2019 was certainly...a chaotic year to end the 2010's decade on for much of the world. For me however, it was a pretty nice year with some cool highlights. I got to visit my brother in Brooklyn, NYC and we had a great time exploring all of NYC. I got to meet some new friends through the Meetup app and have gotten together with them countless times this year. Also as far as gaming goes, I got a brand new PC gaming laptop for Christmas 2018 and I got to play some games that I wouldn't on the Switch. Some of these games ran super well (XCOM 2, Obra Dinn, a certain game that's on my top 10 list) and some ran like Poo or couldn't run at all and I had to get a refund on those games (Trials Rising Beta ran at 20 FPS on PC somehow and I tried to played Sekiro 3 times and it never worked well at all). Though even though I have a PC Gaming Laptop now, the Switch had an incredibly strong year of exclusives and indies that it still managed to be my primary gaming device. Without further ado I'll get into my honorable mentions of the year and then get into my top 10 games of 2019. Though be warned, because my top 5 is gonna look pretty unique compared to most people's top 5's. And I get pretty descriptive of my top 5 too.
Usually I've posted about my favorite old games of 2019 on these blogs, but instead I made a list going into detail about the old games I played in 2019. Here's the link.
- Tetris 99: What's wrong with me? This game should be in my top 10 too. Its an amazing take on Tetris by turning it into a Battle Royale. Well here's the thing. I was super into this game at first, but I bounced off of it as whenever I kept playing matches, I noticed I wasn't getting any better and so many people were taking me out within the 80's and 70's range. I know there have been updates since the launch, but I weirdly had no motivation to see the updates. Its not you Tetris 99, its me.
- Card of Darkness: An Apple Arcade game I got late in the year. And MAN THIS IS A HARD GAME. Especially considering the very child like and innocent artstyle, this game is willing to beat you up early one as you try to survive a map full of enemies and you need to find Swords to beat the enemies while reducing the damage you take and hopefully get some potions to heal.
- Mortal Kombat 11 (The Switch Version): So I'm clearly in a bad spot with this game because I had to choose between getting the Switch version or the Steam version, and NetherRealm hasn't been the best with PC Ports). Clearly this game runs best on PS4 or XB1. I picked up the Switch version because I bought into the hype of it running at 60 FPS. It certainly does run at that framerate and that's nice, but man I should have known this version was gonna be ugly as sin. Why does unmasked Scorpion and Sub-Zero have sparkly hair and beards? I mean, they did the best they could to port it over but it ain't pretty. Anyways I got to enjoy the story mode and practiced with Jax for a while, but the grinding system of the towers and the horrific looking Krypt kept me from wanting to play anymore and I dropped MK11 after that. Which stinks because it should be in my top 10 because it came out on my Birthday!
- Sayonara Wild Hearts: This is certainly an audio-visual experience that I recommend to anyone who loves Pop Music and neon-colors. The developers nailed their premise creating a playable pop album and each level throws in some new gameplay mechanic to keep the experience fresh. Its not in my top 10 because while I enjoyed the experience the first time, I had no desire to go back and get a gold rank save for the car drifting level. And while the music serves its purpose incredibly well with the game, I'm not a Pop music aficionado and never felt like listening to the game OST on my off time. I also wasn't a fan of the abstract storytelling as I know its about a woman overcoming a breakup, but are the other masked folks representing the woman's personality traits and her fighting these masked people is actually her being hard on herself? Still, I highly recommend playing through this on Apple Arcade, Switch or PS4 if Pop Music and STYYYYYLE are your jams.
- What the Golf?: Another Apple arcade game that I didn't quite finish before the end of the year, but a game I plan on beating in 2019. Its one of 3 Apple Arcade games I have right now and this game is basically just what it miniature gold and Warioware had a baby? Its definitely a hilarious little game that I want to play more of, but I'm with Jeff that some of the Crown challenges in this game get so tough that they become a chore to complete.
- Grindstone: My favorite Apple Arcade game and one that I haven't finished yet either. I just love being able to strategically cut a few creeps in order to creating a big line of creeps to clear. Building up longer chains also feel very satisfying especially when its long enough to clear jerks, thieves or gravestones that have ghosts turn creeps into skeleton enemies. Not to mention there's a surprising amount of depth to your approach to the puzzles as you can craft weapons such as variety of arrows to bring into battle as well as different costumes that give you perks (like the princely outfit that reduces the chain number to clear royal slobs). Its certainly a game I want to beat next year, but fell short on my list.
