Calling it one of the best strategy game franchises in the gaming industry is not excessive. Because it is different from most strategy games that “just” require you to rack your brains on the battlefield, Fire Emblem always injects something more personal in it. You are required to get to know your supporting characters better, carry out the role of a leader which is also translated into gameplay, to build a romantic path if possible. Together with him, he also includes stories with political content that deserves thumbs up. Not surprisingly, many who welcomed the return of this series for the Nintendo Switch via Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
Those of you who have read our previous preview article already seem to have a little idea of what is offered by Fire Emblem: Three Houses. As can be predicted, we fell in love at first sight. For a series that finally comes on a platform with stronger performance, Intelligent System and Koei Tecmo seem to do a good job of offering the Fire Emblem series with high-quality visualization. A strong story, a character design that is ready to make you fall in love, a variety of mechanics arranged to produce a solid playing experience, and of course Waifu’s choice to glance at defining this latest series.
Welcome to Fodlan – a continent that has three giant nations that live side by side. To the north is the Faerghus Kingdom, to the west and to the south is the Adrestian Empire, with the Leicester Alliance inhabiting the east. These three countries surround an important location called The Church of Seiros – an independent “institution” with its own special forces. The Church of Seiros is central to Fodlan and at the same time, serves as a guardian of peace for these three countries.
The neutral Church of Seiros is centered in a monastery called the Garreg Mach Monastery, which is also an academy of education for nobles from the three countries that surround it. There, in addition to meeting with building good relations, his successors could also learn many things – from war tactics, Fodlan’s history, to just farming. The Church of Seiros also provides teachers who are deemed appropriate to train and prepare these future leaders.
You play the role of a mercenary named Byleth, who is in the right place at the right time. In a super urgent situation, Byleth managed to save the students of The Church of Seiros who happened to be the successors of each kingdom. They are Edelgard from Edestrian, Claude from Leicester Alliance, and Dimitri from Faerghus. As can be predicted, Byleth’s heroic actions immediately attracted admiration from Rhea-Archbisop of the Church of Seiros who immediately gave him a job vacancy as a teacher there. Apart from his young age and almost equal to his own students, Byleth agreed and ended up having to choose one of these three kingdoms as the focus.
It seems that it is common knowledge that for the current generation of console competition, Nintendo Switch can indeed be called a weaker platform. Therefore, expecting something that has sharp visualizations with high textures like games that make cell-shading the basis of other games is not something that you can rationally anticipate. But considering that the Fire Emblem was last released on the Nintendo 3DS – a handheld which incidentally is weaker in terms of performance, the Three Houses at this time seems to be worthy of the title as the Fire Emblem series with the best visualization. For those of you who are familiar with the appeal of this franchise, this also means the design of female characters who never fail to tease.
With this extra performance, the overall Fire Emblem: Three Houses experience is indeed built on three-dimensional models, both from the character, the structure of the building, to the units when fighting later. One of the most significant changes from this strategy is of course through the presentation of the dialogue which is now presented in the form of the cut-scene that should be, rather than just two image sprites facing each other. Does this change offer something different for Three Houses? Visually, yes. But that doesn’t make it feel better. The lack of emotional expressions and cut-scenes which mostly ended with two characters standing static while sharing stories made it not feel like a big upgrade from using two-dimensional character images in the past.
But, once again, an extra appreciation deserves to be given to the character design carried by the Three Houses, especially for existing female characters. Not only do we meet the faces of characters who pamper the eyes, but also supported by the selection of costumes that are so fantastic. One thing we like is how this appearance, in addition to being just a fan-service, can also provide its own insights about the geopolitical conditions of each kingdom involved in the Three Houses. One of the coolest examples? Dedue and background of the story. The war with the king’s family – Dimitri did end in the defeat of the people of Dedue, which was told through dialogue after dialogue. But this conflict has its own “weight” when you realize that the skin color of the people of Dedue is different from Dimitri, giving the impression that this war might be colonial.
But unfortunately, the geopolitical mirror between the three kingdoms and the Church of Seiros which is the center of the Three Houses story is not explored more deeply. At least from the two story lines we tried via Blue Lions and Black Eagle (“Non-Edelgard), there are not many opportunities to explore the way work, lifestyle, culture, or the way each kingdom governs. The Church of Serios is a “fusion center” which unfortunately is also a reason for Intelligent Systems and Koei Tecmo to dive deeper into the world. In fact, the potential is big. Even by just looking at costume designs that are significantly different between Golden Deer and Black Eagle, for example, there is a strong impression that these two kingdoms have different government and political styles. But unfortunately, everything is just an “impression”.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is also a bit of the latest JRPG game that still uses FMV to mix important story cut-scenes on a more dramatic scale with a thicker anime flavor. Most of these FMVs carry out their duties well, making the part of the story that is supposed to arouse emotion end up that way. Cool again? Fire Emblem: Three Houses prepares quite a number of variants depending on the kingdom and the storyline you choose.
So from the presentation side, we ourselves ended up falling in love from the first sight with Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Extra performance is used to bring everything to the three-dimensional model while maintaining some of its series of past trappings, from character, voice acting, to female character design spoil the eyes. In the end, it’s hard to deny that the foundation for a large-scale waifu war is also available here.
3 Paths, 4 Stories
So, how does the style of Fire Emblem: Three Houses present the story? You might be curious about the three kingdoms system that you can choose at the beginning. In the end, it’s hard to deny that one of the three stories that you can live it does end up being the main story. While the remaining two scenarios end up being an “alternative” scenario or just a complementary scenario from the main story offered. These three stories will center on the same main conflict, but have different resolutions. That in the end, regardless of any claim thrown by the Intelligent System, the Black Eagle scenario in our eyes still deserves to be counted as the main story of the Three Houses themselves.
