Fire Emblem Engage - Hands-On Preview
While I was never a Fire Emblem player when I was growing up, it was, thanks to Super Smash Bros, always on the periphery with the likes of Roy, Marth, and Ike all featuring in those early Smash titles. Things quickly shifted from a state of passing interest to love when Fire Emblem: Awakening for the Nintendo 3DS entered my life. Awakening was a revelation bringing with it quality of life features not seen from the franchise up until that point in the West. Japanese fans first got a taste of the broader appeal of Casual Mode with the 2010 DS remake, Fire Emblem: Mystery of the New Emblem, but it was with Awakening that the West found a more accessible way to enjoy the franchise. There are so many powerful memories that I have of Awakening, many of which that I’m finding are being stirred up as I play the newest release, Fire Emblem: Engage, and thanks to Nintendo, I’m already hands-on with the game ahead of its January 20, 2023 launch.
For the purpose of this preview, I was fortunate enough to play the game’s first eight chapters, eight exhilarating chapters that tell the tale of Alear, one of two body types whom you assume the role of as you awaken from a thousand-year slumber, with memories escaping you. Everything is new, but Alear is being referred to as a revered Divine Dragon figure, with generations having presided over your resting place, awaiting this very day. Your mother though is excitedly awaiting your arrival, but before you can make your way to her, conflict stirs with mysterious figures called the corrupted walking the earth. Alear, and the constantly growing party around you find themselves on a lengthy, and of course, dangerous, quest to prevent the full return of the Fell Dragon, a beast that has plagued the land for millennia. What had proven to be the difference in previous encounters with Sombron, the Fell Dragon, were Emblems. The Emblems, very much like the rings in Lord Of The Rings had been scattered throughout the lands to keep peace, but also because their power was great. Each ring is imbued with the power of an Emblem, conveniently an iconic hero from each core Fire Emblem game to date. The likes of Marth, Sigurd, Lyn, and Roy to name but a few, are all attached to an Emblem Ring, and as you accumulate them, the power of your party grows.
The typical Fire Emblem fare is here, and the weapon triangle returns from hiatus, but it’s the use of the Emblems that changes the face of combat. Emblems are instantly available to you from the beginning of an encounter, available exclusively to whichever characters you’ve outfitted with particular rings. Your sword wielders like Marth tend to offer benefits to those who swing the same weapon, providing unique skills, or buffs to provide you with a point of difference, others like Lyn might be better suited to an archer, while others may suit the mages in your team. Balancing your team, as well as the Emblems you equip them with is of great importance, but it’s not overpowering either. The time you have with an active Emblem in a combat encounter is limited, while there is also a 4+ turn cooldown once the active period is over. On top of that, certain Emblem abilities can only be used once for the entire encounter. There are methods to fast-track the use of Emblems for those who wish to get even more strategic about their play as well.
As of this point of writing, I’m only early in Alear’s journey thus far, but I’ve quickly found myself gripped by the plot, engaged by the combat, by both its new and returning hooks, and enthused about what is to come. As more Emblem Rings come into my possession I’m excited about the ways with which I can mix and match them with my party members to create the ultimate squad that complements the strengths and weaknesses of each party member as well as the Emblems that they’re outfitted with.