Written by Denayed
A/N: this is a spoiler-free review, unless the thing you were looking forward to most was whether Fire Emblem: Three Hopes had a fishing minigame.
In his latest banger, singer-songwriter Joji croons, “‘Cause sometimes, I look in her eyes and that’s where I find a glimpse of us.” Upon hearing this line, some may conjure memories of loved ones, lost to the tides of transience and time. Others think of the one that got away, and lament what could have been.
When I look into the eyes of Fire Emblem: Three Hopes, I find glimpses of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. And god, I wish it were her.
In the summer of 2020, fraught with free time and confronted with the dread of my own mortality, I bought Fire Emblem: Three Houses. This was my third Fire Emblem game, having completed Awakening and Fates to various degrees. I had enjoyed both titles, and at the recommendation of a friend, picked up Three Houses. I proceeded to spend the rest of the summer investing blood, sweat, and tears into the game; I laughed over support dialogue, labored over tough battles, and cried over having to sacrifice beloved characters. I chose my S supports meticulously, because obviously what matters the most in a fantasy tactical role-playing game is who you romance. I read copious amounts of fanfiction, chased down merchandise of my favorite characters, made tier lists, and planned out who I would cosplay. After finishing my fourth and final route, I finally put Three Houses to rest at 220 hours of gameplay. I replaced the precious Switch cartridge with Ring-Fit Adventure. I went on to other games. I learned Italian on Duolingo. I started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes at the local gym.
I moved on.
When Three Hopes was announced in February of this year, I followed the news religiously. Like many other fans, I prayed for a sequel to Three Houses: something that would answer the questions about Those Who Slither in the Dark, ominous antagonists whose origins and villainous plots were teased throughout the game. I also wanted something that would revisit the main protagonists of Three Houses, showing us through multiple routes how they were handling the full responsibility of being monarchs in peacetime. The reveal event disappointed me on both fronts by announcing that Three Hopes was a spin-off – an alternative timeline to Three Houses, meaning that not only would the main story have zero progression, the protagonists would have no progress either. They’d start from square one again.
I got my next taste of disappointment when the new character designs were released. I mean, what is this?
The fact that this is a total downgrade aside, why should I even buy this game if the characters aren’t going to have completely fresh looks? What is the point of an alternative timeline if we don’t experiment with alternative fashion? Why are we playing this so damn safe? “But Denayed,” you point out. “Why fix what ain’t broke? Clearly the previous designs are popular for a reason. I wouldn’t want Claude in skinny jeans and a crop top.”
You have bad taste, but sure, I’ll allow it. Maybe the story will be fun, refreshing, exciting, and everything we could dream of.
The only refreshment in Three Hopes you’re getting is Deirdru-Style Fried Pheasant, and even that was recycled from Three Houses. Characters are the exact same as they were in the previous game, which is fine at best (Linhardt threatening to take naps on the battlefield will never not be funny) and stale at worst (yes, I know Leonie has a hard-on for Jeralt, join the club, girl). Hearing Byleth’s voice for the first time somehow manages to be a letdown, because they have the emotional range of Bella Swan. Massive reveals from Three Houses have the potential to be expounded on, but the main character is literally shushed for asking about them.
Speaking of Shez, they are perhaps the only redemptive factor in the game. Shez is saved from certain death by Arval, a mysterious being who admonishes Shez for being so silly as to almost die and proclaims that their destinies are now intertwined – sorry, am I getting that confused from Three Houses? Nope. Arval plays the role of Sothis’ counterpart in Three Hopes, hovering in the background of Shez’s head like an androgynous fairy godparent. They sass Shez through the rest of the game, and the fact that Shez has a physical voice to sass back is the only thing that sets them apart from Byleth Swan. I can’t delve into detail because of spoilers, but remember when I mentioned how cool it would be if we saw more from Those Who Slither in the Dark? We come so close – so close! – to this with Arval, only to be pulled from the brink, gasping and frustrated. Three Houses leaves you with questions that are fun to speculate on forums, trying to piece the lore puzzle together. Three Hopes leaves you with the same questions repackaged in shiny new tinsel wrapping, and this Christmas morning wears off much quicker.
Three Hopes is a shell of its sister. There is no fishing minigame. Nothing new is learned. Minimal effort is placed into developing the characters we have grown to care for. The hack-and-slash element ends up overshadowing the strategy, especially on lower difficulties. And most importantly, there is no S support option – no cutscene where the love of my life gazes upon me, trembling with tenderness and overwhelmed with emotion, and tells me that they would tumble down to the very depths of hell with me. If you like feeling friendzoned by a video game, Fire Emblem: Three Hopes is for you.
Said I’m fine, said I moved on
I’m only here passing time in her arms –
Hoping I’ll find a glimpse of us.
Me, about Jeritza von Hyrm, who appeared for 0.2 seconds