Back on home consoles after over ten years, Fire Emblem: Three Houses has become the longly anticipated and wonderfully crafted game that long-time fans and first-timers can enjoy.
Title: Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Developers: Intelligent Systems, Koei Tecmo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: July 26, 2019
Fire Emblem: Three Houses just has about everything that veterans, casuals, and even newcomers can enjoy. After succeeding Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia as the next title, Three Houses was highly anticipated for being the first game in over ten years to be back on a home console. I started with Awakening, and I was looking forward to playing my first Fire Emblem on a home console while also being able to play it on the go.
I can safely say that Three Houses is the best entry the series has to offer. With the help of Koei Tecmo, who also co-developed alongside main developer Intelligent Systems with Fire Emblem Warriors, Three Houses is filled with tons of content that will take up many hours of your time, and it will be worth it.
The gameplay is excellent, and features familiar and welcomed additions to this installment. While the weapon triangle was not entirely present, it does come in its unique forms by featuring skills like Axebreaker, Swordbreaker, and Lancebreaker. Magic-based weapons are no longer tomes, but spells that your units can learn when they reach a certain rank. In return, some magic attacks have limited usage, so it leaves you to think of which spell to use and when to use them.
This, along with weapons not being discarded after exhausting their durability, does not leave the characters defenseless, though they will have a hard time retaliating with a broken weapon equipped. Thankfully, they can be repaired but will cost some money and in need of certain material.
Gambits are interesting gameplay-wise, as they will help you take on a group of enemies side by side quicker or even bring more damage to some bosses such as the King of Beasts. Other gambits are support based that can give you extra movement or increase your damage output and receive less damage for a certain number of turns.
Teaching the house you choose offers many aspects of how you want to have your students learn. For example, Edelgard can become a Fighter once she meets certain requirements and has a Beginner Seal. Once she meets the requirements to change into an intermediate class, you will need specific requirements and an intermediate seal. Training your units in classes will give them class experience and learn skills once they master that class.
Sometimes the students will lose motivation, and it will prevent the chance of giving them lectures to level up their weapon ranks faster. You can get their motivation back by having meals with them and give them gifts or lost items.
Multiple features from past entries have returned in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, like cavalry units using Canto, or “move again” as it is called, as well as dismounting. Divine Pulse is a game mechanic that copies from Shadows of Valentia’s Mila’s Turnwheel. Casual Mode also makes its return to help ease new players in if the thought of losing a unit is too much.
Fog of war also makes a return and is featured in a handful of battles. Weapons Arts, known as Combat Arts in the previous game, also appears in the game, and enemies can use them as well.
While the gameplay is what makes the Fire Emblem series so intriguing and compelling, the cast of characters is executed perfectly in Three Houses. It goes to show that quality trumps quantity. I have played the Black Eagles route first, and it is quite the journey to witness a developed story after the disappointment that was Fates’ incomprehensible one.
Some people believed firsthand that Edelgard would be boring and uninteresting compared to the other lords Dimitri and Claude, but once you play her route, you see her as a person who has strong motives as the next emperor of the Adrestian Empire, even if she has to kill to reach her goal of a Fodlan free of status and crests.
The Black Eagles students are also interesting in their own way. One of my favorites is Dorothea, who is an orphan with no nobility to her name, but she was a joy to listen to and watch her support conversations. Originally a performer, it was strange but interesting for her to enroll at the Officers Academy despite her status. She might seem outgoing and flirtatious to both male and female characters alike, but Dorothea has self-esteem issues and despises arrogant nobles.
The supports between the students range from hilarious to serious. Any support with Bernadetta had me laughing while also feeling sorry for her.
The supports between the students range from hilarious to serious. Any support with Bernadetta had me laughing while also feeling sorry for her. First impressions of her might be of an anime trope, but she eventually grows into a slightly braver woman.
One character I was not expecting to be invested in is Caspar. His support with Petra started awkwardly but then became interesting after he reveals something to the Brigid princess. Their support conversations are easily in my top ten so far.
Recruiting other students helps relieve the stress of deciding which route to go on. Since I like the Black Eagle cast, but wanted to recruit Blue Lions’ Felix and Golden Deer’s Marianne, I was able to get them and had fun training them as a Swordmaster and Holy Knight respectively. It was also bone-chilling having Felix to fight against his former classmates, and their lines were heartbreaking given their previous relationships.
The avatar of the game, Byleth, is a huge step up above the previous avatar Corrin and is arguably the best avatar character to date. At first, Byleth does seem emotionless and just goes along with whatever is given to them, but in certain moments throughout the story, you do see them gain emotion and develop special bonds with their students and faculty. I consider Byleth to be a slow burner. There might not be much to Byleth at first, but they do grow as a character in the route you choose.
Their supports with other characters are also obtained through story progression, so you cannot immediately get an S-rank support before the time skip, making the relationships feel more developed and not so rushed. After all, it is not exactly realistic to just marry a student or faculty member while teaching or during a war.
This makes character development worth the wait whether you S-rank someone or not.
Even after finishing the Black Eagles campaign, I craved more, and New Game Plus certainly has met my expectations. The replay value is high, and it will be an incredible journey to do the other routes as well as work on support conversations. I will be going for Blue Lions next, then Golden Deer, and finally the “secret” route.
I have a few criticisms of the game at the moment. The first one is that it can be too easy at times. I have played on Normal/Classic, and there were at times I feel my units were over-leveled. This is mostly due to some skirmishes not costing activity points. But with Lunatic mode coming in a free update, it will be challenging but rewarding to play through any route.
The second, and thankfully last, criticism is the lack of same-sex supports, especially for male Byleth. He is only able to S-rank Lindhardt, and that is technically it because while you can S-rank Gilbert and Alois, they are strictly platonic and you don’t end up with them. One of them is still married while the other is around Byleth’s father, Jeralt’s, age.
I hope that in future patches, there will be more options for male Byleth to S-rank other male characters (and so far Claude is the one fans are confused over how he isn’t one of the options).
Not to mention, with future DLC bringing more story content in April 2020, Three Houses will have so much more to offer to make it the best in the Fire Emblem series. This has the potential to become Game of the Year material, and I am happy to have played this beautiful and engaging game.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.