Coming exclusively to Nintendo Switch, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is set to spark interest in the long-running tactical RPG franchise once again.
The 15th game in the series, Three Houses is a return to the more traditional Fire Emblem game model after the recent series of Nintendo DS releases, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate appearances, and the Dynasty Warriors-inspired spinoff. It’s almost impossible to avoid running into this franchise!
Fire Emblem has traditionally been described as a tactical role-playing game, although the role-playing aspects are turned down to the lowest possible levels while still maintaining the legitimacy of the description.
The core gameplay is split between two vastly different modes. The first is an open(ish) world discovery mode, where your selected character can choose to carry out story driven tasks and discover more about the incredibly detailed world around them. It can feel a little gimmicky, however a good experience is available to anyone willing to make the effort. The second, and arguably more interesting, mode is the turn-based combat system. It’s here that most casual players will find value and interest in the game. While you will develop your character, gain experience and collect items in the story mode, the only real impact you will notice is out on the battlefield.
The story provides the context for the characters and requires an encyclopaedia worth of knowledge to fully appreciate. You’ll get lost in the conversation and find yourself figuratively making notes to ensure that you can keep up with the comings and goings of three nations, three houses and multiple ancillary characters. Once you choose your allegiance within the Monastery, which is essentially the game hub, the story becomes much more nuanced and characters from other houses will react to you accordingly. Although outside of the character availability in combat scenarios, this only presents itself as restricting you to selected narratives.
It truly is a deep experience following the story, and one that lovers of complex story development will enjoy. You’ll have every opportunity to discover the context soaked into the core of the game, which may or may not influence your decisions in later sections of the storyline. There are many similarities here with the core gameplay of the popular The Banner Saga, although the story-driven content is much more accessible in Three Houses. Thankfully, the moments where you are following the story are all supported by thoughtful voice acting, which adds personality to characters which can be missed in similar titles.
To counteract the slower and more thoughtful dialogue, the cut scenes and combat are fast and explosive. They are extremely well animated, and an absolute pleasure to watch or play. The HD update and smooth combat motions are immediately likeable and show the significant leaps in technology since the last time this was on a home console, 2007’s Radiant Dawn on the Wii.
The gameplay really suits the Switch format.
The gameplay really suits the Switch format. In handheld form, like with the previous Nintendo DS versions, you can take your time and plan out your strategy. It’s also easy to jump in and out of the game during a commute. While the animations are quick, you won’t feel like you’re rushed and you’ll enjoy watching a well-executed attack as it lands. It’s a game that’s more suited to handheld form, although the cutscenes do look particularly special in full screen mode.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses takes its time between the numerous action sequences to develop the rich story. While you can choose to skip past it, doing so will mean you miss out on one of the biggest strengths of this game. It’s a love letter to the fans of the original format, a step forward in the development of the franchise and a welcome addition to a strategy game collection.
Fans of the series have been eagerly awaiting this next iteration of Fire Emblem and will no doubt be happy with what has been delivered. It’s been updated and treated in a manner that will keep players entertained for many hours to come. With the continued growth in both the popularity of the Nintendo Switch, and the historical reverence of recent entries in the franchise, it stands to reason that Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a long overdue release for this console.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is available now exclusively for Switch.