Fire Emblem has become an extremely important IP for Nintendo in recent years, so it’s no surprise to see them collaborate with Koei Tecmo once again for a brand new Musou action-RPG. It’s not often when we see a new project attempt to be a successor to two different games simultaneously, but that’s exactly what Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes sets out to do. Combining the hack-and-slash/JRPG gameplay elements of Fire Emblem Warriors (2017) with the unique characters and story of Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019), is Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes a worthy follow-up to these two fan-favourite and critically-acclaimed Nintendo Switch titles? Let’s dive in and find out!
Three Hopes specializes in versatility, making itself easily accessible to just about every type of gamer. Although it undoubtedly has a learning curve with its complex and elaborate mechanics, there’s still a little something for everyone here, even those that aren’t generally a fan of RPGs. This is due to the diverse customization options that are available to you at the start of the game, allowing for not only adjustments in difficulty, but game mode and play style as well. There are two different game modes: Casual and Classic. Casual opts for fallen units to be revived after each battle, whereas Classic ups the strategy by risking permanent loses. As for play styles, you can choose between Slow and Steady or Quick and Efficient. For those more interested in the action rather than focusing on the strategy and statistics, Quick and Efficient would be for them, whereas Slow and Steady evidently appeals to the opposite type of player. If you change your mind later on, all of these options can be conveniently changed in the settings menu, so there is no risk in experimenting to find out what gameplay type suits you best.
There are three core gameplay segments that you’ll repeatedly come across while playing Three Hopes, most importantly being the real-time hack-and-slash Musou battles. While the mainline Fire Emblem series relies on using a turn-based battle system, Warriors titles put you right in the center of the action, ploughing through hundreds of enemies at once in order to complete main mission and side mission objectives. Combat can eventually start to feel repetitive, but somehow that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Attacks are so refined and satisfying to pull off, and although it often just feels like button-mashing for combos, it’s still boatloads of dumb fun. As aforementioned though, you’ll need to utilize many other important mechanics when playing on a higher difficulty level. Apart from the simple regular and strong attacks which are used most frequently, there’s also various special abilities and meters to fill that when activated deal incredible amounts of damage. Every playable character has different stats, abilities, and classes that are stronger or weaker against different enemy types. Depending on which units you deploy for every battle, you can swap between them at any time to control them independently, and issue strategic commands to the ones you aren’t using via the pause menu.
After every battle you partake in, you’ll enter into an encampment hub-like area. This is where the abundance of RPG mechanics come into play and things can start to feel a bit overwhelming. Strengthening bonds between units by participating in activities, purchasing items from shops, changing and upgrading individual character classes, learning new abilities and tactics, fixing and upgrading weapons, managing facilities, it feels like the possibilities for strategy and combat optimization are limitless. Those unfamiliar with the JRPG genre are bound to feel like there is too much here, but the in-game tutorials help to make everything relatively easy to understand. The encampment also features plenty of opportunities to see characters interact with each other in deep and meaningful conversations. It’s another method to strengthen their bond for battle, and it’s great to see their unique dynamics and personalities.
Separated into chapters, the storyline of Three Hopes is told in the style of a visual-novel, occasionally allowing the player to choose between multiple dialogue response options for the main playable character, Shez. Most of the time it doesn’t seem to really matter which you select, as the end result is mostly the same, but sometimes your choice will affect how the entire game plays out. After the game’s prologue, you’ll be asked to join one of the three houses; the same ones featured in Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Black Eagle, Blue Lion, and Golden Deer. The selection of a house will not only completely change the roster of playable characters, but also take you on a different story route, with each one taking anywhere between 20-30 hours to complete, depending on your pace. It’s frankly astounding the amount of content this game has without it ever hindering in quality, and there is even full voice acting with options for both English and Japanese available. Established fans of Three Houses are going to love this alternate-reality adventure full of familiar faces and twists and turns that will have them on the edge of their seat. Newcomers aren’t to worry though, as playing Three Houses isn’t a requirement to enjoy the story, but it’s highly suggested if you wish to enhance its impact and significance. To avoid spewing spoilers, I won’t be going into any details, but if you want to learn a little bit more about what the story entails you can check out our previously published preview.
On a technical level, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes really surprised me. It’s one of the best-looking Nintendo Switch exclusives released thus far, and performs exceptionally too. Despite being locked at 30fps, the chaotic and overly-stimulating gameplay always feels extremely fluid and snappy, which is a major and much needed improvement from previous entries in the Warriors series. Noticeable framerate dips were few and far between, and never hindered immersion. What impressed me the most though was load times; for a game as massive and visually detailed as this, I was not anticipating performance that I’d typically only expect out of a next-gen console. Textures can sometimes appear a bit muddy, but the bright and colourful anime art-style helps you to overlook the more negative minutiae details.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is pure fan-service in the best possible way. It’s a perfect blend of Warriors-style hack-and-slash combat, traditional Fire Emblem JRPG elements, and the established world of Three Houses. Anyone who enjoyed Three Houses will no doubt experience Three Hopes as a beautifully hand-written love letter from Nintendo and Koei Tecmo, and those who haven’t are still bound to find some enjoyment here as well. Graphically impressive, mechanically thrilling, and jam-packed with content, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is the best Warriors game yet, making it an easy recommendation for Switch owners. If you’re still not convinced, you should check out the free demo available now from the eShop before the game launches on 24th June 2022.
A copy of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK for the purpose of this review.