This week, we're going down to visit some emo nerds in the basement. The Cindered Shadows DLC roughly wraps up my eight months with Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and I've loved every minute of the journey.
I was excruciatingly intimidated going into Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Handed the review code with three weeks til launch in June 2019, I felt incredibly out of my depth with this weird anime RPG. "Wait so it's like Persona, but it's not Persona, and it's also 80 hours long. Also, it's the 50th game in the series? Sounds fun." [Ed. Note: There are actually 16 Fire Emblem games, but there are times where it really does feel like 50.]
Nervous was an understatement. "What if I don't get a reference? What if I overlook a crucial detail? What if I don't comment on something that's been changed for this game?" Entering a franchise where people have opinions as a newcomer is terrifying, which is part of the reason I've put off trying out Mass Effect. I'm sure it's great, but entering a fanbase where the pitchforks are already out (see: Mass Effect 3's ending) is something I want no part of.
Thankfully, the Fire Emblem community turned out to be wonderful. It's a community that's banded together not around which of the three houses is the best, but in celebration of all three houses for different reasons. Golden Deer is for those who like fun idiots; Blue Lions is for our depressed comrades, and Black Eagles is for heart wrenching tragedy (or a Byleth-Edelgard romance). I'm generalizing of course, but you get the idea of why each of them is appealing in their own way.
The Fire Emblem community works quickly in its shitposting. The video above was put out less than 10 days after Three Houses launched. People latched onto the characters really quickly; some because of their immediate charm (Mercedes, Dorothea, Dedue, etc.), and others because they appeared one-dimensional at first, but showed their true colors after taking the time to get to know them (Marianne, Bernadetta, Edelgard, etc.).
Characters are why people have been completing this mammoth game over and over again. The gameplay doesn't change all that dramatically from each campaign of Three Houses, but it's the characters you want to spend the time with. Standout features like 'tea time' show that the developers understand that the characters are one of the strengths of Three Houses, and so they give you these perfect one-on-one moments with your students and colleagues.
The Three Houses community, meanwhile, knows just how to celebrate these characters. Lysithea just wants to commit homicide and bully the Death Knight; Seteth is a big dumb father figure; Flayn needs her goddamn fish, and Edelgard has a big old crush on Byleth, to name but a few highlights.
The Fire Emblem community helped solidify Three Houses as one of the best games of 2019. Experiencing loveable characters by yourself is all well and good, but they get even better when you've got people to share your experiences with. The community helped write narratives around characters. Lysithea being the bane of the Death Knight springs to mind—her fandom is one that brings everyone together under the banner of one character without crossing the line of shared ownership and toxicity.
I don't think it's a stretch to say the Ashen Wolves students will be the biggest selling point for Three Houses' Expansion Pass. Chilling in the sauna with your comrades is all well and good before, but I think anyone holding out on buying the Expansion Pass is most likely convinced by the prospect of new students. That's certainly the case for me.
With the final Cindered Shadows DLC pack out this week though, it's probably time to bid Fire Emblem: Three Houses adieu—right before the year really picks up in March. Thank you for the last eight months Fire Emblem community, you've all been an absolute treat to experience this game with.
Major Game Releases: February 10 through February 16
Here are the major releases for the week of February 10 to February 16. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
- Yakuza 5 Remastered [February 11, PlayStation 4]: The Kiryu Kazuma saga finally comes full circle on PS4. With the release of the final part of the remastered trilogy of Yakuza games, you can now play every single Yakuza game on PS4, including Haruka's idol section!
- Fire Emblem Three Houses: Cindered Shadows [February 11, Switch]: This DLC is going under the "major releases" section because we're all crazy for Three Houses here. This DLC pack brings us a fourth house: The Ashen Wolves, four very anime students living in the basement underneath Garreg Mach. You know I'm excited.
- Darksiders Genesis [February 14, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch]: The spin-off Darksiders game finally hits consoles after launching on PC late in 2019. Genesis could be quite the portable treat on the Switch.
- Dreams [February 14, PlayStation]: Just over one year after it entered early access, Dreams finally goes full throttle on PS4. Media Molecule's game gets a very strange campaign mode with its final release this week, as well as an expanded range of creator tools and assets.
Five Things You Should Know Heading into This Week in Gaming
- Mewtwo reached the big two-zero last week. My big, laboratory-grown child is nearly old enough to buy alcohol, but if his past lessons are anything to go on, he's already above and beyond that level of maturity already.
- There's been no confirmation of an imminent Nintendo Direct, but please don't tell a Nintendo-related subreddit that. If there is a presentation set for February, it's high time we heard more about Bayonetta 3 (please).
- Rockstar's co-founder Dan Houser departed the company he helped create. The GTA and Red Dead writer might be gone, but Grand Theft Auto as a series will be just fine.
- It feels like Final Fantasy 7 Remake is in the news every week for different reasons. Last week Square Enix presented some gorgeous new artwork for the game, setting up one of my favorite sections from the original.
- Warcraft 3: Reforged's reception has been... less than stellar. Users are demanding refunds and review-bombing the game online, leading Blizzard president J. Allen Brack to admit that "it's been a bit of a hard week."
Axe of the Blood God for February 10
Axe of the Blood God is our official RPG podcast releasing every single Monday. You can find subscription info here. We also put out an Axe of the Blood God newsletter every Wednesday, which you can subscribe to here.
JRPGs weren't in such a great place in 2010. Things are better now, but how much better? In the latest episode of Axe of the Blood God, Kat and Nadia take a closer look at how JRPGs are faring as a new decade begins.