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Is Fire Emblem: Three Houses Nintendo’s latest RPG masterpiece?

Rango

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Fire Emblem: Three Houses review

Fire Emblem: Three Houses Review

The illustrious Fire Emblem series has received a string of success with 3DS games and a mobile title over the last decade. The most recent release in this franchise, however, places the series back on home consoles for the first time since 2007. With that being said, Fire Emblem: Three Houses has indisputably become the largest title in the series.

Despite its grand scale, Three Houses isn’t without a few, tiny flaws of its own. However, the sheer size of the game and attention to detail will keep you glued to the game. Keep in mind that this review will revolve largely around the Blue Lions route.

Storyline

Three Houses takes the Fire Emblem storyline series in a new route at first. If you’re familiar with Persona 5, for instance, you’ll notice several similarities. For one, the character portrait style looks more akin to Persona than past Fire Emblem titles. Also, you’ll spend time interacting with students regularly.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

The game starts off with the final battle of a war. Between the evil Nemesis and the hero, Seiros, an animated cutscene details their battle. Shortly after, it thrusts you into the role of Byleth meeting Sothis, a mysterious girl who accompanies you in your very soul.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Long story short, you’re thrust into the role of a professor and must choose one of three houses. Each house takes you through a different storyline route.

You will still find many of the same mainstay tropes featured in the series. Fire Emblem maintains a balance of humor and silliness to go with war and genocide.  However, while it manages to do its job, I don’t feel writing ever quite blew me away the way Persona 5 or Octopath Traveler did. Plus it still uses the same old brown-clad random villagers to drive parts of the story. But for what it’s worth, Three Houses maintains strong characterization while writing one of the best plots in the series thanks to the divided houses and political conflict.

Supports

Support conversations return and look more fleshed out in the series than ever before. You can learn a ton of backstory of characters and even enter Paralogue battles. However, the Support conversations feel longer than past games and, as a result, feel drawn out at times. Don’t feel bad about skipping through some of the dialogue.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

In addition, you can give gifts to units to motivate them or even recruit them. You can also invite them to tea parties. This falls under the dating sim part of the game. Ask the right questions to get better teatime and you will build more support with your unit. However, the questions are random, so don’t feel bad about using a guide!

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Part I and Part II

Part I of Three Houses takes place with you as professor of the Monastery. You’ll train your young students and enter skirmishes with bandits. This arc may largely remind players of Harry Potter. While it takes cues from the aforementioned Persona, it also takes cues from Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses review

Part II, however, pits you smack into the middle of a war after a timeskip occurs. Your students grow to assume mature appearances, all while dropping their school garbs and going to war. Plus, each chapter introduces the player to a map of the continent, complete with character portraits and narration, akin to a more traditional Fire Emblem approach.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses review

One of the most standout things about the storyline is the characterization of Dimitri. It shows the true nature of one of the Lords and not one usually becoming of a standard protagonist in the series. Therefore, I value Dimitri’s personal growth as among the best in the series.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Finally, one of the most defining points of Part II is killing your former students. Anyone you didn’t recruit from other houses will serve as a member of the opposing army. If they aren’t part of the house you entered, expect to meet them on the battlefield. You’ll have no choice but to strike them down and watch them die like a common enemy.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Visuals

Having been co-developed by KoeiTecmo, Fire Emblem: Three Houses takes cues from its series’ spin-off predecessor, Fire Emblem Warriors. The art style abandons the polygonal, blocky structure of the 3DS titles in favor of a cel-shaded look.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

As a result of the new visual touch, there’s a bit more detail to animation. This includes Support conversations, which no longer restrict themselves to portraits and dialogue, but  feature characters moving as well. While it’s a step in the right direction, they could still push it further. I would love to see the characters actually acting out their own actions instead of just discussing them.

Audio

Fire Emblem: Three Houses features some noteworthy music choices. Among them, Part II features “Paths That Will Never Cross,” one of the more energetic boss themes. I’m also quite fond of the “Edge of Dawn,” which plays in the opening.

While the menu sound effects and jingles resonate as nicely as ever, the battle sound effects range from fitting to a bit weak, however. Sword swipes sound quieter now when hitting an opponent. I miss the satisfying clash of metal slamming an enemy in previous titles. Imagine if you played Super Smash Bros. and used Ike’s attacks and you heard a quiet swipe instead of the sound of a strong hit reflecting the damage you’ve done to your foe. I feel they could have used more impact here.

