Hands down the best tactical RPG experience on the Switch.
System: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Release Date: July 26, 2019
Genre: Tactial RPG
Official Website: https://fireemblem.nintendo.com/three-houses/
Fire Emblem: Three Houses - Launch Trailer Pt. 1 - Life at the Academy - Nintendo Switch
Who it Caters to
When Nintendo announced Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance for the Gamecube back in 2005, our heart fluttered with immense joy and elation, knowing that this title would provide a promising experience for tactical RPG fans. Not only did it go above and beyond with its enormous amount of strategic depth and willingness to push players beyond their mental limits with its insane difficulty, but it also did so gracefully and didn’t subtract from the overall gameplay. While some would certainly complain that parts of the game were incredibly taxing, mostly due to the game introducing new mechanics, it did such an incredible job of putting everything together to create a superb experience. Now we’re in 2019 and Fire Emblem: Three Houses is finally here and after spending a great deal of time with it we can definitely say that this is hands down, the best tactical RPG experience on the Nintendo Switch.
What to Expect
As you’d expect from any title from Intelligent Systems, Fire Emblem: Three Houses takes everything great from its past iterations and adds new layers of excitement with better visuals, an impactful narrative told by exceptionally talented seiyuu, and gameplay that really sells due to its diversity. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the first title that has reached home consoles since the release of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn back in 2007, so it has certainly been a long time coming. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses there are a lot of really great features to discover, such as the new ‘Lecture’ feature which puts you in charge of your class and allows you to develop a strong unit by helping your students study to level up. The new ‘Explore’ option now allows players to roam around the kingdom and build rapport with other members of your unit, or the other 2 houses that are situated within the same area.
By taking part in various activities such as fishing events, fighting tournaments, and a plethora of others, players can develop even stronger bonds via social simulation with their favorite characters to create powerful chemistry when it comes time to battle. A much more robust turn-based system has been implemented to really allow players to think outside of the box and rally their troops to the best of their abilities. Furthermore, with the classic option available which permanently removes a character once they’ve fallen in battle, the stakes are much higher and so every decision you make is pivotal to your unit surviving. Luckily with the new rewind feature allows players to revise their strategies should they ever find themselves in a tight spot, giving players to an extra added dose of thrill that’s needed to keep you immersed for long periods of time.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses immediately dives straight into a cutscene where your main character and Jeralt go out of their way to save the three young nobles: Edelgard, Dimitri, and Claude. Jeralt speaks of a dark past that has to do with Rhea, the Church’s Archbishop, reminding you to stay alert with her motives. You’re then given a role by Rhea herself after arriving at the Monastery to become a professor for one of the academy’s three houses: the Black Eagles, the Blue Lions, and the Gold Deer. From here your destiny is chosen and it’s up to you to make the decisions to ensure that Foldan suffers no more casualties to the ongoing war between the Empire, Kingdom, Church, and the Alliance.
Intelligent Systems have always put a great amount of detail into their visuals in order to bring their game to life, and it’s no different with Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The moment you load up the game you’re greeted with a spectacular anime opening that introduces you to the cast of characters and doing so spectacularly. The UI within the game itself is minimal which really helps to place more of the player’s attention towards actual gameplay, and not being too overly concerned with confusing details. Every character has been created with the utmost care and you can clearly see that when they’re in action during on-field missions or even during regular cutscenes where you’re interacting with one another. It’s really the subtle things that really help Fire Emblem: Three Houses stand out such as the special effects that happen after receiving a passing grade from certification, or the emotions that characters convey when speaking to them via Tea Parties. There’s just a lot to look at and it’s all so beautifully designed that you can’t keep your eyes off it all.
While the gameplay speaks volumes on just how sensational this game is, Fire Emblem: Three Houses also delivers in its sound and music department. As we stated earlier in the review, the voice acting in this game is superb, not only for the Japanese side but the English dubbing as well. Intelligent Systems and Nintendo made sure to go out of their way to gather some of the world’s best to create an experience like no other. Every emotion can be felt while communicating with other members of your unit or just other students on Academy grounds, and the music is just so fitting as it compliments those very same emotions in a compelling manner. When each character speaks you definitely listen because that’s just how commanding they are, and it’s beautiful to play a game that not only delivers in its splendid tactical gameplay but keeps you engaged to build a relationship with your favorite characters. The battle music is quite charming in its own way, as it picks up in tempo when you’re about to unleash a powerful attack, then slows back down once you find yourself thinking over your next plan of action. It's this very mixture of emotional highs and lows that creating a striking balance of beauty and thrill that make playing Fire Emblem: Three Houses a rewarding experience.
