Fire Emblem: Three Houses proves that Nintendo games need better storytelling.
I am now working on my second session for Fire Emblem: Three Houses and I have 80 hours on the clock. It rarely happens that I put so much time into a game, let alone replay a game. But it doesn’t feel like punishment with Fire Emblem: Three Houses. That is of course due to the addictive tactical gameplay and the micromanaging of your army. However, what really brings me back is how well the story is written. I dare say that it is one of the best written Nintendo games ever, although that yardstick is not much as you know. Well, let me write it in full again:
It’s time Nintendo games stopped telling those crappy stories.
It’s no secret that Nintendo looks at stories in games like McDonald’s for healthy eating. Yes it is offered because the demand is there, but not wholeheartedly! Because honestly… where do you get the guts to order a salad in a burger joint!
Nintendo believes in games that bring a smile to your face. That give you pure pleasure and that you play with your friends, family and maybe even your dog. There are no complicated stories with complex characters and heavy themes at home. Not even in the very violent games.
Fire Emblem has always done that because… well, it’s a JRPG, then it’s kind of expected of you. Compared to the competition, those stories and characters seldom amounted to much. I would not easily compare the heroes from Fire Emblem: Awakening with, for example, your party members from Dragon Age: Inquisition or Persona 5.
But for Three Houses, Nintendo goes the extra mile and tells a complex story full of elegantly conceived worldbuilding, filled with characters who first resemble anime archetypes but then turn out to be surprisingly complex. I was surprised how obscure some of the developments were; think of characters who have been mentally or physically abused, who slowly start to become insane or are saved because my main character gave them hope again.
Now I’m not saying that Mario and Zelda suddenly have to tackle these kinds of heavy themes, let alone the RPG way of Fire Emblem. Mario doesn’t have to have childhood trauma or anything. But Fire Emblem: Three Houses feels like a breath of fresh air for the company. The game proves that it’s not rocket science for Nintendo to put a good story in their games, and that it definitely made one of their series better.
This new focus on storytelling could become the next ‘innovation’ for other Nintendo series… if the Japanese give it the chance. For me it cannot happen fast enough.