Fire Emblem: Three Houses [Game Review]

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Title: Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Developer: Intelligent Systems, Koei Tecmo Games
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform:
Nintendo Switch
Category:
Tactical role-playing
Release Date:
July 26, 2019
How we got the game:
Bought it on Nintendo Switch

Pssst…. There may be story or gameplay spoilers in this review! You’ve been warned!

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I’ve finally finished my first playthrough of Three Houses, and I’ve got almost nothing but praise for it! I’ll admit, I was only tentatively optimistic about this game, but the more I played, the more I fell in love with it.

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Traditional Fire Emblem games give the player a main protagonist or two, maybe a handful of characters to start leveling up into some semblance of an army, and a reason for said protagonist(s) to start throwing themselves into turn-based battles with weapon triangles. Along the way, a deeper story will develop while introducing new characters to recruit for your army, characters that you can usually choose to include and level up both for fighting and for relationships with other characters.

Fire Emblem Three Houses is not that traditional.

True, the game begins with a tutorial-like battle and introduces who are arguably the most important characters to the game. Yet, after the battle, the protagonist is whisked to Garreg Mach Monastery and hired as a professor for a class of students. With this, the player is put in a position to already pick their main army to teach and grow, as well as the students in the other classes that can potentially join the player’s class — and, later, army — under the right circumstances. With this, the player already knows the majority of the key characters in the story instead of being fed them at certain intervals of the game. While it can be overwhelming to face so many characters and trying to learn everyone’s potential, I enjoyed seeing how everyone interacted with each other within the monastery.

Speaking of the monastery, that is where Three Houses stands apart from traditional Fire Emblem games. Instead of the game going from story cutscene to battles, battles happen at the end of the game’s month, with the weeks leading up to said battle containing activities to advance your units’ skills and supports with one another.

Exploring the monastery allows you to freely maneuver around Garreg Mach Monastery, which is mostly used to speak to all the characters, maybe fish or sing in the church’s choir, and generally increase supports between everyone. The higher the support between two characters, the more benefits the pair receive in battle when fighting close to one another. There are also, of course, paired endings after the game that depend on the support conversations. Finding out more about the characters’ history and the game’s lore from the exploration option was one of my favorite activities in the game.

Aside from exploration, one can also have a character host a seminar to increase skills of the students who attend the lecture as well as have rest days to increase the characters’ motivation for learning. There is also an option for battles, small paralogues or skirmishes to help level up the characters for the bigger, story-orientated battle at the end of the month. Visiting the Marketplace for weapons, items, battalions, and the blacksmith is also available at the beginning of each week, as well as the option to have a character take a certification test to change class. If a character passes the test, they will be able to reclass at the beginning of battles to any class they have passed.

The meat of the game is, of course, the grid-lined, turn-based battles. You’ll have your army of students (which sounds really weird, in all honesty, as it reminds me of the Hunger Games) make their move toward their opponents with medieval weapons and magic — swords, lances, bows and arrows, axes, energy-sucking “Reason” magic, the usual. Once all of your characters move, it’ll be the opponent’s turn to move to whatever grid square they can reach to attack yours. Each battle has a win and lose condition, and you can earn gold, special items, and story-advancing narrative for winning.

In the majority of Fire Emblem games, characters can advance classes in usually linear fashion. An archer can class up to a sniper, and a cleric and class up to a holy knight, for example. In Three Houses, as long as their skills in certain weaponry are high enough, characters can take a certification test and reclass into several other options. These classes can then be switched freely at the start of battles, so if there is a map where you need more flying units than cavalry, Three Houses gives you a means to teach your students how to tame a pegasus or wyvern. It was a nifty mechanic, even if I found myself not using it as much as I probably should have.

Aside from changing classes, characters can also hone their authority skill and have a battalion at their back during battles. These allow you to do gambits or bigger attacks with certified, nameless soldiers, generally to induce status ailments. Different battalions perform different actions, such as one that does healing magic on all allies for a certain number of spaces, or another that sets everything aflame. Admittedly, I half forgot about the battalions for the majority of the battles, focusing instead on my units attacking. Still, if used right, the battalions will be crucial for many unique strategies in the battles.