Without further ado, here's the actual Top 10 games of 2019:
10. Untitled Goose Game:
I raised Mallards when I was younger and when I heard that there was gonna be a game where you can play as a deviant water fowl ruining the days of people, I was sold immediately. I wasn't playing as a jerk Mallards and perhaps that would elevate the game's status higher, but I still had a great time playing this silly stealth puzzle game. Untitled Goose Game applies these stealth gameplay mechanics for some genuinely funny slapstick humor. You can aggravate a groundskeeper so much that he'll try to hammer down a "No Goose zone" sign, but if you Honk at the right moment, he'll hammer his own thumb and then fall over his exit garden door. You can steal a lady's Goose garden statue, untie the bow on the statue and then pretend to be the statue as the lady ties the bow on you only to then honk to scare the daylights our of her. Not to mention the presentation is top notch with it looking like an interactive painting as well as the piano music playing to the tone of the situation you're in. Also oh man those Goose animations are "Chef's Kiss". Its a game that you'll need to get used to with the controls as I don't think it controls perfectly all the time, but I still got invested in clearing these dastardly puzzles ruining the days of all these British Villagers.
Though while I did raise ducks, the goose in this game reminded me more of my parent's new Boston Terrier puppy because she's a monster. She steals toys from her big brother Boston. She has stolen food and doorstops. Heck one time I brought her to a microbrewery to see a friend and I tied her leach to the table. But somehow she sneakily got loose and ran over to another table to see a husky and then flopped on her back in awe of how much bigger the husky was. Don't worry, she's taking obedience class.
9. Cadence of Hyrule:
No. I refuse to take the time to type the game's full title. Its always gonna be Cadence of Hyrule to me dang it!
Anyway, I never really spent that much time with Zelda games other than a good chunk on a GBA re-release of the NES original, a little bit of Link to the Past and 10 hours of BOTW (I know, I'm a weird person for not being super into Zelda). I also liked Crypt of the Necrodancer, but the super hard difficulty early on scared me from wanting to playing more of it. This game felt like an ideal match where I still had that satisfying rhythm gameplay of but put in a classic overhead Zelda gameplay style where you are exploring a fully fledged map with different regions and enemies. Also like Zelda you are clearing puzzles and areas to get more upgrades such as Heart Containers and even collect a plethora of items from classic Zelda games such as Bows and even Bombchus from Ocarina of Time. There are dungeons too and they definitely can get tough like Necrodancer's, but I found these fairly more accessible. Heck I found this game overall more accessible as after a few tries early on I felt like I got a real groove going getting some satisfying rhythm chains moving and attacking to the beat and then feeling bummed that somehow my beat would go off. It goes without saying but the remixes of classic Zelda tunes are great! Especially how they're handled going from some sick guitar licks in battle within Gerudo Valley to then getting a chill whistling tune when all the enemies are cleared. Also bravo to Nintendo for taking a risk and let a talented indie developer make a spinoff for one of their biggest franchises and hitting it out of the park.
8. Baba is You:
Baba is You is possibly the most ingeniously designed game on my list. Its an incredibly clever puzzle game all about switching the rules of the puzzle as you have short sentences that establish the attribute of what certain characters, items and environments might have. Heck if the puzzle allows you to do so, you can change your own role in the puzzle as you can go from being the titular Baba to becoming a Rock or even become the walls that once blocked your path and even move around as said walls. Heck are some jellyfish in the way of reaching a flag? Well if you see a sentence saying "Jelly is Sink", you can push a word into the Jellyfish and open a path. Heck sometimes you can change the goal from the flag to something entirely different.
Its a game that stuck with me early in the year as I was constantly amazed with the sheer amount of creativity the puzzles showed off. However, once I got into the post ending puzzles, I'm was starting to feel kind of dumb for not knowing the solutions. I did get some after a good number of trail and error. But a good majority of them were starting to get too much for my own brain. That said, its a game that I'm eager to get back into since it has such a great premise and while its not my top game of the year, its definitely one of the best "thinking man's" games I've played. Plus this game might be in the running for best 2019 game of 2020 now knowing that developer Hempuli Oy is planning to release a level editor.
