After a year and a half of waiting, Nintendo finally removed the curtains from their Switch Fire Emblem title, now officially known as Fire Emblem: Three Houses, during their E3 2018 Nintendo Direct
It’s been almost that long since I last dusted off my magnifying glass, so without further ado, here’s my analysis of the reveal trailer plus other promotional materials!
First things first, over in Japan, the game is instead known as Fire Emblem Fūkasetsugetsu, which can be read as Fire Emblem Four Seasons, but it means a whole lot more than that.
The subtitle is poetic and evokes the wonders of the four seasons: the winds of Summer, flowers of Spring, snows of Winter and the moon of Autumn. It also has romantic allusions and can refer to a love affair.
Either way, it seems like the three houses–presumably noble houses or even individual nations–will be very important. Perhaps romance will also play a key role, similar to Genealogy of the Holy War?
Speaking of nations, the very first thing we’re shown is the game’s world map. This map is reminiscent of previous Fire Emblem maps, but does not appear to be a world we’ve seen before.
The text on the map is English and various locations and landmarks are spelled out. That said, the font used is very typical fantasy and thus it’s not easy to identify all of the names.
From what I can tell, the three main nations in the middle are Fergus (north), Adrastea (south) and Leicester (east). These nations have a flag that represents them. In the middle appears to be a mountain range called Garg Mac.
Other names I can make out include Brionac (west), Rusalka (far south), Aegir (above Rusalka) and Gloucester (by the bottom-left corner of Leicester). There’s also a mountain towards the far east called the Necklace of Fodra.
A big thanks to everyone who helped to decipher the location names on the forums!
There are many more names, but I’ll skip over them for now since it’s unknown how important they’ll be or whether you’ll even visit them. But keep in mind these names: Hresvelgr (far south), Blaidad (far north) and Regan (north of Leicester).
By the way, the Nintendo Topics site revealed a wider version of the map, where you can see the greyed out territories. These include Brigit to the south-west and Morpheus to the south-east. Likewise, it’s unclear if we’ll go there, but their presence makes the world seem larger.
We later learn that the world is called Fódlan and it’s controlled by the Church of Seiros. This information comes from an old fable and also from the trailer description on YouTube:
Long ago, the Divine Seiros received a revelation from the goddess. A gift to help guide the lost. Now the goddess watches over Fódlan from her kingdom above, as the mother of all life, the arbiter of every soul.
Just in case, if you noticed the “Necklace of Fodra”, “Fodra” is the name of the world in the Japanese version. “Fodra” can also be seen on the compass in the wider world map. Perhaps the “dra” is a reference to dragon?
Also, this isn’t the first time a continent has been slightly renamed. We had Ereb from Binding and Blazing Blade become Elibe and Magi Val from The Sacred Stones become Magvel. Presumably Fódlan is just easier to recognise for us folk.
Back to the fable, the “Divine Seiros” appears to be the robed figure holding the sword in the tapestry. In the Japanese version, they call Seiros a holy (wo)man. Afterwards, Seiros or his/her followers presumably built the Church of Seiros.
Meanwhile the goddess appears to be the woman near the top of the tapestry–and she may even be the dragon in the very centre. Most likely she’s a member of the dragonkin, who are often regarded as gods in the various Fire Emblem worlds.
If so, the “gift” could be the sword in Seiros’s hands–an equivalent to the Falchion, Yato or similar Regalia. Note how the blade has a serpent-like shape.
While the fable is being told, a war is waging in the background. Standing calmly in the middle of all the fighting is a woman who evokes the imagery of a peaceful queen not unlike Emmeryn or Mikoto.
She is wearing the same kind of flower that the Gddess is wearing and her headpiece has dragon wings. Also, it’s hard to tell from the lighting, but she may have light green hair similar to Divine Dragons like Tiki, Mila and Duma.
Before long, she is attacked by a powerful-looking figure coming from the air. At first glance, it looks like the rival general or maybe even the rival king.
But if you slow down the action, you’ll see one of the queen’s soldiers deflect his attack and his face is just a generic warrior’s–the same from earlier on.
Next we learn the game’s name, which I’ve already covered. Both the logo text and the background are very minimalist, suggesting a more serious, dramatic game.