Weapon durability is back, which also lends a hand to the strategies you’ll need to come up with during battles, especially with some unique, story-based, one-of-a-kind weapons that are called Hero’s Relics. Only those with Crests, special sigils that are passed down throughout family lines, are able to wield the Hero’s Relics. Crests themselves are important in the setting’s history and politics, and the mystery of the main protagonist’s Crest is an important plot point in the game.

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The graphics of the game were well done, but nothing spectacular. I was pleased with the videos and cut scenes, finding the animation smooth, but the few animations for the character models did feel a little stilted and limited. Still, the character designs were mostly on point and I enjoyed the majority of the battle maps.

As for the music, I totally want this soundtrack. I’ve always loved the majority of the Fire Emblem games’ music, but Three Houses is probably one of my favorites!

Story | Video Game Reviews | Video Games | Gaming | Blogging | DoublexJump.comThe story begins with Byleth, who was a mercenary along with their father Jeralt, waking up and speaking to a green-haired young woman — girl-like in appearance — named Sothis. The pair appear to be in some sort of temple or ruins, with Sothis lounging on a throne and attempting to make sense of her hazy memories. Sothis’s consciousness is tied with Byleth’s, and the scene shifts to the waking world after the brief introductions.

Byleth and their father are about to leave their current village when three students ask for their aid in defeating a group of bandits. The students are from Garreg Mach Monastery, each the respective heir to their countries on the continent of Fodlan. After successfully beating back the bandits, Byleth and their father escort the students — Edelgard, Dimitri, and Claude — back to the monastery where they meet with Archbishop Rhea of the Church of Serios. Before Byleth knows what is happening, Jeralt rejoins the Knights of Serios and Byleth becomes the professor of a class of students.

The Black Eagles led by Edelgard, the Blue Lions led by Dimitri, and the Golden Deer led by Claude are filled with unique students coming from various backgrounds. Byleth takes command of one of the classes and the story really begins.

Played in two parts, part one is “pre-timeskip” wherein Byleth spends much of their time getting to know their students and aiding them in battles to better themselves for their respective countries and goals. While doing so, sinister plots are revealed as the months pass, with the archbishop and the Church of Serios being challenged by enemies — even some who were once called allies.

During one such climactic battle, Byleth falls into a canyon and does not awaken until five years later. Part two is this “post-timeskip,” and Byleth finds themselves in a war-torn Fodlan. Reuniting with their former students, Byleth helps to figure out not only an end to the war but also about their past.

Granted, this is a vague description of the story, mostly because I’ve only gone through the Golden Deer route. The other routes will most likely determine which side of the war Byleth is on and how they find out who they really are.

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I’ve already started my next route. Considering there are two more houses, one that has at least two routes, and a New Game+ DLC coming out, there is plenty to do in this game after a first runthrough. Even if there was only one route, the multiple difficulty levels, plethora of characters to build your army however you want, and multiple support conversations to unlock, there is plenty to do to warrant another playthrough.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses gets…
5-lives
5 out of 5 lives.

Have you played this game? What did you think? Let us know in the comments! 

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Friday Favorites: Three Houses Students

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Friday everyone!

The Golden Deer are my children. I will admit that I have yet to try out game files with the other houses since I am so invested in the Golden Deer and their stories. However, I love exploring the monastery during free days to talk to everyone, regardless of house. Excluding the house leaders — because Claude would probably win by a landslide, and I feel I cannot properly invest in Edelgard and Dimitri without playing their routes — here is a list of some of my favorite Three Houses students so far.

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Ashe

This kid is adorable. Despite him not starting off in my house, I got invested in his background and story due to one of the earlier chapters before the time-skip. He was the first student I invited to join me on a mission and the first I recruited into Golden Deer after figuring out the logistics of it. His gentle and amusing supports with other students, like Marianne and Caspar, were fun to read and listen to, and I’m enjoying his perseverance despite his background.

