Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform Played On: Switch
2018 Placement: Unranked
What It Is:
Fire Emblem at its core is a turn-based strategy tactics game series where you move units around a battlefield and take out enemies. Each unit has its own skills and weaponry and placing your units in the right place can pretty much determine whether a battle is won or lost. But each unit in FE games is a specific character, and over time you get attached to said characters. For the majority of the series the units also have had permadeath – meaning if you lose a unit they’re gone for good – but newer entries including Three Houses gives you an option to not have that on.
Three Houses adds a second layer to the strategy battlefield: in between the main chapter fights you’re a teacher at a school, and your units are your students. You can level up their skills by what they teach you, form social bonds by talking to them between classes, have lunch to boost their stats in the next fight, and so on. It adds a delightful Persona-esque day-to-day pursuit to the game and gives you a chance to fall even more in love with your characters that you’re sending out to die on the battlefield later. On top of that, as the title suggests there are three separate Houses to choose from at the beginning of the game, and while you can recruit some students if you want, each House has its own story so the game has a lot of replayability.
Why It’s Important To Me:
Three Houses is the perfect evolution of the franchise for me. While I have enjoyed all the FE games I’ve played, the fusion of the actual tactical battles with the social sections in the academy make this the top tier entry in my opinion. It also moves slightly away from the romance angles of both Awakening and Fates where you were pairing up every character to get their kids. There is still pairing up of characters here and you get to see a lot of fun interactions, but the actual romance is mostly saved for your specific player character and whoever you choose to pursue. All the characters are delightful, either in a love-to-love them or a love-to-hate them way.
The battle system itself is the most fun it’s been in any Fire Emblem as well. The addition of the “Divine Pulse” gives you a set amount of time rewinds that allow you to fix mistakes in battle. Instead of having to restart the entire fight like in previous FEs, you only need to go back a turn and choose a different tactic. Getting to choose how each character levels up between battles makes it more personal as well. There are just so many quality-of-life updates to the series that make it harder to go back to the more “hardcore” Fire Emblems.
My Strongest Memory:
I think part of why I love this game so much is how it got HarveyZ back into gaming. The true turning the corner of the Make Me A Gamer podcast was when Harvey bought a Switch just to play this game, and then ended up just as obsessed with it as I did. It was fun arguing over whether the Blue Lions or Black Eagles were better (I still insist the Blue Lions are underrated and I loved their entire story) and comparing notes on how the story was progressing for both of us.
It’s also a testament to how strong this game is that as soon as I finished it I booted up a second run-through of the Golden Deer. I didn’t make it all the way to the end with it (in fact I didn’t even get halfway) but I was so enamored with the characters and gameplay that I dove right back in after rolling credits – something I hardly ever do with any game. Also Dorothea is the best girl and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.
Why It’s #46:
In 2018 the only Fire Emblem on this list was Awakening, because at the time it was my favorite FE and really breathed new life into the series. Three Houses then came out and blew Awakening out of the water so hard it disappeared from the list and now Three Houses is the only entry. This is a must-have game if you like the strategy/tactics genre even a little: it’s also the best Fire Emblem to start with if you’ve never played the franchise. Play it!