In honor of the fourth wave of downloadable content (DLC) for Nintendo’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses game, here is our review for last year’s blockbuster game for the Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo has done it again. They have brought a whole new world to life in their latest Fire Emblem release, Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The player controls Byleth, the child of a former guard for the Church of Seiros, whose central location of Garreg Mach Monastery is at the center of the three nations of Fódland, where the story takes place. Each nation sends their best and brightest to the monastery to train under the watchful eyes of the staff, so that they can then become leaders and activists back home.
Byleth, who can be played as a male or female, depending on the player’s choice, meets the three house leaders in an early mission. First is Dimitri, the leader of the Blue Lions house and the soon to be ruler of the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus. Next is Edelgard, the leader of the Black Eagles and Imperial Princess of the Adrestian Empire. Last is Claude, the leader of the Golden Deer house and next in line to lead the Leicester Alliance.
There had been previous tensions between the three nations, but all were eventually united under the Church of Seiros. Since the first battle that took place ages ago, there has been peace between the nations and that peace was expected to continue. However, as in all Fire Emblem games, there is a great disturbance at foot, and all manner of horror breaks loose, throwing all of the nations into distress. It then becomes the task of the player to end the chaos and bring back peace throughout Fódland.
Before that can happen, the player gets to choose which house they will be in charge of. The school at Garreg Mach is short one professor, and that falls to the player to help out. There is a chance to meet all of the key students who support the house leaders, as well as the player, but each class brings different challenges with it.
By choosing Edelgard, the player has a group of students more focused on magic. Claude and the Golden Deer class brings a rounded focus to the battle; there are equal parts range attacks, with bows and magic users, as well as close quarter combat with blade wielders. Finally, Dimitri and the Blue Lions are focused on weapons of all types, from lances and rapiers, to bows and axes.
While being a professor can seem intimidating, Nintendo has made it incredibly easy to grasp the teaching aspects in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The game is separated into months, and each month is broken down into days and weeks.
There are classes and other events each day during the week shown through small flashes, like students in the classroom and Byleth at the chalkboard, or conversations out and about in the monastery or surrounding town. Students will ask questions and present scenarios and the player gets to answer them however they would like. Those answers dictate how the students learn and get XP.
If the student agrees with the answer, or it was a response they were hoping for, they get an upgrade to their skills, and they become friendlier to the professor, which increases their relationship status and their likelihood to help out in battle with guarding or follow-up attacks. This is only scratching the surface of the depth of the connections in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, as there is so much more to do and discover.
The students can gain relationships with one another from within their house and from other houses. They can’t be more than friends. That status is left for Byleth and whomever the player decides to romance. Both the male and female versions of Byleth can be romantically involved with both genders.
This is literally the only complaint I had in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I love the aspects of relationships in other Fire Emblem games, like Awakening and Fates. I would spend hours getting to know each character and who they would be the most compatible with, and then working to get them married.
The professor and his/her students take part in missions and battle. This is another way the characters gain levels and skills. The combat is turned based and strategy-heavy, taking place on a grid map with various tiles that offer cover or stat bonuses and more. The weapons system has remained relatively the same, with swords beating axes, axes beating lances, and lances beating swords, but the hard emphasis on the classic “triangle” battle system has been lessened.
The weapon fragility system that was used in previous Fire Emblem games has returned, but a new twist in Three Houses is the difference between life and death. Previously, when a weapon broke and the player didn’t have a replacement on hand, the character was left to do nothing but become vulnerable to the attacks, as they couldn’t fight back.
In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, if a weapon breaks, characters can still fight. Their hit rate and damage decrease drastically, but it still gives the character a chance to do some damage and defend themselves, which is a nice touch. It makes the characters seem panicked and desperate, but not helpless. They’re still trying to defend themselves even with the remains of their weapon.
There are far more intricacies in the game than can be explained in a simple review, but I am completely blown away by the caliber of thought that developers Koei Tecmo and Intelligent Systems have put into this game. There are students from every walk of life in Fódland, and there are all sorts of situations to discover. Bot small and large gestures bring the characters together and make them feel like a family, and under the professor’s guidance, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Overall, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a fabulous experience and the best game of last year. The story keeps the player enthralled, the graphics are gorgeous, and the music adds to the emotion of the whole story. I wish I could have gone into more detail about the story, but it would spoil the fun, and it is something you should definitely experience for yourself.
With three different mainstream endings, one hidden ending, and a new house being released on February 12, in the fourth wave of DLC, there is always something to come back to. Get out there and play it and look forward to our review of the new House, Ashen Wolves, in the next few weeks.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses and its Season Pass, which includes all DLC content, is available now on the Nintendo Switch.
This review is based off a copy of the game purchased at retail.