'Fire Emblem: Three Houses' Review: Get Sucked Into One of the Best Nintendo Switch Games This Year

9.5/10 - Nintendo Switch

Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest installment in the long-running series, is available now for Nintendo Switch and it's one of my personal favorite games of 2019.

After Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates on the Nintendo 3DS, Three Houses had a lot to live up to. Those games brought the series to the forefront of Nintendo's software lineup with refined battle mechanics, deep story and memorable characters.

How is Fire Emblem: Three Houses? I dare say that it's even better than those two. It offers interesting new battle mechanics that feel like a proper evolution for the series, it's graphically superior and the characters are memorable. he story also has so many branching paths that you'll want to jump back in to start another campaign right away.

fire emblem three houses review
Nintendo

STORY

Your character (Byleth) and your father are mercenaries. The world you work in is ruled by the Church of Seiros, and the three kingdoms have an alliance under its watch. Circumstances put you and your father at the Church's monastery where he used to serve as a knight.

You're both employed by the Church. Your father is hired to investigate some wrongdoings around the kingdom, while you are tasked with teaching students. This is where you choose between three houses of students while you take them out on battle missions and teach them how to become better fighters.

s the story progresses you begin to learn that not everything is as it seems. Avoiding spoilers, there's a choice you must make before a time skip occurs. When you return, you have to defeat the central villain, as is common in most Fire Emblem games. While the clues seem to point in one direction, this point in the narrative felt rushed. I would have preferred some character motivations to be more fleshed out through an extra mission or two, but that's a fairly minor gripe.

The story of Three Houses is simple, yet it's unique in that it involves a school and your character is older and more experienced than most of the others. In past games the protagonist was on par with or below the main characters, but Three Houses gives fans a new dynamic of being the one who teaches them certain skills. You can even teach them skills that aren't in their wheelhouse. For example, it's possible to teach a natural archer to become a heavy-armored axe wielder if I choose to if I put the time and effort into it. It's what makes this game have some very deep RPG elements.

In this regard the story really takes a backseat to the characters. All of the students and faculty in Three Houses are unique. While they mostly exude general anime archetypes, the more you get to know them, the more you understand why they act and say the things they do. The game is as much about befriending these characters as it is taking out armies.

The only character I couldn't quite get behind is my own. The protagonist in Three Houses felt soulless compared to everyone else. Corrin in Fire Emblem Fates felt like they had more personality than Byleth, and that's disappointing.

fire emblem three houses brawling
Nintendo

GAMEPLAY

Fire Emblem: Three Houses emphasizes the top-down, turn-based strategy the series is known for. The core mechanics remain the same, but doesn't have the signature weapon triangle. Players have to base their decisions on the strength and skills you have instead of a rock, paper, scissors mechanic.

New to the game is the Brawling weapon class, which allows for characters to strike enemies using gauntlets. This is a great addition as it gives more variety to your group considering you'll likely have a ton of characters to choose from. However, Brawling can become a bit overpowered as it might allow certain units to strike an enemy up to four times in a single turn. To counteract this, there aren't many options for Gauntlets, and there aren't any that give a unit a particular advantage over another. But it still becomes a bit easy to bash through waves of enemies.

There's also an ability that lets players revisit a previous turn. If you lost your favorite unit and you want to save them, you can go back to the turn before and redo that turn over. It's an interesting mechanic, but I barely used it on Casual difficulty.

Battalions are another new addition to the franchise, and they take some getting used to. In the early stages of the game, you won't even bother using them but you'll start to learn how important they can be during later encounters with giant enemies. The Battalions offer units a particular move called a Gambit that sends this small army toward an enemy. There are various Battalions with different functions. Some poison, while others shoot arrows and some can heal units.You'll also be able to use these Battalions to buff up that unit's stats and level up your ability to use them.

his plays heavily into the RPG elements of Three Houses. Players must make lots of decisions outside of the story. You'll have to figure out how your main character wants to fight, which weapons to use, skills, combat art selections and more You'll also need to do the same for your students. There's lots of thought and strategy that goes into each and every moment of this game whether you're in battle or not.

Since you're a professor at the monastery, you keep a schedule of when you go into battle, embark on missions, give seminars and more. The balance between instructing your students and having them learn on the battlefield is tricky to master, but you'll eventually figure it out as you play. There is also free time where you can explore the monastery, participate in solo or group activities and talk to the students and faculty. In this time you can build up support through gifts, recovered items or by having tea. That's right, there's a tea party mini-game that tests you on how well you really know the character you're hanging out with. Trying to strike up three conversations with the character to build support isn't as easy as it sounds. You're timed, and the three choices are sometimes vague enough that they might all be the right answer. There's a lot of trial and error - and luck - involved, but this mini-game is a perfect way to build the support (or romance) you're searching for.

The difficulty of Fire Emblem: Three Houses isn't too strenuous. I played on casual mode so my units would be at a high enough level to take enemies with ease. The last few missions, however, put your army to the test and you'll really need to use your knowledge of taking out the giant beasts to your advantage.

Clocking in at 45-50 hours per playthrough, players will get a lot out of going through the story. There's also a new game plus mode, which makes a second playthrough a bit easier. My first playthrough was so addicting that I had a hard time putting it down. When I finally completed the story, I wanted to jump in right away to choose a different house and see where the story goes.

VERDICT

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is more than I hoped for when the game was first announced. The new title keeps the core mechanics as previous installments while adding new wrinkles that add more strategy and customization options.

Leaning heavier into the RPG elements feels right in Three Houses, creating scenarios where players can truly choose how they play.

The story, while simple, offers a lot in terms of scope and characters who truly shine. There are so many students that you'll want to befriend and fight beside them all. While some story nitpicks and frame rate dips are a tad noticeable, they don't detract from an addicting and masterful game.

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'Fire Emblem: Three Houses' Review: Get Sucked Into One of the Best Nintendo Switch Games This Year | Newsgeek