It has been some time since we last saw a Fire Emblem game on console; to be exact it was way back in 2007 on the Nintendo Wii, a game called ‘Radiant Dawn’. After that the franchise moved to the Nintendo 3DS with Shadow Dragon (A remake of the Super Nintendo game Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light), New Mystery of the Emblem (A remake of the Super Nintendo game Mystery of the Emblem), Awakening, Fates and Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (A remake of the Super Nintendo game Fire Emblem Gaiden). The Nintendo 3DS games Fate and Awakening added new features and elements which helped move the franchise forward, but there was still much more that could have been done.
It’s now 2019 and Fire Emblem returns triumphantly to console in the form of Fire Emblem: Three Houses on the Nintendo Switch. This is a game rife with intense emotions, romances, loss and strategy. A game that will push you to the edge of your seat and make you think about every action and as the saying goes, “every action has a reaction”. We can thank Nintendo, Intelligent Systems and Koei Tecmo Games for bringing this game to our hands. Three Houses is actually the 15th title in the series, and in all honesty, when a Fire Emblem game comes out I jump on it and enjoy every moment in the game.
Three Houses is set in the fictional continent of Fódlan, which is divided into three factions The Adrestian Empire, The Holy Kingdom of Faerghus and The Leicester Alliance, all connected to the church (Garegg Mach Monastery) which feels like real life-ish. You take control of a rather young mercenary who becomes the new tutor at the Monastery to one of the three houses. These being the Black Eagles, Blue Lions, and Golden Deer. You must choose a house to support but choose wisely because the house you choose will be the story you follow. Choosing a house was not an easy choice for me as every leader felt right, and all their students were pretty nice overall. Some were cocky, some were blunt, but the majority seemed friendly, had a good back story and had skills I wanted, but in the end, I chose the Black Eagles, only because I rather liked the female leader. Was this going to be the right choice for me or the wrong choice, only time will tell, but if you skip to the end, it was for me.
Now I have jumped ahead a little too far and forgot to tell you what sort of game this is, well first and foremost, this is a Tactical RPG. In basic terms, it has a deep story with turn-based tactics on a grid-based map. Turned based means, you take your turn then the enemy takes their turn. The grid-based map system simply means the battle map is divided up into squares and your characters will move to one of the squares highlighted. In Fire Emblem a blue square is an available movement, while a red square is not available, and parts of the map with no squares highlighted, well they are unavailable.
Here is a video of the combat from Nintendo Tree House E3 2019; I have linked it to the actual combat section so you can see what the combat is like.
There is a lot more to the combat system so let me explain in more detail if the video is not enough. But before I do that, you need to choose the type of game you want to play in Three Houses. Casual or Classic. In Casual Mode, which is the mode of choice to play, your character will return to life if they die on the battlefield, in Classic Mode, however, once they die, they are dead for the rest of the game. They have no angel giving them the finger of life, like Sam and Dean in Supernatural. Now returning to the combat system, you control a squad with your chosen main character and as mentioned previously you move your units on a grid-based system, which moves from a top-down view to a third-person view when your chosen unit goes into combat. This is pretty sweet to watch in action. There are also battalions which you can recruit to help in battle. These are support units and provide special moves that inflict status effects on enemies. During combat, you can also use a skill called combat arts. These are special high attack abilities that consume weapon durability, so be mindful of your weapon durability when dishing out this skill.
Yes, you heard that right, weapon durability is back and it’s a love-hate relationship with me. I understand weapons become less useful in real life the more they are used, but I am not the type of gamer that enjoys it in games. That said, however, it does add more tactics to the gameplay mechanics.
Battles can be long, sometimes short, and you’re every move needs to be thought out, as making a mistake can cost you dearly. If you are using classic mode it could mean losing one of your beloved characters. I would spend a lot of time during matches, just to figure out my next move, where was the best place to move and wondering what the enemy would do. But regardless of what I did, or my pre-emptive decision-making strategy implemented, the AI would often surprise me. The battles were intense, fun and sometimes outright hard. If I lost I would revert to a save point and do it all over again till I won, there was nothing to stop me learning from my mistakes.
Aside from the combat, back to school anyone? Fire Emblem: Three Houses adds more schooling, which is spent tutoring your fine young student minds with new traits, new abilities and much more to help give them a better advantage on the field of battle. With the main aim being preparing your students take their Certification Exam, which allows your students to gain access to new classes. Some of the classes include Warlock, Knight, Brawler and Noble. There are plenty more to dig into, so you’ll spend quite a bit of time unlocking them all. During tutoring, you will improve weapons skills, magic proficiency, First Aid (Healing) and there are some awesome special unit classes to gain access to like Flying and Riding. There is so much to tutoring you might find yourself spending a lot of time in this area, creating yourself the perfect team/student. Now I love battling, and like I said before some battles can last some time, but schooling can be very rewarding as well, seeing your student progress, become stronger, wiser, even push you towards what they want or hint to what they feel they should be doing. You might find yourself wholly engrossed in this part of the game like I was.
If schooling is not for you, you can accelerate through the monastery segments and get back to battling, but you might like to make friends and further your bonds. You can wander around the officer’s academy, talk to your students and even talk to students from other houses and their teachers. In time you can recruit students from the other houses, but do not try and recruit the main officers as they are loyal to the core. Everything about this game and what you do matters. Friends help friends, do more damage or take less damage when nearby on the battlefield. Everything regarding the in-game relationships feels authentic and is lovely.
One thing you can always count on from Nintendo is pure unadulterated perfection, this game runs like a dream, with excellent localisation, the writing and voice acting is spot on, and I enjoyed reading and listening to everyone’s story. Characters mattered in this game, you felt for them, felt the need to engage with them, help them, make them better. If you prefer the Japanese voice acting, the option is there too but the English is great throughout.
Personally, I think all games that have voice acting in, should be localised into the regions the game is going to be released in but always leave the option to have the original in place, anything less is just not right. Thankfully Nintendo delivered on this here.
The story of Fire Emblem Three Houses is amazing, one of the best I have ever had the pleasure of reading and listening too. I enjoyed all the previous iterations of Fire Emblem and Three Houses is no different. Now I could go and spoil the story for you, but that’s not for me to do, I shall leave that to all the Streamers to do. Odd world we live in I must say but at least Fire Emblem: Three Houses is great.
Just be warned religion is always at the forefront of all conflicts.
The game will give you hours upon hours and even more hours of gameplay, easily beating 50+ hours just doing the main content storyline for one of the three houses. For completionists, you will be looking at over 70+ hours. What Nintendo and the Developers have done here is exceptional, by far a leap forward in all the right directions adding a host of improvements to push the franchise to even greater heights.