Fire Emblem: Three Houses devs on the game’s origins, working with Koei Tecmo, Japanese title, Expansion Pass, more
This week’s issue of Famitsu has a big Fire Emblem: Three Houses developer interview. Director Toshiyuki Kusakihara of Intelligent Systems, along with Nintendo’s Genki Yokota, participated in the lengthy discussion.
During the interview, Kusakihara and Yokota discussed Fire Emblem: Three Houses origins, what it was like to work with Koei Tecmo, the game’s Japanese title, what to expect from the Expansion Pass, and more. You can read our full translation below.
Three Houses will be the series’ first entry on a home console in over 12 years since Radiant Dawn on the Wii. Could you tell us the history of this new title’s development?
Yokota: We started working out ideas for Three Houses right around the time Fates released. We were initially thinking about releasing another title on the Nintendo 3DS, but once we had decided on making Echoes, we ended up putting development on hold for the time being.
Kusakihara: Yeah, it was in the concept stage at the time, so talks of the Nintendo Switch hadn’t come down the pipeline yet.
Was Three Houses in development alongside Echoes for a period of time then?
Yokota: Full-fledged development didn’t start until after Echoes came out, but in switching things over to the Nintendo Switch from the mid-stages, we went forward with development concurrently.
So this game marks a joint-development with Koei Tecmo games, in the same vein as Fire Emblem Warriors.
Kusakihara: Yes, FE Warriors had a lot to do with our decision to work with Koei Tecmo on this one.
Yokota: We decided that we wanted to release a Fire Emblem game on Nintendo Switch by the end of 2019 at the latest. However, it was looking like regular development was going to take some extra time, so we looked into getting another developer in the mix in order to shorten the length of production. At pretty much that exact same time, Koei Tecmo was making FE Warriors for us, and as a result of consulting with Mr. Hayashi (head of Koei Tecmo’s Team Ninja), we ended up asking the Kou Shibusawa team to help out. That’s how things went.
Kusakihara: Speaking of the Kou Shibusawa team, they’re well-renowned for making SRPGs – they’re the best of the best. We knew it’d be great if we could get them on board, so we started hashing plans out again. It was only after we decided to work with the Kou Shibusawa team that we considered their sense of world-building with three balanced kingdoms.
That’s interesting. The setting in Three Houses where three different kingdoms are at war is certainly like Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
Kusakihara: In regards to staffing, Intelligent Systems provided Koei Tecmo with a minimum crew of several designers, a music composer, and an adviser to the programmers – not including myself, of course. We then left Koei Tecmo in charge of basic game development.
Was there any aspect of this style of development that you were particularly happy with?
Kusakihara: To put it simply, it was just fun (laughs). Koei Tecmo rounded up workers who were fans of the series, so the team was really motivated all throughout development. In the beginning, I was wondering what kind of pace they’d be able to keep, but as it turns out, the Kou Shibusawa team’s development skills are limitless! (laughs) I accidentally got a little greedy there and went overboard on the size of the game.
Yokota: Yeah, we never intended to put this much stuff in the game (laughs). It’s gotta be about twice as big as we set out to make.
There’s so much content that even the director is surprised, huh? Could we talk once again about the concepts for Three Houses?
Yokota: It had been a while since the series was on a home console, so we started by brainstorming what a home-console Fire Emblem game should be. Pixel art and a deformed art style were a good match for the Nintendo 3DS, but those probably weren’t going to be easy to portray on the Nintendo Switch. So we wanted to first challenge ourselves by making gorgeous visuals, and that’s how we got to the designs you see in the game.
This game will have the subtitle “Wind Flowers Snow Moon” (Fuu Ka Setsu Getsu)*. What does this title mean?
Yokota: The title was decided during the final stages of development. In this game, the narrative is centered around 4 lead characters: the protagonist and the 3 house leaders. That’s how we got the idea to use a 4 character idiom** for the subtitle.
Kusakihara: For me, personally, I get a strong sense of the annual seasons when I read the subtitle. In the Officers Academy, one of the major themes is spending a full year studying and deepening your bonds with your friends. I’d say the imagery of the passing seasons fits perfectly with this, wouldn’t you?
* Oni Dino’s Translator Note: The Japanese subtitle of “Three Houses” is “Fuu Ka Setsu Getsu”, which literally translates to “Wind Flowers Snow Moon”. It is an abstract Chinese idiom that roughly refers to the beauty of nature and the associated emotions. According to Wikipedia, this Chinese phrase may be used with the negative nuance: “That which is nothing more than embellished words”.
** Note: Both Chinese and Japanese (by linguistic extension) use 4 Chinese characters, or Kanji, for many idioms and sayings. In this context, though it is a poetic expression, each main human character in the story is represented by a written character in the subtitle. Can you guess which correlates to which?
The subtitle for the overseas version is “Three Houses”. This one’s easy to understand.
Yokota: With the motif of Romance of the Three Kingdoms in the composition of the three schools, I remember the person in charge overseas telling me, “This is the absolute coolest!” I think if you directly translate the title, it wouldn’t really work in Japan. (laughs)
There is a gameplay system where you’ll be teaching skills to your students at the Officers Academy. Where did you get the idea for this?
Kusakihara: It started out as joke – we’d kid around saying, “Fire Emblem Campus.” (laughs) With that kind of idea, plus Koei Tecmo being added into the mix, and then the Romance of the Three Kingdoms motif… We put all of our ideas together like pieces of a puzzle, and things just fell perfectly into place and turned into what we have today.
Yokota: Keeping aware of what Fire Emblem is, that campus should be an Officers Academy. In Genealogy of the Holy War, Sigurd, Quan and Eldigan all graduated from an Officers Academy, faced off against grand threats in the story – there are quite a few similarities between these two games.
Kusakihara: In Genealogy of the Holy War, we thought it would be quite fascinating and dramatic if we could implement the aspects of an Officers Academy into the past.
Yokota: We wanted everyone to be attentive to the flow of events in Three Houses: meeting new people and becoming friends in the Officers Academy, being allies in the beginning, then having this unfortunate reunion as enemies during the war. This game has long-form character drama like that.
So it shares similarities with Genealogy of the Holy War due to a time-skip in the mid-game, right?
Yokota: That’s correct. But the characters changed over from the parental generations to the children generations in Genealogy of the Holy War, so with Three Houses we’re establishing the progression of time by having all the same characters mature in age.