We’re on the home stretch now, kids! This is the fourth installment of our Fire Emblem: Three Houses review — and the second-to-last conversation before we render final judgment. Yesterday we discussed the daily life aspect of Three Houses, wherein you explore Garreg Mach Monastery and just chill between battles. That’s a fairly new feature for Fire Emblem! Which is why we’ve decided to go in the complete opposite direction this time. Today in our Fire Emblem: Three Houses review, we’re discussing how the Switch game stacks up to our experiences with the franchise before now. Let’s take a look!
Just a reminder: Each of us (merritt, Steven, and John) picked one of the three different houses in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Now we’re seeing the game through those very different eyes. And since we’ve had time to see those routes through, we’re going to talk about our different experiences every day this week. Below are our latest round of thoughts (based on just over 30 hours with the game) about how Fire Emblem: Three Houses compares to older games in the series. Take a look, and then stick with us for the rest of the week as we address things like the main plot!
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Steven Strom, Bad (but Proud and Supportive) Black Eagles Bitch:
Yesterday we briefly talked about how Fire Emblem: Three Houses does its social sim stuff differently than other games in the series. I wanted to zero in on that a bit! Which is to say that I’m curious what your history with Fire Emblem games is, and how you think Three Houses compares to the past.
Personally, I’ve only seriously played Awakening (the first game in the modern era of the series) and Shadows of Valentia (a remake of one of the old games). I tried Fates, too, but never could get into it.
So far, despite my issues with the menu design, I think this is my favorite of the bunch. It’s taking the series in a direction I really like — towards the visual novel/dating sim stuff — but gives me enough to chew on with the combat. I don’t personally find the combat as challenging as past games, but I think that might be because it lets me get so very granular with my team composition and strategy. Whereas before the “weapon triangle” basically just led to my units getting one-shot if they were one square too close to a blue guy.
How do you two think this compares to the rest of the series? Do you have much experience with the other Fire Emblem games at all?
merritt k, King of Blue Lions:
I’ve played Awakening and Fates — I completed Conquest and got a ways into the “true” game of the latter. Awakening was fantastic, while Fates was basically okay. There were a lot of problems with it, but I think the most glaring was how they shoehorned in the kids mechanic from Awakening. It was one of the most popular features of Awakening, so I don’t blame them, but without the time travel narrative hook it didn’t really work. You were just throwing your kids into time holes and then plucking them out when they were teens. So I definitely like that they’re moving away from that and finding new ways to get players attached to the characters.
There are fewer characters in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and so there’s more space to develop them. Whereas in Fates, several characters were basically one-note: they want to see boys kiss, they’re sleepy, and so on. And to me this indicates that the series could benefit from an even greater reduction in cast size. It’d pair well with more granular combat, too, if you were working alongside and getting to know four or five characters.
As someone who’s only played the modern games, it seems like Three Houses is targeting the widest Western audience yet. More and more, Fire Emblem seems like Pokemon to me — Nintendo is pushing it as a fun fantasy romp, but there’s a ton of weird semi-hidden mechanics under the hood that are holdovers from decades-old games. It’ll be interesting to see where the series goes from here.
John Warren, Duke Buckworthy of Golden Deer:
Folks, I was talking to Niki the other day about this on our new program (Late Lunch airing Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 1 p.m. PST on twitch.tv/fanbyte). Ahem. I played quite a bit of Awakening, but could not tell you a single thing about it beyond “I had fun and sunk 15 hours into it.” It occupies a very strange space in my games history as a game that I actively remember enjoying, but otherwise remember nothing about. Awakening was my first Fire Emblem, though, as I suspect it was for many folks having a blast with Three Houses.
Three Houses is the best game in the franchise that I’ve played. It’s definitely better than Heroes and (from what I remember lmao) even Awakening. I think having a core group I’m tasked to care for, with options for external recruitment, really seals this as more of an immediate investment for me.
Heroes occupies a “best of” space for mobile, but I can see a future where they blow it out and do a AAA Switch version that combines all of these characters and settings. I can easily see that. I’m there for it.
In the meantime, I’m enjoying Byleth as Professor Fisher Queen and her wacky kids.
Steven: I was also talking with Niki, as well as merritt, on Fanwidth (the Fanbyte podcast that airs every Wednesdays — available on iTunes or any other podcast app/service of your choice). *cough, cough* And what I mentioned is that this makes me want to go back and give Fates another go. I know you say it’s just okay, merritt, but it’s also a lot of okay. I agree that a smaller roster with even more depth (a la Persona) is probably the direction to go in the future. But, even in its less refined state, the idea of sooo many more Fire Emblem sweethearts to marry off together holds a major appeal all of the sudden.
I’m curious to see if that holds up. This is supposed to be a long game. I’m dozens of hours in at this point and still haven’t reached the infamous time skip — which we’ll talk about tomorrow. Granted, I’m largely doing this to myself by grinding so much, but an estimated 80-ish hours to completion feels like a lot of Fire Emblem all by itself.
I’ll admit that I also did play a bit of the mobile game again last weekend. Maybe that will be an even lighter, easier way to experience “more Fire Emblem”: more turn-based battles, more character collection, and, yes, more horny unit design. Or maybe that’s even a bit too casual for me. Either way, by smoothing the formula over for a new audience, I think Fire Emblem: Three Houses is about to send me on a research run through some of the older games.
Wish me luck!
This concludes part four of our Fire Emblem: Three Houses review letters! Stay tuned this week for the conclusion to our review and our final thoughts on the game. And check out our very many guides elsewhere on the site!