I have always loved RPGs. The varying levels of customization, hours and hours of plot, and thoughtful combat designs always drew me in more than any other genre. However, one series has always escaped me: Fire Emblem. Though these games contain enjoyable narratives and engaging strategic gameplay, I always felt turned-off for one reason or another. That is by no means a testament to the quality of the series, it just never appealed to me. Then I learned about Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
For the first time ever, I became drawn to a Fire Emblem game. With every new trailer and new feature shown, I grew more excited. Fire Emblem: Three Houses looks to combine its tried-and-true formula with new ideas and mechanics into an extensive, content-filled experience. This blending of old and new is what ultimately won me over.
Back On The Big Screen
While Fire Emblem games have appeared on home consoles in the past, Three Houses will bring the franchise back to TVs after years of hiatus. Now obviously the type of console a game plays on should not be the sole determining factor on its merit. A handheld RPG can bring just as much entertainment as home console RPG. On the other hand, different consoles attract different target audiences. I, for instance, would usually prefer home console RPGs. I always love seeing epic tales play out on a large television screen, therefore I would tend to play on a console that supports that.
Fire Emblem has been on Nintendo handhelds for so long that I associate the games with those systems. Because of this, I just didn’t give it the time of day. Now that Three Houses will support both TV and handheld play, I can experience both the grandiose of a big screen and the convenience of a small screen. I can train and develop my students in handheld mode and switch to docked mode when I want to see an intense cutscene play out.
Death and Rebirth
Permadeath has played a major role within Fire Emblem. This mechanic makes it so that once a character loses all his/her health, that character cannot heal and can no longer be used for the remainder of the game. Up until recently, all Fire Emblem games featured permadeath, with no alternative methods to play. This may appeal to some, but not me. When I play any kind of RPG, I tend to grow attached to my characters. The idea of possibly losing a character I have used and built up forever never sat well with me. For some, permadeath provides that challenge and edge that players thrive off of, and to them I say, “More power to you!”
Fortunately for myself and all other gamers that stress over the loss of virtual loved ones, Fire Emblem: Three Houses will continue the new trend of providing the option to play without permadeath. I could not be happier. Giving players a choice in how to approach a game only benefits the game itself. Diversity in difficulty/play-style in gaming attracts a larger audience. If the developers had not included a non-permadeath mode, I probably would not consider playing Three Houses. Thankfully that is not the case, so I and other players with a similar mindset can experience all that this entry has to offer.
Choices, Choices, Choices
As most Fire Emblem games tend to focus on linear stories and world-building, Three Houses goes in the other direction. From the beginning, players must decide which of the three school houses they wish to support. This choice determines the characters used in battle, along with how certain story beats play out throughout the main campaign. Essentially, Three Houses features a branching narrative. The house a player picks changes the experience going forward, which could not have me more excited. Diverging paths in games provides different outcomes, which entices the player try multiple playthroughs in order to see every little difference between them. “I’ll pick option A this time, but when I play again, I”ll pick option B.”
The idea of choice rings loudly in Three Houses, as the game also includes some of the deepest customization seen in the RPG genre. From student class to individual stats, the player has complete freedom to shape his/her troops however he/she wishes. If I want one character to focus on archery and another to focus on sword-wielding and magic simultaneously, I can do that! The options seem almost limitless, and it has me counting the days until I can tinker with it all.
Have you played a Fire Emblem game before? Will you pick up Fire Emblem Three Houses? Let us know in the comments below! For more RPG goodness, check out our Retro Review of Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, or have a look at our editorial on why Final Fantasy XIV’s Shadowbringers is the best Final Fantasy game you will probably never play. Otherwise, keep it on Culture of Gaming for all things gaming!