Caspar

I just laugh out loud from this kid. His zeal for justice is admirable but the fact that he’s willing to throw down with whoever is in his way or causing trouble amuses the hell out of me. I loved his second support conversation with Hilda, him trying to avoid a fight before deciding, “Nope,” and diving in. That, and he’s a pretty decent unit if you train him enough.

Lysithea

Admittedly, at first I was a touch annoyed at how her attitude was always on the defensive side with everyone “treating her like a child.” However, reading some of her supports with other characters opened her up in ways I was not expecting, and I admire her tenacity for bettering herself with whatever time she has left in the world. She’s also a beast with her magic in battles!

Ignatz

Archers have always been some of my favorite units (hence, Claude and one of the main reasons why I picked Golden Deer) and Ignatz was such a shy deer dear that he soon became one of my favorites. His hobby of art and his friendship with the others in Golden Deer make me feel warm and fuzzy, and I’m proud of how more confident he is after the time-skip. He’s also a kick-ass assassin in my army.

Who are some of your favorite students from Fire Emblem: Three Houses? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Friday Favorites: FE Three Houses Details

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Friday everyone!

While I feel I could have found a better word than “details,” I felt as if this encompassed everything that I enjoy so far about Three Houses that didn’t fit into one box, so to speak. This is just a random list of things that I wish to gush over. Please note that, at the timing of this post, I’m only around chapter 12 so please no spoilers in the comments!

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The Gatekeeper

This guy is adorable. He’s almost always enthusiastic, tells me there’s nothing to report, then promptly reports something, even if it’s just his thoughts on the current events. Considering that there is fanart and fanfiction of this guy, I’m not the only one who enjoys his presence! I don’t know if this guy has a name, but he should. I would love nothing more than for the game to start reaching the end and then we finally find out this gatekeeper’s name. This amount of characterization this NPC has astounds me. With that said, I adore how other random NPCs always have thoughts and reactions to the current events, even the ones that just show a speech bubble over their heads.

Voice Acting

Something that Shadows of Valentia did right was the voice acting and I’m pleased that Three Houses had full voice acting as well. Even random NPCs that had something to say had their dialogue completely recorded by actors. The tones and voices helped bring all of the characters to life in a way that simple quips and partial voice-acting couldn’t.

Exploration

Exploring the monastery was something that I admittedly had some reservations about. I had believed that it would be too similar to the dungeon crawling parts of Shadows of Valentia, sections that I didn’t care for due to their similarities to one another and tedious battles. To me, Fire Emblem was all about strategic battles that moved the story forward. The Exploration option in Three Houses, however, is one of my favorites. There is plenty to see, activities to do, and it helps promote support among the characters outside of battles. Giving gifts, finding lost items (seriously, these teenagers and knights lose everything), and little quests all keep me running around like a headless chicken, and I’m greatly enjoying it.

Student Friendships

Support conversations were always something I enjoyed about Fire Emblem, mainly so I could force the characters to be friends and spouses with one another and to also find out more about their backstories. In Three Houses, your character joins after everyone else is already there, the opposite of most Fire Emblem games. It makes sense that the students know one another, some closer in friendship to others, rivalries here and there, and I love these details. Even in the dining together activity, I was delighted when I had two characters simply talking and reacting to each other due to their history, like Claude and Lorenz or Caspar and Ashe.

What are some of your (spoiler-free) favorite details about Fire Emblem: Three Houses? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Friday Favorites: Fire Emblem Three Houses Wish List

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Friday everyone!

The Nintendo Direct was just a couple of days ago and it showed off a bit of the newest Fire Emblem games that’s going to come out, Three Houses. As mentioned in Rachel’s and my joint reactions post, I’m still optimistic for the game if a little confused as to how the game was portrayed. Here is my wish list for the upcoming game.

