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Fire Emblem Engage takes the right cues from Nintendo’s mobile games

Given how long the video game development process takes, sometimes we don’t see the full impact of a game’s innovation until years later. That’s something I immediately noticed when booting up Fire Emblem Engage, the latest installment of Nintendo’s long-running tactics series. After a few hours with it, I could see how the project was likely conceived as a direct reaction to 2017’s Fire Emblem Heroes, one of Nintendo’s biggest mobile hits. Though 2018’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses was a major critical success for the series, Heroes seems to be the title that’s shaping Fire Emblem’s future five years later.

Fire Emblem Engage - Announcement Trailer - Nintendo Direct 9.13.2022

While that could wind up making Fire Emblem Engage a more polarizing release, I’m more than comfortable with that direction so far. Based on its first eight chapters, the RPG seems to be a more system-heavy installment that’s experimenting with how mobile hooks can fit into a console game (and without the overbearing monetization practices). It’s the series’ Pokémon Let’s Go moment, but it isn’t sacrificing complexity to get there.

Same great tactics

If that introduction has you nervous, allow me to put your mind at ease: There are no radical changes in Fire Emblem Engage. It’s still an intricately designed and detailed tactical RPG with similar hooks as its predecessors. Whether you come to the series for its tense grid-based battles or eccentric characters, that’s all here in full force.

In its earliest chapters, Engage does an especially commendable job of easing me into its mountain of ideas, old and new. Some initial cinematics quickly get me up to speed with its new protagonist, Alear, a descendant of the Divine Dragon awoken to resolve an impending conflict in Elyos. Though it doesn’t seem like the most original story in series history, it’s at least one of its most visually alluring ones. My eye is immediately drawn in by its bright colors and smooth animations, all of which feel like an anime-infused step up from Three Houses.

Shortly after, I’m reintroduced to the usual rock-paper-scissors combat hook, which is as strong as ever here. Battles still retain their Chess-like appeal, as I strategically deploy and move my troops. More over-the-top battle animations help build each character’s personality while making critical hits especially satisfying. As for new innovations, I’m especially sold on its chain attack and guard system, which rewards players for thoughtful troop placement by letting them deal, or sometimes block, additional damage.

Troops move around a grassy battlefield in Fire Emblem Engage.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The complexity builds with each chapter, but in a way that’s exceptionally well-paced early on. For instance, players spend their time between battles in a hub world called Somniel. It’s a base of operations where they can farm materials, buy new gear, participate in mock battles, and much more. So far, new functions are added at a gradual pace that always allows me to get the hang of a new RPG mechanic or social activity before learning a new one. I get the sense that Somniel will build even more as the story progresses, making it feel like a thriving little community that I could spend an hour in between each chapter.

All of that keeps Fire Emblem Engage from ever feeling too intimidating for newcomers, despite building on everything the series does well. That welcoming attitude makes sense because I imagine Nintendo is hoping to convert casual mobile players with this entry.

Heroes influence

Fire Emblem Heroes’ DNA is clear from the jump; in fact, it’s baked into the very story of the game. The central hook here revolves around summoning characters from the series’ history in the form of equippable rings. That gives the game the same flavor of fan service present in Heroes, creating a narrative reason to see characters like Marth and Sigurd again. Though more clever is that the system allows Nintendo to integrate a “gacha” system where players spend in-game currency to pull random rings.

Alear equips Marth's ring in Fire Emblem Engage.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

So far, it’s a harmless idea that makes for an extra layer of RPG complexity. The bond energy needed to buy pulls or meld rings together to make more powerful ones is plentiful and easily earned by doing just about anything, from feeding your pet dog to exploring a map in 3D after finishing a battle. That emphasis on currency is another area where I can feel some mobile influence. There are hundreds of in-game achievements to chase, each of which grants some bond energy. That checklist progression hook very much reminds me of completing daily or weekly challenges in a game like Genshin Impact so I can grab more valuable currency. Importantly, none of this requires real money beyond the game’s retail price as far as I can tell.

