Fire Emblem: Three Hopes review — Excellent, challenging offering in alternate timeline
Fire Emblem: Three Hopes is the latest title from the Omega Force Intelligent Systems, and it’s a giant leap forward from Fire Emblem Warriors.
I’ll be frank. The first Fire Emblem Musou title was weak and disappointing. It felt like a disjointed series of stories that ultimately went nowhere and was entirely too easy. Then we received Fire Emblem: Three Hopes.
Built on an alternate timeline of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, arguably one of the best games in the franchise’s history, it brings something new, exciting, and occasionally frustrating. It’s undoubtedly a fantastic leap forward in the quality of both gameplay and content.
While the amount of content can be a little overwhelming, the gameplay satisfies, and the story doesn’t disappoint.
Fire Emblem: Three Hopes is Three Houses, without being Three Houses
When I saw Fire Emblem: Three Hopes would be set in the “Three Houses” story, but the previous protagonist would instead be an antagonist, I was immediately curious. Known as the Ashen Demon or Byleth, the character players used in Fire Emblem: Three Houses still work for Jeralt’s Mercenaries instead of joining the Church staff as a teacher.
Instead, users control a new character, Shez, also a mercenary. They wind up taking the Ashen Demon’s place, and instead of teaching at the Church, they join one of the three factions: The Black Eagles, Blue Lions, and Golden Deer.
Perhaps one of the coolest parts of the early game was seeing the previous protagonist show up, and the default name was the name I used in Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
The prologue is the first four chapters, and after that, Fire Emblem: Three Hopes gets serious. If gamers choose “Classic,” this is where permadeath begins. At this point, the time skip happens, the three factions leave the Church and return to their home territories, and the chaos starts.
For players who played the original title, many of these actions the groups make will feel familiar. The story, like Three Houses, made me think of Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
There are the Black Eagles, similar to Wei and their desire for a meritocracy. The Blue Lions fight for the Church instead of the Han, and the Golden Deer just want to keep their land safe and their people happy.
There are about 50 classes to unlock, so even in multiple playthroughs, characters can try different gameplay styles, and users can focus on various characters. There’s plenty of replayability in this game.
Battle in Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the most critical part and feels great
The most important part of Fire Emblem: Three Hopes is the combat; everything else is secondary. Gamers will control a character and can swap around at will as they murder thousands of soldiers and farm massive combos.
In battle, players will have access to four primary characters and can switch between them. Major story battles will have up to another four units they cannot control but can team up with and give them orders.
Like in Three Houses, each weapon type has strengths and weaknesses, and it’s very easily shown on the map and in battle.
Look for blue arrows (up to three) to have a combat advantage and red arrows (up to three) to signify users will be at a disadvantage. This is a wonderful addition, so they know who to bring to a fight and who to keep at home, especially in Classic Mode.
It’s easy to control what allies do by simply going to the map, clicking a character, and then aiming them at a destination. It’s also nice to be able to make them guard a character, directly heal their allies (if they have a healing spell), or pull them out of a dangerous situation.
But occasionally, your allies just stand around and do nothing after commanding them to do something. I also wish they could use their weapon’s special powers. Otherwise, gamers will have to swap and use these manually to increase their power.
Combat is exactly how I hoped it would be. It’s fast and furious like all Musou games, where players can dodge and chain attacks together and use special attacks based on what weapon they have and what skillset they have equipped.
The protagonist also has a shapeshifting “Awakening” ability to increase their damage and Warrior Specials (Musou moves from previous games), so users have plenty of tools in their kit. The Awakening mode and team-up Warrior Specials are very flashy and, frankly, look fantastic.
Characters move quickly around the battlefield too, and the protagonist can even teleport to an ally a few times per map, which I wound up forgetting about, resulting in quick losses on a map.
There is one thing in combat that is frustrating, though. Essential characters in battle have a shield icon that pops up as you combo them. Depending on their health, when it breaks, it allows gamers to hit “X” to activate a powerful combo attack and, in many cases, finish off the foe and anyone around them.
Before the significant, important battles, players can use Strategy Points they acquire throughout the chapter on various tactics. These include recruiting enemy characters, having healers periodically aid allies, or blasting the stage with fire.
It’s a wonderful addition to Fire Emblem: Three Hopes and adds just a bit more depth to the important fights.
