Fire Emblem Warriors Respects Its Source Material While Embracing the Ridiculous [E3 2017 Preview]

The minimum requirements for hiring Omega Force to whip up a Warriors rendition of your franchise probably aren’t strict. First and foremost, I imagine it’s mandatory that the characters in your game fight in some fashion, preferably using a variety of attacks and weapons. Otherwise, crafting Musou titles has pretty much been whittled down to a science, Koei Tecmo continuously ready and waiting to graft on franchise-specific uniquities to the core slice ‘n’ dice gameplay that has so continuously (and, arguably, mindlessly) stood the test of time. As a devout Fire Emblem fan it was my obligation to try Fire Emblem Warriors at E3, and while it’s not changing my tune regarding Musou in general (its games are fun, but so is walking down the street while chewing gum), the homeage to source material here is admirable and, I’ll admit, at times thoroughly entertaining.

My demo was of a single extended battle with multiple objectives, handled by a Fire Emblem cast including Awakening’s Chrom, Shadow Dragon’s Marth, Fates’ Corrin and Xander, and new Warriors protagonists Rowan and Lianna. I don’t know much about the two newbies and will leave my exploration of their character to the final game. At E3, I wanted to go off on some defenseless infantry with Chrom and the gang.

FE Warriors’ controls felt familiar having played Hyrule Warriors, albeit more similar to Musou tradition and less drenched in series-specific altercations - after all, the vast majority of Fire Emblem protagonists wield swords. Y and X handle standard and charged strikes respectively, B triggers a dodge, and the D-pad allows the player to instantly swap to other important characters fending for themselves elsewhere on the battlefield.

Objectives throughout my demo did their best to mimic Fire Emblem, instructing me to take out enemy commanders and culminating with a showdown against Fire Emblem Fates’ formidable horsebacked Xander, but really it all felt like familiar Warriors fare right down to the scores of enemies hurtling through the sky at the slightest pin-prick from the player’s sword. What did stand out to me as impressive, though, are the game’s team attacks. If another protagonist is nearby, mashing the right trigger and A cues a devastating team attack, with both characters performing impossible acrobatics while twirling their weapons. The sequence is even complemented by classic critical-hit closeups straight out of the core games, as Chrom or whomever else utters some inspiring remark or catchphrase before unleashing whichever fury he happens to have pent up.

Such individuality isn’t limited to uber-moves either; in one instance I pulled off Chrom’s famed signature move of physical impossibility simply by button mashing a combo involving a charged special, though replicating it proved difficult and is something I likely won’t nail down before trying the final game. Regardless, it’s nice knowing combat variety across both standard and charged assaults does exist, and the more often specific references to Fire Emblem are made, the more likely fans are to go wild attempting to pull them off.

My demo concluded upon defeating Xander, his poor horse flailing uncontrollably in the air as Chrom sliced and chopped without reservation, far beyond what any real person’s physical body could possibly achieve without tearing itself apart or worse. Clearly I make such observations in jest, and like it or not Warriors does its due diligence taking tastefully outlandish source material and doubling or tripling the intensity all for endless hack ‘n’ slash's glorious sake. There’s clearly a market for such things, or else Fire Emblem Warriors wouldn’t even exist in the first place.

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I’m not the world’s biggest Warriors fan, but I did have fun demoing Fire Emblem Warriors. When Chrom leveled up in traditional Fire Emblem fashion (complete with famliar jingles and stat boost “dings” for satisfying plus-ones) I against my will cracked a smile, my final impression amounting to a definite desire to learn and try more of the upcoming final game.

Fire Emblem Warriors had fewer show floor demo stations than Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, so I suspect Nintendo itself understands just as well as fans do that much of this experience is designed for collective fanbase giggles and nothing more. Regardless, Fire Emblem Warriors releases on Nintendo Switch in the Fall of this year, and if you’re anxiously awaiting the next mainline Fire Emblem entry, you may as well consider Warriors in the meantime.