Fire Emblem: Three Houses devs on inspirations, world-building, approach to Byleth, Dimitri’s eyepatch, more
This month’s issue of Nintendo Dream has a massive Fire Emblem: Three Houses developer interview. Directors Toshiyuki Kusakihara and Genki Yokota addressed a variety of topics, including inspirations, world-building and character writing, depictions of characters, themes, and lore, plus more. As part of this, we get to hear about Byleth and keeping his facial expressions to a minimum as well as Dimitri’s eyepatch.
You can read out full translation of the second half. In case you missed it, we shared a translation of the first half here. Note that the final page contains information related to spoilers, so please keep that in mind before proceeding.
What was your thought process when creating the various cuisines on the cafeteria menu?
Kusakihara: The development staff really put a lot of thought behind it. Generally speaking, we modeled the food after the Age of Discovery* then made some special arrangements that you’ll only find in a fantastical setting. We particularly wanted the ingredients and styles of cooking to have a sense of reality to them in the established world, so we considered the kinds of vegetables, fish, and whatnot that they’d cultivate.
Things like the climate and culture all differ between the regions of Faerghus, Leicester and Adrestia, so we added in aspects like the kinds of lives the nobles and commoners live, the kinds of ingredients they can get their hands on—we even considered the flavors each individual character would like in the world-building of Fódlan. There were a lot of things we took into consideration; for example, magic can be used to yield crops in the greenhouse, right? So we figured they could make things like ice cream because they have ice magic, too. I think it makes sense that they’d need to use magic in the greenhouse since the monastery is set atop the mountains and it’d be cold there. In their world, they live in a society where magic has progressed instead of science, so they utilize it in manners like that.
*Oni Dino’s Note: The “Age of Discovery” or “Age of Exploration” was a period from the early 15th century to the early 17th century when European ships traveled around the world to search for new trading routes.
How did you come up with the concept for the paintings that appear before the change in seasons during Part I: White Clouds?
Kusakihara: Our goal was to give a sense of history or an account of war, and we created them with the art styles of Eastern Europe in mind. Creating an atmosphere that felt like you were looking at a single page of a long and ongoing history was our priority. And after that, we wanted to include a voice-over that articulated the expanse of the world-building, as well.
Yokota: Adding the voice-over to the paintings really elevated the sophistication of it all.
Kusakihara: We wanted players to appreciate the surroundings, the flavor, the seasons – it was important to have them understand those aspects of Fódlan as early in the game as possible. We wanted to give sort of a similar impression like we did with Fire Emblem: Echoes when hearing Alm and Celica’s monologue upon entering a dungeon.
Yokota: Originally, the paintings were just still images. Only near the end of development did we discuss having them become animated.
Kusakihara: Yeah, the development staff really pulled it off at the 11th hour. Speaking of which, the director of Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., Paul Patrashcu, created all of the illustrations singlehandedly.
Yokota: I love them. They really show off the unique character of Fódlan.
Tell us how you came up with the origins and the image for each of Fódlan’s three countries.
Kusakihara: We expanded on the idea while conceptualizing three countries that exist independently. The Adrestian Empire was modeled after Italy, but the locations are named after German-speaking areas. Faerghus has a more northern feel, with ancient Faerghus being modeled somewhat after old Gaul. We also integrated the idea that Faerghus had changed over time to a more Northern European style, like the Frankish Empire. And we envisioned the Leicester nobles inherited the styles of the culturally distinguished Adrestians and Faerghians, so they’re quite showy and gaudy. (Laughs) It’s a country that was established after separating from Faerghus, and actively incorporates the style of the Adrestian Empire’s nobles whom they admire. At least… that’s some of the lesser known lore.
Yokota: The Derdriu map even has parasols in it, making it kind of stylish. I even felt like I had to make sure with Kusakihara that something like that would be okay, but anytime I did, he’d always tell me it was fine.
Kusakihara: I feel like it might be a little too glamorous, but it’s within the realm of forgiveness. (Laughs) Actually, we’ve even incorporated some lyrics into the background music that brings out the traits of each country. I think it’s pretty fun, and I hope players notice it.
The actual Fire Emblem has often been a physical item like a shield or a medallion in the series thus far – why did you decide to make it “a power inherited by blood” this in Three Houses?
Kusakihara: Well, as with the examples you provided, the form of the Fire Emblem isn’t fixed across the games. To me, the Fire Emblem is more of a representation of everyone joining forces, rather than something that has a physical form. And actually, in my opinion, the Fire Emblem is defined in this game as the flag that flies the crest instead of the crest itself that’s inherited by blood.
Yokota: You get to see Byleth’s flag in “Silver Snow”.
Kusakihara: It’s when everyone believes in Byleth and they join forces to fight together. I think the Fire Emblem is the insignia that can be flown in the interest of gathering everyone together and inspiring them to fight, even if it means putting their lives on the line. Speaking of which, the setting of nobles having crests and Byleth bearing the Crest of Flames was fixed as a single idea. Genealogy of the Holy War portrayed characters who were only of a certain bloodline to have power; this was valued worldwide, yet there were many people who did not have this inherited power. So we thought about making Three Houses with a similar establishment, and that’s how we came up with the crests. I think those circumstances served the game’s story well, allowing us to write a lot of deep interpersonal drama for the characters.
The majority of entries in the series thus far have used the continent the game takes place in for the staging. Why are things different in Three Houses?
Kusakihara: We didn’t go that route because I think, in our reality, the concept of a “continent” is something we started thinking about only after the Age of Discovery. For example, when you imagine the country of Japan, you have to view it from the outside, you know? When people lived during the Age of Warring States,** they probably didn’t recognize Japan as a single nation, but rather as smaller scale “countries” like Kishu and Echigo. Thinking of it in modern times, they’d be more akin to the scale of prefectures. Fódlan is a rather insular society; they don’t really have something similar to an outside perspective of them, so we deliberately avoided referring to them as a continent. Even in Fódlan, they have the ability to fly through the sky—like with pegasuses—so we figured it should be fairly easy for them to create a map of the land. And then locations with names like Fodlan’s Fangs and Fodlan’s Throat exist because the map of Fódlan was created in the image of a dragon’s head, so there could be that comparison there.
**Oni Dino’s Note: The “Age of Warring States” is a period in Japanese history of near-constant civil war.