Bottom line: Three Hopes allows you to revisit your favorite characters from Three Houses while providing them with a different plot from the original game. However, many of the missions begin to feel repetitive. You will be disappointed if you expect this to have as much strategy as a core Fire Emblem game, but the character developments and new storylines are fun to explore.
Same characters you loved from Three Houses
Decisions provide plenty of replay value
New protagonist is likable
Lots of repetition
Far less strategy than a true Fire Emblem game
Steep learning curve
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Like many of you, my first Fire Emblem game was Three Houses on Nintendo Switch. I loved the tactical battle planning of the game so much that I went back and played several other Fire Emblem games after that, but even so, the characters from my house, the Blue Lions, always held a special place in my heart. That's why when I learned that Koei Tecmo was making a warriors game that would revisit the Garreg Mach students but in an alternate universe with a different protagonist, I knew I had to play it.
Players once more align with one of three groups of students before getting plunged into an all-out war. While combat is drastically different, Three Hopes includes several familiar mechanics from Three Houses including the ability to improve character relationships through sharing meals, giving gifts, volunteering for chores, and training together. Regardless of which path you choose, the main hub feels very similar to the Officers Academy from Three Houses. However, the combat gets repetitive fast, doesn't offer as much of a challenge, and takes a steep learning curve to master.
Now, I've already had experience with Koei Tecmo's The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild spin-off, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, so I knew that Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes would be a hack and slash adventure and not the strategic turn-based gameplay I had grown to love. Understanding this difference is key if you're going to play Three Hopes, otherwise, you will be sorely disappointed.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a copy of the game provided by Nintendo. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes: What's good
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes lets you go back and revisit the same characters you grew to love from Three Houses, but also mixes some new ones into the fray to make things interesting. In the first four chapters, the game had me run through some important plot points from Three Houses, but things came out differently than they did before, opening each path up to new characters and storylines.
|Category||Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes|
|Title||Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes|
|Genre||Action, Strategy, Role-Playing, Simulation|
|Game Size||13.4 GB|
|Play Time||30 - 50 hours|
|Players||Single System, 1 to 2 players|
I chose to align with Dimitri and the Blue Lions since this was the house I chose in Three Houses. It was fun seeing my familiar characters interacting and participating in new plotlines. The biggest change of all is that instead of playing as Byleth, players take on the role of a mercenary named Shez who has purple hair and can be male or female. In fact, Byleth is your antagonist who everyone calls the "Ashen Demon" and serves as a rival for you while the rest of the characters focus more on political disputes from their own lands. The game recognizes if you have Three Houses save data on your Switch and will even suggest the same name and sex you used while playing as Byleth for your adversary. This gave me a strange feeling, like I was battling my past self.
Shez is far more vocal than Byleth was, which I feel works better for story purposes rather than a silent protagonist. I played as male Shez during two demo playthroughs but chose female Shez as my full playthrough. Both voice actors did a great job and helped make this new main character likable.
Plenty of decisions came my way during the course of my playthrough, but they weren't as weighty as the ones available to players in Three Houses. For instance, while you can do things like cook meals, give gifts, train, or go off on one-on-one excursions with characters to raise your support stats, there are no romancing options and the biggest choice you really make is which house you join at the start.
Don't get me wrong, it's still fun unlocking dialogue between fighters, recruiting other characters to your side, and discovering more about Shez's past by talking to your teammates, but I miss the excitement brought on by unlocking the S tier for a romanceable character and seeing what new dialogue this brought with it.
Combat is simplified, but still strategic
If you want to save yourself some disappointment, don't go into Three Hopes expecting the challenging turn-based combat found in core Fire Emblem games. Characters are controlled in action combat and can move, dodge, or attack as they please without waiting turns.
For any given mission, players can work with a specific number of characters but can only control a small number of them. For instance, I might have eight characters from my group on the battlefield but only the four surrounded by a blue circle are mine to personally control. The rest can be commanded to various places on the map. It's easy to flit between controllable characters by pressing up or down on the D-Pad so you can send some units to far reaches of the battlefield and then switch characters to dive into the fray at either side.
As with any Fire Emblem game, some classes and weapons have an advantage over others, so I did need to plan and send the right units to the right places in order to fight effectively. Each mission has its own Win and Defeat conditions, but they often change mid-battle so I had to adapt and pay attention whenever a notice flashed on the display. If you fail, you can opt to repeat the mission from the start or from the last checkpoint. If your team isn't strong enough yet, you can return to your hub and work on leveling up.
Speaking of game options, players can choose between Easy, Normal, or Hard difficulty and whether to play in Casual mode where characters can be defeated in battle but don't die, or Classic mode, which allows for permadeath if a character falls in battle. That way you can play the way you'd like. Additionally, more options including Maddening difficulty are unlocked after your first playthrough. The game also lets you choose between a Slow and Steady or a Quick and Efficient play style, which determines how frequently tutorials pop up while you play. There are a lot of them, so this option is especially nice if you want to play through the game again.
Multiplayer: Two-player co-op isn't bad
I didn't expect much from the multiplayer aspect of the game but it actually impressed me. It ran very smoothly even when in split-screen with me fighting on one end of the map and my husband controlling another character on the other far side of the map. Just note that Player 2 is at a bit of a disadvantage since dialogue boxes can obstruct a significant amount of their viewing area.
Still, we were easily able to swap between available characters as long as the other player wasn't controlling them already and the character hadn't been defeated. Having two people playing allowed us to take on enemies and big bosses more easily together.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes: What's not good
Once you get a few hours into the game, the missions start feeling extremely repetitive. It's always: guard this character, defeat those characters, or push these switches. Needless to say, the combat portions start getting pretty boring after a while. Fortunately, you can skip several of the side missions if you just want to run through the main story, but you just won't be as strong.
Additionally, since this is a hack and slash adventure, my fingers got tired in handheld mode pretty quickly after mashing buttons repeatedly, so I opted to play in TV mode using my traditional controller or attached my Satisfye ZenGrip Pro to my Switch in handheld mode to give me a better grip. This helped relieve some of the finger fatigue, but not all of it.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes: Should you play it?
If you absolutely loved the characters and relationships between teammates in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, you will enjoy this game despite the combat being so different. There are plenty of opportunities to discover new dialogue between characters and grow closer as a team. The hack and slash combat offers a different type of strategic planning, which is fun, but can get repetitive fairly quickly. Additionally, the non-stop button mashing might get tiresome for some people. It may be wise to invest in one of the best Nintendo Switch controllers or grips for this reason.
Just know what you're getting into and you'll appreciate Three Hopes for what it is rather than constantly focusing on how it falls short of a core Fire Emblem game. It's still an entertaining play, especially for those who loved the characters in Three Houses.
Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.