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Voice Acting like Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is not my favorite Fire Emblem game. Compared to the others that I’ve played, it’s probably at the bottom of my list. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the graphics and music, and thought that the voice acting was phenomenal. If Three Houses has voice acting at all, I hope it does it half as well as Echoes did.

Some MC Customization

This is me being a little annoyed. I don’t need extensive customization for our MC. Rather, I would like to be able to play as the female MC with the male MC’s armor, or give her more professional and sensible clothes. Seriously, our character is supposed to be a professor (and, I presume, fighting in battles) — why is the female’s belly button showing? It’s like Astral Chain, where the male cop has protective pants and the female has… shorts and thigh highs. Wtf.

No Kids

I didn’t mind the matchmaking in Awakening and Fates. In fact, I enjoyed seeing how different characters paired up and interacted in different playthroughs, and support conversations are one of my favorite aspects of Fire Emblem games. The kid mechanic in Awakening made sense with the storyline, but Fates definitely didn’t need the kid characters. They felt forced in a trio of games that already had an influx of characters.

No Gender Restricted Pairings

If there is a marriage mechanic, I think it’s time to lose the gender restrictions. In previous Fire Emblem games, there have only been one gay option for either gender, and more representation is deserved. On a related note, if there is some sort of marriage mechanic, I sincerely hope there are no teacher and student relationships, for obvious reasons.

Are you looking forward to Fire Emblem: Three Houses? What are you looking forward to in the game? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Play for the Story, Not the Game

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday everyone!

The narrative and storytelling techniques in video games are generally a big factor in whether or not I enjoy said video games. In fact, there are definitely some games where I enjoy the story more than the gameplay itself. 

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I am a writer. Not just of blog posts, but also of stories, short ones and novels alike. As such, I’m always interested in the narratives of video games I play. I love to devour a game’s story just as much as I love to devour a good book.

With that said, there are a good handle of games that I would be perfectly happy with reading like a novel. I play these games for the story and the characters rather than the gameplay itself. Sure, the gameplay mechanics may be amazing, but if the story has snagged my attention, the gameplay is always going to be second fiddle. Fantastic gameplay mechanics will not redeem a game with a dull story line in my eyes.

Take Undertale and Deltarune, for example. There is so much lore and theories behind the developed stories of these games. Especially in Undertale’s case, there are multiple ways you can take the story through your actions, whether or not you decide to do a peaceful or violent run-through of the game. And if you played it through a second time? There are characters that remember your first playthrough. There are characters that remember if you killed them before. I didn’t care much for the game’s battle mechanics, but I continued to play it to see how the story ended.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is another example. War and faith are the general themes of the story, like many Fire Emblem games, but I was intrigued by the characters and definitely impressed with the voice acting. It was enough to keep me playing until the end, even though I found some of the battles repetitive and the dungeon sequences unappealing.

The most recent game we played through was Gris and we went into it knowing that it was a game with minimal enemies (if any at all). I picked it up first for it’s gorgeous art and stayed for the music and haunting narrative of trying to figure out the main character was searching for. My sister and I both teared up at the end once we realized how heavy and bittersweet the story was.

Thinking on all of this, it’s no wonder that I’ve gotten a newfound appreciation for visual novels and simulation games.

How important is story to you in games? Or do you prefer amazing gameplay to the story? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Friday Favorites: 2019 Game Releases

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Friday everyone!

The end of 2018 is only in a couple of weeks! Are you already thinking of your 2019 video game lists? What kind of games are you looking forward to for the new year?

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Untitled Pokemon Nintendo Switch Game

Okay, I know we just got the Let’s Go titles, but I am still looking forward to the next Pokemon Switch game. I’m presuming it’s another core title in the main series and will give us a new region and a new generation of Pokemon to capture. I was a bit indifferent when it came to the Alola region, so I’m crossing my fingers that the untitled Pokemon Switch game will capture my attention much more than Sun/Moon did (along with the awesome mechanics that Let’s Go has brought to the table… Or at least the mechanic of having your Pokemon follow you).