Now for some gameplay! Thanks to the Nintendo Switch’s improved specs, the battle maps are more detailed than ever. Most important, the grid-based Fire Emblem gameplay we all know and love is back, blue and red squares and all.
The player selects Edelgard, who’s a Level 3 unit with a Steel Axe. She has a movement range of 5, which is par for the course for an infantry unit, unless you’re playing Fire Emblem Heroes.
Interestingly, when Edelgard is selected, you can see red curved lines coming from the enemy units towards the units you control. These could be aggro lines, similar to those found in action games etc., which indicate who the enemies are likely to target next.
In previous games, it’s often a big question mark which of your units an enemy will move towards or attack, even if there are ways to predict their actions. Explicitly showing an enemy’s aggro should make it much easier to plan a strategy. Perhaps previous skills like Provoke and Shade will directly influence aggro?
When Edelgard gets close enough to an enemy, a series of command tags are shown: Attack, Magic, Combat Arts, Formation, Equip, Items and Wait. Curiously, Attack and Magic are now separate commands. Perhaps Magic now encompasses offensive and healing magic? Could magic even operate similar to in Echoes, depleting HP?
Related to Echoes, Combat Arts make a return, although how they work here is anyone’s guess. “Formation” is a new option and seems to be related to a completely new gameplay mechanic that we’ll see very soon. The other options are self-explanatory.
After choosing “Attack”, we see Edelgard can wield swords and axes. Assuming she’s an unpromoted unit, it’s rare to see a unit capable of wielding two types of weapons, let alone sword and axe–a combination usually seen with promoted Heroes, Paladins and Wyvern Lords.
Also, weapon durability is back after being absent in Fates and Echoes.
The Battle Data shows familiar stats: Attack, Hit rate, Critical rate, Attack Speed, Avoid and Range. End and Rsl are new though. Or are they? Actually, they are more obvious in the Japanese version. They are short for Endurance and Resilience, or defence versus physical and magic. Basically Def and Res.
To the left is some interesting info as well. Edelgard’s class is “Aristocrat”, which is new to the series. Well, actually, it was an unused class in Blazing Blade, belonging to the likes of Elbert. That’s your useless FE fact for the day! Also displayed next to her level is the Adrastea flag.
Forum user Mackc2 pointed out that Edelgard has an attack range of 1~2 when selected, but only an attack range of 1 when fighting with her weapons. None of her weapons seem like ranged weapons either. Perhaps the extended attack range comes from her magic or combat arts?
Edelgard’s foe is Mercedes, a sword wielder. It’s not clear if Mercedes is a unique character. At the least, she’s probably not a recruitable character, because showing the player kill one off doesn’t look good, so maybe she’s a boss or some kind of captain.
Above Edelgard’s name, towards the left is an icon that looks like Vantage. So it seems Skills from Fates etc. will be back in. Curiously, weapon triangle icons aren’t displayed despite Edelgard wielding an axe versus a sword. Still, Mercedes has better Hit, but it could be the difference in weapon stats.
The battle scenes look highly detailed and sport a somewhat cel-shaded look. More importantly, it’s not just Edelgard and Mercedes that appear in the battle, but their troops too!
We see the troops feature in another battle scene between Dimitri and a Kingdom Soldier, then another with Claude. Dimitri has a huge Hit advantage wielding a lance versus a sword, so it’s possible the weapon triangle is still intact (or Dimitri is really OP). Meanwhile Claude has a bow.
Going forward, you may want to remember those three names: Edelgard, Dimitri and Claude.
Anyway, the game seems to have taken inspiration from its sister series, Advance Wars, in that each unit on the battle map represents a battalion of troops. So while it may be just Edelgard on the map, in reality, it’s Edelgard plus a number of her troops. This makes the battles more realistic and to-scale, considering they’re fighting in a war.
After the short glimpse of gameplay, we’re treated to more cutscenes. A massive army is gathering, with Pegasus Knights flying in the skies and lance-wielding cavalry leading the charge. They are fighting barbaric-looking warriors, similar to the warrior attacking the queen near the start.
More gameplay! The player selects Edelgard again, but switches to an alternative viewpoint that really reminds me of the cancelled Fire Emblem RTS-like game for the Wii. In this view, all the hidden troops appear in view so you can really appreciate the scale of the battle.
