Nintendo plans to remove voice actor Chris Niosi from Fire Emblem: Three Houses, following accusations of abuse by former friends and girlfriends. He was previously replaced in the credits of mobile spin-off game Fire Emblem Heroes. In a statement, Nintendo confirmed that it will rerecord Niosi’s voiceovers and add the new voices in a future patch.
Chris Niosi is a well-known voice actor who has been in TV shows and games such as OK KO! and Octopath Traveler. He voices the character Byleth in Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Fire Emblem Heroes. Over the last week, allegations arose accusing Niosi of sexual harassment and abuse. Niosi admitted on his personal Tumblr that he had treated people in his life “horribly” and had “abused friends.” His post contains detailed, individual apologies to multiple people, going into some detail about his actions.
Niosi’s voice credit was recently removed from the Fire Emblem Heroes character page, with a new trailer showing voice actor Zach Aguilar instead. In a statement sent to Kotaku, Nintendo confirmed it is removing Niosi from Heroes and Three Houses and re-recording his lines with a new voice actor.
After assessing the situation, we decided to re-record the character’s voiceovers in Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Fire Emblem Heroes with another actor. The new voiceovers will be included in a future patch.
No date was given for when to expect these patches or who the new voice actor for Fire Emblem: Three Houses will be.
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
For most of my life, I never quite understood escapism. I knew how powerful video games could be, how seductive and wonderful their worlds were, but I never quite understood the idea of wanting to melt through the screen and leave the real world behind. After I’ve had string of rotten luck and high stress, among the most intense in my life, that has changed. I get it now. I get why folks want to fade away into the digital and why it can be so tempting to lose yourself elsewhere.
For example, I recently got very sick, and during that time, I buoyed myself with Final Fantasy XIV’s latest expansion, “Shadowbringers.” My reward was an RPG campaign that was one of the best I’ve played in a long time. That was my first real taste of how powerful it was to push real-life worries away with a game.
Sure, at previous times in my life, I’ve done this type of thing in small bursts. Played Counter-Strike when I was mad. Played Total War or strategy games when I needed to think a little. Then, this past weekend, during one of the hottest heat waves in New York City history, my apartment became unlivable. Temperatures rose to heights of 97 and 98 degrees, and I had to stay elsewhere. When I arrived in temporary homes, there were games. Fire Emblem: Three Houses, with its tangled tactical webs and charming characters, greeted me side by side with the friends who took me in. And I felt it, truly felt it for the first time: that desire to melt into the screen and leave everything behind. Goodbye Brooklyn. Hello, Eorzea. Hello, Fódlan.
I’ve always thought of escapism as a dirty thing, even irresponsible, and in some ways, I still do. It’s a temporary band-aid on a problem. A way to ignore, to mitigate, and arguably defer responsible action. One more match, one more level. Anything to avoid reality. Yet, as my body truly and genuinely failed me, as I traveled from doctor to doctor and fled my home due to the high heat, escapism made more sense. Sometimes, things just fall apart, and one of the ways that people can deal with that is to put buffers between us and the bullshit. Fight a boss and actually achieve victory, command an army and actually have some sense of control. Video games can offer us a very particular solace when everything is crumbling: they make us feel like we have power again.
In becoming a teacher at the Garreg Mach monastery in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, I regained some sense of agency. Even in a simulated space, in a far distant and fake world, that is intoxicating. And that’s what escapism is: an affirmation that you can have control, that you do matter, and that with some effort and trust, there is a path forward.
Of course, you can go in too deep. You can lock yourself in your room, play games and never turn around from your monitor to get back to solving the real-world issues that inspired your retreat into games. You can wade through dialog trees with fake people instead of having necessary conversations with real folks. There is always such a thing as too much. That’s why I didn’t see the value of escapism before. But I think now I can understand the ways that it can be healthy, at least in the short term. Sometimes, shit goes bad. Sometimes your body breaks down, your house isn’t safe, your mood dips low, and everything seems murky. Fuck it, go run your farm in Stardew Valley. Beat up Nazis in Wolfenstein.
Just make sure to come back again, I guess. Complete the quest, slay the whatever, solve the puzzle. Then come back and solve what you gotta do here.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a lot of game, and it’s easy to get lost in the sheer amount you can do. I’ve got tips for everything from battle strategy to raising support levels to spending your days at Garreg Mach monastery effectively. Check out the video above for some helpful hints to get into the game, and then read below for even more tips for beginners and series veterans alike. It’s everything you need to be the best strategist you can be.