Wargroove is essentially Advance Wars but set in a fantasy setting and has hero units with special abilities. I was someone who really enjoyed those games back in the GBA-DS days, it was nice to see someone take a crack at the formula since Nintendo has put Advance Wars alongside IP's like F-Zero, Mother and Punch-Out in the island of inactivity. Wargroove is a surprisingly content rich game for a game that's only 20 dollars as you have your main campaign of battles to clear as well as side mission that can take hours to beat. For most of the campaign you are Mercia, the daughter of a deceased king of the Cherry Stone kingdom and as she plans to avenge her father, tries to warn other kingdoms of the Felheim threat, which is a kingdom made up of skeleton fighters, vampires and loud mouthed Frankenstein commanders. The other kingdoms also happen to be a plant based civilization and desert Japan. Wargroove was one of my first addictions of the year as I carefully learned how to move specific units and how to lure enemies into certain traps where certain units I had to eliminate the opposition. There's definitely some AW like tactics here as certain units can defeat others (Anti Air units such as alchemists can take out Dragons) but each unit has unique critical hit conditions such as knights doing a critical attack after moving 6 tiles. The game has more original ideas with the heroes using Wargrooves to turn the tide such as Mercia healing units within her radius. But going further on the content, there's also an arcade mode if you want 5 quick battles against enemy AI, a puzzle mode where you need to clear a task within usually 1 turn and even have the ability to make your own battles and full fledged campaigns.
6. Super Mario Maker 2:
I've said this before, but I didn't get actively get back into gaming until getting a Switch in 2017. So I definitely did not have a Wii U to experience the magic that was Super Mario Maker. Thankfully Nintendo announced earlier this year that there is a sequel to SMM coming to the Switch in June and Man this game was an absolute delight to play and make. I managed to make 4 levels in this game and weirdly enough, I got a very tranquil feeling inside me when just creating these Mario levels. I can't say any of my levels were hits and some of them ended up being much more difficult than what I originally thought, but I was happy to at least create these levels and see how I did as a first time Mario designer. But this game is packed with all sorts of content. The Story Mode is a good introductory tool to show off what kind of crazy contraptions you can come up with within your level. I remember that one level where you couldn't jump to be an absolute killer but its neat that an objective like that can be established in a custom level. Not to mention all the new features added to the game give creators more chances to create some bizarre levels from the On/off switches changing occupying blocks into empty spaces to the return of that pissed off Sun from Super Mario Bros 3. Well, that sun has 3 truly angry forms and one annoyed form in the objectively worst style NSMBU. Not to mention the SM3DW style is a breath of fresh air that changes the way level designers can make levels such as driving in cars and apparently Bullet Bills can hurt other enemies. There's also so many neat levels made by some great designers ranging from jumping challenges relying on Banzai Bills to choosing the picture that's different from the rest.
But in all honesty, my favorite level has to be my brother's level called Metal Goomba Solid. Its a level that pays homage to the original MGS as Mario must sneak through Shadow Moses Island through different stealth sections and then confront Liguid Goomba in a climatic battle involving Metal Gear Rex. Its honestly a great level that utilizes stealth in so many smart ways and feels incredible true to its source material. Its so good it got the attention of Nintendo Youtuber Beardbear and posted a playthrough of the level. Though I hoped he actually failed once and one particular feature in the level which mimics what happens when you get caught by a soldier in MGS.
5. A Short Hike:
This is a game that entered my list VERY LATE in the year. Its a game that came out in August but I didn't really give it a try until seeing one Patrick Klepek gush about it on twitter. I decided to buy it and its fairly cheap for an indie game too as its only 8 American Dollars on Steam. Let me tell you, if the Merrian Webster dictionary had a picture to associate with the definition of Pleasant, which is giving a sense of happy satisfaction and enjoyment, a picture of A Short Hike would be perfect for the description.
