For the Love of Fire Emblem.
Released nearly one year ago, Fire Emblem: Three Houses quickly became one of Nintendo’s most successful Switch titles. Breaking sales records and even winning Players’ Voice at last year’s Game Awards, Fire Emblem: Three Houses has celebrated a year’s worth of love from its ever-growing fanbase. While the series has maintained ebbs and flows of success since its western debut in 2003, Fire Emblem: Awakening began a massive climb to mainstream success.
Followed by Fire Emblem Fates, Nintendo would allow players to choose sides, marketing the choice function that would affect the plot and divide fans over which side they would fight for. Shortly thereafter, Fire Emblem Heroes, the free-to-play mobile game, invited thousands of newcomers to try the series. This in turn would lead them to try other games in the series, such as the final 3DS title, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, in 2017.
With Three Houses, developer Intelligent Systems stepped into uncharted territory. Using new gameplay mechanics and exploring the story in a different wind, Three Houses maintains a new level of appeal evolving from the series’ history, but what elements make it so appealing to come back to? Even after 100 hours on one House playthrough, players are coming back to finish the story completely in all four routes.
The Four Routes Include Different Storylines
While the title is “Three Houses,” in truth there are four routes to play. In the Black Eagles route, one decision will change the direction of whom you side with. This in turn will change the timeskip route and your alliances in the process.
In a developer interview, Toshiyuki Kusakihara admitted his surprise that players would go through the game more than once. Despite largely playing through the same exact maps, but with different teams, the story would end with different twists, turns, and antagonists to fight. Theoretically, at least one playthrough should be sufficient to finish a game, such as the case of two highly successful JRPGs of this generation: Persona 5 and Dragon Quest XI. While one playthrough of Three Houses should suffice to clear a full game’s worth of story, you’ve still left many mysteries unsolved. The only way you’re going to unlock the full story is to clear the game three more times.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses features a New Game+ feature. This alone encourages a replay. In doing so, you can transfer over certain stats and abilities through the use of Renown. This functions similarly to the Grade Shop system in the Tales games. New Game+ modes allow you to transfer bits and pieces of your last playthrough over to your next one.
For the players who want a challenge, Maddening Difficulty was added in a post-release update. The Maddening Difficulty functions as the “Lunatic” or “Very Hard” mode of the game. With the New Game+ feature, players are encouraged to beat the game at least once so they can transfer over Renown and buff their characters as needed. Fire Emblem titles have allowed players to unlock more challenging difficulties for many years, dating as far back as Blazing Blade, if not sooner. Note that in Blazing Blade, players were encouraged to beat the game four times to play through every single difficulty level.
Bonding with Characters
Three Houses brims with personality across its entire roster. Typical for a Fire Emblem game, the title features many charming characters spread throughout the game. However, with the game split into four routes, each one will give you a chance to bond with different characters from their respective houses. Additionally, this will allow you to choose your partner over the course of four playthroughs
Fire Emblem: Three Houses brims with replay value and delight. It’s not a perfect game, but one that’s heavily enjoyable from start to finish. The gripping storyline and the choices you make will change with each playthrough. In order to uncover the true mystery of Foldan, Sothis, Seiros, Nemesis, and the motivations behind each Lord, you’ll have to play through it more than once. If your first playthrough is close to 100 hours then imagine sinking in roughly 400 hours when it’s all said and done. Plus, with the newly-released Cindered Shadows DLC, you’ll get an additional 8-10 hours worth of story content.
Normally, I clear games after one playthrough. If it has multiple endings or compelling extra content, like NieR: Automata, I’ll try and clear it 100%. As a longtime Fire Emblem fan, though, it’s hard for me not to clear this title and learn all of its lore. I’ve cleared multiple playthroughs of many games in the series, including all three routes of Fire Emblem Fates. Granted, this will take much longer than Fates ever did. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying it.
How many times have you beaten Three Houses and what’s your favorite route? Let us know in the comments below.