Go With Your Heart
The three houses in Three Houses have some differences in combat strengths, but in my experience, they’re not major. The Black Eagles, who are lead by Edelgard, start off with more magic users. Dimitri’s house, the Blue Lions, have more lancers. Claude’s Golden Deer start with more archers than the other houses. But as soon as you start actually teaching and fighting with these characters, you can pretty much mold them into whatever kind of fighters you want. Some characters are so malleable that they can end up as total powerhouses in skills they didn’t even have at the start of the game.
When it comes to choosing which house to play as, just go with whoever has the characters you like best. I went with Golden Deer because, well, I love Claude.
Make The Most Of The Monastery
Not all Garreg Mach will be available to explore at once, which makes the monastery way less intimidating. Once it has been entirely opened up, there’s so much to do it can be overwhelming.
When you’re choosing which activities to partake in, you need to keep an eye on your activity points. Some of the things you can do in Garreg Mach will use an activity point, and once you’re out of points, you won’t have access to those actions for the rest of the day. You can still explore the monastery, shop, talk to characters and give them gifts, but certain things will be off limits. Actions that use activity points are denoted by a purple hourglass—if there isn’t an hourglass, it won’t use up your points.
Fishing and gardening in the greenhouse don’t use activity points, so it’s worth hitting those up every month. Faculty training, cooking a meal with a student, eating with students, choir practice and inviting a character to tea do use your points. Given that you start off with a measly two points, you’ll have to make the most of what you can accomplish until you raise your professor level and get more.
To start, I limited my activity points to dining with students and choir practice. Both of these activities allow you to take two students along for the ride, giving you the most bang for your buck. Dining with students raises their motivation and all three characters’ support levels. Choir practice raises students’ faith and motivation and raises Byleth’s authority skill, which helps you command your battalions. When you gain a few more activity points, cooking meals with a student is a good use of time, too. This activity will give your characters a temporary boost to a single stat for the month.
Understanding The Combat Forecast
When you select the attack action in battle, you’ll see a forecast of a possible result. While the forecast shows you an accurate depiction of what will happen if both your character’s and their enemy’s attacks hit, both attacks landing is not a guarantee. Your character will always attack first on your turn, so if their attack is going to defeat an enemy, you don’t really have to worry. Where you should be cautious is when an attack has a chance of missing. If you look between each character’s health bar in the forecast, you’ll see three stats. One is how hard they hit, the next is the percent chance of a successful attack, and the third is the chance for a critical attack.
You can scroll through all your characters’ weapons and magic attacks using the left and right bumpers. Using X and Y, you can also look at all their Combat Arts. The combat forecast will change accounting for whichever weapon or Combat Art you have selected. When a weapon is particularly effective against a particular enemy type, a green check mark will appear on the forecast. That means the weapon will hit twice as hard as normal. Make sure to test the possibilities before you commit to anything.
Take Out Archers First
Archers are gonna fuck up your day if you’re not careful, especially in the late game when you have access to units that fly. Pegasus Knights and Wyvern Riders are both particularly weak to archers and magic users. It’s in your best interest to take out these types of enemies first, if you can. A flying arrow can be the difference between life and death.
Weapon Durability Isn’t As Big A Deal As You Think
A lot of people are concerned about breakable weapons in Three Houses, but relax. Iron weapons, the tier just above training weapons, have 30 uses. Each hit is one use. In most battles, you’re not going to come anywhere close to using a weapon that many times. Later on in the game you’ll be able to repair them, or even upgrade them into weapons with more uses.
The one thing to be careful of is Combat Arts, which use more durability than regular attacks. Some use as little as three points of durability, while others go up to five. If you’re using a lot of Combat Arts, it can grind down a weapon much more quickly. Archers are especially prone to this. Many of them have the Combat Art “Curved Shot,” which allows them to hit enemies that are farther away. I tended to use that move a lot, which meant that I had to pay close attention to the durability of my archers’ bows.
If you place a unit next to Byleth, they’ll be able to access the convoy, which is basically the full stock of your inventory. If a weapon breaks mid-battle, grabbing something from the convoy can work in a pinch, but it usually makes things more complicated than they need to be. You can also attack with a broken weapon, but they do way less damage and leave you more susceptible to counterattacks. The best thing to do is to check on each unit’s weapons before the battle, and then either buy an extra or repair them before you head out.
Don’t Be A Hero
It may be tempting in combat to just push one powerful character forward to take out a particularly pernicious enemy. This is always a mistake. It’s much more advantageous to push forward slowly, drawing out enemies if you can. You exact strategy may vary, but I found it easiest to advance in a large clump with tanks in the front, weaker characters in the middle, and archers and magic users in the back. If enemies are coming from two different angles, I tend to separate the clump into two squads that have roughly the same amount of tanks, archers, and magic users.