A Short Hike is very much what its titled as its a short game where you are a bird named Claire in a Animal Crossing like setting in a park. You go to this park that your Aunt May works at as a Park Ranger and are encouraged to walk around the area. You are awaiting a very important phone call but the only place in the park that has any phone reception is summit of the park known as Hawk Peak. You can simply try to go up to the Peak and get that salient phone call Claire is waiting on if you want. But you'd be robbing yourself of the nice, wholesome experience this game has to offer. Throughout the game one of the main collectables you acquire are golden feathers, which serve as a stamina meter for Claire to either fly higher when she's gliding (the controls while flying feel so good) or climb mountain walls. You can find these by exploring the park or by doing some fun and friendly things for NPC's which is honestly the best part of this game. You might find an aspiring artist who's traveling around the park trying to paint the best picture of the environment for an exhibition but doubts it'll be good enough to impress a contemporary artist she looks up to. You end up being very encouraging to her and after being so nice she'll give you a golden feather as a way of thanking you. You can also go fishing which actually is the best fishing of 2019 as you launch a lure into rivers, lakes and seas and then catch different types of trout, bass and even crayfish and then exchange the fish to get money. There's even the hot new sport Beachkestball which is the ultimate game of cooperation as you hit a beachball with a stick and keep a rally going with a partner until the ball hits the beach. Plus all the writing is very endearing and charming that you honestly wouldn't want to skip any of the dialogue even if its all spoken by animal people. Not to mention the visuals are lovely as they go for a Nintendo DS like art style with a low-poly/pixel-ly look but the warm art direction and atmosphere makes it look beautiful. And the music is rather soothing and done by composer Mark Sparling.
A Short Hike is basically the video game equivalent of a bowl of New England Clam Chowder or a Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli soup for those who don't like Seafood. It shouldn't take long to finish, but you want to slowly enjoy the experience and see and taste everything. Also like eating soup, you'll feel warm and comfortable inside playing this game.
4. Luigi's Mansion 3:
Going from a game that can serve as an actual virtual vacation to a game that's set in a vacation spot (or so Luigi and friends think) Luigi's Mansion 3 was one of my biggest surprises. I liked the original Luigi's Mansion on the Gamecube, but always got stuck on certain parts of the game whenever I booted it up. I don't have a 3DS so I never played Dark Moon. But here we are with the third installment of the series and its one of the best Switch exclusives to date. Luigi, Mario, Peach and a bunch of Toads get invited to a luxurious hotel for vacation and when they buy into the hotel's assumed shawkiness, it turns out its a trap by King Boo and hotel manager Helen Gravely and they successful put everyone except Luigi into picture frames. Also Hot take, King Boo is a superior Mario villain than Bowser. King Boo has an undefeated streak on the red plumber yet Bowser hired a Dark Souls Dragon to take Mario out in Odyssey and still failed.
Anyways the game takes the combat of the series into a new direction as you still can flash lights at nearby ghosts that are after you, but after you freeze them and the vacuum them into the poltergeist, you can now slam them to reduce their health. I heard the slam got repetitive in some reviews, but I found myself really liking this mechanic as you can slam ghosts on top of other ghosts for combos and even throw them into breakable tables, which btw because of that Luigi's Mansion 3 is the best wrestling game of 2019. Congrats! But also what makes this game so good is that the sense of exploring the hotel is just lots of fun as you are encouraged to look throw every nook and cranny to find all sort of secrets. This time with the help of your gooi-fied version of yourself Gooigi, who can access certain paths Luigi can't by walking through Metal Barred doors in the vein of the T-1000 as well as give Luigi a Poltergeist boast if the suction of one isn't enough. As you explore these areas you'll find some clever puzzles that hide either gems or a boatload of cash and Luigi will make Bill Gates look broke. Plus this game is just oozing with personality as the game starts off with hotel floors that feel at home with actual hotels such as a suite floor of rooms and a dining hall, but you later encounter wackier floors themed after movie sets and Ancient Egypt. The animation and visuals on Luigi's Mansion 3 might top Mario + Rabbids Kingdom battle for perhaps the best looking Switch Title to date. The ghosts have unique animations based on the floor you're on and Luigi himself has never been more charming. Don't listen to what some people say about the bosses, because the boss fights in this game are some of the absolute best I've fought against in any game in a while. Namely the highlights for me were Amadeus Wolfgeist, Ug the Caveman and of course, Captain Fishhook. Luigi's Mansion 3 would be my favorite Switch exclusive of 2019...had it not been for a another game that I'll get to later.
