It should be pretty obvious to anyone who stumbles across my site that I'm a huge Fire Emblem fan, so I was eagerly anticipating the release of the latest entry in the series Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The game is noteworthy for several reasons, one of which is that it was released on Nintendo's newest console, the Switch, and is the first console game in the series in some twelve years. The developers did a good job of combining mechanics from across the series' history with some brand new ones. Among the new features, the biggest addition is the huge expansion of activities available to do between battles. Although a lot of them have a similar function as in previous entries (conversations between characters, cooking to earn team bonuses, shopping for weapons, etc.), you can now navigate around the monastery, a huge 3D environment that serves as the academy in the game's world. Increasing both characters' weapon and experience levels and their support (i.e. relationship) points is centered around a very Persona-like setup in which you play the part of a professor to the academy's students. It's easy to lose hours micromanaging your team's growths, but the game has an auto option for people who don't care that much about it, and on the game's lower difficulties you probably don't need to pay that much attention to it. The activities (with perhaps the exception of a repetitive fishing mini-game) are fun for the most part, and exploring the monastery and getting to know the huge cast is good fun in and of itself.

In terms of the battles themselves the game adds in a few nice new twists, including monsters that take up four tiles instead of one and are surrounded by shields that you have to break. The rewind feature from Fire Emblem: Echoes is thankfully back, which lets you recover from fatal mistakes, and you can hire and train batallions, supporting teams who give you Fire Emblem Heroes-like support abilities such as healing or increased movement.

As with Fire Emblem: Fates, the previous entry in the series, Three Houses also has you choosing between multiple storylines. I picked the Golden Deer, and there are four distinct paths total; I'm looking forward to seeing how events play out on my subsequent playthroughs. The level of world building and the variety of characters is satisfying, and although I definitely enjoyed this installment and played it obsessively until I got to the credit, it doesn't unseat my top favorites in the series. Although the monastery and its various activities were fun in general, it does shift the balance a bit too far away from the core strengths of the series and all the mechanics get to be a little bit too much, even for a series veteran such as myself. Hopefully the next entry in the series will be as epic in terms of scale, but a little more streamlined.


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