Fire Emblem: Three Houses
|Fire Emblem: Three Houses|
Icon artwork, depicting the leaders of the three nations in Three Houses' story
|Release||July 26, 2019|
Fire Emblem: Three Houses[c] is a tactical role-playing game, developed by Intelligent Systems and Koei Tecmo for the Nintendo Switch, and published worldwide by Nintendo on July 26, 2019. The game is an entry in the Fire Emblem series, and the first for home consoles since Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn in 2007.
Three Houses is set on the continent of Fódlan, divided between three rival nations now at peace, connected through the Garreg Mach Monastery. Taking the role of a former mercenary and new tutor at Garreg 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, who had previously partnered with the company for Fire Emblem Warriors. The staff wanted something entirely new for the series' debut on high-definition home consoles, birthing the school life mechanics and expansions to battle. Chinatsu Kurahana was responsible for creating the character designs and illustrations as the main character designer. The game's school system and a time skip later in the story took inspiration from Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War.
The game released to critical acclaim, with critics praising the integration of the school system and battalion mechanics, narrative, characters, soundtrack, and replay value. Minor criticisms were directed at the game's easier difficulty compared to past installments as well as some visual and technical problems. By September 2019, the game had sold over 2.29 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling game in the series.
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 Garreg Mach Monastery, which acts 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 Garreg 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 to planting seeds in the greenhouse and fishing in the pond. 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 costs 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 unique units. They move across a grid, transitioning from a top-down perspective to a third-person view when a battle is triggered. A new feature to the series allows player to hire Battalions, additional troops that can support a chosen unit. Battalions have passive abilities which grant character buffs to the lead unit, and can perform special moves called Gambits, which can range from healing multiple units to stunning powerful enemies. Players can also zoom in on the battlefield to assess individual battalions.  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 a set amount of turn actions per battle using the Divine Pulse ability.
Every unit is 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 Emblem games, different units have weapon-based skills called Combat Arts 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 are 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.
Setting and characters
Three Houses 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. The Church of Seiros, based at Garreg Mach Monastery at the continent's center, is the region's dominant religion and is an influential power in Fódlan in its own right. In ancient history, a war raged between the Church's titular founder Seiros and the "King of Liberation" Nemesis, an era which also saw the establishment of the Empire by Seiros. In the thousand years since then, the Kingdom split away from the Empire, then the Alliance declared its independence from both powers. A prolonged conflict ensued, with the Church being responsible for keeping peace. The nobility of Fódlan frequently bear Crests, sigils passed down through families that grant magical powers. The power of crests is attributed to descent from both Seiros and her allied Saints as well as Nemesis's 10 Elites. Bearing a crest greatly influences dynastic politics, with nobles inheriting Crests valued far above those who lack them. Those who have Crests can also wield powerful artifacts called Hero's Relics. The series's titular "Fire Emblem" appears as the "Crest of Flames", the Crest associated with the Progenitor God.
Players take on the role of the main character, called Byleth by default and who can be either male or female. A mercenary by trade, they become enrolled in the Officers Academy of Garreg Mach Monastery as a teacher. During their journey Byleth is aided by Sothis, a strange and initially-amnesiac girl who appears in their dreams and can only be heard by them. At Garreg Mach Monastery, Byleth chooses one of the three school houses, each aligned to a different nation of Fódlan. They are the Black Eagles led by Edelgard, imperial princess and heir to the Adrestian throne; the Blue Lions, commanded by Prince Dimitri of the Kingdom; and the Golden Deer led by Claude, heir to the Alliance's leading family. Each of the houses contains eight named students who form the core of the team deployed in battles in-game. The Monastery's staff includes those who directly work for the Church, some of whom are recruitable by the player. Other characters include Jeralt, father of Byleth, and Rhea, archbishop of the Church.
