Remember the last batch of DLC for Smash 3DS/Wii U? When we got Corrin and the many accusations of bias, favoritism and poor selection that followed in his wake? That whole debacle in hindsight is just hilarious, considering what’s going on with another Fire Emblem project, specifically the upcoming Warriors for the Switch. The much anticipated crossover between Fire Emblem games with the playstyle of Dynasty Warriors, has been subject to some heat over a couple of decisions coming to light over the past few months.
These decisions and the context behind them have rubbed many fans the wrong way, and it’s not hard to see why. As of current, the roster has 33 characters, with the playability of some still in question. One thing that sticks out almost immediately is that 14 of those characters use swords, a familiar complaint from Smash fans regarding Fire Emblem in the same game. Big difference, though: of the 58 characters playable in Smash 3DS/U, six are from Fire Emblem, which rounded down is 1/8th of the roster. Remember that sword users complaint? 14/33 current characters use swords in Warriors, a number that makes up almost half the roster. The sword users nightmare some people were livid about in Smash has actually manifested in the same series that very complaint came from.
This fact becomes harder to swallow considering that one of the reasons for having the roster focus on (not comprised entirely of, as some people have translated) characters from Shadow Dragon, Awakening and Fates was, to quote, “if you put a bunch of protagonists together it’ll be nothing but sword wielding characters”. Ironically, a protagonist who isn’t a sword user, Azura, was dropped for the reason of there being too many characters from Fates. Though admittedly, DLC might rectify that, so this point could become moot in a few months. (Edit: As of October 19th, it is moot, since she’s revealed to be DLC for the Fates pack.)
Another interesting nugget came out some time ago: a sample from the latest Nintendo Dream talking about the game, but two points stand out: potentially adding characters such as (CYL winners) Ike and Roy in a sequel, and that the two current oddball choices Celica (without her green haired boyfriend) and Lyn were Nintendo’s idea. Let’s explore these.
Lyn, even though she’s a sword user (and thus a part of the sword users complaint), still ranks favorably in fan polls, as my colleague NantenJex has touched upon. She won the Fire Emblem Heroes Choose Your Legends ballot on both the female side and overall. Makes logical sense (even if it feels eerily like a saving throw to compensate for the unbalanced representation). Celica, however, likely boasts the more cynical side of this. Prior to the above linked sample, a common interpretation of Celica and Lyn’s inclusion is that they were both saving throws to ease complaints about the roster. For Celica, that’s arguably thrown out the window now. Shadows of Valentia and Warriors both started development in 2015. If you recall from earlier this year, there was one interview where it was explicitly stated that both Intelligent Systems (using popularity polls) and Nintendo (by asking for certain characters) had made alterations to the roster proposed by the Warriors team. For those who haven’t connected the dots, Celica is a more than likely extra marketing for Shadows of Valentia, probably requested by Nintendo themselves. Corrin in Smash wasn’t even forced upon that game’s team, it was voluntary, and after some relenting (IS had to convince Sakurai that Corrin was unique enough to warrant inclusion despite the saturation of FE in Smash). Oh, and the producer reportedly said during a stream that he “likes Celica”, so you could also throw in some favoritism on top of all this.
Finally, the point about adding popular characters like Roy (our boy) and Ike (whom we like) in a sequel. There are reasons why it’s both a good and bad idea. It’s a good move business-wise because you’re not playing all of your best cards early. Smash DLC makes a good comparison once more; the absence of popular candidates like Splatoon’s Inkling is a blessing in disguise since they can come out in full force for a follow up game, and their absence wasn’t intentional (to our present knowledge). And if nothing else, popular characters were acknowledged via Mii costumes, to varying responses.
On the other hand, it’s how Warriors has handled itself pre-release which makes the exclusion, willingly or not, of other characters popular in the fandom more than questionable. First impressions are everything, and if fans’ first impression is ‘cynical bandwagon cash grab’, it doesn’t help in the long run, which can be compounded with other individual flaws the game may have. Look around on forums, news sites and Discord servers whenever Warriors is being talked about and chances are good you’ll see at least one person whose interest in the game has plummeted over the selection choices being heavily biased to swordsmen and Fates, especially compounded with the PR. A comparison can be made (albeit to a far lesser degree) with the cavalcade of pre-release problems which plagued Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, another intercompany crossover which was welcomed with strong fan expectations, but fell in favor massively due to both a controversial roster and the PR behind it, things that effectively shot the game in the foot. (Edit: This actually became a better comparison just before the Warriors‘ release, see below)
Now, don’t take all of the above the wrong way; to bring back the Marvel vs Capcom Infinite comparison, those who’ve extensively played the latter have specifically lauded the gameplay, being the game’s most successful achievement despite absolutely lousy PR and questionable visuals. At least one review of the Japanese version of Fire Emblem Warriors has specifically made this point of a good game marred by a disappointing roster, so it’s reception in the West will likely carry similar tones. And because it bears repeating, DLC could possibly attempt to win back favor from those who felt slighted, but that we will have to wait and see.
Let this whole thing be a learning experience for Koei Tecmo and Intelligent Systems if a sequel surfaces.
Edit: The MVC:I comparison rings eerily true after the DLC plans were revealed just recently. Characters already in the base game in some form are now paid unlocks via DLC, just like Infinite did with Sigma, Black Panther and Monster Hunter.
Sometimes it sucks to make comparisons in hindsight.