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Fire Emblem is one of my favorite franchises. That’s honestly enough reason for me to be excited for the new Switch title. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Echoes title back in 2017, and the Warriors title wasn’t the best when it came to a variety of classes and characters, so here’s hoping Three Houses will be better than both of them!

Anthem

Anthem was actually showcased in the Game Awards last week and I thought it looked interesting. Being able to play both in single-player or multiplayer mode, taking on the part of a exosuited-up hero to explore a contiguous open world. It’ll be a different kind of game than what I’m used to, so I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy

I love this series so much. Honestly, we probably don’t need the Ace Attorney trilogy on our Nintendo Switch — not when we have it on our still-working Wii and I have it on my 2DS XL — but… it’s Phoenix Wright. You have to have Phoenix Wright on your Nintendo Switch. I would love a new Ace Attorney game, but I’ll take this to tide me over until we get that.

What 2019 releases, so far, are you looking forward to?

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Preferred Gender Tropes

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday, everyone!

Have you ever noticed if the gender of the protagonist effects the game? Perhaps one gender has better stats or different powers or something as simple as clothing options?

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Many games, particularly RPGs, allow the player to choose between playing a male or a female protagonist. While most games tend not to have much of a difference between the genders, there are some games that can be skewed to favor one over the other.

One of the most notable examples that I’ve heard of Harvest Moon 3. While I’ve never played the game myself, I have heard that the game is cut short as soon as you marry while playing as a female. While, as a male, you get married and can continue working on your farm, as well as get a child. Granted, each gender had different perks — males tended to be better with the farmland, while females were better with the animals — but why would the game just end if you get married as a female?

Different stats in games, such as the Fire Emblem franchise, favor one gender over the other as well. Males tend to have higher strength and defense while females are better with magic and speed. In many Fire Emblem games, some character classes are restricted as well — only males can be fighters while females can be pegasus knights, for example. One of my favorite aspects of the Fates trio is that these class restrictions were lifted, and I was disappointed when Echoes brought them back.

In hindsight, being a remake, Echoes probably brought the class restrictions back in order to be as faithful as it could to the original. With that said, though, I do wish it was updated to not only lift those restrictions, but also lift the healer restrictions. In the very beginning of the game, if you are following Alm’s story and have Faye with you, she has one less class promotion available than the boys. Archer is not available for her, yet when she was introduced to the Fire Emblem Heroes mobile game, archer is her class rather than cleric.

If the female gender is favored over the male, it tends to be for aesthetic reasons. In Pokemon X and Y, the female character has almost double the amount of clothing and hair options. The Sims franchise also tended to have gender options based on aesthetics only — with jobs and skill building being exactly the same across the board — but Sims 4 took this a step forward to allow transgender sims and lift the gender restrictions on all the clothing and hair options.

Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of Stardew Valley is how absolutely little your gender matters. No NPCs treat your character differently no matter what gender they are and your skills do not depend on your gender. You can also marry whatever eligible NPC you want, no matter the gender.

Any games that you’ve played that tend to favor one gender over another?

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Monday Memories: Game Boy Advance

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday, everyone!

The Nintendo Switch and the 2DS XL are our current go-to consoles when it comes to playing games lately. Recently, however, I found my old Game Boy Advance during a cleaning spree, and I remember how much I used the old handheld…

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The Game Boy Advance was released in 2001 and I loved using mine over my Game Boy Color. The landscape screen for the games made it seem like the screen was so much bigger and I remember having the little worm light adapter hovering over the screen to make it brighter. The backward compatibility for Game Boy Color games was an added bonus.

I went through so many pairs of AA batteries when playing my Game Boy Advance, wearing it down while playing favorites like the Pokemon series, particularly Emerald, Sonic the Hedgehog games, Harvest Moon, and Fire Emblem. It was with the Game Boy Advance that I started my love affair with the Harvest Moon and Fire Emblem franchises.

