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Fire Emblem: Three Houses Directors have no idea why the series is popular in the West

"I do not know." I'm talking to Toshiyuki Kusakihara, one of the directors of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Shadows of Valentia, and an art director on many others. And that's what he tells me about a translator when I ask him what he thinks is the reason why the show has suddenly seen a rapid success in the West over the past ten years. It's a pretty amusing answer. "I do not really know why it's so accepted by so many people around the world."

Nintendo's turn-based strategy RPG franchise has been popular with Japanese audiences since its launch in 1990, but outside of Japan. Few had ever heard of it until two anime swordsmen named Marth and Roy appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee. After the release of Melee in 2001

, some Fire Emblem games with GameCube, DS and Wii have found their way to the West. But it was only in 2013, when Awakening was released on the 3DS, that the Fire Emblem actually exploded in international popularity, an event that reportedly saved the series from early cancellation.

  Lucina and Chrome, Fire Emblem Awakening (2013) for Nintendo 3DS
Lucina and Chrome, Fire Emblem Awakening (2013) for Nintendo 3DS

Perhaps it was just the fast-growing installation base of the 3DS; After a bad start, the handheld had taken its first steps, and the new 3DS XL had recently come on the market. Maybe it was a renewed interest in tactical strategy games; Firaxis's excellent reboot of XCOM, Enemy Unknown, was also a recent and popular release. But Kusakihara really could not see anything specific. "We do not have the self-confidence to say:" Oh! As long as we do this thing, the game will be popular! "There is nothing like it."

Since the awakening, the development team of Intelligent Systems Fire Emblem steered in some interesting new directions. The ambitious Fates for 3DS was the first, a title divided into three separate products. Then came Shadows of Valentia, a remake of the second 1992 Fire Emblem game, which featured notable improvements to the combat mechanics strategy and third-person dungeon exploration. There were Fire Emblem Heroes who redesigned the tactical battles to match a surprisingly good mobile game with an all-star cast. Now, Three Houses has been cleared for mediation, and the narrative flow revolves around an annual calendar plan, paired with a military academy where your protagonist is a professor and your class of students are your troops.

"We do not have the self-confidence to say," Oh! As long as we do this thing, the game will be popular! "There's nothing like it."

When Three Houses was officially unveiled, I saw (and I suppose many others) the Academy component and immediately connected with another Japanese role-playing game that has gained tremendous popularity – the Shin Megami Tensei spin-off, Persona. Persona games are always about high school students over the course of a year. So, of course, I assumed that the Fire Emblem development team looked at Persona's incredible success and tried to use that formula. Of course I was wrong like the stupid Westerner.

"The genealogy of the Holy War" was what directly inspired us, "explained Kusakihara. "This was a game for Super Famicom, released in 1996, and it's the fourth in the Fire Emblem series." It was never released in English, although a fan translation exists. "There's an officer's academy in this game where there are the best friends who really build their relationships there, and history revolved around them, so [Three Houses] was a kind of attempt to make such a backdrop more detailed."

  Fire Emblem: The Genetics of the Sacred War (1996) for Super Famicom
Fire Emblem: The Genetics of the Sacred War (1996) for Super Famicom

An extravagantly romanticized depiction of high school builds up lifelong relationships Life is a big part of Three Houses. During a campaign, spend a few tens of hours with any number of students at the academy, share meals, work out and fight with them, get to know each other through laughter, loss and love. Later, as Fire Emblem games usually unfold, you will go to war, and how the bloody conflicts of the game unfold and affect all of you may change how often close friends see each other. In the course of development, a number of different methods were explored to articulate this experience, but the team's natural conclusion was similar to the popular Shin Megami Tensei spin-off. "We've had many discussions about how we can differentiate the timing of the monastery, and if you have one year, we want the player to feel each of those elapsed days and make them valuable to the player," Kusakihara said.

"We did not have a calendar at the beginning of the development, we did a lot of builds trying to create systems that worked, but it just was not fun, so we added that and the activity element points. "In Three Houses, a set number of activity points tied to your professor level determines how much one-to-one tuition you can give students and how many extra-curricular activities you can do on your days off. "[Activity points] would really focus the player on what they should do every day, whether it's exploration or missions, etc."

When Sunday runs around in Three Houses and you do not have to spend your day teaching your knowledge to students, there are a number of valuable things to choose from, but you do not have enough time to bring them all together take care of. You can get your own one-to-one training sessions from other professors to improve your own skills. They can make their way to the battlefield and fight against missions to complete side missions. You can fish, you can work in the garden, you can sleep in it and it does not matter, but most importantly: you can hang out with your students and maintain these personal relationships. Of course, a close-knit camaraderie in your class provides a significant advantage on the battlefield, but outside of the battlefield these social ties can lead to deep friendships and sometimes love relationships, providing a wealth of insights into the background stories of the characters. Between the three different classes of students, professors and other Academy staff, Three Houses has 35 characters with storylines that hold the majority of them together.