As you approach an enemy, the game will show you a red line arcing toward your character if they’re in range of an attack. Most of the time you’ll want to be out of range as you advance. If you know your character has enough health to take a hit, however, getting them in range of an attack can draw out the enemy unit, making it easier for your whole squad to take them down as they advance.
Building Your Squad
Don’t Miss Out On Support Conversations
There are a couple of characters, like Rhea, the Archbishop of the Church of Seiros, that I didn’t realize had support conversations until late in the game. If you go into the Support menu, you’ll see every character that’s available for you to build support with. You’ll also see which characters your students can raise their support with, as well as how high that support can go.
While raising support levels will make characters more effective on the battlefield, some of them will also answer some questions about the story’s lore. While there’s a clear impetus to play the game more than once—gotta see what happens to the other houses!—it’s also in your benefit, storywise, to see as much as the content as you can in one go. You won’t be able to see everything on your first go around, but if you’re curious about what Rhea, or any other character, gets up to, try to raise their support levels.
Everyone you do not recruit will be on the opposing armies after a certain point in Three Houses. Facing on them battlefield kinda sucks, to say the least.
Luckily, you can recruit almost every student at Garreg Mach. In order to do so, you have to either have a high enough support level or a high enough skill level in skills they’re interested in. If you want the perky Hilda on your team, for example, you either need to raise your support level with her or have a high Axe and Charm skill. If you attempt to recruit a student unsuccessfully, you’ll see a pop-up with the skills they’re most interested in. Pay attention to that. Write it down if you have to!
If you still have time, you should do as much faculty training as you can. Not only will that raise Byleth’s skills, it’ll raise your support level with the character who trained you. You can only get faculty training from a particular character once per month, but for certain characters, it’s one of the few ways you can raise their support level.
You’ll also be able to recruit some non-students, like the teachers Manuela and Hanneman. While I didn’t end up using them as much as the kids, I didn’t want to risk having to face them in battle. Recruitment isn’t just about who is going to be on your side—it’s also about who your enemies won’t have on theirs.
Romance Matters, A Little
Unlike Awakening and Fates, Three Houses doesn’t have any children coming back from the future. Romance still exists in this game, but it’s de-emphasized. The only character who can reach an S-rank of support level with another character is Byleth. There are romantic undertones to other characters’ support conversations, but you’re not going to be playing matchmaker.
That said, Byleth will be able to marry someone else by the end of the game, and so getting to an S rank with at least one character can lead to a cute romantic scene between the two of them. Getting to an S rank with a character that you fight alongside often isn’t that hard, especially if you also teach them frequently, invite them to tea, return their lost items, and give them gifts. It’s best to set your sights early.
Keep Your Students Motivated
You can’t teach your students if they don’t have any motivation, which ruins the best way to raise their skills. At the highest level of motivation, you’ll be able to teach them four times, which can be enough to raise them an entire skill level in the early game.
Keeping students motivated is pretty easy if you take full advantage of all that Garreg Mach has to offer. Returning lost items and giving students gifts will raise motivation—if they really like the gift you give them, it’ll raise two points instead of one, so pay attention to each characters’ likes and dislikes.
Eating with students will fully raise their motivation. You can eat with two students at a time, and it’ll also raise the support levels between all three of you. Although you can only eat the special of the day once, there’s also a full menu that you can access multiple times per day.
Nurture Your Students
If you really want to change the direction of a character, you have to invest in it. Each student starts off with two skills as their “Goals.” These skills will gain a set amount of experience at the end of each week without you specifically having to teach them. It’s more worth your time to devote your teaching sessions with each student to the skills that aren’t one of their goals, because unless they’re regularly using those skills in battle, they won’t level up.
Students’ goals can also change over time. You can set custom goals for each student, but sometimes they will prompt you during the teaching phase with what they’d like their new goals to be. I usually just accepted whatever goals they suggested, even if it went against my larger plans. It’s just hard to say no to those kids (and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re working on something they asked to or not anyway).
Master A Class Before Moving On
This is already common wisdom for Fire Emblem fans, but it bears repeating. If you master a particular class, you’re granted special abilities that you can equip at will. Some classes will also have class specific Combat Arts when they’re mastered. Combat Arts are particularly powerful, so it’s worth earning those.
Classes are unlocked in Three Houses by having characters take exams, and you don’t have to reclass them right away. Go ahead and unlock classes as they become available, and then reclass your character once you’ve taken full advantage of the class they’re in.
Don’t Forget About Byleth’s Skills
As you’re teaching your students, it can be easy to let Byleth, the game’s main character, languish. Although Byleth’s skills will also grow during combat, just like every other character, there are other ways to grow their skills. In the monastery, Byleth can get one on one faculty training, which will also build support between her and the character she’s learning from.
