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Fire Emblem: Three Houses Directors Not Sure Why The Series Is Popular In The West

"I do not know." I'm on the phone with Toshiyuki Kusakihara, one of the directors of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Shadows of Valentia, and art director on many others. The series has suddenly skyrocketed in Western success over the last decade. It's a pretty amusing answer.

Nintendo's turn-based strategy RPG franchise has been popular with Japanese audiences ever since its inception in 1990, but outside of Japan, "I actually do not know why." few had ever heard about it until two anime swordsmen named Marth and Roy made an appearance at Super Smash Bros. Melee. Following Melee's release in 2001, a number of Fire Emblem games made their way to the West on GameCube, DS, and Wii. But it was not until 201

3, when Awakening released on the 3DS, that Fire Emblem actually exploded into international popularity, with an occurrence that reportedly saved the series from imminent cancellation.

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

Maybe it's just the growing growing install base of the 3DS; The 3DS XL had recently gone on sale. Maybe it was a renewed interest in tactical strategy games; Firaxis' excellent reboot of XCOM, Enemy Unknown, had thus been a recent and popular release. But Kusakihara genuinely could not point to anything remotely definitive. "We do not have the confidence to say: 'Oh! There's nothing like that. "

Since Awakening, the development team at Intelligent Systems has pulled out a fire emblem in a couple of interesting new directions. First was the ambitious Fates for 3DS, a title that was divided into three separate products. Then came Shadows of Valentia, a remake of the second-ever Fire Emblem game from 1992, which stood out for its notable tweaks to the mechanics strategy and featured third-person dungeon exploration, of all things. There's Fire Emblem Heroes, which refits the tactical battles to a surprisingly good bite-sized mobile game with an all-star cast. Now, Three Houses has been released for the switch, and its narrative flow revolves around an annual calendar, coupled with a military academy where your protagonist is a professor and your class of students are your troops.

"We do not have the confidence to say: 'Oh long as we keep doing this thing, then the game will be popular!' There's nothing like that. "

When they came to an enormous spike in popularity – the Shin Megami Tensei spin-off, persona. Persona games always revolve around high school students across the course of a year, so naturally, I assumed that the Fire Emblem development team looked at Persona's incredible success and attempted to tap into that formula. Of course, like the foolish Westerner I am, I was wrong.

"Genealogy Of The Holy War. "This was a game for the Super Famicom that released in 1996, and it's the fourth in the Fire Emblem series." It was never released in English, though a fan translation exists. "In this game, you have an officer's academy where there are best friends who really develop their relationships there, and the story is centered around them." So [Three Houses] what child of an attempt to create that kind of setting in more detail. "

 Fire Emblem: Geneology of the Holy War (1996) for Super Famicom
Fire Emblem: Geneology of the Holy War (1996) for Super Famicom

Building beautifully aspirational lifelong relationships through an extravagantly romanticized depiction of high school life is a huge component of Three Houses. Across the course of a campaign, you'll spend a couple of hours with each other at the Academy, sharing meals, training and fighting them, getting to know each other through laughter, loss, and love. Later on, as Fire Emblem games typically unfold, you'll go to war, and how the game's bloody conflicts unfold and affect you. The popular Shin Megami Tensei spin-off has just come to an end. "Kusakihara explained." Kusakihara explained. "Kusakihara explained.

"We did not do that at the very beginning of development." So we added that and the element of activity points. " In Three Houses, a set amount of activity points, tied to your professors level, restricts how much one-on-one can you give students, as well as many extracurricular activities. "[Activity points]

When Sunday rolls around in Three Houses and you do not need to spend your days teaching your students, there are You can get your own one-on-one training sessions from fellow professors to improve your own skills, you can set them off The battlefield and fight sorties to complete side missions, you can fish, you can garden, you can not sleep, but most importantly: You can hang out with your students and cultivate those personal relationships. Having a close-knit camaraderie in your class will provide a significant advantage in the battlefield, of course, but off the battlefield, these social links can be broken into friendships and sometimes the suggestion of romance, providing a wealth of insight to the backstories of the characters.

