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Fire Emblem’s hack and slash spinoff just made me want to play Three Houses

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I had high hopes for Three Hopes

Image: Nintendo

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, the Fire Emblem: Three Houses-themed hack and slash game, is pretty damn good — I just wish I could enjoy it. Three Hopes made a bit of a splash for its debut during February’s Nintendo Direct. Fans had seen the familiar blue-red-yellow primary color scheme and hoped that the morose Dimitri, best boy Claude, and Edelgard and her merry band of fascists had come back in a sequel to one of the best Nintendo Switch games in the console’s history. Some of them rolled their eyes to see Three Hopes was not Three Houses 2 but the next in a long line of licensed hack and slash games.

I was not one of those fans. I love hack and slash games. I voraciously consumed the middle handful of Dynasty Warriors and Warriors Orochi games. And since those games have taken a bit of a dip in quality (the most recent Dynasty Warriors 9 has abysmal reviews), the licensed flavor of this genre has become a welcome substitution. It’s not only because they scratch the itch of just wanting to go ape shit in a game but also because Koei Tecmo didn’t skimp on the storytelling. It would have been easy and expected for these games to be narratively light — after all, there’s only so many times you can rehash the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Dynasty Warriors has managed to do that nine fricking times. But Persona 5 Strikers functions damn near as a Persona 5 sequel, and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity fiddled with the canon of Breath of the Wild in a way that had some emotionally resonant and satisfying moments. I had high hopes for Three Hopes, thinking it would be the same, but it wasn’t.

Image of Claude Von Riegan from Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes
Pictured here: Best Boy.
Image: Nintendo

One thing I really appreciated about Age Of Calamity and Strikers was that the characters weren’t forced to fit into the hack and slash genre. Rather, these spinoffs were made to really feel like they fit into the world they were based on. Three Hopes did something similar.

The game features the same complex class promotion system whereby combat units could become anything and everything. There were chores to complete, trainings to do, and food to cook just like in Three Houses, and with each activity, you increased your support rank with your friends. But all those features imported to Three Hopes just made me want to play Three Houses again. I would get excited talking to Claude (again, best boy) and leveling up our social rank, but when it was time to fight, I had a real yearning for the strategy combat of Three Houses that Three Hopes just couldn’t fulfill. It wasn’t bad or boring. Three Hopes’ combat really does try to make it feel as Fire Emblem as it can, but it just wasn’t good enough.

I also didn’t really like how the game forced you to choose your house so early, shunting you away from the others. I’m not particularly fond of Dimitri, and Edelgard... girl. But I had hoped Three Hopes’ alternate universe story could at least help me see the appeal of the Blue Lions, Black Eagles, or Ashen Wolves before I had to choose one. I didn’t get the opportunity. (Yes, I know, I was always gonna pick the Golden Deer anyway. But I would have liked to have gotten to know the others better so I could at least hesitate for a few more seconds than I would have normally.)

Three Hopes isn’t for me. It constantly made me wish I were playing Three Houses in ways Strikers and Age of Calamity did not. It eventually got so distracting and disappointing that I had to put the game down in favor of a few more rounds with Triangle Strategy, of all games. Maybe I just have an itch for a strategy game that just can’t be filled with a hack and slash — no matter how decent that hacking and slashing is.

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is out now for the Nintendo Switch.