3. Later Alligator:
You know what's another game that has tremendous animation, has a hotel, ghosts and starts with the letter L?
Many GB users might know this game best from that one quick look Vinny shared with Alex and Dan last year of those goofy Gators and mini-games, but weirdly enough because of that Quick Look I got the game myself and absolutely loved my time with it. The story is that a nervous alligator named Pat thinks his family is trying to rub him out by hearing there is this "Event" that they are planning and thinks the event is a hitman planning on assassinating him for doing something wrong. You are hired by Pat to talk to his friends and family to learn more about the event. You ask them who they are, what they know about pat and the event but the last question you don't get any info on until you clear a mini game of their's. If you saw the quick look, you'll remember Slick Mickey's card game scheme mini game and Tall Jared phone repair/ghost exorcism mini-game, but there's so many other great mini-games in here. One of my favorites is helping Pat's Dad operate his way-too-complicated grill that has different attachments such as a tv and an athlete gator running on a hampster threadmill and you need to deplete any fire or sparks the grill has. There's another where you see what appears to be a gator-ized version of the RE4 merchant, but he's actually an artist who wants to go to liberal arts college and you need to detect the differences between original artwork and his takes on classic art. The art itself is gator-ized versions of classic paintings such as one based on A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Gratte. Plus this game is chock-full of best moments. One of which is at the Unsavory Part of Town and when you walk into an alley, there's a sign that says "Girls, Girls Girls", but when you enter it its actually a lecture hall ran by a history professor passionately talking about the historical legacy of female figures such as Rosalind Franklin (the woman who discovered the structure of DNA) and legendary American poet Gwendolyn Brooks.
Not to mention this game's presentation does so much for me. The animation is beautifully done by animation studio, SmallBu Studios who is famous for their Baman Piderman series as well as guest animating some Adventure Time Episodes. The music is absolutely terrific as it hits all sorts of jazzy notes but also some cutesy notes and even has a song that sounds like its out of DDR. All the music was done by 2Mello who if you happen to be reading this, dude congrats! Your music has now been apart of my back-to-back indie games of the year (Celeste last year for that one remix, and now Later Alligator). The dialogue in this game is the absolute best and funniest I've seen in a game for a long time as Vinny was right. Its hard to nail humor in a game and it just does it in such an earnest way that it and the cute animations make the humor soar. Not to mention you get to learn more neat info on characters you previously met by talking with other gators. Remember Joanne the cool Pinball lady from the Quick Look? Well she happens to be in a gay relationship with social media influencer Tin Lizzy. It also has 3 different endings and I witnessed them all, feeling especially happy seeing the final ending unfold.
Is Later Alligator as smartly designed and as complex as Baba is You? No. Is it as content rich as Wargroove? Not really. But its the indie game that I enjoyed the most this year and that's why I have it ranked super high on my list! Congrats to SmallBu and PillowFight for their work!
2. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown:
To honor Dan Ryckert and his Air Force Gator books, we're going from Gators to the Air Force (or an Air Force from Strangereal).
This game right here is the most forgotten game of 2019. Ace Combat 7 first came out in January 18, 2019 which was a week before heavy hitters Resident Evil 2 and Kingdom Hearts 3. The PC version came out on the first day of February and despite the good reviews, AC7 was mostly forgotten in GOTY discussions. This game wasn't in the GB GOTY deliberations and it also got no attention in outlets like IGN, Gamespot, Destructoid and so on. Pretty much everybody forgot about this game EXCEPT ME!
In fact, I'll never forget playing the first level of AC7. I flew up and followed the initial orders of flying towards a bomber and taking it out. But then I felt like just freely flying around the skies in my jet. The game had these gorgeous visuals that essentially told me I was really missing out on the higher end consoles this gen. I was in absolute awe when I was flying through the skies and even saw precipitation fog up the screen while I flew into the clouds. It was all so breathtaking. ...Then as I left the clouds I was directing my jet into a body of water and I nosedived to my death. Eventually beat it on my 3rd try.