On the weekends, Byleth can also attend a seminar which will raise two different skills, depending on the teacher. Students who attend a seminar with Byleth will also have their motivation raised, meaning you will be able to teach them more during the teaching phase of the game. Raising Byleth’s skills is also a crucial part of recruiting characters from other houses, who will only join you if you have the skills they like, or Byleth’s support level with them is high enough.
Get Into A Routine
There are a lot of things to do at Garreg Mach monastery, and it’s easy to forget something you really wanted to check out in the chaos of gameplay. I found it useful to make myself a schedule, just like when I was back in school.
During most months, you’ll have three or four lectures, where you teach students, and three to four days where you can explore the monastery, attend a seminar, do an extra battle, or rest. If you’re playing online, the game will show you statistics about how many players do what on those days, which can be a helpful guideline.
As for me, I spent my first free day exploring Garreg Mach, working from the bottom of the monastery by the greenhouse up until I hit the cathedral, and then went to the (much smaller) second floor from there. Using that route, you’ll hit basically every character you’re able to speak to, as well as basically every activity. The market, fishing pond, greenhouse, and dining hall are all in close proximity to each other, so hitting them all up is pretty easy to do. You don’t get very many points for activities at the monastery at the start of the game, but as you raise your Professor Level, which is done by teaching, gardening and fishing, you’ll soon have more points than you know what to do with.
As the month progressed, I usually went on to attend a seminar, and then the next weekend do an optional battle. Make sure to take time to rest as well, because it raises your students’ motivation.
’Tis The Season
Garreg Mach has a few seasonal events, just like a normal high school. Some of them are combat focused, while others center around the activities you do during exploration. The special menu at the dining hall will also change weekly, giving bigger bonuses to different characters. When they’re serving Alliance specialties, try dining with students from the Golden Deer for a boost to all of your support levels.
There is one seasonal event that will unlock a special character class for a single character, a class that series veterans will especially want keep an eye out for. All I’ll say is that you should pay attention to the character with the highest stat in charm.
Talk To The Gatekeeper
There’s no gameplay benefit to this. I just love the chipper gatekeeper who stands watch on the right hand side of the gate outside the market. As they repeatedly tell Byleth, nothing gets past them! Except for, you know, all the nefarious goings on that you encounter during the game.
At its best, combat in Fire Emblem games is like an elegant game of chess. At its worst, it’s a morass of numbers that don’t feel like they mean anything. Three Houses leans more closely to the former than the latter, though it’s also easy to get lost in statistics and variables. Allow me to explain the building blocks of this game’s combat, an understanding that will take you pretty far once the game comes out next week.
In general, what you will need to pay attention to are your characters’ abilities and their Combat Arts. Abilities for particular kinds of weapons can be learned through weapon mastery, which is done either by teaching a particular character about that weapon during the teaching phase of the game, or through just using it. You can also learn abilities for a particular character class as your characters master that class. That class-based mastery can only be achieved through combat.
Abilities are passive, meaning you won’t have to do anything special to trigger them. Marianne, who I’d been using as a healer, recently learned the ability Miracle, which allows her to sometimes be able to survive otherwise lethal attacks, albeit with only one hit point remaining. This is pretty nifty, but in order to make sure that will actually happen, you have to equip that particular ability, and you only have five slots for equipped abilities. Through both teaching and combat, your characters will quickly learn more than five abilities, so it’s best to take a look at what your characters have every once in a while and change it up according to your preferences. You will also always have the option to adjust your character’s loadout right before a battle, which includes their equipped abilities.
It is within abilities that you’ll find the familiar Fire Emblem concept of the weapons triangle, which is a rock/paper/scissors-esque delineation of which weapons are strong or weak against others. As characters gain mastery at certain types of weapons, they’ll sometimes earn abilities that make them stronger against particular weapons. If your axe-wielding character has learned the ability Lancebreaker, it’s probably a good idea to equip that before any battle where you know there will be a lot of enemy lance users.
Combat Arts also have to be equipped to be used, but instead of being passive abilities, these are special moves to break out during combat. The move Curved Shot, for instance, allows bow users to hit targets that are farther away. Some moves are effective against particular enemy types, like Helm Splitter, a move your axe-using characters can learn that has a bonus against armored units. The thing about using Combat Arts is that it leads to your weapons breaking faster.
Weapons in Three Houses have a limited amount of uses before they break. Cheaper weapons have about thirty uses, while more expensive ones have much more. If you’re not using Combat Arts, you can make it through a lot of battles with a regular old Iron Sword, but if you are, you need to keep a close eye on each weapon’s durability.
Combat Arts use up more of the weapon’s durability—anywhere from three to five points—which adds up if you’re not keeping track. You can attack with a broken weapon, but your attacks will be much weaker, and it could also result in an enemy counterattack. Later in the game, you’ll unlock a blacksmith who can repair your weapons, but until then, you should keep a close eye on how many more uses they have until they break, and buy more weapons as needed.
