Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes
Time To Unify Fodlan, Again?
In a few weeks, it will be exactly three years since Fire Emblem: Three Houses was released on the Switch as the series' first entry on the console. The original game centered around a mercenary named Byleth who, on the grounds of their mentor and parental figure Jeralt, encourages them to become a professor at Garreg Mach Monastery for one of the three houses. The peaceful times don't last as war inevitably breaks out. Depending on which house was chosen, Byleth would have to lead their students to survive the end of the war and remain victorious. Everything that you just read above, pay no heed to it in Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes because that story is flipped on its head.
Matter of fact, going into Three Hopes with no recollection of Three Houses is a feeling I can't imagine nor do I wish to imagine. Ignorance is bliss as they say and being ignorant of the events of Three Houses must be nice. The game hits different when in fifteen minutes you're going up against, well, you and you get the brakes beat off of by, well, you. Allow me to explain to those who are lost. The major antagonist presented to the player in Three Hopes is the protagonist of Three Houses. Let me be clear that this is not a sequel, but rather an entire re-imagining of the original's plot.
Sometimes You Gotta Be Bad To Be Good
As it turns out, the decision to make Byleth the villain fell upon Omega Force, the developers of Three Hopes. According to an IGN interview, producer Yosuke Hayashi of Team Ninja stated that one of the main reasons for Byleth to be the antagonist was due to the nature of Three Houses. One of the main themes was the clashing ideologies of each of the house leaders, which eventually topples into a full-on war. As Byleth was the main character, it was impossible to feel that sense of conflict the other houses felt in fighting them. Three Hopes provides a "What If?" scenario where the player can feel the same adversity through Byleth as everyone else did in Three Houses.
This was an interesting decision among many others as the protagonists speak this time around. In Three Houses, Byleth notably did not speak unless they were in battle. Not only does the protagonist, Shez, speaks in Three Hopes, but Byleth has fully spoken lines as well. Omega Force did a fine job at fleshing out Byleth's personality, which was the intent according to director Hayato Iwata.
In the same interview, Iwata felt that Byleth was one of the game's most charming and appealing characters without saying much. Iwata wanted the scenario writer, the same as Three Houses, to push the envelope on what Byleth could be. if it was a villain with a voice, then I'd say it was a good call for everyone on board.
Compared To The Ashen Demon, Shez Is Intentionally Unremarkable
At the beginning of Three Houses, Byleth and their guardian Jeralt are making their way towards the end of a successful mission. The reputation of Byleth as the "Ashen Demon" predates them and they are well aware of their notoriety on the battlefield. Shez by comparison is a lone wolf, later admitting they aren't bound to loyalty towards anyone. They fight for coins and their intentions are not unlike the mercenaries Byleth fights at the beginning of Three Houses. This was another perfect decision as rather than play the hero, you are an average mercenary albeit a skilled one.
The difference in skill is shown front and center in their first encounter, which is an unwinnable fight in Byleth's favor. As Byleth is about to finish Shez off, the latter unknowingly make a "pact" with an entity known as Arval. Like Sothis to Byleth in Three Houses, Arval gives Shez their source of power which is enough to fend off Byleth's attack before they disengage, declaring their mission a success. Following this fight, the prologue begins with a familiar scenario for those who played Three Houses.
Even in An Alternate Universe, The Bandits Are Still Owned
I've made many comparisons to Three Houses even though I've said that you don't have to play the former to enjoy the latter. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is essentially an "alternate universe" where similar events play out as they would in Three Houses. The prologue is the game's best example as this is where the player is introduced to Claude, Edelgard, and Demitri. There's a group of bandits nearby and the four band together to stop their advancements while defeating the leader. The difference between the two games is of course its combat.
If you've played a "Musou" game, you have played Three Hopes. I've not played the original Fire Emblem Warriors so I can only continue to compare with Three Houses. While the hack and slash elements of the Warriors titles are prevalent here, what's unique to Three Hopes is the ability to dispatch tropes.
There's a map function that pans out as it would in a main Fire Emblem title and Shez orders their units to attack or defend a location. Each unit also represents a class that is strong or weak against an opposing class, meaning strategy is needed to ensure the player isn't at a disadvantage. The visual aesthetics match Three Houses with musical remixes to iconic themes from the former.
By the time I reached camp, I was impressed with Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. It was a game that I wasn't sure what to expect, but I'm content with the decisions made. Rather than force newcomers into a scenario that they were unfamiliar with or make a "canon sequel" that would divide a player base, Omega Force went with the "alternate universe" approach. This makes Three Houses continue its canon while Three Hopes has its own, like the "Earth-1610" version. Players interested in trying it out can still download and play the free demo up until a sizable chunk of the game.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is now available on the Nintendo Switch.