So to be clear, I have never played an Ace Combat game until this game and it caught my lose interest as an arcade-y flight action game with a Metal Gear Solid-esque story to tell. Frankly I was not expecting to get this attached and enamored with this game this year. Its a game that while it'll sport aerial dogfights that the series is known for actually has a surprising amount of varied missions throughout the game. One mission might have you stealthily fly towards a landmark (in this world's case the Space Elevator) while avoiding the enemy's radar's. Another mission might force you to be equipped with a secondary weapon that's designed to destroy ballistic missile sites. There's even a mission where you'll fight in a lightening storm laced valley and the lightening will make your radar temporarily go off. Its a game that manages to keep things fresh mission by mission but it'll require you to be properly prepared. You'll have access to the aircraft tree which after earning points from past missions you can use to afford new jets, weapons and upgrades to make you jet perfect for the mission before the sortie. Of course your jets will also have bullets to shoot as well as primary missiles too, and it never gets old launching two missile weapons at a TU bomber and then using the missile cam to see your one-two punch devastate that bomber. SO GOOD!
But I also need to talk many other features of Ace Combat 7. The game's story is of course set in the fictional world of Strangereal and a new war starts between the nations Osea (US analog) and Eursea (European Union analog). The focus on certain characters start off as a bit unclear as many early cutscenes focus on the Scrap Queen, a female mechanic stationed at Osea's 444th Air Base during the Lighthouse War that you don't see in the main game missions until much later but her role within the story (and the story itself) comes full circle. You even learn about legendary pilot Mihaly Dumitru Margareta Corneliu Leopold Blanca Karol Aeon Ignatius Raphael Maria Niketas A. Shilage (that's the man's full name) and why he is still flying at his age. As for in-game you are Trigger, an up and coming pilot of the Osean Air Force who does fairly well in early mission but he and his squadron discover that the Eurseans are starting to create Drone jets to substitute humans and make these automated jets the future of aerial combat without human causalities on their side. However in one mission you are blackmailed for killing the former president of Osea in a dogfight, thus sending Trigger to an expendable convict squadron and needs to stay alive to get pardoned as well as witness more insanity in the Lighthouse War. Its a very crazy MGS story that even has its own Metal Gear like war machine known as the Arsenal Bird. It was a story that I made a complete 180 around and really enjoyed seeing the fictional politics of the Lighthouse War play out.
And I can't leave Ace Combat's praises without praising its soundtrack because DAMN, this game has the best OST of 2019. No Questions. Its a soundtrack that sells the climatic moments of the game incredibly well and it boasts an incredibly variety of different genres. When you play Charge Assault (the 1st mission) there's a sense of triumph and wonder that sells the moment of Trigger first fighting in the Air Force and him successfully eliminating the Eursean threat. A song like Mimic has more of rock flavor as it starts off with some killer drums and then hits all cylinders with Guitar, Bass and Piano (Mimic is a song that's in the DLC for AC7). There's Magic Spear which amplifies your mission of taking out ballistic missile sites by combining horns, guitar and orchestral sounds to have you more motivated. And Last a OH SO NOT LEAST is Daredevil. Its a song that plays during your final confrontation with the Arsenal Bird and as you listen to the music, moments in this song play based on how you're doing in the fight and when you get to 3:15 of the song in the game, its one of the greatest "You're almost there, just keep fighting to win" pieces of music I've ever listened to. Its a truly incredible soundtrack and credit goes to Keiki Kobayashi, Mitsuhiro Kitadani and others for composing such brilliant work.
So yeah, you can tell this game made me an Ace Combat fan! Hopefully Bandai Namco can re-release the PS2 Classics on Steam or hopefully have Project Aces make an eighth installment. Also hopefully they'd give Aces a lot more time because crazy enough this game's development started in earnest in December 2017. Its a literal miracle Ace Combat 7 even exists.
1. Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
So yeah, apparently my two favorite games of the year happen to be anime games. With Fire Emblem becoming the overall winner. Also yeah I know having Fire Emblem as a #1 game isn't all that rare after talking about how weird my top 5 was gonna look, but this game was without a doubt my game of the year.
As for my experience with the franchise, I spent a considerable amount of time with the 2003 GBA game which happened to be the series' debut outside of Japan, but I never got to finish it. I also played Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn for a little bit since I borrowed it from a friend, but for some reason it froze on me during the second battle. I was certainly excited to play a new Fire Emblem since I'm a big fan of turn based strategy games (though this game is more of a strategy-RPG), but I was not expecting to be this hooked to Three Houses. I chose the Golden Deer btw and don't regret that choice whatsoever.