On top of all that, the game’s main character also has the ability to use Relics, which are super powerful weapons. Most of the time, hitting an enemy with a Relic kills them in one hit. These weapons also have a durability stat and will still break when they run out, though this can be reset by resting during the school phase of the game. That only works for Relic weapons, though. Other weapons’ durability can’t be recharged through resting.
Your characters can also bring Battalions into battle. Think of these as being like an extra attack you have in your back pocket. When you have a Battalion, you can use an ability called a Gambit to attack an enemy. (Gambits aren’t always attacks, but most Battalions will have offensive rather than defensive Gambits.) Pairing Battalion abilities with characters can give those characters an extra option to attack or support your other units. The kind of attack that is available to you will depend on the Battalion. Some have ranged magic attacks, while other types of attacks will need you to be up close. Sometimes attacks will even affect the environment, like Battalions that have the attack Blaze, which sets the surrounding environment on fire. Some Battalions can be used to heal adjacent characters. Battalions also have a limited number of uses, but that number can be replenished between battles.
If all else fails, you have the Divine Pulse, which allows you to turn back time during a battle. People who plan to play on casual mode might think they won’t need it, because it’s not as necessary in the early game, but it’s worth your time in the long run to learn how to use the Divine Pulse. There are extra missions you can do to earn more Relics and Battalions that will require you to keep certain characters alive, and using the Divine Pulse tool makes that a lot easier to pull off. On top of that, getting everyone out of a battle unscathed will result in more weapon and class mastery boosts, as well as more experience and support between characters.
The Divine Pulse is mapped to the left trigger. You can use it to turn back time as far as you want, but you can only use the Pulse for a limited number of times per battle. Later in the game, you can earn more Divine Pulse uses, but you’ll have played dozens of battles before you get to that point. Using the Pulse can teach you a lot about strategy, as you’ll learn how and why characters die, and then immediately get the chance to correct whatever mistake you made. Often I would send out a character who I thought could handle it into a situation with too many enemies, and that character then died. I’ve since learned to be more cautious, and I’m glad I didn’t have to save scum just to get better outcomes in my battles.
Combat in Fire Emblem: Three Houses has a lot of moving parts, but the game also does a very good job of introducing concepts one by one and giving you enough time to master them before moving on to another new concept. Once you wrap your head around everything that you have to keep track of during battle, you’ll feel like a strategic genius. Or at least that’s what Claude, my house leader, calls me.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses perfectly balances tactics-based combat with an anime high school simulator. I’m fifteen hours in, and I can already tell it is going to break my heart.
This Fire Emblem game reminds me a lot of classic otome games like Princess Maker 2, or even their more modern antecedents like Long Live The Queen. In some regards, it is a raising sim. Just as those games asked you to raise a young woman into a princess or queen (or in Princess Maker 2’s case, the Queen of Hell), Three Houses places you in the role of a teacher at Garegg Mach Monastery, which is a school for young knights.
After you pick one of the titular three houses—I went with the Golden Deer—you devote time to training and raising students in the ways of knighthood, as a teacher would. The game also still has the tricky tactical battles for which Fire Emblem is known, but creating bonds between characters and raising their skill, takes place as much off the battlefield as it does on it.
At this point, Fire Emblem as a series can be broken up into two eras. There’s the era of older games from before 2012, many of them taking place in the same world and tending to be centered around the combat. These early games, for the most part, forced you to play with permadeath on, meaning that once a character falls in battle, they’re gone forever. The series took a radical shift with Awakening, which introduced American audiences to casual mode. In that mode, allies that fell on the battlefield wouldn’t literally die, and also, the game was much, much hornier than the previous games. So much of Awakening, and also the next game in the series, Fates, was centered around love, marriage, and your babies from the future. As a result, fans who wanted more of the same thing from the earlier era of Fire Emblem didn’t particularly love the newer games. That tactics element was still there in Awakening and Fates, certainly, but some fans felt the series lost the thing that had drawn them in: really tough combat.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses does a much better job at balancing the horny anime wife simulator of Fates and Awakening with the serious, puzzle-y tactical combat that drew in fans of the early games. There are a lot of things to do in Three Houses, but also a lot of ways to avoid the things you don’t particularly feel like doing.
Take teaching your students, for instance. You can instruct them manually, choosing each student and then picking which areas to instruct them in. I like to do this whenever I decide to change up my characters’ classes a bit. My student Lorenz started out with a lance, but then I gave him some points in Reason and realized that he could be a powerhouse mage. I’ve recently gained the character Cyril, and while he normally uses an axe, I’m trying to see if I can make him into a sword user, since I don’t have a ton of them. Teaching your students can also be done automatically, but I like to check in on them and progress certain characters one by one.