I can see where this would feel more comfortable for people coming off Heroes, whereas Three Houses may have felt a bit alien. That’s where I’m reminded of Pokémon Let’s Go of all games. Released in 2018, Pokémon Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee were created as a way to bridge the gap between the mainline RPGs and the wildly popular Pokémon Go. It did that by integrating ideas from the latter, namely its more streamlined catching mechanic. Engage brings the same energy — though much more successfully — by putting an emphasis on random pulls, currency management, and to-do lists.

These aren’t just hollow ideas done for the sake of appealing to mobile players; they do still build on and often improve the RPG’s formula. Most rings act as basic accessories that provide stat buffs, but others are more special. Equipping Marth, for instance, will give players access to a special sword flurry attack that can deal tons of damage. Rings essentially introduce the idea of “ultimate abilities” into Fire Emblem, giving players another strategic decision to make in battle. When’s the right moment to summon a hero? When’s the right time to break out a special attack? Those decisions shake up the established flow of battle and bring some fun visual flair, to boot.

A character stands with her ring hero in Fire Emblem Engage.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Characters can also level up their bonds with ring heroes, just as they can with other units. Doing so gives them access to passive abilities that can be bought with bond energy and equipped. That adds a strong extra layer of customization, as it’s encouraged me to switch rings around to give each character access to more buffs. I can create incredibly specific utilities for units as a result. Alear, for instance, barely ever takes damage as I’ve loaded her up with evasion skills gained from leveling up her bond with various rings.

I was skeptical about the fan service focus when I first saw Fire Emblem Engage, but I’m relieved actually playing through its first eight chapters. While its story has yet to fully draw me in, I’m having a great time experimenting with different character/ring combos. The various resources aren’t too complicated to manage and the checklist of achievements is constantly giving me little dopamine hits no matter what I’m doing. If this installment is Nintendo testing the waters with how much it can merge its mobile and console offerings, Engage seems like the best you could hope for with such a tricky experiment.

Fire Emblem Engage launches on January 20 for Nintendo Switch.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
The best video games of January 2023: Hi-Fi Rush, Dead Space, and more
Chai points a finger gun at a robot in Hi-Fi Rush.