In the bottom-right corner is a map to help you plan your movements since your view is more restricted. There are icons depicting each weapon type (sword, lance, axe, bow, tome, etc.) and the colour (blue for player and red for enemy). A movement and attack range for the selected unit is also shown.
Meanwhile, looking away from the map, there are face icons above each battalion, so you can tell who they belong to. The aggro lines are visible as well and you can also see a blue line in the distance that indicates how far your selected unit can move.
The player then shuffles to the blue-haired character, Byleth, before sending his battalion to attack Hilda, the pink-haired girl. As Hilda is being targeted, you can see more enemies with faces behind her–a mustached tome-wielder and two younger-looking bow and lance users.
Judging from Hilda’s positioning on the map, she doesn’t seem like the boss of the map, nor do the faced enemies. Perhaps this game simply features more non-generic enemies?
From the sounds of things, life and death might be more important in this game than before. Of course, the survival of your playable characters is always important, but could it be that the survival of certain enemies will also influence how the story pans out? They did say the Goddess is the arbiter of all souls…
Alternatively, it could just be a simple mock battle, especially if the battle is from early on in the game (which looks to be the case since both the playable units and enemies are very low Level).
During the combat forecast, above Byleth’s name, towards the left is an icon that looks like Wrath. Meanwhile, between his name and his weapon is a ZL/ZR toggle for Combat Arts (it’s more obvious in the Japanese trailer).
Again, forum user Mackc2 noted that Hilda can counter-attack at close range despite wielding a bow, similar to in Echoes. For reference, unlike Edelgard, Byleth only has an attack range of 1 at this current point in the game.
After that battle, we see a big castle in the backdrop. Then we’re transported directly into the castle, where Byleth–who I like to affectionately call “Edgy Marth”–gives us a quick tour, of both the inside and the outside.
As you can see, you can free roam around 3D environments just like in Echoes! Before, you could only roam around dungeons, but now you can run around inside a castle, which is something I’ve been really looking forward to (not counting boundary breaking Echoes maps).
It seems you can interact with your allies in the castle. We next see Byleth helping Edelgard deciding whether to train her sword or axe skills. You can then physically choose which to go for. Perhaps this unlocks new Combat Arts or simply increases her weapon rank progression (eg. from C to B)?
Sadly we don’t get to see the results as the trailer transitions to the peaceful queen from the beginning, this time holding onto a very important-looking sword. The gemstone in the middle screams “Falchion” or a similar dragon-slaying sword and the wings on the hilt further suggest its purpose.
What’s odd is that the entire sword seems to be cracked. Has it been damaged or is it sealed within stone? Also, is it the sword that Seiros was holding in the tapestry? The blade is definitely not straight, but the shape doesn’t look quite right. Also the hilt isn’t the right shape, but a tapestry is just an interpretation.
We’re on a bridge next, with a blonde-hair male–Dimitri–seemingly changing his battalion’s formation to make a triangle shape. This is likely what the “Formation” command from before was. Perhaps the formations give different benefits or trump other formations?
Immediately afterwards, a female mage of some kind is attacking a group of soldiers. It could just be the angle of the battle scene, but it looks like the female mage has a height advantage. Could height play a role like in Radiant Dawn? Or maybe the height just adds to the dramatic effect.
Now we see somebody who could be a rival ruler. This man wields a flame-infused chain blade and uses it to attack the lance cavalry. He also has fur on his collar just like the warriors attacking the cavalry. Perhaps he’s their king or a powerful general.
Reddit user /u/Nahzuvix pointed that his chain blade is actually the same as the sword being held by the peaceful queen earlier on. The chains appear to be made of bone–possibly dragon bone? The bone-like structure explains why the sword is so oddly shaped.
The order of the cutscenes makes it ambiguous who got hold of the sword first. Did the queen have it first, then it was stolen and wielded by the man? Or did the man use the sword to fight against her army, then he was defeated and she obtained the sword?
In addition, the man has a curious symbol on his left shoulder (from his point of view) and cape, which I can’t seem to identify.
Things get a bit weird as a giant doll-like enemy appears inside an eerie temple or castle interior. I’m reminded of the non-human foes from Fates, like the clock-work Automaton and the Stoneborn. Meanwhile the design looks vaguely similar to the Chinese Terracotta soldiers.