Unlike other RPGs where you’re open to exploring much of the world and battle when you please, Fire Emblem: Three Houses sticks to three criteria: Explore, Lecture, and Battle. The other options such as rest and earning certifications are just added bonuses to help level up characters, but there really isn’t an option to really give players a lot of freedom to do as they please. This is because the game relies heavily on a calendar-based system where over the course of a month you’ll be able to engage in certain activities, but with certain limitations in place. One example is during your exploration, activities are limited to a certain number and so you can only do so much within that time frame before moving onto another day. Fortunately, as you level up your professor ranking you’ll unlock more activity slots so that you can spend more time doing things, but it’s still not as robust as you’d think. This isn’t to say that the game isn’t fun by means because this game delivers in a variety of other ways, but not being able to really choose what you want to do on certain days really hinders player freedom. It would’ve been great if the game allowed you to roam as you please, while still retaining the calendar-based system and give us the ability to participate in more battles.
Leveling up in Fire Emblem: Three Houses isn’t like other RPG titles where you’re able to run around and grind in as many battles as your heart desires. To level up you’ll need to always ensure that you participate in lectures with your students, do side quests for others within the Academy, and also rest at times since it helps to build motivation for your unit. This is, of course, a positive aspect of the game since you’re not so heavily reliant on having to constantly battle in order to level up, and can actually spend time getting to know your unit by assessing their study habits and listening to their concerns. In a way it does feel quite organized because with lecturing, you know that over time you’ll be able to better determine who on your team will excel in what area, since the game does a splendid job of providing a list of job classes for each character. So if you wanted your entire team to be nothing but Mages or Pegasus Knights you could certainly do it, granted you have all of the necessary skills available. This versatility gives players the chance to really create a full-fledged team that feels organic, and since you can always switch your class at any time it does create a wonderful dynamic.
As we mentioned before, building rapport in Fire Emblem: Three Houses is really where you receive the most reward since building strong relationships with characters means that their ability to level up will increase exponentially, granting you special traits much faster such as optimizing powerful Gambits, or having powerful Batallians to destroy whoever stands in your way. It really feels like a game where social interaction benefits you more in the end than simply just trying to farm your way through like classic RPGs tend to do, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in our book. It really compliments the actual battles themselves because right after a hard fight, you can engage in simple activities like Tea Parties and really have a blast getting to know new characters over time.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Fire Emblem: Three Houses truly delivers on all fronts by giving players the option to teach, battle, and learn as they progress through the game. By being put in the position of a professor you get to learn the pros and cons of each character on your team, but also the people around you which becomes very important later on in the game’s story. Being able to charm others certainly helps as rewards become greater, but that doesn’t mean you should always aim for the right choice in dialogue. The game does an excellent job of keeping you guessing when it comes to the overall plot, and your decisions do in fact play a role in how things unfold so it’s good to test the waters a bit to see where the story takes you.
Incredible visuals that really help to bring the story to life.
The new battle mechanics introduced into the game provide a lot more depth.
The new feature of social simulation really adds flavor to the game and encourages you to really spend more time with characters rather than just jumping straight into battle.
Hours of gameplay will keep you coming back.
We do wish that the game allowed for more freedom of exploration during the days we had nothing to do. Give us a chance to roam the countryside or something and not just be situated in the Academy.
Things can feel a bit repetitive and could turn off a lot of players.
Honey's Final Verdict:
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a really emotionally riveting title that will continue to touch our hearts for many more hours. We do hope you found our review to be insightful and that it provided enough information to help you develop a better purchase decision. In all honesty though, if you haven’t already purchased this game, we highly recommend doing so because there’s just so much to offer in this game, and with new expansions being developed as we speak this game will have an abundance of content for years to come.
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Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!