Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes has the unenviable task of translating everything that people loved about Fire Emblem: Three Houses – the fan-favorite characters, their distinct and separate motivations, and its overarching story – into an entirely different kind of video game. Add to this that Fire Emblem Warriors, the first and only other entry in the genre for Fire Emblem, was released to a relatively average reception, and the odds seemed against the new title from the start. Despite it all, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes manages to defy expectations, making for a delightful return to the world of F?dlan so far.
While it’s difficult to say whether anyone unfamiliar with Fire Emblem: Three Houses would be as invested as myself, thanks in part to my having spent well over 100 hours in the original video game, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a fascinating diversion that basically functions as an alternate universe of sorts. There have been some questions as to when the game takes place and how that even works, but the former makes the latter make much more sense.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes centers on a single core conceit that changes the way in which the rest of the narrative plays out. Instead of finding the mercenary Byleth and them becoming a professor at Garreg Mach Monastery, the academy around which Fire Emblem: Three Houses largely takes place, the leaders of the, well, three houses – Edelgard, Dimitri, and Claude – instead encounter Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes‘ protagonist, Shez, while trying to escape bandits in the forest. It’s essentially the same encounter and pursuant fight, but the new protagonist makes all the difference in the long run.
There are plenty of other parallels to Fire Emblem: Three Houses throughout Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. Shez has their own mysterious hovering spirit of sorts that seemingly grants them power in Arval, players have to pick a side among the houses before then fighting with and against familiar but slightly older faces, and while Shez certainly has their own unique background to deal with, Support conversations for characters with another, different powerful mercenary aren’t all that completely different.
Functionally, however, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is still at its heart a product of Koei Tecmo‘s Omega Force. It has all the trappings of Fire Emblem like class changes, individual stats and weapon skill levels, and more, but every battle is on a map where players largely have to capture or defend strongholds against hundreds of enemies at a time by cleaving through them with a select group of characters. Sometimes that requires taking out certain specific enemies, sometimes it means defending allies, and so on. While the original Fire Emblem Warriors struggled with making this repetitive nature interesting, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes uses the complexity of its mechanical Fire Emblem heritage alongside the story and characters from Fire Emblem: Three Houses to keep things interesting.
The number of enemies on screen at any point does present its own problems, however. Previous collaborations between Nintendo and Omega Force like Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity have had framerate problems because of this, but Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes seems to run fairly well on my Nintendo Switch OLED with only small noticeable dips while not docked. It was never enough to mar my overall experience, but playing on a TV while docked always went more smoothly than playing it around the house.
These sort of hybrid titles which bolt musou-style gameplay of one character against a thousand onto franchises that aren’t necessarily suited for it are always strange beasts. There’s no obvious solution to making that a happy marriage, but Omega Force certainly seems to have taken the right lessons from the original Fire Emblem Warriors here roughly five years later. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes isn’t exactly a direct sequel or followup to Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and it’s certainly by no means a traditional Fire Emblem, but so far it looks to lean into what made the title it’s based on excellent in satisfying ways while offering a new experience that feels both familiar and distinct.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is set to launch for the Nintendo Switch on June 24th. A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this preview.