This review is probably long overdue as everyone is busy building their towns in Animal Crossing, but it’s never too late for us to share our thoughts on this great game! This highly anticipated addition to the Fire Emblem franchise was released for the Nintendo Switch on 27 July 2019, and fans all over the world rushed to get their hands on the game–including many of us at THE MAGIC RAIN.
Personally, I’ve only joined the fandom starting from Fire Emblem Awakening (which is still one of my top favourite games ever) on the Nintendo 3DS along with the subsequent titles. With the release of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the franchise’s first ever Switch title, there were many notable differences as compared to the 3DS titles – mostly good, by the way – that we have observed while playing. So let’s get started.
In this series, you (Byleth) are a professor appointed to lead one out of three school houses at the Garreg Mach monastery: the Blue Lions, the Golden Deer, and the Black Eagles. Each house consists of students from the same region. For example, the Blue Lion House is led by Dimitri, and comprises students from the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus. By choosing to lead one house, your army automatically includes all of its students, but by raising your support level or fulfilling two criteria of their choice, you may convince characters from different houses to join yours.
While this may sound simple, it is actually harder than expected to recruit characters. As a professor, you are given the opportunity to raise your students’ skills, raise your own skills or bond with everyone (regardless of whether they’re from your house) depending on how you choose to spend your free time. However, the problem lies in juggling all of that as there is a restriction. Depending on your professor level, you will only have a set number of activity points; for example, if you have one activity point, you can only choose to do one activity. Hence, you have to really plan out how to utilize your time and points.
On a side note, can we just talk about how Fire Emblem: Three Houses has multiple storylines? Depending on which house you choose to lead, you will experience the war through the eyes of that army. For my first playthrough, I tried out the Blue Lions house, and it was definitely a classic Fire Emblem storyline. But what intrigues me the most is the fact that by choosing different houses, your experience will be different each time as your perspective of the whole story will be mainly based on the house leaders’ point of view and their choices. Not only that, this allows you the chance to recruit characters that you may like from other houses (and boy, they do not make it easy).
Now, you may be thinking that if we have to play the game multiple times to be able to complete the whole game, does that mean that we have to spend a bazillion hours just to finish the game?? And the answer is no. Intelligent Systems has made it easier for the players (probably to avoid boring us) by introducing a new feature, ‘New Game +’.
From your second playthrough onwards, the player is able to start a new game with rare items or abilities carried from their previous game. The time spent on each playthrough will be more efficient as we do not need to build or collect the items from scratch. Definitely one of the features I enjoy the most!
The next few features which I’d like to expand on would be on the battling experience. It is still the same strategy experience that Fire Emblem fans know and love where you control characters and make moves on a grid-based board, making those decisions carefully and forcing friend and foe alike to the frontlines.
Most of the basics are still the same, but there are new changes introduced such as the Gambit feature, where you can either hire battalions from the Battalion Guild or obtain them from quests or Paralogues to be partnered up with your unit of choice. A battalion could consist of a group of mages which can do either recovery or offensive magic, archers shooting in a large group, etc. This feature is especially useful when fighting Beasts where you can stun them for a limited amount of time. Here’s an example below:
Sound and Music
As expected from the Fire Emblem franchise, the soundtrack never ceases to amaze me. Fusing orchestral instruments with modern beats, the music allows you to become immersed in the game at any point – be it while you’re exploring the Garreg Mach monastery or while you’re fighting your way to victory. Check out the soundtrack here on Spotify for your studying/working needs.
As for the voice acting, I have only one word to describe it – superb. The game is fully voiced, which includes the main storyline for all four story paths, support conversations, and even the Paralogues. We are also given two language options, which are Japanese or English. Personally, I’ve chosen the English dialogue and I have to say that the voice actors and actresses did a really great job as they are able to grasp their characters’ personality really well. I’m the type of person who likes to skip dialogues if possible, but with Three Houses, I actually don’t skip them and that’s honestly pretty rare.
Graphics and Design
Overall, the art and design of Fire Emblem was great for the most part. I personally loved the character design of the characters. The battle animation looks great, though they’re repeated for each battle. However, I have mixed feelings for the animated cutscenes–I don’t hate them, but I also don’t love them and definitely feel they could have been done better.
Moving on to the graphics, Three Houses introduces a new 3D feature to explore the game’s environment, which no other FE game has ever had. While the monastery looks fine overall, on some occasions the game looks grainy texture-wise and the characters look choppy and blurry. Take the texture of the fruits in the market or the ground for example. It’s one of the worst aspects of Three Houses which definitely could have been improved further.
Thoughts on Fire Emblem: Three Houses
At the time of writing, I’ve played around 80 hours and am currently on my second playthrough of the game–slow, I know. While I adore this game (I could be a little biased), the ending of the first route I chose ran a little flat for me. It was quite abrupt and I didn’t even realise it was the end until I was at the final battle scene. It left me with many unanswered questions and I wasn’t sure whether it was because I have yet to play all the routes that it didn’t sit well with me and I felt unsatisfied. The only way to find out would be to finish all the routes, I suppose.
I also miss having the option of a Shapeshifter class in Fire Emblem – throwback to Tiki from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and Panne from Fire Emblem Awakening. But well, we have plenty of choices to choose from anyway.
Other than that, I did have a great time playing the game and felt a sense of achievement watching my students grow and become stronger as we progress further into the story. Helps that they are all really lovable too!
Verdict: Play It!
Even with some of the problems I faced, this game is still one of the must-play games on the Switch for me as it is the journey rather than the ending which is more meaningful. Fire Emblem: Three Houses gives you a large variety of choices, be it from character selection to recruit and train, which classes and skills to give to the units and you’ll never be bored. Do let us know in the comments on your thoughts of the game.