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‘Fire Emblem Engage’: First Impressions, ‘Toothpaste-Chan’ Confirmed

Toothbrush units, rise up.

Toothpaste Chan confirmed.

After years of tepid curiosity, I finally got into the Fire Emblem franchise last year, and I ended up loving it enough to consider it one of my favorite gaming franchises. The natural consequence of this zeal was to find fan communities for memes and interesting discussions, but unfortunately, I found that most of the Fire Emblem subreddit’s content was either gratuitous negativity, or, you know, porn. So I ended up just following the meme page, shitpostemblem.

And a few months ago, some “leaks” were shared in the subreddit, featuring a fantasy-looking anime girl whose hair was half-blue, half-red. Comically bad and unappealing, and a far cry from the unique aesthetics and designs given to us in Three Houses. Therefore, most of us assumed “Toothpaste-Chan” was a fake leak.

But, lo and behold…

Right. Okay. Um. Okay.

So first of all, I think this Tweet summarizes my preliminary feelings.

Their actual name is Alear, but if you’re wondering why “Toothpaste-Chan” is their nickname, well, this is why.

The character design just feels so … I don’t know…tacky? It’s the sort of hyper-anime design that can really turn a lot of people off, especially in a series that, while utilizing a basic anime aesthetic, isn’t really known to be a “moe moe kawaii-chan” series. It’s a war tactics game with feudal themes, after all. And yes, the inclusion of romance and dating mechanics did woobify the series a little bit, but it still wasn’t that bad.

What really gets me, though, is the fact that this game feels more like a spin-off of the mobile gacha game, Fire Emblem Heroes, than an actual mainline title. In Heroes (which, yes, I downloaded out of curiosity months ago), you basically just collect characters from all across the franchise and use them to battle and do other mini-games. It can be a cute way to kill an hour or two, and yeah, some of the art is pretty nice (hello, Summer Sylvain). But ultimately, you’d have to reach pretty hard to say this game isn’t anything other than a shallow cashgrab.

Meet some of the Heroes FE Heroes
Sorry, babe. (argon/Exys Inc.)

What I’m getting at is, this announcement is awfully disappointing after what we got in Three Houses. The world of Fodlan was fascinating and original, and its characters only fleshed it out more. It was so easy to get attached to the stories given to us in Three Houses, and while yes, the writing could have been better, it was still an incredibly engaging experience that I was hoping would raise the bar a bit in the franchise. Even the Warriors spin-off, Three Hopes, added to the lore and story of Three Houses in a way that felt rich and fulfilling.

Engage, by contrast, feels like two steps backwards. Safe steps, to be sure, since they aren’t taking a gamble on a new story potentially flopping. But what’s the point if all we’re getting is more nostalgia content? Haven’t we already gotten that with the first Fire Emblem: Warriors Title? Isn’t that what putting all those Fire Emblem characters in Super Smash Bros was all about? And don’t we already have a time-honoring game in Heroes?

Yes, Marth and Lyn and Ike are beloved characters for good reasons, but I feel like the series is only diminishing their likability by putting them in so many things. Sometimes, a character is good, a story is good, and that’s that–there’s no reason to drag it out longer than it needs to be. The only reason I can think of as to why they’d even do this is that they want to attract new players to their older worlds. I get that; it’s a special series, after all, and worth the love. But there’s more graceful ways to do that, like how in Breath of the Wild, Link can find the attire of past heroes. Or in the Elder Scrolls series, you’re always getting callbacks to old games without any need to dredge up the past (imagine if they put an Oblivion Gate crisis in Skyrim—blech, boring!).

There are positives, though: the graphics do look really nice, and they make me wish they’d used this animation style for Three Houses. And yeah, it is pretty cool that the old heroes can fuse with the new ones, and I’m curious to see what unique designs will come from this. But ultimately, I just don’t know who this game is for, and I can’t help but think this is a really lame move. The story seems lame, the designs are lame…like many others, I was just really hoping for something new and unique, like what we got with Three Houses. But so it goes, I suppose.

And no, this is not your pass to hate on the artist themselves. You can feel disappointed inwardly, but don’t be mean. If you have to blame anyone, blame Nintendo (they probably won’t care anyways).

(Featured Image: Nintendo)

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Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).