Fire Emblem Warriors was truly brilliant: A Defense of Musou

Claude shoots enemies with a bow on a wyvern.

screenshot: Nintendo

Every time Nintendo releases news about it Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, I brace myself for a surge of anti-Musou sentiment on Twitter. Just search “Fire Emblem” and “musou” and you’ll see Twitter bitching about it Three houses‘ Sequel would be so much better if it wasn’t Musou. As someone who loved Fire Emblem Warriorthe franchise’s earlier foray into Musou-style action, I’m here to tell you three hopes could end up being as deep and tactically compelling as any turn-based game.

When I say “musou” I’m referring to series like Dynasty warriors and Samurai warrior. With Koei, the musou genre was more or less created in 2000 Dynasty Warriors 2, which harnessed the PlayStation 2’s new horsepower to pit your hero and a handful of allies against hundreds, sometimes thousands, of enemies as you struggled to capture bases on vast battlefields. The one-versus-thousand dynamic created a whole new style of play.

warriorGames often get a bad rap in the West for being low-brow IP adaptations of popular anime franchises. Among the relatively new Hyrule Warriors: Age of Disaster, Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom, and Persona 5 Striker. What I’ve noticed is that reviews compare these games to the typical gameplay of their source franchises rather than the Musou genre itself. Hyrule warrior is held to expectations breath of the wild. Persona 5 Striker will probably be more human 5. Too bad, because each of these games would benefit more from being analyzed than “warrior” Games first, franchise spin-offs second.

Musou games are among the most tactically exciting games I’ve ever played. Where critics of the genre see a hack-and-slash, I see a real-time strategy game. Musou games are not power fantasies: they are lessons in losing the battle to win the war. No game is more brutal to Glory Hounds than a balanced musou. In the end, defeating a powerful opponent doesn’t matter. To be able to complete your current mission main goals is the real endgame.

A screenshot of Lianna attacking Frederick's soldiers.

I wish I hadn’t lost all my Switch save files. Oh well.
screenshot: Nintendo / Kotaku

Take one of the mid-game chapters, for example Fire Emblem Warrior. My characters were powerful, and we would get a great tactical advantage from taking over the strongholds in the lower right quadrant of the battlefield. But suddenly the map showed that we were being attacked from two directions at once. I didn’t pay attention to the aggressive red arrows; Just a few more seconds to whittle away at an officer’s health and I would be able to capture that coveted stronghold.

I had made a serious mistake. The insistence on ending base capture allowed the new, two-pronged invasion to take root. When I ran off to deal with them, half my map was in the enemy’s telltale red. I was quickly overwhelmed and forced to restart the entire mission. This time, when enemy reinforcements showed up, I gave up my duel with the enemy general to deal with the invaders immediately. improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

Note, however, that I wasn’t even rewarded for this. I survived the invasion, yes, but the game didn’t give me positive confirmation that I made the right decision. The fortresses I gave up trying to take were eventually better fortified by the enemy, and it would be a few more minutes before I could attempt to take them again. Nevertheless, I have not regretted my withdrawal. Finally, I had the experience of knowing that I would have been overwhelmed if I hadn’t proactively charged in to deal with the intruders.

Despite the appearance of ruthless, uncompromising action, warrior Games encourage a very conservative style of play. Throughout this battle, even after the immediate danger had passed, I consistently chose to protect my territory rather than expand it at every opportunity. It takes maturity to recognize when what looks enticing isn’t actually an opportunity. When I didn’t choose to be the thoughtful, strategic leader my army needed, Fire Emblem Warrior punish me for it.

And that’s a pattern in every good Musou game I’ve ever played, such as: Destiny / Extrala games. I don’t spend most of my time bashing up hundreds of generic NPCs like you see in flashy trailers – instead, I sprint past them to neutralize key defenders and open gates. I pay far more attention to my map than the Skirmishes I go through. To win, I must give up my personal glory to slaughter the other army in a battle of attrition.

An image of an early card in Fire Emblem Warriors.

screenshot: Nintendo / Kotaku

All this in mind Fire Emblem Warrior felt like a better war simulator than the turn based one fire sign Games that made it. The soldiers did not take polite turns: they snatched up forts left and right, each man and woman separately. I paused very often to review the map and read the entire “flow” of the battle. Who had the upper hand? Can I reverse the dynamic somewhere? What tactical advantages would I give up if I continued or gave up my current endeavor? If you don’t ask these questions, then Fire Emblem Warrior‘ The most difficult levels will overwhelm you.

In this sense, human 5 striker never felt like a traditional musou game to me. Rooms were puzzles to be solved, not dynamic fortresses to be maintained. Defeating non-common enemies felt more mandatory. I gave up after three chapters of unfulfilled gameplay. Although it had excellent production values, striker didn’t offer me the same thrill of micromanaging an ever-changing battlefield.

Musou is a humbling genre in which your hero’s superpowers, no matter how substantial, cannot offset bad tactics. In this sense, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a game in the best format for a Three houses Consequence. Edelgard, Dimitri, and Claude may be the owners of the heroes’ relics, but this is a war in which a single person cannot force his way to victory.

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