Three Houses still has some similar elements to Fates and Awakening, like the weapons triangle—a rock/paper/scissors system that made certain kinds of weapons more powerful than others—and breakable weapons. In Three Houses, your weapons still break, and users of certain weapons will eventually earn abilities that give them an advantage over other weapons. Both these elements are both much less important than Combat Arts, which are new to this game. Combat Arts are special moves that degrade your weapon quality. Regular attacks won’t contribute to how busted your weapon is, just Combat Arts. Some Combat Arts are particularly powerful against certain enemies. Knightkneeler, which is a Combat Art for Lance users, is more powerful against mounted units. Meanwhile Helm Splitter, a Combat Art for Axe users, will straight up destroy units wearing heavy armor.
The biggest change to combat is the addition of the Divine Pulse, which is a special ability that allows you to rewind time during battle. You can only use it a couple of times per battle, but on normal difficulty, I haven’t had to use it much. I’m not currently playing on the harder difficulty because I just wanted to get to know everyone my first go around. On a later playthrough, where I’ll be playing Classic mode, I’ll probably spam that pulse like a motherfucker.
Three Houses excels at connecting you with the characters, and it’s all because you are their teacher, so you’ll spend a lot of time teaching them and getting to know them. These characters mostly fall into familiar anime archetypes—a shrinking violet with pale blue hair, a cocky womanizer, a pink-haired girl who pretends to be stupid to get other people to do things for her—but by exploring the monastery, teaching them, and talking to them, you learn new unexpected facets that underly these archetypal personalities.
Marianne, the shrinking violet, has become one of my favorite characters. Usually, these kinds of nature-loving women of few words irritate me a little, but she’s got hidden depths that I’ve discovered after talking to her more and completing quests for her, such as returning her lost items that can be found around the monastery. (Apparently, none of the kids at Garreg Mach can keep their hands on their shit; she’s not the only character that I got to know better by picking up after them.)
If two units spend time on the battlefield next to each other, or supporting each other by healing, they’ll also become emotionally closer to each other. Once they get close enough, you’ll have the option to watch a little skit between the two characters in question, which is called a Support Conversation. The end result is that these characters will then be stronger when they fight together, but these skits also help you get to know the characters in question.
Recently in my play-through, Marianne made it to the lowest tier of a support conversation with Leonie, a girl from a poor village who idolizes a knight who once studied at Garreg Mach. Watching that scene, I realized that I learned a lot about both those characters. Leonie wanted Marianne’s help picking out some supplies for the women at the monastery, but Marianne declined, assuming she would just be a bother. It isn’t just that Marianne is shy. She has debilitatingly low self-esteem, to the point that you can tell that there is some deeper trauma bubbling under the surface. For example, she sometimes mentions that her father wouldn’t want her straying from the monastery. In fact, she mentions her father’s expectations for her a lot, usually when she’s declining offers of friendship from her classmates. You really have to wonder what happened to her, to make her so afraid of other people.
I thought Leonie would react with the same empathy that I was feeling, but instead, she was furious. Her reaction still made sense to me, though. Leonie doesn’t come from nobility, like the other characters, and she has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. She’s resourceful and frugal. She makes her own towels from fabric scraps, and she makes her own soap from used cooking oil. Marianne’s adopted father is a well-known noble. For Leonie, Marianne’s rejection felt like snobbery.
The depth of these character relationships, which flourish in a school setting, is ultimately what’s drawing me into Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I love the tactical aspects of the game, and Three Houses manages to keep the same level of polish in combat as the series has always had, while also changing things up a little. Best of all, Three Houses also does a better job than Awakening or Fates of connecting you to the characters and their interactions because it gives you the job of caretaker, the person helping these students reach their full potential. I’m not just shoving pieces around a board. I’m their teacher, and I want to guide my students through whatever troubles they may face in the future. Based on the sketchy goings-on at Garreg Mach, well, I would say that trouble is soon to be afoot.
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
I have spent most of the last week feeling incredibly hyped for Fire Emblem: Three Houses, one of a handful of games I’m most excited to play this summer. Whenever I’m feeling pumped for a new game, one thing I tend to do is go back and play or replay old games in the same series. This means I’ve been revisiting my old Fire Emblem: Awakening save, and let me tell you: I am pretty sure I was bad at this game.
First, you should know that I came to Fire Emblem extremely late. I got into Awakening after messing around with Fire Emblem Heroes when it dropped on mobile in early 2017. (The Nintendo 3DS was also something I got into extremely late.) Prior to that, strategy games were only an occasional part of my gaming diet. Some Military Madness here, some XCOM: Enemy Unknown there.
