Now, for what it’s worth, I’ve gone all in on the whole Toothpaste-chan meme and promptly named my Toothpaste-chan “Crest.”
And she is named for the toothpaste. It’s a happy coincidence that “crest” is another word for “emblem.”
She’s not necessarily a better character than any of the recent player characters in the series. But it’s the Byleth-Shez comparison after Three Hopes all over again.
Alear isn’t necessarily a better, more interesting, or more sympathetic character than any of Robin, Corrin, or Byleth. But Robin, Corrin, and Byleth didn’t get fully-voiced dialogue (until Warriors/Three Hopes) and therefore had less opportunity to actually show off their personalities.
They did have personalities — Robin’s sarcastic, Corrin’s loyal, and Byleth’s sheltered — but they didn’t get many opportunities to do much.
So, no, Alear isn’t a better character. She just gets more opportunities to be a character and therefore feels like more of a character.
Also, I actually like the two-tone hair (brief, vague spoilers: there’s a plot-relevant reason for it). In fact, I like most of the character designs despite the Internet’s complaints.
Apparently, Alear looks too much like a V-tuber.
…I don’t know what that is.
Similarly, there have been complaints that the characters are flat and on-dimensional.
Which is a weird complaint to single out a Fire Emblem game for. “One main character trait, but surprising depth” is, like, the rule of writing a Fire Emblem character.
Also, dead parents…
You’re the only character who gets a paired ending — and not all of the pairings are even romantic — which means most of the supports are fairly mundane and an in nowise romantic, which has upset some of the fanbase, but I’ve actually enjoyed the ones I’ve seen so far.
Admittedly, the story isn’t particularly deep, complex, or nuanced, though not with a handful of obligatory Shocking Twists(TM), falling back on the old Fire Emblem standby of “There’s an Evil Dragon, kill it.”
And sure, yeah, it’s less interesting than Three Houses. But, I don’t know, given how Pop Culture (especially Fantasy) still gravitates towards moral grey and everyone being terrible people, I’m kinda digging the simplicity of playing a Holy Dragon out to stop an Evil Dragon.
The gameplay is enough like Three Houses that the changes from Three Houses are actually kinda vexing thanks to my established muscle memory. For example, they’ve gotten rid of combat arts and weapon durability. Also, they’ve remapped some of the buttons for the menus and sub-menus.
On the whole, the combat feels slower paced and probably more difficult than it has been in recent games. I think a large part of that is the fact that enemies seem to have more armour and health (plus, bosses almost invariably have multiple health bars) so it inevitably takes more time to actually beat them.
The big gameplay gimmick in Engage is the Emblem Rings. In short, your characters can be empowered by the spirits of 11 of the popular protagonists of the series’, and also Ike, the AT&T of people of Fire Emblem protagonists.
…I literally cannot comprehend how the worst Fire Emblem protagonist is so popular.
On the boring end, you get stat bonuses when you equip one of the Emblem Rings. More interestingly, every ring gives your characters a super-powered form that unlocks special weapons and a special offensive ability that both usually looks pretty cool (and is over fast enough that it doesn’t get too frustrating by the time you’ve used it for the 27th time) and almost guaranteed to be a game-changer.
On the other hand, 12 rings is not enough for a cast of nearly 40 playable characters, though you are allowed to freely swap the rings around your characters, though progress to unlock the better abilities is slow enough that is probably makes more sense just to commit to a character/ring.
One of the big complaints about Three Houses was how much time you had to spend in the Monastery. Engage does also have a between-battle base to visit, but it’s both almost completely voluntary to spend time there, and the activities there are involved enough to actually be kinda fun — the fishing minigame is more involved than Three Houses and the obvious standout among the activities is the Wyvern Ride that functions essentially as an on-rails shooter.
So, in conclusion, Engage isn’t necessarily a generational shift in quality or even style, but I am quite enjoying my time so far with Engage.
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