Fire Emblem Warriors was actually ingenious: A Defense Of Musou

Claude shoots enemies with a bow on top of a wyvern.

Screenshot: Nintendo

Every time Nintendo broadcasts news about Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, I’m preparing for a wave of anti-musou moods on Twitter. Just search for “Fire Emblem” and “musou” and you will see Twitter cry about how Three Houses‘sequel would be so much better if it were not a musou. As someone who loved Fire Emblem Warriorsthe franchise’s previous entry into musou-style action, I’m here to tell you that Three hopes could end up being as deep and tactically compelling as any turn-based game.

When I say “musou”, I mean series like Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors. Koei more or less created the musou genre in 2000 with Dynasty Warriors 2, who used PlayStation 2’s new horsepower to pit your hero and a handful of allies against hundreds, sometimes thousands of swarming enemies as you battled to conquer bases across vast battlefields. The one-on-one thousands of dynamics created a whole new style of play.

WarriorsGames often get a bad reputation in the West for being unambitious IP adaptations of popular anime franchises. Relatively newer includes Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom, and Persona 5 Strikers. What I have noticed is that reviews tend to compare these games with the typical gameplay from their source franchises, rather than with the musou genre itself. Hyrule Warriors kept to expectations The wild spirit. Persona 5 Strikers expected to be more Person 5. It’s a shame, because each of these games would benefit more from being analyzed as “WarriorsPlay first, franchise spin-offs next.

Musou games are some of the most tactically engaging games I have 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 homework in losing the battle to win the war. No game is more brutal to glory dogs than a well-balanced musou. In the end, defeating a strong opponent does not matter. To be able to fulfill your current missions key goals is the actual endgame.

A screenshot of Lianna attacking Frederick's soldiers.

I wish I did not lose all my Switch save files. Oh yeah.
Screenshot: Nintendo / Kotaku

Take, for example, one of the chapters in the middle of the game Fire Emblem Warriors. My characters were powerful and we would gain a huge tactical advantage by taking over the fortresses in the lower right quadrant of the battlefield. But suddenly the map showed that we were invaded from two directions at once. I paid the aggressively red arrows no matter; just a few more seconds of slipping on an officer’s health, and I would be able to conquer the desirable stronghold.

I had made a serious mistake. By insisting on ending the basic catch, the new, double-stranded invasion takes root. When I ran off to deal with them, half of my card was the enemy’s revealing red hue. I was quickly overwhelmed and forced to restart the entire mission. This time, when the enemy’s reinforcements appeared, I abandoned my duel with the enemy’s general to immediately take care of the attackers. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

Note, however, that I was not even rewarded for doing so. I survived the invasion, yes, but the game did not give me positive reinforcement to make the right decision. The forts I gave up to conquer ended up being better fortified by the enemy, and it would take even more minutes before I could try to take them again. Nevertheless, I did not regret my retreat. After all, I had the experience of knowing that I would have been overwhelmed if I had not proactively run away to deal with the attackers.

Despite seemingly ruthless, extensive action, Warriors games encourage a very conservative style of play. During that battle, even after the immediate danger was over, I consistently chose to protect my territory instead of expanding it at every opportunity. It takes maturity to recognize when something that looks enticing is actually not an option. When I did not choose to be the thoughtful, strategic leader my army needed, Fire Emblem Warriors punished me for it.

And this is a pattern across all good musou games I’ve ever played, such as Fate / Extella game. Most of my time is not spent thrashing hundreds of generic NPCs that you see in flashy trailers – instead, I run past them to neutralize key defenders and open gates. I am far more aware of my card instead of the skirmishes I pass through. Winning requires me to give up personal honor in favor of breaking down the other army in a battle of exhaustion.

An image of an early map in Fire Emblem Warriors.

Screenshot: Nintendo / Kotaku

All this in mind, Fire Emblem Warriors felt like a better war simulator than the turn-based one Fire emblem games that spawned it. The soldiers did not change politely: they seized forts left and right, with each man and woman for themselves. I very often paused to check the map and read the overall “flow” of the match. Who had taken over? Can I reverse the dynamics anywhere? What tactical benefits would I give up by continuing or giving up my current endeavor? If you do not ask these questions, then Fire Emblem Warriors‘the most difficult levels will steamroll you.

In the sense that Person 5 Attackers never felt like a traditional musou game to me. Rooms were riddles to be solved, not dynamic strongholds to be maintained. Defeating non-general enemies felt more obligatory. I left it after three chapters of incomplete gameplay. Although it had excellent production values, Attackers did not give me the same excitement by micro-controlling a battlefield in ever-changing.

Musou is a humiliating genre where the superpowers of your hero, no matter how significant, can not compensate for bad tactics. In the sense that Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a game in the best format for one Three Houses successor. Edelgard, Dimitri and Claude may be holders of the Heroes’ relics, but this is war where a single person can not brutally force his way to victory.