat variety
- Too similar to Hyrule Warriors, good features missing
- Strong lack of series variety (only three games represented)
-- Bad allied AI
--- On-Disc DLC