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Review: Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes (Nintendo Switch)By juzzy At 23.07.2022 21:42

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The world of Fire Emblem: Three Houses was too good not to be returned to. Three Hopes offers fans that very chance, giving them a refreshed story with an alternate gameplay loop that strives to emulate the look and feel of Three Houses's success.

Set during a "what if" storyline that runs adjacent to the events of that last title, Three Hopes positions the player as Shez - a mercenary for hire who finds themselves embroiled in the tension between the familiar house leaders Edelgard, Dimitri and Claude. After choosing which house they will side with, Shez follows a similar trajectory to Byleth in Three Houses… with a few twists and turns along the way. For those saddened by Byleth's diminished role here, never fear; they are not absent from the proceedings. That's all that can be said while keeping things as spoiler free as possible, but the manner in which the protagonist of Three Houses is deployed is rather clever indeed.

As mentioned, Three Hopes is a musou. What this means for the action is a departure from Fire Emblem's SRPG roots that never outright abandons the series' DNA. This is without a doubt the best-running musou title on the Switch, with extremely well-polished action and an exciting visual style that seldom strays below 30fps, both docked and handheld. The majority of the playable units feel wonderfully unique thanks to their distinct abilities and perks, even with those that share the same class. As you'd expect, classes can be changed almost at will between battles in familiar Fire Emblem fashion, with no chance of failing a class change as there was in Three Houses.

The Dynasty Warriors-like hack-and-slash action is likewise tempered with a strategic approach to battles, courtesy of the ability to deploy multiple units and position them across the battlefield as you see fit. They can be switched between at will, too, allowing you to effectively jump across the battlefield and take up the mantle of another unit at the press of a button.

It's exciting and refreshing to play a musou in this way; mindless button mashing is substituted for a strategic approach, which of course carries heightened stakes should you choose to play with permadeath enabled. The ability to focus on each unit individually, levelling them up and changing their class as desired, does wonders for this a genre that can at times feel lacklustre. Fire Emblem fans will love this more involved gameplay loop, which works surprisingly well within an arcade action setting - even if it's unlikely to win over major detractors of the musou genre.

Familiar mechanics from Three Houses are also sprinkled into the mix, to mostly great effect. Spending limited free time wisely between battles is back, albeit streamlined to suit a musou conversion. This includes levelling up relationships with allies to unlock Support Conversations - which are capped at rank A this time around (so those looking to be more than friends with their fave will be left disappointed).

This works to both the betterment and detriment of the experience; it's an easy-going delight to journey through the story events and RPG trappings, but the simplified mechanics cause the gameplay to become repetitive at times. As with any musou, this is still a title best in small doses. Still, as was the case with Three Houses, the interwoven mechanics of Three Hopes are well established, with a mostly satisfying balance that attempts to keep things fresh.

Easily the biggest failing of Three Hopes, however, is its pacing. After being bogged down initially by a slow start, things do eventually get going, but pacing issues persist throughout each of the three campaigns. There's an abundance of fluff between battles, which the more forgiving fans might be able to pass off as storytelling, but this reviewer — who loved Three Houses — found it a little over-indulgent at times. Those expecting a raw, high-octane musou and nothing else should be warned - this title has a lot of storytelling to do.

Now, fans of Three Houses may well see this as a point in its favour, and indeed it is at its best. It also must be said that the gameplay on offer remains delightfully addictive when it clicks, even if longer play sessions can start to feel stale.

All this isn't to say the story or characters of Three Hopes are bad; on the contrary, they're highly engaging - if a little more distantly so than in Three Houses. It's great to have a fully voiced protagonist in Shez (and Byleth, when they do appear, is fully voiced this time around as well), and the extensive dialogue is well-written. The localisation, too, is excellent - as you'd expect from a big-budget title of this magnitude.

Overall, it's fair to say that Three Hopes does a great job of refreshing the musou genre, giving it a tactical overhaul that's easy to get invested in. At its best, its musou combat is elevated far above mere button mashing; at its worst, the fast-paced demands of an action title are ignored in favour of meandering sections of exposition. This operates at odds with the action elsewhere, even if these sections are entirely skippable.

For eager fans of this universe, that may admittedly be easier to stomach, as Three Hopes offers plenty to be excited about for those that love this world and characters, with a creative approach to the genre that even staunch musou critics have to acknowledge.

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Final Score
[i]Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes[/i] is a refreshing take on the musou genre, demanding a more strategic approach that earns it the "Fire Emblem" name. Fans of this world will find plenty to enjoy - as will those seeking a new and improved musou formula. The experience suffers from some pacing issues and can become repetitive, but on the whole it's well worth playing for those looking for a new take on the [i]Three Houses[/i] lore - or those who simply want to experience a deft reinterpretation of the musou genre.

7

/10

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