Fire Emblem is finally back on a home console for the first time in years with the latest instalment in the series, Fire Emblem: Three Houses. It is a rather long game boasting 70+ hours of gameplay on each of its four routes. This piece of information may confuse some people so allow me to clarify. The main three routes of F3H are those for each of the three houses, the Black Eagles, Blue Lions, or Golden Deer; however, the Black Eagles storyline boasts a route branching decision, which creates the fourth route in the story. It is essentially a choice between sticking with Edelgard or with the Monastery.
For my first playthrough, I was leaning towards the Black Eagles before the games came out. As I started, Claude quickly became my favourite choice, but in the end, I ended up going with Dimitri and the Blue Lions house because his character seemed complex and I was excited to see how it would play out. I do, however, plan to go back after finishing and play through the other routes of the game.
In the game, you play as Byleth, son of the mercenary Jeralt who was once a Captain in the Knights of Seiros; which are the warriors of the Church of the Goddess in the continent of Fodlan. I don’t really like reading spoilers, or giving them so I won’t be going into details about the story or characters.
Starting off with how the game runs. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is not too intensive of a game sparing the visuals and attack animations; however, the system does run quite hot after extended hours of gameplay. The game does not drop below a consistent 30 frames per second at any point save for a few lag spikes during big fight scenes or animations.
As the first Fire Emblem game on a home console in a long time, the game looks spectacular, sporting stunning visuals and a beautiful soundtrack – things that people have come to expect from the series. The colours are vibrant and contrast well with each other, making evident the importance of certain details in backgrounds and scenes. The music is excellently composed and matches the tone of the game incredibly well. Playing this game without sound deprives you of the full experience.
The voice acting in the English version is also amazing. Each character is voiced brilliantly, full of emotion and actual oomph. The one gripe I have is how the main character/player character is not fully voiced in every scene, which feels awkward at times where other characters are speaking but the player/Byleth is not.
Character design is beautiful, both visually and personality-wise. Each of the different characters from the different houses is unique, requiring different parameters and skill growth to increase support levels and chances for recruitment. There are, however, varying degrees of usefulness for each character, which allow players to create a diverse team to take into battle, whether focusing on magic, speed, or even cavalry. The multitude of choices available means that you can play in any way you want, with any combination; even though a mixture is advised. This is a part where Fire Emblem shines, and always has. The dialogue from characters, as well as their individual choices and stories, make the player emotionally invested in them and actually care. It is exactly this that makes the story that the game tells even more impactful.
Speaking of the story of Fire Emblem, it is where (with the assistance of the beautifully defined characters) the game is incredibly strong. To be completely honest, the first-hand experience of Fire Emblem stories and characters has always been my main reason for playing the games, although the engaging gameplay is always a huge plus as well. With its four different routes telling four vastly different stories that play out in the same world along with the same characters, seeing them all in different lights and timelines is an awesome experience. The story of Fire Emblem: Three Houses is engaging, emotional, thoroughly interesting, and a unique experience when combined with the gameplay aspect. This game is really not something one can miss.
Onto what actually makes Fire Emblem a videogame and not an anime; the actual gameplay aspect. Fire Emblem Three Houses brings the traditional strategy gameplay of the Fire Emblem series to the switch, sticking with its madly successful and fun gameplay formula while introducing a ridiculous number of statistics, classes and weapon types; which can all be used in multiple different ways by different classes and characters. The level design is well laid out and organised in a non-confusing way. Each stage plays out differently due to the surprise ambushes and the variety of objectives, and win and loss conditions in each mission or battle.
The other portions of the gameplay, such as the exploration and teaching aspects. Exploration of the monastery provides a nice break from the battle aspect and is the main way in which you as the player will manage equipment, recruit and build relationships, and complete missions for items, money, and to build a relationship. The teaching aspect allows you to take control of a week’s lectures by planning them out in order to build your students’ skills and relationships. They may even come to you with questions as to what paths to follow and which skills to focus on, allowing you to switch their goals midway through the week. This way of skill-building is really fun and I find myself sinking a decent amount of time into planning classes for characters, choosing skills to build, and making sure that each student is happy with the path and goals I have set for them.
To summarise, Fire Emblem Three Houses is an incredible game and a definite buy for fans of the series. It is a thoroughly enjoyable gaming experience, providing satisfying and entrancing gameplay. Combined with the complex characters and the depth of the story, Fire Emblem Three Houses sports a beautiful trifecta of Gameplay, Characters, and Story, supported fully by the masterfully composed soundtrack, and beautiful artwork and animation. Even for those who have not played a Fire Emblem game before and are looking into the series, this is a great place to start.
Final Score: 9.6/10 (A Must-Buy)
Speaking of Academies like the one in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, My Hero Academia made it onto my Top 10 Anime of 2018 list so check that out here!