This is me making excuses for all the characters I got killed in my Fire Emblem: Awakening playthrough. I played with permadeath on, because I believed in consequences in 2017 and I believe in them now. I also, apparently, believe in keeping a record of what a strategic moron I am.
I returned to my old save two years later to be reminded that, across 14 story missions and a handful of side missions, I let 9 out of the 27 characters I recruited die. That’s a third of my army! Who in their right mind would fight for me? At this rate, Frederick should depose my sorry ass. Hell, Donnel—who is somehow still alive in my game—would probably do better. I am a reckless punk, undeserving of the burden of leadership. Give it to the boy with a pot for a hat.
This led to a crisis of conscience in the middle of my long Fourth of July weekend: Do I continue to recklessly plunge ahead, consequences be damned, living with the fallout like my colleague Jason Schreier did before me? Or do I commit to cracking this game slowly, keeping all my remaining characters alive and restarting if I fail, so I can become the mastermind I know I can be by the time Three Houses releases?
At first, I tried the latter. Instead of plowing ahead, I began Chapter 15 with the attitude that my first attempt would be merely to get to know the map, with no expectation of winning. That worked out pretty well for a couple hours. Then I got to Chapter 17, and it became impossible to go more than three turns without someone dying.
Part of this wasn’t my fault. Fire Emblem: Awakening is pretty fair as far as strategy games go—there’s room for some surprises, but you generally know how a fight’s going to turn out before you begin. Unfortunately, I kept getting surprised, with an enemy Arcmage scoring a critical hit on one of my strongest units, killing him with one impossibly strong blow on three separate attempts.
Other times I failed to read the room, forgetting that archers can shoot over some walls and mixing up the rock-paper-scissors “weapon triangle” that determines which units have the advantage in a fight. I like making big, ballsy dramatic plays, and Awakening’s rigidly defined system of character strengths and weaknesses encourage a more patient approach akin to puzzle-solving. I don’t have anything against puzzles—in fact, I love ‘em. But give me an army full of pegasus-riding valkyries and axe-wielding badasses and I’m going to want to dive right into the shit with them, you feel me?
After no fewer than seven attempts at Chapter 17 in which I lost at least one soldier every time, I think I’ve figured out how I like playing Fire Emblem games: I love being a reckless punk. I am the Dominic Toretto of the Fire Emblem universe, living my life a quarter mile at a time, fast and furious until the day I die. Or, more likely, until my entire army dies around me, because I am a monster who has not absorbed a single lesson these games have tried to impart about the horrors of war.
E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.
You’re not going to be able to play Fire Emblem: Three Houses without going through some kind of emotional pain.
In many ways, emotional pain is what Fire Emblem games are all about. Traditionally, they’re tough tactics games with permadeath, meaning that once your favorite characters are gone, they’re gone forever. Thought the newer games have a casual mode where characters don’t permanently die, it can still be pretty upsetting to see one of your favorites be taken out of the battle.
Three Houses, coming to Switch on July 26, takes it to another level. Yesterday I played a demo of the game alongside a Nintendo rep who walked me through the new concepts. There’s a lot that’s new, including new ways to get close to your favorite characters.
In Three Houses, you play as a teacher at a school that’s been split up Hogwarts-style. You’ll select which of the titular trio of houses to join mostly based on what characters you like, and in between battles, you’ll assign chores for them, explore the school grounds to talk to characters (maybe recruiting some other students to your house), and even sit down and have lunch with your students. On certain days of the month you’ll plan lectures, which raise your students’ stats and open up character classes for them. If you really want a particular character to learn how to use a lance, these lectures are the chance to give them those skills.
If you’re a fan of otome games like Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side, which has you scheduling a high school student’s days in order to get closer to whatever boy she wants to date, this format probably seems familiar. As a huge fan of otome games, I’m excited to meticulously schedule the lives of my students. But there is a twist. After a five-year time skip, the students you don’t recruit will be on opposing armies, and you will battle and kill them.
I don’t know how to emotionally grapple with this now, even only after playing the game for half an hour. It adds a whole new level of stakes to the portions of the game that take place outside of battle. In order to recruit characters to your house, you have to raise your own stats as well. Some students might be persuaded to join you if you have a high Magic stat, while others might be more impressed by a high defense. When you explore the school grounds and talk to other characters, you also only have four “activity points” to use. Each action, even talking to a character to accept a quest from them or try to recruit them, uses an activity point. You’ll have to bring your tactical mind to the schoolyard as well as the battlefield in order to protect the students you’ve grown to like.
