A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a tactical turn-based fantasy role-playing game for the Nintendo Switch featuring a group of military academy students and faculty. Players command and interact with a cast of dozens of characters, directing -- but not directly controlling -- movements and attacks involving swords, axes, bows and arrows, and magic. Flashes of light accompany successful strikes, and defeated characters fall to the ground and disappear. An optional "permadeath" feature keeps defeated heroes from returning to combat. Anime narrative scenes show stabbings, blood, and the deaths of central characters. Primary characters exhibit a mix of traits, ranging from altruism, assertiveness, and bravery to laziness, cruelty, and deception, though most are concerned with the best interests of their friends, family, and the empire. Play encourages kids to think before acting as they realize that their actions have irreversible consequences, both in terms of how the story unfolds and which of the heroes make it through one battle to fight in the next. The game has also released optional downloadable content (DLC) which has included new costumes, new game modes, and even a fourth group of students to interact with and command on the battlefield.
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What's it about?
FIRE EMBLEM: THREE HOUSES brings the long-running tactical turn-based role-playing game series to Switch. It puts players in the armor of a mysterious young man or woman (players get to select gender) who takes on the role of a professor at a military academy located in an ancient monastery at a time when mysterious events are taking place across the church-run empire. He or she becomes the leader of one of the academy's houses, teaching students the art of combat while also attending to relationships forged with both the pupils and faculty. As months pass, the students wage mock battles, go out on missions to serve the monastery and church, and slowly develop their skills and friendships with one another by eating, having tea together, and attending balls and festivals. These characters will also go through other events like fishing, weapon training tournaments, and choir practice. Battles see players take command of their students, controlling their movements on gridded fields while choosing from an expanding array of attacks and abilities. Characters gradually level up, change classes, and learn how to use new weapons and gear. But players who choose to play with a feature called "permadeath" enabled will need to exercise caution, as any defeated heroes won't return for subsequent battles, their experience and skills lost forever. Additional downloadable content (DLC) has provided new experiences for players, including new costumes, missions, and even a fourth mystery house as a side quest which has an impact on the main story.
Is it any good?
Those who've played previous games in this beloved series know what they're in for here: Chess-like tactics with decisions that can have game-changing consequences. Fire Emblem: Three Houses delivers all of this, and plenty more. There's much more dialogue and character development here than in previous Fire Emblem games, with players able to spend an hour or more running around the monastery between battles as they talk to and teach students, fulfill quest requirements, and carry out tasks that include gardening, fishing, cooking, and hosting tea parties. There's also more opportunity to practice combat and grind levels, thanks to a variety of quest battles, prologue missions, and monster routing assignments that come available every week. Expect to sink scores of hours into this one -- more if you choose to replay as each of the two houses you didn't initially pick (each comes with its own set of playable characters) in your first playthrough. What's also notable is the addition of new content which has added new content, such as extra battles, new characters to recruit, new character classes to play, and even new activities in the monastery to participate in with your favorite students or faculty. The latest DLC pack adds a mysterious fourth house, the Ashen Wolves, who are small, but powerful fighters in their own right. Discovering why these characters are below the monastery is an interesting tale, and it's handled as a side quest so you can complete it and recruit these students to your main game, unlocking new quests and story elements along the way.
Some other changes in this bigger and more ambitious entry might not sit as well with certain players. Though the optional "permadeath" feature returns, it doesn't have the same significance as in previous games. Rather than disappearing completely from the story, defeated characters are placed on a permanent disabled list of sorts rather than outright killed. They can often still be seen and interacted with in and around the monastery. Plus, a new time rewinding feature means players can revert to a previous turn to avoid the deaths of particularly beloved heroes. And while the expanded array of activities between battles is interesting at first, it can get repetitive as players feel the need to obsessively seek out everyone to return lost items they've found and see if they've got anything new or interesting to say. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a good addition to the series, and it makes great use of the Switch hardware for improved graphics and on-the-go play, but franchise traditionalists may find themselves wishing for a return to its hardcore roots.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, tasks tend to overlap and lead seamlessly into each other, making it hard to quit playing, so how do you decide when it's time to stop playing a game?
Not every problem has a clear solution, and once a choice is made it can be hard or impossible to take back, so how do you feel confident about making and then living with the results of difficult decisions, even if things don't turn out as you'd like or intend?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release date: July 26, 2019
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Horses and Farm Animals
- ESRB rating: T for Blood, Suggestive Themes, Violence
- Last updated: March 3, 2020
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