BY DEAN MOSES
Game: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Platform: Switch
Rating: T for Teens
War and peace. Education and exploration. Friendship and loss. Teacher and student. These are just some of the ideals we, as the player, explore in the magical world of Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
From Mercenary to Professor
Starting the game, we are afforded the option to choose our gender, birthday, and name, providing us with a deeper connection to our protagonist before we even start our adventure. Speaking of adventure, ours begin whilst traveling with our mercenary father—Jeralt—when we come across three young nobles under attack by bandits. You and your battle-ready father fend off the outlaws and save the day. From here on you accompany the youths to Garreg Mach Monastery, a Hogwarts-esque school where students are trained for battle. It is inside these great walls you discover that your dear old dad was once, long ago, the captain of this school’s army. Forced into returning to his previous post, you are likewise given no choice in becoming the academy’s newest professor. It is at this moment you undertake a myriad of objectives: Teach and befriend your students, lead them to victory on the battlefield, and learn why you were forced into this position to begin with.
One of Three
Fire Emblem: Three Houses can be classed as a tactical role-playing game, although labeling it as merely such alone would be doing it a tremendous injustice. The Garreg Mach Monastery teaches—as the title of the game suggests—three houses: Golden Deer, Blue Lion, and Black Eagles. Each house has its own students and house leader, complete with their own dialogue and personalities. Before the game truly begins, you must first pick which house you will teach and in turn lead into battle while also watching their specific narrative play out. Determining which house to follow can be a tough decision due to the excellent job developers Intelligent Systems and Koei Tecmo Games have done fleshing out each student. Everyone bursts at the seams with their own unique charm. Thankfully, despite your pick, many of the pupils can be recruited to your class if their individual prerequisites are met, such as giving them a gift.
As a professor, you play through a calendar month by month, with each date corresponding to an event. Most dates you have free time and can spend it exploring the monastery, which allows you to partake in activities like fishing or gardening, even getting to know students by eating lunch with them. Or you can spend time teaching, which effectively consists of advancing your scholars’ skills and advancing the type of career path they will follow on the battlefield, fighter, assassin, etc. And then there is, of course the battles. This is a turn-based strategy segment in which you move yourself and your young army over a grid of squares indicating their movement space. It is crucial to use each of your units’ strengths while also being aware of their weaknesses. For instance, magic users can heal allies but are especially susceptible to attacks. Lastly you can simply rest during your free time. It is through these four activities that lead up to your mission of the month, which is a battle you are required to overcome in order to progress. It’s vital to juggle these events before undergoing the monthly mission if you hope to overcome the enemy.
A New Anime
Throughout the experience we are treated to beautifully animated cut scenes in an anime style. This classic aesthetic technique is carried over to the rest of the game with characters exhibiting the famous large eyes and bright colored hair made famous by Japanese artists. The Garreg Mach Monastery is just as pleasing to the eye. The school grounds are overflowing with greenery on which animals, students, and faculty frolic. Areas like the kitchen, garden, and stables erupt with zone specific detail, and that’s just the passive locations. The battles themselves are rendered with attention to particulars, every sword swipe, every strung arrow and magical spell. There is so much to see, even in the midst of combat.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is one of the most unique games I have experienced in years. It’s novel take and blending of both the RPG and strategy genre is unparalleled. Those looking for a quick action fix will be unsatisfied. However, given some patience, the riveting plot, original gameplay, and engaging characters make this game a must play. While teaching your students you may even learn something about yourself.