The game does throw the player a tiny concession in the form of the Divine Pulse. In both casual mode, which doesn’t have permadeath, and classic mode, which does, you can use the Divine Pulse to go back through time to redo turns in a battle. If you made a bad call, or, as often happens to me, your healer dies, then that’s a good time to use the pulse to do it over. You can only use the Divine Pulse a couple of times, though, so you’d better make it count.
I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for the heartbreak that this game is about to put me through next month. I’m not sure which house I’ll choose and what students I’ll get close to, but I do know one thing: I will definitely cry.
The long-awaited first Nintendo Direct of 2019 hit today, and as expected, it was packed full of news sure to please Switch owners looking for more Fire Emblem, Mario, and even Zelda. Here’s everything we learned.
Super Mario Maker 2 is coming to Switch—with slopes!—in June 2019.
Freaking finally. We can now create our own Mario courses on the Switch, and Mario can finally slide on his denim-covered ass down diagonal slopes. Nintendo didn’t show off any especially wild new features for the Switch version of this Wii U game, but we did see Cat Mario, too. “Many new elements” were promised.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is getting remade for Switch.
An adorable-looking, 3D, top-down remake of the 1993 black and white Game Boy game is heading to Switch this year. We didn’t get many details about it, but the trailer confirmed that you can still stomp on old-school style Goombas in the side-scrolling bits. There was also a gorgeous 2D animated intro.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is slightly delayed, to July 26.
Nintendo detailed a lot of the game’s lore, including what the deal is with the titular Houses. Looks like the characters are all students, and they level up and grow through a combination of fighting and book-learnin’ at school. There will be a special edition, of course.
Astral Chain, a new game from Platinum Games, will be out on August 30.
It’s an action game in which you play future cops and fight giant monsters. Seems like it’ll have co-op. Masakazu Katsura, the manga artist known for Video Girl Ai, is on character designs, and Platinum’s Hideki Kamiya and Takahisa Taura are on the development staff.
The BoxBoy series is coming to Switch, with 2-player co-op.
Time to get really mad at your friend as you play through 270 different stages in BoxBoy! + BoxGirl!on April 26. There will also be stages in which you play as Qudy, who is twice the height of BoxBoy.
Dragon Quest XI will hit Switch this fall.
The Switch version of Square Enix’s latest RPG will be titled Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes Of An Elusive Age: Definitive Edition, include both English and Japanese audio, and will also have new storylines for various characters. It’ll even feature the 16-bit style graphical mode from the 3DS version that didn’t leave Japan. Nintendo promised more new information on the Switch version in the future.
Lots of stuff is dropping to the eShop today.
First, there’s Tetris 99. It’s an exclusive for Switch Online. If you’re a member you can play this battle-royale Tetris game, in which 99 players start but only one remains, for free starting today.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker for Switch will get a free update today that adds 2-player co-op to each of the game’s courses. There will also be 18 new challenges and five new courses via paid DLC, starting today. You can order the package, called “Special Episode,” now and get the first course, with the rest delivered on March 14. A digital bundle will hit eShop today containing the whole game and DLC access.
Daemon X Machina, the mecha combat game shown at E3, will get a “prototype missions” demo today, with the full game coming this summer. The game is still in development, so developers are looking for feedback. Play the demo and you might get a survey looking for your thoughts.
Yoshi’s Crafted World, coming March 29, will have a demo today. It will include adorable “costumes” that are just Yoshi wearing a cardboard box.
Final Fantasy IXwill also come to the eShop today, with Final Fantasy VIIclose behind on March 26. No word on the other Final Fantasies that are being ported to Switch.
Other new game or content announcements, including…
Disney Tsum Tsum Festival is coming from Bandai Namco. Many different four-player mini-games, playable locally and online. You can also play what looks like a straight-up port of the mobile version of the game.
Oninaki is the new action RPG from the developers of I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphear. The character must jump back and forth between “the living world and beyond” to find “lost souls” to rescue, who give you new powers. It’s coming this summer.
Rune Factory 4 Special has been remastered for the Switch, coming later this year. Rune Factory 5 is also in development.
Starlink: Battle For Atlas is getting more Star Fox-related content in its Spring update. You’ll be able to play as Falco, Peppy, and Slippy and take on the members of Star Wolf in the new battles in April.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will get a Version 3.0 update this spring. No details on what it’ll include. The DLC character Joker from Persona is coming in April.
And a whole bunch of other release dates and announcements for Switch, including:
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order (Summer), Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night (Summer), Dragon Quest Builders 2 (July 12), Dead By Daylight (Fall), Deltarune (February 28), GRID Autosport (Summer), Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Spring), Mortal Kombat 11 (April 23), Unravel two (March 22), Assassin’s Creed III Remastered (May 21), and Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy (March 20).
Oh, and the developers of Bayonetta 3 are reportedly “hard at work.” Glad to hear it.