Facing this monstrosity is a dark-haired archer, who we can piece together is Claude.
From one exciting scene to another, we finish with Byleth landing a critical hit (or using a Combat Art). The cut-in animation is very dynamic and improved on the ones from Echoes and even Warriors.
The trailer then ends with a young dragonkin girl sleeping on a throne. This imagery is very similar to Tiki in Shadow Dragon and Mystery of Emblem, where she was forced to sleep to keep her powers in check. Looking at the design, this probably isn’t Tiki herself, although you never know…
A slightly pointless detail, but if you look carefully at the wall behind the throne, it’s the same teal-coloured wall from when the game’s logo is shown. In fact, it’s literally the exact same wall–when you paste the game logo into the top-right corner, the texture matches exactly.
The last piece of news is that the game is coming out in Spring 2019–and it may even be a simultaneous release worldwide like Warriors. That said “Spring” is a pretty wide window, so it’s entirely possible that Japan gets the game first (since that’s where it was first developed).
However, that’s not all the news. On Nintendo’s Japanese website, there was a topic article about this game that revealed a few extra tidbits. Namely, the protagonist will have an important encounter with three key characters.
From left to right: Edelgard von Hresvelgr, Dimitri Alexander Blaidad and Claude von Regan.
We’ve seen Edelgard, Dimitri and Claude appear multiple times in the trailer and here are their portraits from the article for reference.
You may notice their surnames correspond to locations on the world map. Looking at the map again, Hresvelgr is located in Adrastrea and is marked by a flower-shaped emblem. Blaidad is in Fergus and has an emblem that’s kind of shaped like ice or snow. Finally, Regan is in Leicester and has a moon emblem.
If you think back to the game’s Japanese name, the flower, snow and moon are represented by these three locations and their emblems. All that’s missing is the wind (of summer). Perhaps the missing link is Byleth? Thanks to reddit user /u/raptor-lover for bringing this to my attention!
These same three emblems appear in the flags of the three countries too. Therefore, signs point to these three characters being pivotal members of the three nations/houses. However, all three are wearing the same kind of uniform and clasp for their cape, so maybe they’re all in the same group.
Wait, are they in a military academy like Sigurd, Quan and Eldigan from Genealogy of the Holy War (or Trails of Cold Steel, Valkyria Chronicles 2, etc)? That could explain why they’re training and why they need a teacher.
By the way, the three emblems also appear in the tapestry, around the edges. In total, there are 21 emblems or 22 if you count the one above the goddess in human form.
Hresvelgr’s emblem is at the very top and also appears in the castle that Byleth was exploring. Meanwhile, Blaidad’s emblem is near the bottom-right, and Regan’s emblem is towards the far left.
For your convenience, here are all the outer crests rearranged so you don’t need to keep turning your head.
Before we leave the subject of emblems, one of the characters–maybe Edelgard–remarks about crests around halfway through the trailer.
Some believe the crests, token of the goddess’ power, are necessary to maintain order. But they’re wrong, teacher, the crests are to blame.
Crests and emblems are synonymous, so there’s a good chance these family crests will be important somehow. Not just because the name of the series is Fire Emblem!
The final thing to comment on is Byleth, the blue-haired male. The article–and the E3 fact sheet–mentions a protagonist, but it’s not the three key characters. Given his prominent role–and that he’s seen wandering the castle–Byleth is undoubtedly the protagonist in question.
His role seems to be a teacher of some kind, although he can fight. The characters make reference to an “instructor”, which appears to be him. He’s also the one suggesting how Edelgard should train. But more than that, the fact they discuss a protagonist without mentioning his name…
Might Byleth be this game’s Avatar, similar to Robin and Corrin (and Kris from New Mystery of the Emblem)? In fact, they’ve made it easier to refer to him/her in voiced cutscenes, because they could simply call him/her “teacher”. Like how the Persona 5 cast call their main character “Joker” based on his role.
Anyway, that’s most of the important things I’ve noticed, but I’m bound to have missed something. If you’ve spotted something interesting that I haven’t, feel free to discuss in the comments or on the forums!
Update: Corrected some location names thanks to Tactician_Iris.