NS Review – Fire Emblem Three Houses (Switch)

Fire Emblem is back baby! Out for its first venture into a Nintendo home console since the Wii and this time as a school based RPG, because they’re all the rage. The twist? You are the teacher not the student. Fire Emblem Three Houses is set in the land of Fódlan where there are three great kingdoms with a holy land in the centre, a monastery and military school for the church of Seiros.

Like the previous game Fates there are 3 factions or houses to choose between only this time you get them all in a single game. The game starts with a gorgeous anime battle cutscene which you get a few of during the game but not as many as I’d hoped after the introduction. Then you wake a deity? And choose your gender only to wake and find the battle was a dream.

At the end of the tutorial battle you meet the deity, Sothis, the Beginning. After a brief bit of story you’re thrust into becoming a professor at an elite school containing future rulers of each of the 3 kingdoms in the land and have to choose which class (kingdom) you wish to teach. You do get to find out a bit about all your future students before you make your decision though.

Not really the attire for a teacher… Hot pants, belly showing, tattooed legs and bancho style coat… Atleast there’s a tie like thing.

The story has your typical Fire Emblem twists and turns but didn’t have me screaming out to find out what happens next, however there are plenty of mysterious teachers and students at the monastery just waiting have their secrets unlocked. Nor is it to say the story isn’t interesting, it’s just the answers to most of the questions you’d have are far off in the distance for the first 20-30 hours.

Fire Emblem Three Houses is a bit like a mesh of all school based JRPGs, at first I was reminded of Trails of Cold Steel by the music, the general tone of the start of the game, joining a military academy and only having free time a few times before each mission. Then there’s Persona 3 as each month around the new moon (instead of full moon) you must complete an assigned mission, also talking to Sothis in your head same as Pharos living inside and guiding you. There’s the usual you’re at the school for a year too and the overarching team spirit with everyone helping each other through personal issues, I suppose Intelligent Systems took an “if it ain’t broke don’t my fix it” approach as many school based JRPGs are considered the best examples of the overarching genre. For those excited it’s like Persona, Fire Emblem Three Houses is far more like a Falcom game than Atlus.

Check out how many people there are to talk to in the monastery.

One day each week you have free time, during this time you can explore the school, go to a seminar to improve some skills of yourself and some students, take part in an auxiliary battle to level up characters, have students or yourself take an exam to change character class (this one doesn’t use up your day) rest to restore students motivation or skip it all like a boring sod. The popular feature from Persona 4 Golden is here as you can see what everyone else across the world did with their time.

So many things to do.

When you choose to explore you go round the school completing quests, hanging out with your students and what not but you have limited activity points to do stuff. As you complete quests your professor level ranks up giving you more activity points. Wandering around the school gives a ridiculous amount of things you can do including, completing fetch quests, the good ole JRPG staple of fishing, being trained by other instructors to improve your skills, giving advice as a counselor to one mystery student a month, have a student compete in a tournament, use renown (earnt from completing quests) to gain boosts with the Saint Statue Artisan, invite people to tea parties to increase charisma, have a meal with people, make a meal with people, find and return lost items, give gifts to people, visit the online liason to buy items or hire people from the net, Amiibo gazebo which has the best name ever and gives items for scanning Amiibo and more. It’s a pretty crazy amount and takes me about an hour each month to get round all of it.

Let’s go fishing!

I absolutely loved learning about the students as their relationships with yourself and others grew. It’s just a shame a lot of the time there’s only one text option available, it would’ve been more immersive to me to have the protagonist voice acted and just speak.

In battle the usual Fire Emblem rock, paper, scissors of sword, bow, lance is still here but on top of that each weapon can have individual strengths, an iron sword is sometimes more effective than a steel sword against an enemy. Not only that but there are character classes coming out the wazoo and because you’re a teacher training your forces you can guide your students into the character classes you want them to be, depending on their strengths of course. An added bonus is how easy it is to re-equip classes so you can change all your character classes every time you have a free day allowing vast amounts of experimentation. 

Coolest dodge and counter attack ever!

The big battle feature is brought to you by your favourite deity stuck in your head, Sothis, who can turn back time a few turns. You can hire and equip battalions which are like a special attack over an area that can stop enemies moving, poison them, set them on fire etc. Then we have combat arts which are your special moves, abilities that give stat boosts and adjutants to give you hand and build relationships in battle. Basically Fire Emblem Three Houses is bursting out with features and things to do yet always accessible.

That’s a big worm.

An incredible amount of detail and hard work has gone into this to make the game as immersive as possible, one of my favourite additions is in the notes section of each character you can read important past events in their lives, their likes, dislikes and see who their close friends are.

The only complaint I have about the whole game is it’s too easy, tactical RPGs aren’t my speciality so I played on normal but even with permadeath I can just steamroll through battles.

Nobody can touch my armoured warrior.

The graphics in Fire Emblem Three Houses are absolutely beautiful, Fire Emblem had never looked so good. The anime style graphics makes it feel like you’re watching an anime during the relationship building events.

Fire Emblem continues the modern trend of teeny weeny little writing that you can only read if you sit close to the screen or play in handheld. After enjoying Persona 5 from my bed on my TV it was a shame I couldn’t do the same with Fire Emblem.

If you can read it, it’s actually some good advice.

There’s a choice between English and Japanese dub, both of which are brilliantly voice acted, really bringing the characters to life. The orchestral soundtrack is everything it needs to be, it’s chilled with bird song in the background when roaming the monastery, it’s epic in battle and quaint during the relationship events.

I have one wish with Fire Emblem: Three Houses, that you could use Sothis’s powers on dialogue to change your mind, I seemed to choose the wrong answer a lot of the time until I got to know the characters better (they always want to hear what they want to hear, not the truth). Everything else in Fire Emblem Three Houses is just incredible, it is 100% the best tactical RPG I’ve ever played, a very lengthy journey, great story with plenty to do in game and the best new release I’ve played this year. If you have a faint interest in RPGs you won’t be disappointed by Fire Emblem Three Houses.

Fire Emblem Three Houses is available both physically and digitally on the eShop now. A huge thank you to Nintendo for providing the review code.

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