  Professor Manuela teaches a class in the Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019) [19659016] Professor Manuela teaches a class in the Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019)
Professor Manuela teaches a class in the Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019

Kusakihara breaks off the production of social simulation: "There were three scenarios authors of Koei Tecmo, who helped with many lyrics, and as you know, the game is fully occupied, so we definitely had a lot to do Work took over three months and there was at least five times as much content as in Echoes [Shadows of Valentia] for the Japanese version. "

The participation of Koei Tecmo (responsible for another ongoing tactical strategy series, Romance of the Three Kingdoms ) at the development of Three Houses was already known But what surprised me is how much work the studio was in charge of, especially because Fire Emblem is so close to Intelligent Systems is connected. Kusakihara: "I was the director of Intelligent Systems for the composition of the team, and then Mr. Takeru Kanazaki worked as a sound director, we had a few members who helped with programming and sound, but many members of The Development Team came from Koei Tecmo, so they've really done a lot of the work. "

" … there was at least five times as much content as in Echoes. "

" I've supplied the world settings and the character settings as well as some of the systems and scenarios from the game, and we would hand this over to Koei Tecmo and then discuss further details and develop from there. "It's a curious revelation, if only because it leads to speculation about the nature of the projects involving the rest of the intelligent Systems working might call. Also interesting is that Koei Tecmo, who was responsible for the action series Dynasty Warriors (as well as for the Fire Emblem Warriors spin-off), featured in another Nintendo title released a week before Three Houses – Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 important role played.

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Among the new faces that played a significant role in Three Houses was illustrator Chinatsu Kurahana, who acted as the game's new lead actor. One of Kurahana's earlier works is designing characters for the popular Japanese pictorial novel Uta no Prince-sama, a game that revolves around a girl's emerging relationship with a group of emerging male pop idols.

They Are Not Real Dating Idols So far from the social aspect of the Fire Emblem and with the series's new direction, Kurahana was an easy choice. "Much of this game takes place in the Officers' Academy and there are many nobles there, so we want to be a glamorous, aristocratic society," Kusakihara said. "Kurahana, with whom we had already spoken, seemed to be a good figure, and she definitely had a big impact on the hairstyles of the characters."

"We also wanted some refreshment because we released this game on the Nintendo Switch, a new platform, and we wanted a new image for the game." Of course, hairstyles are not the only big changes in the series. One of the biggest mechanical innovations in Three Houses is the removal of Fire Emblem's Weapon Triangle, the stone-scissors-paper system that has been at the heart of the battle since the genealogy of the Holy War.

This is a pretty funny, random coincidence – the new Fire Emblem game, which draws on a relatively minor idea in the genealogy of the Holy War, completely discards the most influential and long-lived legacy of this entry. The reasons Kusakihara gives me are pretty understandable: "We think the weapon triangle is a stylized system, it's not really realistic," he said. "If you have a situation in which an inexperienced ax user defeats an advanced lance user, is it useful? Probably not, so we wanted to make something more realistic for the warfare and let the players develop their weapons abilities individually." , "

  Caspar Beats a Monk in the Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019)
Caspar Beats a Monk in the Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019) [19659005] It was also important that the series continue to focus on their personalities, especially given the three-house environment of an academy where young students are just getting their money's worth. "We wanted to focus on the skills to develop these characters and give them much more freedom in their development. So we are creating a weapon system that is less restrictive than our previous games. "

This does not mean that in Three Houses it is not important to choose the right unit or weapon for a fight Giving you a huge advantage, such as using arrows against flying units, and if one of your units is getting better and better at a particular type of weapon or discipline, you can unlock an option to give them passive or active combat abilities For example, an advanced swordsman might have the "ax-breaker" ability that increases both the avoidance and the chance of beating that weapon.

"… the Weapon Triangle is more of a stylized system, that's not really realistic. "

But the new system of freedom to shape your combat units at will also creates some interesting social issues that might prompt you to rethink your troupe's long-term strategy." For example, during my first campaign, I had Dorothea in mine She is characterized by black magic and swordplay, her lifelong endeavor is to become a wicked warlock, and she hates the idea of ​​learning faith-based healing magic – after all, it is for gnomes and she even has a congenital learning disability [19659034ToshiyukiKusakihara” src=”data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw==” sizes=”(max-width: 487px) 100vw, 487px” data-width=”487″ class=”js-lazy-load-image” data-src=”https://static.gamespot.com/uploads/original/172/1720905/3563266-director.png” data-srcset=”https://static.gamespot.com/uploads/original/172/1720905/3563266-director.png 481w”/>

Toshiyuki Kusakihara's ability to expose any hidden potential, which will provide early access to a faculty that even advanced bishops would desire and eventually make that learning disadvantage a buff For example, part of the text is controversial, but the system allows Make it easy for you to maintain clear narratives for your class. It was a difficult decision to give one of my favorite students (and my most effective magical user) a hard time in the classroom for a few months, rather than improving their strengths even further. But it was worth it.

Kusakihara does not play favorites though. Towards the end of the conversation, I tried to get the developers to mess up the team's most hated students (Mine-Lorentz, he's shit). Everyone laughs: "As the director of the game, I'm almost the teacher because I helped shape them, so I have to say that I love all the students." Genki Yokota, the other director of Three Houses representing Nintendo, was the only one who threw a bone at me: "They're supposed to help the students, so it's hard to say I hate none of them, but outside Den I can tell students that I really like the character Shamir. "I also like Shamir, so this was a good answer.

It's quite common to hear stories about developers who respond to viewer feedback and use that data to design future projects. Kusakihara left me with the impression that his team is on the other side of the coin. They do not know why their game has attracted the fan base in the West, so they'll just keep on doing what they've been doing since Awakening. Change structure. Reinvent basic mechanics. Welcome the talents of new teams and artists. "When we develop the game, we're just trying to make it something beyond what people can imagine," he said. "That could help make it popular."

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