One night, Byleth and Jeralt rescue three young nobles, Edelgard, Dimitri, and Claude from bandits, greatly impressing them. Jeralt and Byleth are summoned to Garreg Mach Monastery, the home of the Church of Seiros, Fódlan's dominant religion. It is revealed Jeralt was once the captain of the Church's military arm, the Knights of Seiros, and he is forced to rejoin the order while Byleth is made a professor of the monastery's Officers Academy. Jeralt privately warns Byleth not to trust the Church's archbishop, Rhea. Byleth is then given the choice of leading one of the academy's three houses: the Black Eagles, the Blue Lions, or the Golden Deer, each populated by students from the Empire, Kingdom, and Alliance respectively. Byleth assumes their duties as teacher for their chosen house, training their students and leading them in battles on behalf of the Knights of Seiros. Byleth and their students discover frightening hints on the nature of Relics and Crests, such as a Relic thief transforming into a monster. Various conspiracies meddle with the monastery and plot against the Church: masked warriors called the Flame Emperor and the Death Knight, the Western branch of the Church, and an unknown force that can impersonate other people. Byleth thwarts an attempt to steal a powerful Hero's Relic, the Sword of the Creator. Unexpectedly, the Sword activates when Byleth holds it, and Rhea allows them to keep it.
Jeralt is murdered by a student, who was secretly a disguised agent of "those who slither in the dark", a cult that opposes the Church. Reading Jeralt's diary, Byleth discovers that Jeralt fled from the Church due to Rhea's plans for Byleth when they were born. It also becomes clear that the Sothis within Byleth is the Progenitor God, implanted by Rhea into Byleth as a baby in hopes Sothis would be reborn. Byleth pursues the cultists responsible for Jeralt's death. A magical attack by their leader forces Sothis to merge her power fully into Byleth to allow them to survive and defeat the cult members with a newly empowered Sword of the Creator.
Rhea makes a futile attempt to awaken Sothis within Byleth, but the Flame Emperor attacks the ceremony with allies from the Adrestian Empire. The Flame Emperor is revealed to be Edelgard, who like Byleth bears the Crest of Flames; she accuses the Church of being corrupt. If Byleth sides with Edelgard, they help her lead an assault on Garreg Mach. If they side with Rhea, Dmitri, or Claude, then they help in the defense of the monastery. Rhea is also revealed to be a dragon. Regardless of the side chosen, Byleth is knocked unconscious at the end of the battle and wakes up five years later, discovering that Fódlan has plunged into war as the Empire, Kingdom, Alliance, and Church battle each other. The routes then diverge.
- Golden Deer
Byleth reunites with Claude, and they rally their students and the remnants of the Church to stand against the Empire. Gathering allies and support, Byleth and Claude invade the Empire. However, as they confront Emperor Edelgard and her forces, a Kingdom army led by Dimitri also arrives, resulting in a massive battle. Edelgard is forced to retreat while Dimitri is killed. Byleth and Claude press on towards a strategic Empire fort, and receive aid from the foreign nation of Alymra. Claude admits that he had secretly opened relations with Almyra, and announces his desire to open Fódlan's borders to the outside world and end the continent's isolationism. Byleth and Claude attack the Empire capital, where they defeat and kill Edelgard. Byleth and Claude learn "those who slither in the dark" have been manipulating both the current war as well as the war 1000 years ago. Claude's army defeats the cult in their secret underground city. Their leader attempts to destroy them with a rain of missiles, but Rhea intercepts the missiles in her dragon form. Meanwhile, Nemesis is awakened from his tomb by the cult; he and his 10 Elites had merely been a band of thieves who took power from Sothis and her dragon kin after they were slain by the cult in the ancient era. This power was the source of the nobility's crests. Byleth and Claude destroy Nemesis and his undead army. In the aftermath, Fódlan is united under the rule of Byleth and Claude as they open its borders and start relations with foreign nations.
