And you can say to yourself, ‘this is not my beautiful home’
It’s hard to believe we could live in a world without a western fire emblem availablity. We can owe it all to Super Smash Bros. Meleewho kind of brought the series west through Roy and Marth, and the rest is history.
Western audiences immediately resonated with the strategy series from genre veterans Intelligent Systems, and they never really looked back. From there, Nintendo did everything they could to spread the word with retro re-releases and timely localizations. We are now finally at the point where fire emblem the games are worldwide releases.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a perfect game to usher in that standard.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Light switch)
Developer: Intelligent Systems, Koei Tecmo Games
Released: July 26, 2019
Gone is the “multi-game” concept of Fates. Instead, you buy a version in Three Houses, which features the typical kingdom vs. kingdom plot by way of a unified branching storyline. Although I dug into the idea of getting two full games and seeing the different perspectives in Birthright and Conquestthe back-to-basics approach is appreciated here.
The narrative is far from “basic”, however, as Three Houses takes a decidedly Hogwarts approach by framing everything around a powerful school that has a role to play in the upcoming Territory Dispute. While the houses of the school are indeed three strong, there are also three nations in the picture, each with their own wants and needs. Yeah, it’s a fire emblem game well.
The first thing that grabbed me were the awesome character designs and the cutscenes that pop up. Man this game is fascinating — not just in the context of its anime footage, but how the game engine is able to capture that anime feel. The ability to play Three Houses on the go as a small-scale strategy experience or on a gigantic TV that brings out all the visual nuance is a microcosm of bliss: a perfect reason why so many have resonated with the Switch. Anyway, Three Houses!
Speaking of anime feel, Three Houses doubles down on the exaggerated nature of the latest entries, which is either a boon or a curse depending on which side of the coin you’re on. Me? I dig the terrifyingly real and violent anime cutscenes juxtaposed with the absurdity of eating too much tuna with your classmates and engaging in silly, jovial conversation. Spending a lot of time in a goofy school having tea with your friends is a really easy way to forget about the horrors of war. fire emblem kind of rules, right? That’s not to mention the introduction of a time lord deity in the opening minutes.
Without too many spoilers, Three HousesMost of the storytelling is about spending a ton of time with your students (no matter which house you choose, they all sort of hang out) and then blowing it all up with a five-year jump about halfway through. way. The story varies wildly depending on which house you sided with at first, but for the most part, despite a few hectic hand-held events (and a few exposition-based cutscenes that mostly focus on one map), it delivers and even provides an epilogue for party members.
To accomplish all this carnage, you’ll roam two places: free-roaming the hub’s academy to hone your skills, pass on knowledge about your party, and socialize, and the grid-based battlefield, home to combat SRPG (with permanent death and a hard mode from the start, if you want it). Socializing is really one of the big goals, and I found myself resonating with a few characters in particular. Hilariously, I even regretted my first choice of house (Black Eagles) as a few of its members openly looked down on me after learning that I was going to be their teacher.
Most of the game’s RPG systems are facilitated by menus, with a schedule dictating when and what actions you can take (walk through the monastery, rest, hold a seminar, fight, things of that nature). You have your own room, there are “days off” where nothing special happens, and activities like fishing or (automatic) gladiatorial combat to participate in.
All RPG elements are very much in your face. Few modern forays into the genre deal with schools, salaries (I have warm flashbacks for Final Fantasy VIII), and exams for new class archetypes. It’s global and Intelligent Systems is really committed. Some of it is fluffy, baked into the backbone of classic RPG accounting, but I love it all the same.
Much of my love is for Three Houses‘ personalities. I loved seeing Bernadetta come out of her shell, Caspar gaining confidence and Hubert becoming… a little less condescending. Certain types of gifts (lost items) provide clues about which actor they belong to, and if you pay attention to their conversations (and therefore their likes and dislikes), it’s easy to match them. You might learn, for example, that Ferdinand is a tea lover. Remembering this will make some future side quests or freebies much easier. Of course, you can’t do any of this if it’s not your thing, and forego the little bonuses and support links/conversations.
Not all mechanics are winners. There are plenty of basic “yes or no” answers to requests, and rather chilly “buy flowers” prompts for birthdays on the calendar until you get the (stressful!) option of tea party. birthday on demand (this game focuses on tea if you couldn’t tell already). the most (aside from battle cries) the silent protagonist is finebecause there is already a ton of spoken dialogue and two genre options, but a Mass Effect An emotive Shepard-style avatar would have been an interesting approach. Regardless, there is joy in interacting with your students: after witnessing the fruits of my labor after an intense lesson session, I immediately thought of Mushu sending Mulan into battle after her training. Yes, there are fights in this tea drinking dating simulator.
It takes a bit of a power up. Initial skirmishes are tactically light, mostly selling you the idea of weapon durability (which is directly tied to ability costs) and unit placement. From there, you’ll move on to class nuance: things like learning the range of abilities, which units are weak to what type of element or mechanic, and counter-technology (some powers allow you to strike without the possibility of a counter, sometimes you want to be countered in order to counter-counter). I found myself visibly smiling at the idea of creating a party, polishing it through tutoring, and integrating my perfect class composition.
It almost always worked, and that’s because Three Houses gives you a ton of freedom in how you want to build your party. Class credential swaps are seamless, easy to search, and even easier to take back if you feel like you’ve made a mistake. Mistakes, beware, that are less punitive given the limited “Divine Impulse” (read: rewind turns) mechanic that is tightly tied to the story.
There’s something to be said for an SRPG that feels like it has unfinished business after the credits roll. During this long exam session (my game lasted about 40 hours) I started a new game (NG+ is there, with some stats/teacher based items carried over) with another house just to fellowship with new people and see how the narrative has changed: a rarity for a demanding RPG. To my surprise, it was a bit different, especially during the time jump portion, which featured a wildly divergent ending.
I cannot stress enough how much Fire Emblem: Three Houses illustrates the “RPG” part of the acronym “SRPG”. While strategy is undoubtedly a big part of fire emblem‘, the vast majority of my enjoyment has been having lunch with classmates and getting to know them better, or running errands while running around the lovely grounds of the academy. It’s a world you can absolutely get lost in for months on end, but if you find the menus tedious, you might be reluctant to modern relationships. fire emblem cemented formula Three Houses.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]