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

Kusakihara breaks down the production of the social simulation: "There were three scenario writers from Koei Tecmo The book has been written for the first time in the last three years and was written in the same book Echoes [Shadows of Valentia] for the Japanese version. "

The involvement of Koei Tecmo (responsible for another enduring tactical strategy series, Romance Of The Three Kingdoms) in the development of Three Houses was already a known The Emblem is so closely associated with Intelligent Systems. Kusakihara: Intelligent Systems, and then we had Mr. Takeru Kanazaki working as a sound director The development team were from Koei Tecmo, so they really did a lot of work. "

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

" I provided the world "Koei Tecmo and then discussing the details of the game." It's a curious revelation, if only because it invites speculation about what kind of projects the rest of Intelligent Systems might be working on. It's also interesting that Koei Tecmo, responsible for the Dynasty Warriors action series (as well as the spin-off Fire Emblem Warriors), is heavily responsible in another Nintendo title that released a week prior to Three Houses – Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3.

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Chinatsu Kurahana, who served as the game's new lead character designer. Kurahana's previous work most notably includes designing characters for the popular Japanese romantic visual novel series, Uta no Prince-sama, a game revolving around a teenage girl's budding relationships with a group of aspiring male pop idols.

Dating idols is not really Kurahana was an easy choice. "A lot of this game takes place at the Officers Academy and there are a lot of classy there." So we want to be a child of a glamorous, aristocratic society, "Kusakihara told me. "Kurahana, who we've had in talks with, seemed like she had a good fit, and she definitely had a big impact of the hairstyles of the characters."

"So we wanted a bit of a refresh because we did were putting this game out on the Nintendo Switch, which is a new platform and, well, we wanted a new image for the game. " Hairstyles are not the only huge makeover for the series, naturally. One of the biggest mechanical restylings in Three Houses is the Removal of Fire Emblem's Weapon Triangle, the rock-scissors-paper system that has been the core foundation of combat in every entry since, well, Genealogy of the Holy War.

That's a pretty funny, serendipitous coincidence – the new fire emblem game, which returns to a minor minority found in Genealogy of the Holy War, so completely discards that entry's most influential and longest-lasting legacy. The reasons Kusakihara gives me are pretty understandable: "We think that the triangle is something of a stylized system, it is not realistic," he said. Probably not. "So, we just wanted to make something that comes across it

 Caspar punches a monk at Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019)
Caspar punches a monk at Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019)

So it came down to the series 'continuing focus on its personalities, especially given three houses' setting of an academy where teenage students are only just coming into their own. So we're really creating a weapon system that is less restrictive than our previous games. "

That's not to say that picking the right unit or weapon for a battle is not an important matter in Three Houses. There are still situations. And, if one of your units becomes increasingly proficient in a certain type of weapon or discipline, you could not unlock it. an advanced swordsman might have "Axebreaker" ability, for example, which would increase both their avoidance and chance to hit that weapon.

"… the weapon triangle is somewhat of a stylized system, it is not really realistic. "

The long-term strategy for your troupe.

The long-term strategy for your troupe. During my first campaign, for example, I had Dorothea in my class. She excels in black magic and swordplay, her lifelong ambitions are to a badass warlock, and she has the idea of ​​learning faith-based healing magic – it's for weenies, after all, and she even harbors an innate learning disadvantage towards it.

 Toshiyuki Kusakihara
Toshiyuki Kusakihara

But if you're dedicated enough, by spending a lot of time on one of the most serious one-on-one tutelages on Faith, Dorothea has the capacity to eventually uncover hidden potential. Bishops would covet, and eventually turn that learning into a buff. There's some contentious subtext in this example, but the system allows you to foster a unique story for your class – it's a tough decision to give one of my favorite students a hard time in class a couple of months instead of honing. But it was worth it.

Kusakihara does not play favorites, though. Toward the end of the conversation, I tried to get the Dirt on the team's most hated students (mine's Lorentz, he sucks). Everyone laughs: "As the director of the game, It's almost like, you know, I'm the teacher because I helped to create them. So I have to say that I love all the students." Genki Yokota, the other director for Three Houses, representing Nintendo, was the only one who threw me a bone: "You're supposed to be helping out with the students, so it's hard to say that." I really like the character Shamir. " I like Shamir too.

It's pretty common to hear stories about developers. Kusakihara left me with the impression that his team is on the other side of that coin. They do not know why their game has attracted the fan base it has been in the west, so they're just going to keep doing what they've done since Awakening. Changing the structure. Reinventing foundational mechanics. Welcoming the talents of new teams and artists. "When we develop the game, we just strive to make it something beyond what people can imagine," he said. "That might help in making it popular."

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