Part One: Story
Part Two: Presentation
Gameplay: Persona Emblem
Take the time and social mechanics of Persona. Combine them with the combat of Fire Emblem. And boom! You’ve got Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
The core gameplay is the same as Fire Emblem has always been. When going into battle, you select a team of units, each with their own equipment and abilities, then head into battle. Complete that battle’s objective and you win. But if the enemy completes theirs or your main characters end up dead, you lose. Units that fight alongside one another build support, which can lead to them getting married…
At the end of the game. No children from the future this time! Thank God…
You know the drill. Swords beat axes, axes beat- nope. Not this time. No weapon triangle here! Swords are just as effective against spears as axes are to swords and spears to axes. No magic is superior to any other form of magic. There is no rock-paper-scissors system in this game at all.
Although an archer will still ruin a pegasus knight’s day.
If you make a mistake, don’t worry! You have the Divine Pulse ability! You can rewind to any point in any turn during any fight if you want to go again! Did your dude get hit by a rogue critical hit and die? No need to worry! If you so wanted, you could rewind to the beginning of the entire match! And given how many Pulses you get every match, you are more than secure. Unless you consistently fuck up. A lot.
There’s also a new enemy type: monsters! These big-ass monsters take up numerous spaces on the board, have numerous health bars and magic shields that reduce damage, and they can deal a lot of damage. If you break all of its shields, you can leave it vulnerable. Plus, you get some useful materials!
And then there’s the Batallion system. You can equip each character with a Batallion, which gives them access to one super-powerful attack called Gambits with extra effects. You can stun enemies, light the environment on fire, poison enemies, heal your team, or just do lots of damage over a wide area. If you’re near other units in your party, the chances of your Gambit succeeding will go up. If you’re lucky, this ability could change the tide of battle. But be warned: the enemy has these Battalions as well.
Combat wise, this game is practically the same as always. It’s every other gameplay mechanic that diverges this game from its peers. And where the depth is.
This game runs on a timer, going week-by-week, month-by-month until the game is over. Every week, you have one free day and one day for teaching your units various skills. Every month, you have one main story mission that progresses the plot. Make sure you prepare for that, otherwise you’ll find yourself in a spot of trouble.
Every free day, you can choose to do a few things. One, you could explore the Monastery. While doing this, you could visit the shops to buy supplies, talk to the various characters, or partake in minigames like fishing! Through these various activities, you can raise your support with the other characters or increase Beyleth’s skills with weapons or magic. Raise your skills/support high enough and you can recruit characters to join your class!
If exploring doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you could partake in a seminar! This brief lesson boosts your stats and increases the motivation of the other characters, which will be useful to raise their own abilities. Or, if you just want to burn through the day and increase everyone’s motivation a bit, you could just rest.
Or, if you’re in the mood to kill stuff, you could go into battle! There are a few types of battles: quest battles, which you pick up at the Monastery, Paralogues, which you unlock by building support between characters, or regular battles. These are useful if you want to grind for experience, get some quick gold or resources, or just want to make teenagers mercilessly murder hundreds!
After every free day, you have one study day. In these, you can pick individual characters and help them raise their various stats. Doing this helps build support and quickly boosts a character’s various abilities. If you set certain goals, you can change boost your way further towards a class upgrade.
Speaking of which, I love the class system in this game! Any character can go into any class, should you pour the necessary points into the necessary skills! This makes it easier to customize your team to your liking! Do you like this character but need a spell caster? Just pour some time into them and you can turn him into exactly what you need! But be warned: they may not pass the test. So be careful not to gamble.
This gameplay system is incredibly addictive! Throughout my first playthrough, I had a hard time putting the game down! The in-game days quickly became weeks, the weeks became months, and before I knew it I had burned my entire day and poured over a dozen hours into the game!
I have an addictive personality, leave me alone.
But this goes back to the game’s biggest problem: its length. Again: there is just too much here! By the end of playthrough one, I was thoroughly satisfied! By the end of playthrough two, I was content but exhausted. By the end of playthrough three, I wanted nothing more than to stop playing and go to something else. After finally finishing playthrough four, I was feeling less satisfied and far more relieved to just be done with the damn thing! The only thing that kept me going was the drive to experience the complete story!
This game is fun to play, yes. But by the time you’re finally finished, you’ll forget what other video games look like! When I started playing Crash Bandicoot during my playthrough to relax, I was genuinely taken aback that it wasn’t a tactical RPG! Every game became Fire Emblem! I closed my eyes and saw Fire Emblem! I felt like an alcoholic trying to go sober! It was misery!
But it was fun the first time around. Just like drinking!
Regardless of its faults, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is still a great game. One of the best games on the Switch! It is an absolute blast to play in the initial days! I’m willing to bet that, if you properly pace yourself, you could have fun from beginning to end!
But when you need to burn through it for the sake of a review? Well, that’s not exactly an option, is it?
I’d recommend playing Fire Emblem: Three Houses. It’s one of the best Fire Emblem games, if not the best, ever made! However, I must preface: you need to pace yourself! Take your time, play it in short bursts. Do not marathon through it as quickly as possible, lest you burn yourself out on the game!
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the video game equivalent of that.
Why do I suddenly feel so free?