- Blue Lions
Byleth reunites with Dimitri, who has been ousted from the Kingdom due to a coup from pro-Empire nobles. Dimitri has become bitter, disillusioned, and unstable as he is haunted by visions of his deceased family and driven to get revenge on Edelgard at any cost. Byleth's students and the remnants of the Church ally with Dimitri and decide to use Garreg Mach as their base to attack the Empire. Dimitri eventually forces a massive battle between his own army, the Empire, and the Alliance, resulting in heavy losses on all sides. One of Dimitri's trusted vassals sacrifices himself to protect him from an assassin, which in combination with Byleth's guidance causes Dimitri to abandon his desire for revenge. With his own lands secure, Dimitri rescues Claude from imperial forces. Claude dissolves the Alliance and cedes its lands to Dimitri before departing Fódlan. Dimitri then marches for the Empire capital itself. Wanting to make peace with Edelgard, Dimitri arranges a meeting with her and suggest they join forces to realize their goals. Edelgard refuses, however. Dimitri is able to defeat Edelgard and once again offers her mercy, but is forced to kill her when she attempts to attack him. In the aftermath, Fódlan is united under the Kingdom with Dimitri as its ruler, while Byleth becomes the new archbishop of the Church when Rhea steps down.
- Black Eagles
If Byleth sides with Edelgard, Byleth reunites with their students and Edelgard, and finds out that the Kingdom has allied with the Church while the Alliance remains nominally neutral. Edelgard and Byleth attack and seize the Alliance capital and eliminate Claude from the war, either through killing or exiling him. They then advance into the Kingdom, taking a vital fortress. However, Edelgard's uncle Arundel, an ally of "those who slither in the dark", arranges for the fortress to be destroyed as revenge for Edelgard interrupting his own plans. Edelgard keeps Arundel's treachery a secret and tells the others that the fortress was destroyed by Church weaponry. Edelgard continues to lead her armies to the Kingdom's capital. Dimitri meets Edelgard in battle, but is defeated and killed. The Kingdom army is routed and Rhea withdraws to the Kingdom capital with her Knights. In her madness, Rhea sets fire to the city, forcing Edelgard to attack to put a stop to her. Byleth and Edelgard are able to kill Rhea. Byleth nearly dies, but Sothis's Crest Stone embedded in their heart dissolves, reviving them. In the aftermath, Edelgard unites all of Fódlan under the Empire and abolishes both the Church and the nobility.
If Byleth sides with Rhea, a similar scenario to the Golden Deer route plays out, except rather than confronting a revived Nemesis at the end, Byleth must face a Rhea driven berserk after her wounds from saving Byleth at the underground city.
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. Concept development for Three Houses began in 2015 following the completion of Fire Emblem Fates for the 3DS. The team originally planned for Three Houses to be another 3DS title. This was scrapped when production began on Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, resulting in Three Houses being briefly put on hold. When the team learned of the Nintendo Switch, they decided to make the game for home consoles. The team wanted the game to be the biggest and best in the series, and due to it being for home consoles they felt they could not make it alone. With this in mind, they decided to bring in help from Koei Tecmo. At this time, Intelligent Systems and Koei Tecmo were collaborating on the spin-off game Fire Emblem Warriors. After consultation, Koei Tecmo's internal team led by Kou Shibusawa was recommended to them. The biggest challenge for the developers was bringing the series to a high-definition console, a first for the series. Koei Tecmo was deeply concerned in this aspect of development. Full production began in 2017 when Shadows of Valentia was finished.
The narrative was written in the vein of a dark fantasy, with the mature aspects of the narrative showing through the conflict between the three factions. For the social sections, three writers from Koei Tecmo helped Intelligent Systems. Voice recording took three months, Kusakihara estimated the amount of voice acting for the Japanese version as five times that of Fire Emblem Echoes. 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 influence from the Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Koei Tecmo's adaptation of it in the Dynasty Warriors game series; this came about after Intelligent Systems looked at the narrative and world designs used by the Kou Shibusawa unit. The game's native subtitle, a chengyu representing the seasons, was chosen to represent the narrative's four paths. The English title referenced the three school houses featured in the story. Due to its awkward English rendering, the team decided against directly translating the Japanese title.
While Intelligent Systems staff handled the weapon and world design, freelance illustrators were brought in for other parts. The team wanted a new artistic image for the series. Character designs and illustrations were handled by Chinatsu Kurahara, known for Uta no Prince-sama and Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters and who was the main character designer of the game. Kazuma Koda, who had worked on both Bayonetta 2 and Nier: Automata as artist, was another character designer contracted to help. Kurahara was in talks with Intelligent Systems, and the final decision was made as Kusakihara felt she could best illustrate the "glamorous, aristocratic society" portrayed in the game. Her influence was particularly noted in the hairstyles of characters, which differed from those seen in earlier Fire Emblem leads. The anime cutscenes were created by Sanzigen, noted for their cel-shaded 3D CGI animation.