2023 is already off to a strong start in terms of game releases. PS5, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch all received notable new exclusives, while multiplatform AA games and indies helped add even more depth and flavor to January’s game lineup. From rhythm-based action games to engaging strategy RPGs to highly polished retro throwbacks, the best games of this month were extremely varied in the experiences they offered too.
Unexpectedly, this has been one of the best months for video game releases in a while. As such, there are already a lot of great games to keep track of. If you’re wondering which brand-new games you should check out, Digital Trends recommends the following eight games from January 2023.
Hi-Fi Rush
Hi-Fi RUSH | Official Launch Trailer
Hi-Fi Rush is January’s biggest shocker because it launched immediately after being announced at Xbox’s January 25 Developer Direct show. While it’s from Tango Gameworks, the developer behind horror games like The Evil Within and GhostWire Tokyo, Hi-Fi Rush couldn’t be further from being a scary game. Instead, it’s a stylish rhythm action game where everything from the player’s attacks to idle environmental animations moves to the beat of whatever song is playing.
Rhythm-game genre mashups aren’t a new concept. Still, Hi-Fi Rush manages to be one of the more approachable games of its kind because of some useful accessibility options and great tutorials that will have players fighting to the beat in no time. On top of that, Hi-Fi Rush features a gorgeous visual aesthetic, with graphics and character animations that make you feel like you’re watching an excellent animated TV show. "Hi-Fi Rush rockets to the top of the rhythm-action genre thanks to a stellar combat system that goes far beyond simple beat-matching," Giovanni Colantonio wrote in a four-and-a-half-star review of the game.
There’s always been a rhythmic sense to action games like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry. Hi-Fi Rush makes that rhythm an active part of the action, and it looks great while doing it. Hopefully, this is the start of an exciting 2023 for Xbox players. Hi-Fi Rush is available now for PC and Xbox Series X/S and is available as part of the Xbox Game Pass subscription.
Fire Emblem Engage
Fire Emblem Engage - Announcement Trailer - Nintendo Direct 9.13.2022
Intelligent Systems and Nintendo’s long-running strategy game series Fire Emblem has returned with a new console game that takes the best ideas from the successful mobile title Fire Emblem Heroes. Fire Emblem Engage is a fantastic celebration of the series, as players can call upon past Fire Emblem game protagonists to aid them in the series’ trademark deep strategy battles.
“Fire Emblem Engage delivers another strong tactics experience made just a bit better thanks to smart, mobile-adjacent hooks,” Giovanni Colantonio wrote in a four-star review of Fire Emblem Engage. “Its story isn’t as engrossing as some recent installments and its side activities can get tedious, but memorable characters and colorful art direction make for another easy victory in a long line of them.”
It takes a slightly different approach than its predecessor, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but this game is still a treat for fans of strategy games. It also marks the start of a busy 2023 for Nintendo, which will finally release games like Pikmin 4 and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom this year. Fire Emblem Engage is available now exclusively for Nintendo Switch.
Dead Space
10 Minutes of Dead Space Remake Gameplay
Dead Space finds itself in a similar situation to The Last of Us Part I: it might not be the most necessary remake, but it’s still an excellent game. This is the iconic sci-fi horror game for 2009 set on a scary space station that you remember, only with better graphics, more accessibility, and more detailed animations as you hack away at the limbs and flesh of necromorphs.
“For anyone who’s yet to play one of gaming’s horror greats, the new take on Dead Space is a fairly definitive version of the experience,” Giovanni Colantonio’s four-star Dead Space review explains. “Its limb-carving combat and claustrophobic atmosphere still outclass its peers 15 years later, and that fact is only emphasized with some smart adjustments.”
If you enjoyed playing through the original Dead Space, you’ll almost certainly have just as much of a good time with this remake. That said, this remake should also serve as a fantastic jumping-on point for players that are new to the series. Dead Space is available now for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X.
Season: A Letter to the Future
Season: A Letter to the Future - Release Date Reveal Trailer | PS5 & PS4 Games
Season: A Letter to the Future is a game about a young girl traveling the world before an apocalyptic event wipes away every. That sounds daunting and scary, but in practice, this game can be laid back as atmospheric as players travel the world, choosing what to keep records of and taking in the visuals.
“Season: A Letter to the Future is a meditative indie adventure that rewards players who are willing to slow down and take it all in,” Giovanni Colantonio wrote in a four-star review of this game. “Even when its written story wanders, its vibrant world and detailed sound design always speaks for itself.”
Likely one of the first true indie darlings of the year, this game should be on your radar. Season: A letter to the Future is available now for PC, PS4, and PS5.
One Piece Odyssey
ONE PIECE ODYSSEY | Launch Trailer
Anime fans, this one is for you. One Piece Odyssey received a massive Dragon Quest-style JRPG this month. While it gets off to a slow start, it’s still a surprisingly approachable JRPG that will fully immerse you in the world of this long-running anime and manga.
“It sets out to be a journey that anyone can enjoy, and achieves it by embracing well-established formulas while adding its own flavor into the mix,” De’Angelo Epps writes in a four-star review of One Piece Odyssey. “While there are a few bad winds pushing the ship away from the harbor of being a perfect experience, this is an excellent addition to the JRPG genre and one that I think you should try out whether you’re a big One Piece fan or just an appreciator of JRPGs.”
You probably already know if One Piece Odyssey is for you, but because anime game adaptations can be so hit or miss, it’s good to get a massive JRPG for one that’s this good. One Piece Odyssey is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake | Meet the Bikini Bottomites Trailer
A follow-up to SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom - Rehydrated, this simple 3D platformer is a faithful SpongeBob experience filled with humor, pretty visuals, and surprisingly solid level theming and design. It’s not pushing the boundaries of what 3D platformers can do, but as far as licensed games based on kids’ TV shows go, it’s one of the best in recent memory.
“Especially on platforms like PS4 and Xbox One, where kid-friendly platformers like Kirby and the Forgotten Land and Super Mario Odyssey aren’t as common, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a fun platformer for your kids,” I wrote in a three-and-a-half star review of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake. “Even if you’ll notice some of its presentation flaws and lack of gameplay ambition as an adult, it’ll still be delightful if you’ve ever had a bit of love for SpongeBob’s misadventures.”
If you’re planning to pick up one game on this list for your kid, I’d recommend SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake. This game is available now for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider
Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider - Release Date Reveal Trailer
If you’re looking for a fun new indie title to add to your game library this month, we recommend Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider. Taking inspiration from the likes of Shinobi and Mega Man, this retro-style platform nails both the aesthetic and gameplay feeling of games on the Sega Genesis. It’s a simple retro-inspired indie title but achieves precisely what it sets out to do quite well.
“Because retro throwback games are so common, new ones need to go above and beyond with their presentation to stand out,” I wrote of the game earlier this month. “Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider does so, just as Blazing Chrome successfully did. In terms of gameplay, it also feels like JoyMasher and The Arcade Crew pulled it right out of the 16-bit era, with a couple of refinements.”
It’s a short and sweet game, too, only clocking in at about 2 to the 3 hours for most players. That should make Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider a great palette cleanser between this month’s AAA heavy hitters. Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, and Amazon Luna.
Forspoken Deep Dive | Exploring Athia
Forspoken game follows a girl named Frey who is transported to the magical world of Athia and must save it from an annihilation wave called the Break. Although the story isn’t great, running around its open world and fighting enemies is enjoyable, thanks to Frey’s magical abilities. Few games incorporate magic as deeply into their game design as Forspoken does.
“I would recommend Forspoken to action and RPG fans, but I wish I could give them one of my save files with total open-world freedom and most of the traversal and combat spells unlocked from the jump,” my three-and-a-half star Forspoken review states. “The adventure is at its weakest when it’s forcing players to wade through lots of poor narrative content that takes too long to pay off. Its best beats aren’t paced or delivered well and serve as a weighty vambrace holding back this game’s real magic: a dazzling open-world game that truly does feel next-gen.”
If you can navigate your way through the divisive discourse surrounding this game’s writing and get through its weaker narrative sections, you’ll find that Forspoken is actually quite fun at its core. Forspoken is available now for PC and PS5.

