Musou games are a strange breed, as they fulfill a very general fantasy but typically are only enjoyed by an incredibly niche audience. Games like the Warriors series encompass many different time periods and franchises, from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms to properties like One Piece. That being said, the genre struggles to find solid footing, tending to be overlooked unless linked to a much larger property that can carry the name forward. Enter Fire Emblem Warriors, the first in the series and released to positive reception. A bit more fleshed out than normal musou games, aspects from other Fire Emblem titles made the Warriors title a lot more immersive and require more thought. This sentiment is expanded in Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, which branches off the existing Fire Emblem: Three Houses; both in story and in gameplay systems. Three Hopes’ implementation of Three Houses systems tends to both impress and fall short in different measures, but overall is a very thoughtful and fun Warriors title.
Musou games are a bit more on the casual side, with combat systems not being incredibly intricate in favor of more enemies being on screen and more playable characters being accessible. The systems that Three Hopes borrows from Three Houses remedies a lot of this to surprising effect, much like the original Fire Emblem Warriors title. Chief among this is the weapon triangle, which is implemented with some adjustments in Three Hopes. This, along with infantry and cavalry effectiveness makes combat a bit more thoughtful than going in guns blazing on whatever character fits the player’s fancy that day. Also borrowed from the original franchise is the leveling system, which has a lot of nuance to it. While there are items that can boost individual stats down the line, the leveling system and individual character growths play a large role in what certain units can excel at, and create certain playstyles for characters. This, combined with the reclassing system borrowed from Three Houses makes customization a lot more varied and offers a ton of replayability, but characters can still feel a bit pigeonholed into what they’re meant to excel at. A great example is Raphael, whose normal promotion line fully commits into fist weapons, with a very high focus on Strength. While this is the case, you absolutely can make him into a mage or a healer, but his incredibly high Strength growth versus his low Magic growth make him much less effective as a mage. It can absolutely still work with some investment (and be incredibly funny), but for those less invested in fully gearing and training up characters it can be a bit of a negative.
Surprisingly for the Nintendo Switch and all its limitations, Three Hopes is able to handle a lot of action and on-screen enemies before it begins to lag at all, and they all look very good graphically. A major issue with musou titles is the framerate chugging even on more powerful systems with all the entities on screen combined with the player’s particle effects, but Three Hopes manages to avoid any issues most of the time. There are scenarios where (mostly magic units) fighting and using skills in quick succession creates a slight framerate drop, but it is mostly negligible and doesn’t tend to harm the overall experience. Three Hopes is also strange in the fact that it’s a very long experience, with three whole campaigns to play through, all having different recruitable characters and different endings. Each lord has a path like in Three Houses, and the story and support conversations do a lot to build the world these alternate timelines have created. Three Houses was an incredibly lore dense game with all the character supports and world building, and Three Hopes attempts to get to that level. While a lot of the support conversations are much more shallow, and there are fewer support options overall, there’s still a lot of depth to be found, and can scratch the itch in lieu of a more traditional Fire Emblem release.
Three Hopes’ depth was surprising as a seasoned musou player expecting a much more shallow experience to keep eyes on the Fire Emblem property. With the level of stat and class customization available and sheer length of the campaigns, Three Hopes fills the void of a new Fire Emblem game quite nicely. Aside from archaic points like gender locked classes, class locked outfits, as well as framerate drops; Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a rich musou experience for first timers and veterans of the genre alike.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch