Fire Emblem: Three Houses
|Fire Emblem: Three Houses|
Icon artwork, depicting the leaders of the three nations in Three Houses' story, and both genders of the main protagonist.
|Release||July 26, 2019|
Fire Emblem: Three Houses[b] is an upcoming tactical role-playing game, developed by Intelligent Systems with support from Koei Tecmo Games. The game will be published worldwide for the Nintendo Switch by Nintendo on July 26, 2019. The game is the fifteenth game in the Fire Emblem series, and the first for home consoles since Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (2007).
Three Houses is set on the continent of Fódlan, divided between three rival nations now at peace, connected through the Garegg Mach Monastery. Taking the role of a former mercenary and new tutor at Garegg Mach, the player must choose a nation to support and guide them through a series of battles. The game carries over the turn-based tactical gameplay of earlier Fire Emblem titles, while incorporating social simulation and time management elements.
The game's production was challenging for Intelligent Systems, who attributed its success to Koei Tecmo Games, who had previously partnered with the company for Fire Emblem Warriors. The staff wanted something entirely new for the series's debut on high-definition home consoles, birthing the school life mechanics and expansions to battle. Chinatsu Kurahana was responsible for creating the character designs. The game's school system and a time skip later in the story took inspiration from Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a tactical role-playing game in which players control a player character whose gender and name are chosen at the beginning of the game. During the opening hours, the player character is asked to teach at the Garegg Mach Monastery, which act as a hub for game activities. Choosing a particular school house to teach impacts the narrative from that point on. The player's time is divided between story-based battles that advance the main narrative, and periods in Garegg Mach where they interact with the students of their chosen house. While the opening half of the game focuses on this school system, the story skips ahead five years and focuses more on battle, with the player being locked to the house they chose during the opening half.
During the periods between storyline battles, the player has a set number of days marked on a calendar, which can be used for a variety of activities from teaching classes and field exercises. The player also has free time events, where they can socially interact with students and build up relationships with them. Building a relationship is done through Support actions, with actions and dialogue choices impacting a character's Support level. If the relationship is strong enough, this can lead to the two marrying after a story-based time skip event. Each action during academy sections cost points, with a set number of points available each day and more activities than can be covered by the points available. The player must choose which events to trigger, losing access to others in consequence.
As with other Fire Emblem games, Three Houses uses a turn-based battle system; players take control of a set number of battalions led by chosen lead characters called "Units". The battalions move across a grid, transitioning from a top-down perspective to a third-person view when a battle is triggered. Players can also zoom in on the battlefield to assess individual battalions. Battalions have passive abilities which grant character buffs to a Unit. Additional troop groups called Gambits can be hired for battles to back up battalions, executing special moves such as healing multiple units or stunning powerful enemies. As with other entries, there is a "Classic" mode where characters who fall in battle are subjected to permanent death, and a "Casual" mode where fallen characters are resurrected after each battle. Players can also undo turn actions a maximum of three times per battle using the Divine Pulse ability.
Leaders are assigned a character class, which can be customised. While characters have starting abilities which naturally grant them a class, they can be taught additional skills which alter their class; class changes are available upon a student's "graduation" during the school segments. Rather than the previously-established Weapon Triangle of earlier Fire Emblems, different units have weapon-based skills they can be taught during the school segments. Weapons have a set number of uses before they degrade and have their stats reduced. Combat Arts associated with weapons are also available; activated in exchange for some of a weapon's durability and learned by becoming proficient in a type of weapon, they deal higher damage than standard attacks.
The game takes place on the continent of Fódlan. The landmass is divided into three rival nations who are now at peace: the Adrestian Empire to the south and west, the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus to the north, and the Leicester Alliance to the east. At the center of the continent is the Garegg Mach monastery, home of the Church of Seiros and its Officer's Academy. The academy comprises three houses, each populated with students from their respective nations: The Black Eagles, Blue Lions or Golden Deer. The player character's name and gender may be chosen by the player, but is named "Byleth" by default. Once part of a mercenary group led by their father Jeralt, Byleth is offered a position to teach at the academy after an unexpected incident. As they start to teach their students, including Edelgard, Dimitri, and Claude, the heirs of their respective home countries, Byleth begins to see Sothis, a mysterious girl only they can see.
Following the unexpected success of Fire Emblem: Awakening for the Nintendo 3DS—which helped save the series from cancellation after flagging sales of earlier entries—, the Fire Emblem series gained renewed commercial value and prompted developer Intelligent Systems and publisher Nintendo to bring the series back to home consoles for the first time since Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn in 2007. The team wanted the game to be the biggest and best in the series, and due to being for home consoles they felt they could not make it alone. With this in mind, the team brought in Koei Tecmo Games, who had previously collaborated with Intelligent Systems on the spin-off title Fire Emblem Warriors. The biggest challenge for the developers was bringing the series to a high-definition console, a first for the series. Koei Tecmo Games was deeply concerned in this aspect of development.
According to an interview with Intelligent Systems director Toshiyuki Kusakihara and Nintendo EPD director Genki Yokota, Three Houses in its released form would have been difficult or impossible to make without Koei Tecmo's help. They particularly cited Koei Temo's experience developing large-scale battles for their Dynasty Warriors franchise. This experience allowed multiple characters to be shown on screen in battles for the first time in the series. While Koei Tecmo helped with much of the technical and programming side, Ingelligent Systems still took the lead on design and other core aspects of development. The new school setting allowed the team to considerably expand the series' RPG mechanics beyond the typical tactical battles which had dominated the series up to that point. Due to its status as the first home console entry in twelve years, the team were under pressure to create something new and exciting. This led to the creation of Battalions in battle and the teaching segments.
While Intelligent Systems staff handled the weapon and world design, freelance illustrators were brought in for other parts. Character designs were handled by Chinatsu Kurahara, known for Uta no Prince-sama and Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters. Kazuma Koda, who had worked on both Bayonetta 2 and Nier: Automata as artist, helped on the artwork. Two key parts of the game, the school sections and a time skip late in the story, were directly inspired by the 1996 entry Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War; the narrative in Three Houses of characters who were friends in their youth coming into conflict during their older years was almost directly lifted from Genealogy of the Holy War. Kusakihara also admitted some potential influence from the Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Koei Tecmo's adaptation of it in the Dynasty Warriors game series. While online features such as seen in the "My Castle" feature of Fire Emblem Fates were considered, the Monastery was so expansive and its history deep enough that such customization and sharing options would be impractical to implement, so it was left out.
Nintendo first announced that a Fire Emblem game was in development for the Nintendo Switch in January 2017 during a Nintendo Direct focused on the series. An expected release date of 2018 was given for the then-unnamed game. The next new information was at an E3 2018 presentation. The stated release then slipped back into early 2019, but the game's name was announced and video footage shown. In February 2019, the game was showcased in another Nintendo Direct displaying new game and story details including a second delay with the game's release date falling on July 26, 2019 and the confirmation of the co-developer. Another story trailer was showcased at the E3 2019 Nintendo Direct presentation with additional gameplay being shown at Nintendo Treehouse Live later in the week. In July, Nintendo revealed that the game would be receiving an Expansion Pass that would contain downloadable content for the game that would be released from the game's launch until April 2020. 
Polygon reported that Three Houses "looked incredible" and more faithful to the series's animated aesthetic when compared to past games. Both Eurogamer and The Verge compared the academy setting to Harry Potter's Hogwarts school of magic.
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