This feels like it just slows down and drags out combat. If users break it and have high HP, it may just do nothing, and they will have to slog through the defense system again. It’s the only thing about combat that I found infuriating and just serves to make fights longer instead of more interesting.
The worst part of combat is the Green allied units. These are guest characters that gamers can’t control and heal. They are often put in dangerous situations, and if individuals don’t respond quickly, they tend almost immediately to die.
They almost always seem to be in situations where they are outpowered and have no chance to defend themselves. This is not always the case, but more often than not, they’re a handicap.
There is also a Base Camp for the post-battle experience
When players aren’t murdering soldiers and generals in combat, they’ll spend time in their base camp, which has been entirely built to let them walk around.
You can teleport to the various areas in base camp, but it’s satisfying to just wander around. Plus, there are lore collectibles to find, so users can learn more about the world. This is also where they have support conversations and know more about each other.
This is where all the non-combat stuff takes place: training, learning new classes, building relationships with allies, buying items/weapons, recruiting Battalions to help in battle, and much more. The game introduces these things gradually, not overwhelming gamers with information and things to do.
Those acquainted with the Fire Emblem: Three Houses gameplay will see familiar mechanics. They can do chores to build relationships and morale, bring their favorite characters gifts, and see comical and occasionally heartwarming character interactions.
It’s lovely to see that friendships can still grow even in the heat of a tragic war.
Like in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, one of the biggest frustrations is getting the more powerful Seals to learn new classes. That’s still very much a thing. You also have to build and improve facilities to improve how these various base sectors function.
I did not particularly care for having to farm resources to improve these facilities, though. It’s one of the few things I could not stand in the game.
It’s not terrible, but it just adds to this game’s many systems. If Fire Emblem: Three Hopes has a weakness, it has to be this.
Each chapter is a bit on the long side, so block out plenty of time to play
This part of Fire Emblem: Three Hopes will either delight or frustrate. Each chapter is more than one battle.
There’s the main battle to take part in and several side missions that can be taken part in. To keep powering up characters, it’s worth doing the different side and challenge missions, especially to get S-rank. S-ranking a stage can deliver some mighty rewards.
It’s easy to see how to get S-rank, too, as Fire Emblem: Three Hopes shows how much damage players need to avoid taking, how many kills, and how quickly they need to win to get the highest rating.
I like having this map to decide where and what I’m going to do, as well. It shows when the limited-time battles will be disappearing and what the various battles entail as well as their rewards.
It’s a solid system and one that allows users to plan ahead and tackle the maps they want.
Visuals and music fit game and look great
The character models look like they did in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and that’s more or less what I expected. There are new characters, though, and they fit in with the overall aesthetic of Fire Emblem: Three Hopes.
I appreciate the standard guitar music from the Dynasty Warriors series. It really took me back to the good old days of Dynasty Warriors 4.
The soldiers are more or less generic, and so are the unnamed characters, but that’s fine. I don’t expect every enemy to look unique.
There are little bits of fanservice here and there, but nothing outrageous. I’m glad you can change your allies’ outfits if you don’t like the character class outfit they just unlocked.
When I play a Musou game, I know what I will get: thousands of bodies dropping, huge combos, and flashy attacks. But Fire Emblem: Three Hopes is deeper and more enjoyable than previous entries in the franchise.
It feels similar to the Zelda Musou, Age of Calamity. It, like this, has improved from the previous entry.
This game is a loving tribute to Fire Emblem: Three Houses without blatantly retelling the story exactly how it was before. There are plenty of references in battles to the previous games’ stories, and eagle-eyed players will spot plenty of these.
There are just so many battles to complete and things to do in Fire Emblem: Three Hopes. It can feel overwhelming, but I tend to play it just a few fights at a time.
That way, it doesn’t burn me out, and I can enjoy bite-sized amounts of content. Fire Emblem: Three Hopes has plenty of replayability between the three factions and trying out different ways to complete battles.
Fire Emblem: Three Hopes and the few moments of frustration do not deter me from having fun. I’m not often emotionally vested in a Musou game, but Fire Emblem: Three Hopes has won me over.
It’s an upgrade in almost every way from the original title. It tells a familiar story, but in a fresh, new way.
Fire Emblem: Three Hopes
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch (Code Provided by Nintendo)
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Omega Force/Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo, Nintendo of America
Release Date: June 24, 2022