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[Review] Fire Emblem: Three Houses – Nintendo Switch

Reviewed by Thomas

  • Developer: Intelligent Systems, KOEI TECMO GAMES CO., LTD.
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Release Date: 26/07/2019
  • Price: $59.99 / £49.99
  • Review code provided by Nintendo

Intro

Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series has escalated in popularity over the last few titles. When you look back on past iterations and how they build on each other, it’s little wonder why Three Houses had a strong launch. Fire Emblem Awakening did a phenomenal job shining the spotlight on the franchise which many had forgotten about or never heard of in the first place. Fire Emblem Fates built on the successful mechanics and took the game in a new direction. Letting the player choose which nation to support, and which to contend. Fates was an exceptional game, albeit confusing with two versions. Birthright or Conquest? Or both if you wanted to see the alternate perspective. Fire Emblem Three Houses deviates from that in a positive way. It was clear from the outset that all three stories would be contained in one game.

Great Tree Moon

The stories told in the Fire Emblem universe are marvelous. They focus on the people around you and the impact you have on each other. Rarely are the games about saving the world versus surviving the worst that humanity has to offer. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is no exception. The story focuses on a mysterious mercenary, Byleth. Who, through unique circumstances becomes a professor at an officers training academy. The school is hosted by the Church of Seiros and caters to the Black Eagle, Blue Lion, and Golden Deer houses. Students from surrounding territories and nations learn and train together. 

Behind the homework and sparring, deceit creeps within the shadows. Unknown forces begin to strike out against the Church of Serios in attempt to claim powerful relics. Amidst the chaos created by these entities, powerful nations take advantage to further their vendettas. The narrative is deep and complex with a lot of moving parts. How it plays out depends a lot on the choices you make. 

It’s through your choices that really make Fire Emblem: Three Houses stand out. As intriguing as the main story is, it really comes down to the individual relationships you make along the way. This is one aspect I’ve always appreciated about the Fire Emblem franchise. In Three Houses you have the opportunity to sway members from one allegiance to join you.

Depending how you approach the game, you can end up courting a member of one team and later have to decide to strike them down in combat. Too often was this the case in my playthrough. Since I played on classic mode where death is permanent, it made for some emotional battles. Unlike other strategy role-playing games, the enemies aren’t just faceless soldiers. They are people you’ve bonded with. You know what they like and dislike. You know their favorite gifts and what tea they enjoy. Few games depict war with such impact.

Harpstring Moon

The heart of Fire Emblem: Three Houses focuses on interactions. The game plays out on a calendar. At the start of each week you decide on a lesson plan for your students. With some individual tutoring sprinkled in, you help each classmate excel in various fields such as swordsmanship, riding, or magic. Just to name a few.

At the end of each week you are given a free day. You can choose to explore the monastery and build relationships. You can share meals with one another, give gifts, sing in a choir or simply chat. Aside from exploring the grounds, you can partake in battles or rest. Each option has varied effects and determines how well you work with each other. And if you’re really studious you can use your free day for an additional seminar to really cram as much learning as possible. This portion could be a dating simulator game in and of itself. There’s no shortage of people to impress and get to know. 

The second aspect of Three Houses is really what Fire Emblem is all about. A strategy role-playing game at its core, there has to be combat. The battles play out on a grid based map. Each unit has limitations as far as movement and skills. Fire Emblem uses an advanced Rock-Paper-Scissors method. Knowing your enemy is the key to victory and longevity for your comrades. An opponent ten levels lower can still eliminate your pegasus knight if you’re not careful.

Luckily Fire Emblem: Three Houses give you all the data you need to succeed. This happened to be one of the easier Fire Emblem games I have played. I didn’t lose a single ally. Each move you make will indicate who the enemy will target. Likewise, you can see the probability of your attack landing and how strong the counter attack will be before you finalize a move. Knowing your stats and having patience will result in a lot of successful battles where all your troops return home safely.

As far as strategy RPGs go, Fire Emblem is packed with options. There are limitless combinations. Between the dozens of character classes to pick from and the weapons or spells, you’d be hard pressed to find another army among fellow gamers with the same composition. There are also settings which allow you to enjoy the game based on your play style. If you don’t want your students you’ve trained with for the last year to die, you can opt out of that setting. You can increase or decrease the difficulty as well. One addition I liked about Three Houses is the ability to turn back to a specific time in battle. If you do make one fatal mistake you can rewind just a few moves instead of letting your beloved die on the battlefield or reloading your save and starting the scene all over.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses also introduces battalions where each unit can command and be strengthened by a supporting army. It was fun to play around with these additional mechanics and all of which I found to be an improvement to the franchise and genre.

Garland Moon

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is accompanied with talented voice work. Each character comes to life with the outstanding work each actor does. They play well off the script and add a lot of emotion to the scenes. There are parts where you can just let it auto play as though you’re watching your favorite anime drama. The music likewise is polished and beautiful. The soundtrack reflects what’s happening on screen and helps build emotion.

The colorful art style made it hard to feel the brevity of the situation at times. Despite that, I found the characters pleasing to look at. Each character has their own style which is altered when they take on a different job. A lot of work went into making each character unique. The artistic team did amazing work when you consider all the expressions, scenes and job classes in the game. It was fun seeing how different each character looked in a specific job class.

Blue Sea Moon

There were a few minor hiccups I noticed during my time at Garreg Mach Monastery. While running from place to place a few characters wouldn’t load right away. The doors don’t seem to render correctly at all as Byleth can just pass through them. Each of those things are minor and don’t affect your ability to play the game. The game runs exceeding well in handheld mode and docked. I did notice a little lag at the end of a very long gaming session when Byleth would try to sprint. Other than those small issues, the game ran smoothly considering the amount of content crammed into it. The loading times were all within reason.

Final Wrap

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is an outstanding example of continuing a franchise. The core mechanics of the game are present with subtle additions. Offering an emotional story to experience from multiple angles makes Three Houses replayable. And not just in the sense that there’s extra content, but you want to play more. You want to experience the other side of the story. There’s a powerful draw to see the other perspectives. The game play is enjoyable and the narrative is gripping. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a solid experience.

Pros

  • Superb Storytelling
  • Excellent Character Development
  • Exhilarating Gameplay

Cons

  • Archaic Sorting System

Verdict
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a worthy successor, offering a timeless adventure worth reliving.
5/5

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