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 Tecmo'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, Intelligent 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. The social aspects went through multiple unsatisfactory builds before some team members suggested a calendar system and ability points. This version finally satisfied the team.
The Weapon Triangle, a recurring system for most of the series, was discarded due to it being a "stylized" system. The new weapon-based skill system was designed to be more realistic and increase player choice. 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. Time limits were suggested by Kusakihara, who was inspired by the video game Pikmin. The skill growth system drew inspiration from Zill O'll, a role-playing series developed by Koei. The team toyed with the idea of including child characters from romantic supports for the story's second half, a feature from Genealogy of the Holy War which they had used extensively in Awakening and Fates. They soon decided against this, opting for a support experience based around character maturation and platonic relationships. While online features such as seen in the "My Castle" feature from 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.
The first wave of Downloadable Content added a new "Maddening" difficulty mode, made to address concerns about the game's low level of challenge on "Hard" mode, as well as various cosmetic options. Later waves of DLC added additional playable characters, additional actions within the Monastery, and a new sidequest.
The four reviewers for Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu all gave praise, with one giving it a perfect score of 10 and the others a near-perfect 9. Eurogamer's Martin Robinson said that it "really is a game of two halves, but they come together to make one incredible whole." Kimberley Wallace, writing for Game Informer, praised the game's ambition and willingness to take risks with the series formula, being surprised by how willing she was to begin a new game after finishing the campaign. Aron Garst of GamesRadar gave Three Houses a perfect score, praising how the game kept him invested in its characters, with his main criticism of the gameplay being its low difficulty.
GameSpot's Kallie Plagge did not like the need for multiple playthroughs to see the entire narrative, but was otherwise enthusiastic about the game's story and gameplay; she called it "the kind of game that's hard to put down, even when it's over". Brendan Graeber of IGN felt that its depth of characters and tactical options more than justified multiple playthroughs, particularly praising its narrative as being superior to that of Fire Emblem Fates. Nintendo World Report's Daan Koopman said that, despite finding the finales of some acts disappointing, the overall narrative and gameplay kept him invested.
The scenario was met with praise, being cited as a mature and ambitious narrative with strong character interactions, with many lauding the difficult narrative choices presented when picking a side in the first half of the campaign. The two interacting gameplay styles were also positively received, with many noting the social elements as a welcome tactical addition. The game's graphics saw a mixed response, with several websites faulting them as low-quality despite strong artistic design. The music and voice acting met with a strong positive response in both versions.
In late August 2019, after the release of Astral Chain, a title also published by Nintendo which was subjected to review-bombing by users on Metacritic for being exclusive to Nintendo, Fire Emblem: Three Houses was review-bombed at around the same time for similar reasons, with users countering the negative scores on both games with 10/10 scores. The review bombs on both Astral Chain and Fire Emblem: Three Houses were later removed by Metacritic.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses was the bestselling game during its first week on retail sale in Japan, with 143,130 copies being sold. The game was also the bestselling game in the United Kingdom that same week, selling twice as much as its second place competitor, Wolfenstein: Youngblood. SuperData Research estimated that Three Houses sold 800,000 digital copies through the Nintendo Switch eShop in its launch month of July 2019. In August 2019, the NDP group shared the ranking of best-selling games of the month in US for the month of July and Fire Emblem: Three Houses was in the second place, counting only physical sales. As of September 30, 2019 the game has sold 2.29 million copies.
- In the end credits, Ikeno is created for "Lead Scenario", while Hayashi and Okamoto are credited for "Scenario".
- In the end credits, Kanazaki is created as "Sound Director and Lead Music Composition", while Morishita and Kondoh are credited for "Music Composition".
- Japanese: ファイアーエムブレム 風花雪月 Hepburn: Faiā Emuburemu Fūkasetsugetsu
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