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Goldeneye 007 comes to Game Pass and Nintendo Switch later this week
goldeneye 007 switch xbox release date january 27

Rare, Nintendo, and Xbox Game Studios confirmed that their remaster of classic Nintendo 64 FPS Goldeneye 007 will launch on January 27 across Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
GoldenEye 007 – Xbox Game Pass Date Reveal Trailer
For most, this long-awaited enhanced re-release will be locked behind a subscription service. On Nintendo Switch, the only way to play Goldeneye 007 is with a Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pass subscription, which grants players access to a variety of Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, NES, and SNES games alongside the DLC to some first-party Nintendo titles. That said, Microsoft has confirmed that the Nintendo Switch version of Goldeneye 007 will be the only one to feature online multiplayer, although it'll still be displayed in split-screen.
Meanwhile, the Xbox versions of Goldeneye 007 don't have online multiplayer but benefit from the addition of achievements and an upgraded 16:9 4K resolution. To play the game on Xbox, you'll need to either have an Xbox Game Pass subscription or own the gaming compilation Rare Replay that was released in 2015. Still, fans are probably happy that they'll just be able to experience this classic on a modern controller.
While it has aged quite a bit, Goldeneye 007 is a highly influential FPS game that also became an iconic Nintendo 64 release thanks to its fun multiplayer. Unfortunately, the license it's attached to likely prevented the game from getting a proper re-release until now. It was one of the best announcements in September's Nintendo Direct, and its launch will also technically mark the first Xbox first-party game released in 2022. 
Goldeneye 007 releases for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X on January 27. 

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Fire Emblem Engage makes the wait for a Nintendo Switch 2 more tolerable
Alear and Marth open a door in Fire Emblem Engage.

If you had asked me whether or not I was ready for an upgraded Nintendo Switch two months ago, my answer would have been an emphatic yes. I had just played Pokémon Scarlet and, like many people, was baffled by its poor technical performance. I began to wonder if Nintendo’s aging hardware had finally hit its limits, unable to meet developers’ growing ambitions. Perhaps it wasn’t just time for a Switch Pro, but a new console altogether.

That desire was a reactionary one. Two months after that Pokémon game's ugly launch, I find myself stunned by the Switch’s latest exclusive, Fire Emblem Engage. The tactical RPG is one of the console’s best-looking games to date. It’s a major step up from 2018’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses, with brighter colors that pop on my Switch OLED screen and silky smooth performance that makes it feel like a playable anime.

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