Besides being home to some of my favorite old games, the Game Boy Advance was used quite often when Rachel and I were playing The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures for the GameCube. With the link cable to hook up the Advance to the console, Rachel and I had some awesome adventures playing a co-op Legend of Zelda. More often than not, I was diving forward to meet the enemies while Rachel was trailing along, picking up all the treasure I would leave behind. It was a good system.

The wireless adapter that came with Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen was also a treat, granting us a Union Room that allowed easy trading and battling. Granted, Rachel and I tended to be the only ones in said Union Room, but it was definitely easier than the link cables we had for the Game Boy Colors when it came to trading and showing off our teams to one another.

I found my old Game Boy Advance buried in one of my old desk drawers, with the cover to the batteries being gone and the batteries themselves all corroded. For the heck of it, I cleaned out the dead batteries and tried putting fresh ones in, but to no avail. The poor console was officially dead. Still, it was nice finding it, especially since I thought it got caught in the basement flood years ago (pretty sure that’s what happened to my Game Boy Color!).

Did you have a Game Boy Advance? What was your favorite older handheld console?

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Friday Favorites: Weapon Triangles

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Friday everyone!

A couple of Mondays ago, I wrote about the Rule of Three, a trope that exists in many stories, movies and video games alike. Many video games have aspects that come in threes that convey special attributes about the game, especially when it comes to combat. So today I’ll be sharing my favorite weapon triangles from various game franchises.

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Grass-Water-Fire

One of my first “weapon triangles,” this elemental concept was introduced to me through Pokemon Red and Blue. Bulbasaur’s Grass-type moves were strong against the Water-type Squirtle, whose own abilities were strong against Charmander’s fire attacks, which were strong against Bulbasaur.

Sword-Axe-Lance

One of the first parts of the prologues or introductions in a Fire Emblem game tends to be the weapons triangle. Namely, how the three basic weapons stack against each other in strength. Swords are quicker than axes, which are too close-combat orientated to be hurt by lances, which are long enough to stab before a sword. Or something like that. A few Fire Emblem games have another weapons triangle with the tomes. Dark magic is weak to light magic, which is weak to anima — or elemental — magic, which is weak to dark magic.

Power-Wisdom-Courage

Not a traditional rock-paper-scissors scenario, the Triforce from the Legend of Zelda franchise is a favorite “rule of three” for me. Almost every game in the franchise swirls around the relationship between Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf who hold Courage, Wisdom, and Power respectively. The relationship between these three fighting to protect and dominate the world has never failed to create an enjoyable story for me in these games.

What are your favorite weapon triangles in video games?

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Of Art Books and Collections

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday!

Aside from collecting the actual games, Rachel and I enjoy collecting other aspects of our favorite games and franchises to celebrate them. Rachel, for instance, loves to collect Pokemon cards. For me, it’s all about the art books and posters of my favorite games.

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You know the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” No one listens to that when taken literally. Everyone judges books by their covers, as they are the first aspect of a book that will potentially snag a reader’s attention. It’s the same with video games.

Aside from box art — which, considering the digital age of gaming nowadays, may not exist — the art style and graphics of a game are one of the first impressions a game makes to a potential player. Screenshots and trailers are shared before the game is officially out to entice gamers, and I for one Google games before buying them to see if I can gauge how well I may like it, art style included.

Graphics are one of my favorite aspects to gush over when it comes to games and I am forever amazed at the designers and animators. So when Nintendo announces books dedicated to the art of some of their most popular games, I’m ready to say, “Take my money!”

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Take the Legend of Zelda series alone. We have the history collection — Hyrule Historia, Art & Artifacts, and Encyclopedia — along with the Creating a Champion coming out in November. There’s also The Art of Fire Emblem: Awakening, which looks gorgeous. Honestly, with the popularity of Octopath Traveler and its art style, I bet an art book for that game won’t be far behind. They have posters for all the main characters, which I would love to collect.

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I would love to collect these books and posters dedicated to the art of some of my favorite games and franchises. For now, though, Nintendo, space and money is a bit of an issue.

Do you enjoy collecting the art books or posters for video games? What are some of your favorites?

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