Gameplay

As with previous titles, Fire Emblem is a Strategy/RPG (SRPG). You move your characters around on a grid-based map and take down enemy units. A bit of luck indicates whether you can avoid your opponent’s attack or hit them with a Critical strike.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Like with previous games, you can promote your characters into new classes. Much like with Echoes, you start with base classes before you promote them into the class you want. However, this gives players the illusion of choice.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

That means that while you can technically promote anyone to any class, each character will be predisposed to learning a certain class and weapon type. Not only is this based around their stats, but they will even suggest to you which class they want to learn during lectures.

Progression

Throughout Fire Emblem: Three Houses, you will stick to a Calendar system. Akin to Persona, you will spend “time points” and allocate them to various tasks. You can share a meal with allies to improve motivation, and Support points, or train with instructors and boost your own weapon mastery. Fire Emblem: Three Houses also offers a Fishing minigame and even a combat arena for you to earn prizes in.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

On Lecture days, you’ll assign Group Tasks and Goals. Lecture is how to build weapon mastery in your units. This will help you get closer to promoting units.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

When you’re not Exploring, you can enter Battles or Seminars. Battles include Auxiliary battles which allow you to earn tons of Gold. If you’re fighting rare monsters, you can farm forge materials out of them. This will allow you to forge stronger weapons or repair your legendary weapons, which are similar to the Regalia in Mystery of the Emblem and Binding Blade.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

If you choose to do a Seminar, you can build weapon mastery along with a group of students. If you feel the repetition of battle draining at you, this is a quick way to build mastery. However, Battle is more effective overall for earning EXP as well. Meanwhile, the Rest option is not necessary. While you can repair the “Sword of the Creator,” you lose any chance to build relations with units or weapon mastery.

Echoes

Fire Emblem: Three Houses takes several cues from Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (SoV). For one, you can use combat arts to deal more damage to enemies. You can also freely roam around Garreg Mach to talk to people. Mila’s Turnwheel also returns in the form of Divine Pulses.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Divine Pulses can be used to undo mistakes such as reviving a fallen unit.

Skills and Classes.

One of the more noticeable elements missing in this title includes the weapon triangle. A mainstay in previous titles, weapons don’t hold advantage over each other at first. However, through the use of learning “-breaker” skills, you can essentially bring it back.

As your units grow, you’ll learn skills. While some of these are passive growths, others include Combat Arts. You’ll even learn new skills that originated in the mobile game, Fire Emblem Heroes, such as Glowing Ember, which increases damage based on your defense.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Finally, you can now equip Battalions to your units. They can deal damage to enemies and even hit them with status effects. These vital pieces can turn the tide in battle, so use them well.

Conclusion

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the complete package. It’s a fantastic jumping-on point for newcomers of the series or those who started with Fire Emblem Heroes.  This SRPG offers several difficulty modes for newcomers and veteran players alike. While “Hard Mode” is not as difficult as past games, it offers a standard challenge. You can also choose Maddening difficulty if you want a true challenge.

I found myself heavily addicted to the game from start to finish. 80 hours through the storyline and I could barely put it down till I finished the last chapter. The constantly progressing story, amount of activities you can partake in, and constant growth of units makes it difficult to put down. It’s as addictive as any Fire Emblem title, yet much larger than ever before. Plus you can play New Game+ once you’ve finished your first route.

Along with Persona 5 and Dragon Quest XI, Fire Emblem: Three Houses stands out as one of the best RPGs of this generation. It offers a deep narrative, many combat options, and helps guide you to learn all of its mechanics. Plus, you’re bound to find a character you love or even personally relate to. If you enjoy lengthy stories, strong character development, and tons of activity, add this game to your Switch as soon as you can!

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

9.5
Fantastic
Fire Emblem: Three Houses Review
Reinventing the series.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses successfully reinvents the series without ever feeling foreign. It's a polished masterpiece that warrants more than one playthrough to get the full grasp on its deep and lengthy storyline.
Pros
Great story progression
Tons of activities to do as professor
Heavily addictive gameplay
Cons
Battle sound effects are a bit weak

Rango has been gaming since 1993. He loves Action/Adventure, JRPG, and Platforming games the most. When he's not writing reviews, he competes in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournaments.

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