As far as the battle system goes, the game actually gets rid of the weapon triangle from past games where sword beats spear, spear beats axe, and axe beats sword. It does take away some depth in some strategy, but you will still want to think about where to place your characters considering the units their up against. I turned Hilda, the delicate flower of the Golden Deer into an armored knight and she was perfect for mowing down enemy Myrmidons and Thieves whose swords couldn't pierce through her armor. Having Archers like Claude and Leonie were perfect for one hit K.O.-ing those annoying Pegasus Knights or Wyvern Riders from making devastating flanks on my troops. There's even a new type of weapon, gauntlets. These are perfect for good punch bois like Raphael who are building their punch skills to become Brawlers, Grapplers and even War Masters. Also new to Fire Emblem are Gambits which are troops of soldiers that can either do nearby attacks, rolls explosive barrels to a nearby unit or even give allies perks such as moving more spaces. Besides the last gambit mention I didn't use gambits early on besides taking out Giant Beasts, but they become much more useful in the post-time skip when you can use them to make a group of enemies freeze for a turn so they wouldn't come in and demolish your own troops. Plus besides playing the main story battles that progress the story, you even have side battles to help you party grind to level up without feeling dull as well as Paralogue missions. These missions are character specific and sometimes will reward you with legendary relic weapons that massively increase the stats of the right character (Marianne and her Blutgang did wonders). The battles made me deeply consider ever move to the point that I made sure to use those divine pulses to undo any blunders I made. If I felt really unhappy with how the battle was going to the point that it looked unwinnable, I wanted to restart the battle to get a clear slate and try new tactics out to win the battle.
As good as the tactically gameplay was...I found myself much more drawn to the cast of characters in this game as well as the story in itself. I managed to put in 110 hours in the Golden Deer Route alone.
Well, that and also help Marianne get out her depression and she became the person that I married post time skip. Marianne is so pure and needs love. Also to get the ideal epilogue endings that I wanted because of how much I enjoyed certain pairings' supports such as Petra/Ignatz and Lysthiea/Felix. Which all of this leads to the most addicting element of 3 Houses and that was exploring Garreg Mach and playing professor sim for the classes. As you explore Garreg Mach you can chat up with either your own students, school faculty or members of the 2 houses you didn't choose. You can increase support levels with other students by either giving them a reply in a conversation they'd like or do activities with them from giving two people (in or out of your house) meals or even throw a tea party for someone and you play a mini game to pick conversation topics that character would like. Since for some reason I can't post my twitter video of my first Tea Time with Raphael, I'll just post a link here because its just hilarious. You can even recruit other students from different houses and you do so by either working your skills up to impress a student (Felix with Sword) or build up a B Support with these students to get them interested which is how I got Bernadetta and Petra. You can even build skills of students through classes and you choose student and manually help them build up skills for a weapon, mount type or magic to help them get from one class to a better one. And it was all worth it to get Lysthiea to be a magical tank Gremony. But going back to supports, I never skipped any of these at all because I got to learn so much about the characters. You may see Marianne at first be this faithful but sad student who only finds peace being near animals and thinks she'll be a burden to others. But if you have her with the right people such as Hilda she can express happiness in later supports and she won't feel like a walking curse around others knowing people do care for her.
Fire Emblem Three Houses is a game rich in content as while I only played 1 route, I'm eagerly thinking about what to do on my second route doing NG+ for either the Blue Lions or the Black Eagles and see their side of the story. But I don't know if they're gonna top the Golden Deer with my ragtag team of misfits and helping Claude get his dream come true. Which is end the continent of Fodlan's xenophobia due to the rules of the Church of Seiros and alter the Church's rules to allow Fodlan to see the rest of the world while letting other civilizations know about the different kingdoms and people of Fodlan. As you can tell, I was completely enamored with this game from typical FE battles to the sim elements of being a professor at Garreg Mach and being lasered focused on the game's lore learning about the grander story to legitimately caring for my students and faculty members in my party. The pay off of even seeing these characters develop post time skip was excellent as well and overall made for my most enjoyable gaming experience of 2019.