Accessibility Review – Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Overall Ratings

  • Vision: 2 – can’t resize, portable mode has very small text. Docked mode depends on TV resolution.
  • Executive processing (overall): 8.5  -there is pressure for time management, such as in games like Stardew Valley, Rune Factory, Persona/Shin Megami Tensei, or other games with in-game calendars and time-dependent events, but there are several ways the game tracks these events and assists the player in managing their time. Multiple save slots and quicksave functions help as well.

I was introduced to the Fire Emblem series via Fire Emblem Fates (a series of 3 games) that had been released for the 3DS. So when Fire Emblem Three Houses was billed as combining the tactical maps that Fire Emblem was known for, along with changing the Fire Emblem support system to appear more like a social-link type of system where you could do events like invite people to meals, ask your students about themselves, and take tea with your students, I felt like this was a neat blend of two game franchises I specifically like (Persona and Fire Emblem) and was eager to play Three Houses on the Switch.

Note: 90% of the time, I don’t dock my Switch, so I play in portable mode, even though I have Joycons that can separate from the main console. 

Vision/Low-Vision Accessibility 

The first thing I discovered when I started Three Houses was that my vision strained when playing the game; even in portable mode and even with my bifocals on, the text was too small and I could not find any way to resize it. Even trying to find ways to resize UI controls did not resize the text sufficiently. Of course, playing without my glasses was not helpful either – even though I could see enough of the user interface to play it, I felt I was concentrating too hard on making sense of the controls visually to enjoy the story. The small text size is especially noticeable when paired up against previous Fire Emblem titles on the 3DS – on a system designed to be portable, the text was much larger on the screen. On Switch in portable mode? Even with a larger screen available? The text was two sizes smaller, it seemed, so I had to play with the Switch in front of my nose.

Processing! Otherwise known as “Keeping Track of All The Things”

I mention executive processing here because sometimes I have trouble figuring out where I was, what I needed to do, and what I needed to do to do that thing or task (and where I put things). It’s a symptom not only of depression but of other conditions, ranging from trauma to autism spectrum to the “brain fog” of chronic illnesses. 

On this point, even with all the things that are possible to do in Three Houses, Fire Emblem Three Houses makes it tolerable to keep track of what you have done and what you can do at any given time. There is an in-game calendar with important events like battles and certain bonus days marked out for you to assist in planning tasks; and the player gets only so many event points per in-game day to do tasks. Not all tasks require the use of these points though, and the game helpfully marks which tasks and dialogue options do require points before you make a selection: again, so the player can easily keep track of what they plan to do and the best use of their time.

Like in Fire Emblem Fates, it is possible to set the difficulty modes in-game and change them: however, unlike Fates, there is no “Phoenix” mode, but there is an ability to rewind turns in a battle – you get this ability to “rewind” in the tutorial map, and it is even relevant to the wider plot. Also, in Fire Emblem Three Houses, the difficulty option is set differently from the switch to have units permanently die / leave the story once defeated in combat. For those unfamiliar with Fire Emblem, I recommend setting the difficulty to Easy and NOT having units lost permanently; for those more familiar with tactical games like these, you may be more comfortable taking some time to change these settings.

 Recently – in a January update – the available save slots increased also, so even if you make a mistake or just wish to save frequently to see different plotlines or have the option to change story routes, it is less restrictive. You no longer need to worry that you only have five slots to save in, so even if you make a mistake you do not think you can recover from, you can easily go back and retrieve the save file closest to where you were. The game also offers a quicksave option, for example when you are in the midst of a battle map.

Because of these points, I feel that even though there is a lot of information to keep track of in Fire Emblem Three Houses, the game tries to do what it can to make it easier to keep track of where you are, where you need to go, and to go back / undo if necessary. For people with brain fog issues or issues with executive processing, the features to help manage these tasks are extremely useful, but there is still a pressure to figure out what exactly I want to do at any given time. (Unfortunately, that is a pressure shared with other games with time management or an in-game calendar too: but here, the pressure I felt was a bit lighter.)

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Katriel Paige

Katriel Paige is a web accessibility specialist, a gamer (tabletop and videogames), writer, and editor. They are interested in history, comparative religion, language learning and flavored coffee, and they also have multiple disabling conditions. They are on Ko-Fi if you want to toss a coin to them: https://ko-fi.com/foxdev

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