Outside the Black Eagle scenario, almost all the scenarios move in the same linear story. That apart from the various conversation options that arise during the cut-scene, there are at least only 2 points where the choice really changes the story you get. First, is when you choose the kingdom that will be your student, which incidentally will define the story and also which characters you will get. Second? At one point the Black Eagle story will give a different story experience.
The rest? All choices that appear in the cut-scene will not produce any branch of the story and act like a chance to increase the level of closeness with the character of the other person. So with these combinations, Fire Emblem: Three Houses offers three storylines, but ends with 4 stories that you can finish. Each of them can offer a gameplay time of 25-40 hours depending on the intensity of your game. Completing these 4 stories certainly takes time. But take it easy, there is no sense of having to enjoy each of these stories, even though we ourselves still recommend you to at least taste the Black Eagle, whatever the sequence of your game will be.
With all the uniqueness that he offers, how the storyline and fantastic supporting characters that you can meet and even end up marrying at the end of the story grow and develop, then there is no better way to enjoy Fire Emblem: Three Houses than enjoy it in “Classic” mode. Classic mode will make all the characters who end up killed in battle will be killed permanently and you can not use again at all. Any story that concerns them, including side missions, will end at that point. With this Classic mode, your love and care for characters with strong personalities on this one will be more intense. To the point that it will change the way you think and make decisions when fighting, just to make sure they don’t end up having to die.
Become a Teacher
Broadly speaking, the core game Fire Emblem: Three Houses is divided into two major parts. For this session, we will focus on mechanics who might remind you of how Atlus handled Persona 5 with their school life as teenagers. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the game doesn’t move like most strategy games that will be consistently consistent from moving from one battle arena to another. Fulfilling your role in the story, you are also required to carry out your duties as a teacher.
Your activity as a teacher is to hold SEMINAR – where you can choose one specific teacher to teach two separate skill sets that will automatically encourage the progress of the status of students who choose to participate. As an example? Asking Mercedes as a seminar teacher will provide extra EXP for the status “Faith (White Magic)” and “Reason (Black Magic)” for the characters who follow this lesson. You cannot choose which students will take part, but there is an extra motivation motivation for those who learn it.
Because the reinforcement of characters in Fire Emblem: Three Houses does not depend on level alone. It also depends on how well each character specializes in their dominant status. As an example? Archer classes who continue to study and raise Archery status at the end of the week will get a slow but sure specialization process, with grades based on letters, will appear more effective. The higher your specialty is in a particular status, the more effective it is, the more permanent skills and buffs you can access to make your battle easier. Moreover, as a teacher, you have two other extra responsibilities – JOBS and GOALS.
Become a General
So besides being a teacher, you will also spend most of your time playing Fire Emblem: Three Houses by becoming a General. That in almost every battleground you must pass, students who put their lives in your hands will ask you to lead them, both in the name of victory or just salvation. On the gameplay side? It is no different from many tactical RPG / strategy games in general.
Box-based movement systems with different distances depending on the job and character you choose, the battle system will be divided into the Player phase and the Enemy phase which will attack alternately. Depending on the character and the distance available, the party attacked can also strike back at the same time, making this process can end up more difficult than it should. Critical systems sometimes make you attack twice in a row for greater damage. And of course, based on the status of your character, the battle journey can also be filled with effects such as “Miss” which makes the attack not cause any damage to the level of closeness with other units which can also affect the amount of defense and damage that you produce.
The new system offered by Fire Emblem: Three Houses is also offered in the form of Battalions. So instead of just fighting alone in battle, you can embed special forces for these units whose compatibility depends on the level of authority they have. Battalion will affect the status that usually ends up reinforcing the character that you embed, while providing a special attack effect called GAMBITS. Depending on the type of Battalion you install, GAMBITS can end up being a two-lane attack which also makes the enemy unable to move until it only provides buff defense for the surrounding characters. Setting which Battalions are pinned for which characters will also help your journey.
Like a feeling of longing that is relieved, it is certainly a relief and fun at the same time to see the name Fire Emblem return to a platform that is stronger than the performance of handhelds that are so old. And as far as we have seen, heard and played, Nintendo along with the Intelligent System and Koei Tecmo must be recognized, doing a good job with it. That they seem to understand what the Fire Emblem fans of this series want, while still offering content that is quite interesting to the newcomers gamers on it. In the end, it must be admitted, the main attraction still lies in the characters with attractive designs and personalities and easily builds emotional closeness with you, especially if you choose to use the permanent death system offered as an option here.
But of course, Fire Emblem Three Houses is not exactly a perfect game. A feeling of disappointment that cannot be abandoned just like the potential to delve into the stories, cultures, and politics of the Abandoned Three Kingdoms is indeed too big to not talk about. It is unfortunate that all actions in most scenarios center on the existence of the Church of Serios as central. One other complaint that is quite annoying? His inventory system. There are so many steps and menus that you have to choose just to exchange items, choose weapons, use accessories, or just shop and pair certain items to specific characters. Those annoying steps that should no longer occur in modern games like this. Conversation options that do not have much effect on the storyline also become a separate note.
But beyond all that, it’s hard not to mention Fire Emblem: Three Houses as one of the best tactical / RPG strategy game experiences we’ve tasted in recent years. That in the end, this was never always a matter of blood, throne, and women. That this is also a matter of sibling, love, and story.