I spent most of the past year playing one of two games. Clearly, if you’ve been here before, you know all about one of them. What about the other one?

Let’s get into that.

There’s a sizeable contingent of 3H players (myself included) who adore this guy, which may tell you everything you need to know about 3H fandom.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is part of the ongoing line of turn-based strategy Fire Emblem games which are noted for their “if a unit dies, they’re gone forever” system. Which Three Houses makes optional. Which is good, because I wouldn’t have played it otherwise.

The game features three difficulty levels, the third (“Maddening”) added after release because Serious Gamers complained that the “Normal” and “Hard” settings are both too easy. In their defense, “Hard” difficulty doesn’t really live up to its name, at least not past the first couple of fights, if you have any experience with the game style previously.

With that said, no, I’m never playing on “Maddening,” same as how I’m always going to play on “Casual” (the units-don’t-die mode) instead of “Classic.” I’m here for a good time, not a heartbreaking time.

A battle overview screenshot from my first play-through. All I see now is the mistakes I made in recruiting, class selection, positioning, and so on…

Why am I here, then? What keeps me coming back? Characters, characters, just a shipping container’s worth of ridiculous adorable characters. I mean, yes, I like the fights well enough, but rooting for (or yelling at) your favorite units during the fights makes them considerably more enjoyable.

It’s okay, Shamir. Even with a no-stat level up, you’re arguably the best archer in the game.

The general flow of the game is that you, newly-minted teacher at a military academy, must assemble, train, and guide a crew of combatants through all of the situations that the game world throws at you. You pick one of the three houses, which immediately determines the plotline you’ll be taking part in. (Each house leader has an agenda, and you’re mostly just along for the ride.) During the proceedings you get to witness inter-personal conflicts play out, see romances bloom (or wither), and unravel a few mysteries.

And fight enemies. Lots of enemies. These adorable quirky kids and the somewhat-less-adorable faculty that you can recruit? You’re turning them all into stone-cold killers.

Mercedes. Don’t be fooled by that nun-like demeanor, “Mercy” is exactly what she does not show to her enemies.

Seriously though, a lot of the fun of the game is in the “support conversations,” little one-on-one scenes between various students and/or faculty.

Some mealtime pairings also result in specific individual dialog bits, such as one of the few times Linhardt and I are in complete agreement.

The English translation probably isn’t strictly completely true to the original Japanese script, but it does well enough. (We use Japanese voices and English subtitles in this house.) Speaking of translation…

Oh, Petra. I choose to interpret this as intentional on her part, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Petra’s entire shtick is that she’s a foreign princess and has problems with the language spoken in the region she’s in currently. This is played for laughs about as often as you’d expect, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that she’s one of the best characters in the game.

Look, it’s just a fact, I am not entertaining any statements to the contrary.

… Nope. I’ve got nothin’.

Some characters can’t be trusted. For instance, one particular student does everything possible to get out of any work whatsoever, let alone participating in combat.

You are a lying liar who lies, Hilds. A big scary axe is your best accessory, regardless of your “noodly little arms.”

Of course, she can’t get out of it… wouldn’t be much of a game if “conscientious objection” was an option.

Occasionally characters get special in-combat speeches, but it’s usually right about the time when they’re getting squashed flat.

After this battle, you shall be known far and wide as “that loudmouth, what was his name again?”

And in the end, once you’ve finished off the big-bad of your story arc, you get to see how various characters paired off. (You can shepherd this to some extent by only letting specific pairs reach the “A” level of support.)

This isn’t from one of my game sessions, but I absolutely adore the idea of these two together.

Then you make a New Game Plus save and start over, picking a different house… as one does! After all, making these folks all dance to your tune again and again is part of the ongoing appeal of Fire Emblem: Three Houses!

Deal with it, Cuisinart.