For the longest time, I was like many Nintendo fans who had either never heard of Fire Emblem or only knew about it because of Super Smash Bros Melee. Then, everything changed when I went to a local store and saw a trailer for Fire Emblem Path of Radiance for the Nintendo Gamecube. I was instantly gripped by the visuals and the story they teased. I knew I had to have it. And I did get it, and I loved it immensely.
Because of Path of Radiance I went and got every other Fire Emblem game I could including Sacred Stones, FE7, Shadow dragon when it came out on the DS, and of course, Radiant Dawn, Awakening, and Fates upon their releases (oh and I play FEH too). Now, with Fire Emblem Three Houses coming to the Nintendo Switch, I’m excited once more. But my expectations are high because to me, Path of Radiance is the peak of what Fire Emblem can be. I want Three Houses to try and do better than it if possible. But…is it possible?
In all honesty, I know that Three Houses has Path of Radiance beat here. While Path of Radiance had some detailed areas in some ways, the character models at times weren’t the best. Sure, you could see who the people were, but the Gamecube just didn’t allow it to be as good as it could be. Radiant Dawn did better, but there were still limitations. With Fire Emblem: Three Houses, not only are the character models crisp to an epic level, but there are battalions that make fight animations more dynamic.
But in truth, the reason I bring up the visuals is the cutscenes. While the voice acting (which also is already better in Three Houses) wasn’t the best in them, the cutscenes in both Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn were astounding. They had a unique feel to them, and this kind of cutscene was a first for the world of Fire Emblem.
Raphael and Leanne bringing back the Serenes Forest is a standout to me. As is the arrival of the Laguz Kings at their summit. Fast forward to Radiant Dawn and the arrival of the Greil Mercenaries to save Lucia is still one of the coolest cutscenes in history in my mind.
Again, I know visually Three Houses will trump Path of Radiance. But the question here is, will the cutscenes that are had be as good as what POR and even RD showed? Will I remember them long after the game is over? I guess I’ll find out.
This for me is one of the big ones. In my opinion, Path of Radiance has the best characters in any Fire Emblem game. And again, I’ve played every title that’s come to America.
Now, if you want to hear me gush about my favorite Lord, Ike, I’d recommend you check out me and my friend Tyler’s list on the best Fire Emblem Lords. But I’ll keep it simple, he’s near impossible to top, so I won’t charge Three Houses with trying to beat him. However, the rest of the characters in the Tellius saga are just as great. Ellincia, Soren, Titania, Ranulf, Sanaki, Haar and Jill, the roster is stacked with memorable characters that I love to this day. Unlike certain other FE games (*cough* Awakening and Fates *cough*), none of the characters are born simply to be your waifu of choice. Not that I wouldn’t date Mia or Jill or anything, it’s just they have a quality to them that certain other FE games lack.
I’m happy to say though that with our brief teasings of the Blue Lions, Black Eagles, and Golden Deer, we have teases of great characters in the making. Edelgard is a proud heir and believer in her people. Yet she’s content with doing things alone, I’m curious why that is. Dmitri is a paragon of justice, but it’s teased he’s hiding a secret that “weighs him down”, what could that be? And of course, there’s Claude, a guy who is kind, yet cunning, and never afraid to scheme and play dirty in order to protect those he cares about, how did that personality get formed?
Plus, each house has a variety of unique characters that I look forward to meeting. And if they’re even half as good as the Tellius saga characters are, I’ll be a happy guy.
We know that Supports are happening, and even marriage (though thankfully no kids this go around). So like POR…and I’ll be fair, all the other modern FE games, we’re going to get to know these characters in a deep personal way. And that’s very exciting. But will they stand out? That’s the question.
I envy you this parish, Three Houses. Because when it comes to all-time great FE villains, Mad King Ashnard has just about everyone beat. I would argue that only Lyon can compare to him in terms of story, and even then, it’s close.
Ashnard may seem like a “stereotypical bad guy” in regards to him wanting power, but as Radiant Dawn revealed, he went much darker than you would expect. Even with a name like “Mad King”. He unleashed a curse on his own country to whittle down the family tree in order to become king, even killing his own father to do it. He seduced the Dragon Princess of Goldoa, then threw her away when their child was born and she lost her powers. He left his own country to burn at Ike’s hands (metaphorically speaking) because he didn’t “need it” anymore. And when he died? He didn’t whimper or beg for mercy, he just wanted to keep fighting.
Ashnard wanted to watch the world burn so the Chaos God could be released, and he got close to that goal. Oh, one more thing. That dragon he’s riding? It’s actually a Laguz he captured. The Dragon Prince of Goldoa in fact. He used a potion to drive him made and remain in his dragon form just so he could use him as a mount. Told you he was a true villain.
Anyway, of all the things we know about Three Houses, the villains of the piece are barely mentioned. Which is fine, that allows us to learn at our own pace. But I am curious as to who will rise up to challenge the heroes. They have a long legacy to live up to, and Mad King to try and be better than.
The reason I love Fire Emblem more than any other Nintendo franchise is that this is the one that focuses more so on the story. All of their characters (that are named anyway) have a personality to them. It’s what makes replaying the game so much fun, you can replay with different teams and formations and you’ll basically have a new experience. But it’s the story overall that can make, or break, a Fire Emblem game.
Take Fates for example. While the game was very successful, many criticized how the story was handled in parts. Birthright was very “linear”, Conquest was “dark and morbid” and then Revelation was…weird. To put it simply.
In Path of Radiance, I loved how the story truly took you over the continent in a simple yet elegant way without feeling forced or shoehorned. Everything felt in place. You didn’t just see the various nations, you got to see their leaders, how they interacted with the characters, and the story wasn’t afraid to go dark in a way that felt natural to the world. The “Twisted Tower” seeing being amongst the darkest scenes in FE history.
There were scenes of great sadness (Greil’s death), uplifting moments (Ellincia donning her pegasus and armor), and epic moments (Ike versus the Black Knight) that set the story apart from others.
For Three Houses, they’re playing things a little different. They’re doing a 5-year time jump, one that will change friends into rivals after they take control over their respective nations. Now you’ll be at the center of it. How this will come about, and what it will be like afterward, is unknown. But, I’m excited about it. Plus, each house has a different story and path and characters to take. Not unlike Fates. So if done right, this could be a story that definitely rivals Path of Radiance…if done right.
Finally, there’s gameplay. And this is another thing I’m going to acknowledge that Three Houses likely already beats Path of Radiance at. That’s not to say that POR had bad combat, far from it. It was pure Fire Emblem. But, since then, through Awakening, Fates, Shadows of Valentia and even Heroes, the gameplay has evolved, and Three Houses benefit from that.
There are Gambits that bring units together for strikes. Units can have battalions now. Crests will add unique powers, and so on and so forth.
In truth, especially when combining the gameplay with the visuals, this is something that will make Three Houses much more enjoyable than previous FE games. Because now it’ll feel more like an army v. army scenario and not just one or two units fighting one another.
As long as the level conditions are diverse (I’m looking at you Awakening), and the level design is good (and early examples prove that it is), this will be a very fun game.
In the end, I am fully excited for Fire Emblem Three Houses. I’ve been waiting for this title, and a console Fire Emblem game to happen again, for many years. Regardless of whether it lives up to the standard that Path of Radiance set, I feel it’ll be a very worthy FE title. But I’m won’t sugarcoat it, if it wants to be my favorite FE game? Yeah, it’s got a lot to do.