Fire Emblem has always been a niche series for a specific audience, but with this entry, the Japanese S-RPG series has started to make more noise than it ever did in the past, thanks to the Nintendo Switch’s success and obviously thanks to the quality of the said game. The whole premise of Fire Emblem Three Houses is being able to choose between Three Houses, all led by the future king, emperor or leader of the country it represents.
You are Byleth, young mercenary and now the teacher of a class full of little noble brats, or it is how Jeralt, your father would describe them. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a tactical role-playing game developed by Intelligent Systems and Koei Tecmo, and published by Nintendo. It is the sixteenth installment for the Fire Emblem franchise. It was released for the Nintendo Switch on July 26, 2019.
The story is actually what surprised me the most. I will, of course, avoid any type of spoiler but let’s just say that it is completely impossible to grasp everything in a single playthrough or even two for that matter. While the main plot might be thrown on your face depending on the route you chose, the other aspect such as the ridiculously deep lore of this world, character developments, different motives and point of view are left for you to discover. Depending on the relationships you build, the way you fight on the battlefield or simply the side quests you chose to partake in, you will never feel like you are doing filler content because absolutely everything you do is rewarded, not only with renown or valuable objects but with additional lore that adds to the scale and credibility of this world. The side quests and especially prologues are not only well written but they reveal crucial pieces of information on some characters that’s always surprising to see on a mere side quest. Everyone has a story to tell, every character, as silly as they appear are hiding some ocean deep development waiting to be discovered.
From a random knight NPC in the hub telling you his impossible love story with a noble lady to characters, you’ve been talking to for dozens of hours, showing you things that you absolutely did not expect. As for the main plot, the Fire Emblem series has jokingly earned the “anime game of thrones” title over the years for a reason, and in my opinion, the writing even surpasses the show. Every protagonist has their motives, their reasons and they’re all so well written that your entire point of view on the game will change depending on whom you pledge your allegiance to. Everything is there, from advanced military tactics that actually do make sense, from crazy plot-twists, wholesome and heartfelt moments, this is rich and legitimately one of the most well-written games I’ve seen in a while. In fact, the game is so confident on said plot that it is not afraid to make you miss whole routes depending on your support level with some characters.
Talking about support, this one of the main focuses of the game, you will be able to build your relationships with every characters, not only between you and them but between characters themselves, yes, it’s that deep. Your relationship can grow in multiple ways. You can offer them gifts, drink tea with them, train or simply tell them what they want to hear! Fighting on the battlefield next to them is also one way of building some sort of chemistry between you, that could evolve in a love story if you ever wish. You will also be able to work on yourself, improve your stats so you can recruit other students from other houses, after all, a student that uses the bow all the time wouldn’t want to join a class where the teacher knows absolutely nothing about that art.
Seeing how this review went as of right now, you are probably wondering, do I even have anything negative to say about this game? This is where it stings. This game clearly isn’t using the Nintendo Switch at its full potential, playing it in handheld is ok but once it’s on the big screen, you start to see the ridiculously extra amount of aliasing, making some faces completely unrecognizable from distance. On top of it, you can clearly recognize the typical Koei Tecmo, squarish, empty and brown architectures that you can find in most of their old generation games. It is not necessarily the prettiest game to look at but it’s not trying to be, it becomes very clear that Koei and IS would rather favor practical visuals over a crowded and confusing battlefield with unnecessary elements that will affect the overall performance and clarity. Besides, the only time where visuals do matter, in conversations, the game shines, the models are clean and their facial expressions are genuine. We are certainly not on the level of games like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 on the same console but it’s just enough to get the job done.
The meat and potatoes, how does it play? Fantastic. It is genuinely one of the most addicting game I’ve ever played and to be fair, I’m already on my second playthrough with over a hundred hours total. The calendar system feels like the one in Persona 5 but there is never a dull moment, you are constantly excited to start the next day, you go to battles not because you have to, but because it is fun. For a game to be able to capture the depth and beauty of strategy RPGs and make it addicting and enjoyable for everybody, it truly has to be special, and it happens to be a special game. Between all the different tactics, classes and characters you can build for battles, you will never run out of ways to approach a situation. It controls quite simple, the battles are grid-based, with the ability to play it in third person or the most practical over the top view, once an enemy is in attack range, the game morphs into turn-based combat, but there is more to that, you don’t just go rushing on the battlefield like that or you will lose your entire squad in seconds. And on top of that, the game truly shines when there are more than two camps fighting on the same map, nothing beats the adrenaline rush of all three camps going at it, with perma-death on (if activated, your students can die for good if they fall on the battlefield) and the amazing soundtrack playing on the background. Truly one of the best aspects of this game.
If you haven’t figured it by now, Fire Emblem Three Houses is an achievement, a near-masterpiece in everything it touches, from the incredibly deep writing to the addicting school system and the heart-racing battles to the great soundtrack, with characters so good, you genuinely feel proud when you see them grow, mentally and physically, this is easily the best game of 2019, as of right now.