Developed By: Intelligent Systems Published By: Nintendo Categories: JRPG, SRPG Release Date: 01.20.23
I have not played any of the old Fire Emblem games but I’ve been a massive fan of the franchise for almost two years and make it my effort to play and collect as many of the games and other items as I could get my hands on. So, when I first heard about Engage and how it utilizes characters from games that I hadn’t played, I was excited. Three Houses was the first game that I really invested my time into and I loved everything about it, but the three things that I liked the most were the visuals, sound, and gameplay.
So, when it was time to play Engage, I was both really excited but also extremely skeptical thanks to my very high hopes. The first thing that I noticed after playing for a few hours is that the game at its core is very different from what Three Houses was like. From what I’ve been hearing, the game is a lot more like the DS installments and I’ve been hearing a lot of negativity in this regard due to the countless players who were like me and entered the series through Three Houses.
But I didn’t really care about these statements. There were many things that I liked about Three Houses that turned it into one of my all-time favorite video games but I didn’t care that Engage wasn’t the same because the style, enjoyment, and emotion that I grew to love was still very much alive. Of course, I compare the similarities and differences to Three Houses but I still loved Engage for its own merit.
Sights as Vast and Vivid as a Rainbow
There’s one aspect of Engage that’s significantly better than Three Houses and that’s its presentation. My biggest complaint about Three Houses was the backgrounds when you’re talking to people. They were static and very bland at times. There were also some moments in battle when the textures didn’t look great. But Engage is a whole other beast in this department, and it shines even brighter if you’re one of the few that have an OLED Switch.
The first big aspect of presentation is the way the backgrounds look when you’re in battle. When the camera zooms into a one on one battle, I couldn’t help but be in awe at how good the backgrounds looked. Many of the backgrounds become dynamic with some level of movement as well as a ton of detail. The battle animations themselves also look a lot cleaner and smoother than they did in Three Houses, which really lets you enjoy the grandeur of each battle.
The second big aspect of presentation is the use of lighting and shadows. There were so many moments where the environment looked so impressive because of how much lighting, shadows, and reflections there was. The remainder of the games presentation looked just as good thanks to a combination of beautiful character models and stunning cutscenes.
Endless Majestic Sounds
Three Houses was one of the best sounding games that I have ever played thanks to a soundtrack that was as massive as it was impressive and a cast list that could put many games to shame. When it came to the music of Engage, I immediately noticed a very different style but it was still something that I was able to enjoy, outside of that opening theme of course.
When it came to voice acting, Engage is as good as Three Houses with lots of fully voiced dialogue and a stacked cast of voice actors taking up the roles and they all did an amazing job. There were a handful of newcomers for the English version of the game including Monica Rial as Anna, Laura Stahl as female Alear, and Nick Wolfhard as Alfred. But there were also a bunch of returning voices from previous games such as Chris Hackney as Dimitri and Alexis Tipton as Lucina. The ability to freely switch between English and Japanese voices at launch is always a nice touch.
As for the soundtrack, I thought it was fantastic. I’m not loving it as much as I loved the Three Houses soundtrack, but the game has a really good mix between original songs made for Engage and versions of older songs. The entire soundtrack as a whole is massive with many hours worth of tracks, including some really good battle and overworld themes.
A Tale That Guides the Journey
There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to gameplay because there’s a lot of good stuff and there’s a lot of bad stuff too. First of all, we should get the bad stuff out of the way and the biggest disappointment is the lack of marriages and support systems in the way that they were in previous games. This was one of my favorite aspects of the last few Fire Emblem games and even though they were kind of replaced by the Engage mechanic, it’s quite sad to see them go.
But the Engage mechanic is something that I really enjoy for a number of reasons. For starters, depending on who you merge with, it opens you up for a number of different types of skills and attacks. But not only that, you can level up your bond with each emblem, which will make you grow even stronger when you’re merged with an emblem. From a strategy perspective, This is something that I really liked because it adds so much more in terms of planning and executing the perfect build and attack. It’s also a lot of fun being able to hear and see some of your favorite Fire Emblem protagonists from the past.
My favorite aspect of the gameplay however is the ability to freely roam around your area of reach during battle. In previous games, and in most other SRPG’s, you need to pick where you want your character to go and then watch them travel to that spot. But in Engage, you can freely move your unit in any direction you want before you settle on a spot. I thought this was a really nice touch.
Lastly, I think the Somniel is an amazing hub. I loved the home base in Fire Emblem Fates and I loved the Monastery in Three Houses even more because of the ability to freely run around and do things. The Somniel is no different because it’s a huge area with so many things to do. When I first unlocked the Somniel after a few chapters, I remember spending an hour or two checking every area, listening to the music, or taking screenshots.
As for the story, I don’t think it’s as good or as grand as Three Houses and at times it doesn’t quite make a lot of sense. You play as Alear, the Divine Dragon. After being asleep for hundreds of years, you wake up and need to save the world from the Fell Dragon by collecting and summoning the different emblem rings. After a handful of chapters, I started to focus less on the story and more on the characters and world, but the story is still pretty good overall.
All That and More
One of the reasons that I love Fire Emblem so much is that it’s pretty much a given that each game is going to have a ton of extra content. There’s always a ton of collectible items, amiibos, DLC, or other things that make your experience or collection much better. Engage is no different because today it launched with the Divine Edition and a pretty cool expansion pass. The Divine Edition is the definitive way to go and if you were one of the lucky ones who managed to score a copy, or can find one in the wild, you need to pull the trigger.
The Divine Edition launched for $100, which is $40 more than the game by itself and comes with an art book, a steelbook, a handful of art cards, and a poster. I own many Fire Emblem art books and I think this is one of the best ones because of the inclusion of the older characters. On top of that, the steelbook is one of the coolest looking Switch steelbooks that I have ever seen. It’s a little disappointing that there’s no soundtrack sample like some of the older collectors’ editions, but this is a very good amount of content for the $40 surcharge.
Then you have the expansion pass which will set you pack an additional $30. Before I talk about what you get with this one, I want to point out that I didn’t like the Three Houses expansion pass. I really liked the extra story but I thought the rest of the stuff was lackluster for the price. As for Engage, I can already tell that I’m going to enjoy the expansion pass way more. The first wave of the expansion pass launched today with an emblem for Dimitri, Edelgard, and Claude from Three Houses along with one for Tiki and additional items and accessories.
Then three more waves are going to be released throughout the year that will add additional emblems and classes, new maps, and a new story. If the new story is anything like Cindered Shadows, I can tell that the expansion pass will be well worth the cost and should definitely be picked up if you find yourself investing a lot of time into Engage.
Overall, there’s definitely a lot to unpack with Fire Emblem Engage. It’s not Three Houses but there’s still a lot in terms of gameplay and characters that people who have played Three Houses will enjoy. Then there’s also a lot of stuff that the players of older Fire Emblem games will really enjoy. People who played Three Houses as their first game and never played any of the others might not agree with all the changes, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad game.
As an overall fan of the Fire Emblem franchise, there was a lot about Engage that I really enjoyed. From the soundtrack, voice acting, and visuals to the cool characters and fun gameplay, Engage had a lot to offer. Any fan of Fire Emblem, both new and old should be looking into Engage and giving it a shot.