Fire Emblem: Three Houses devs on inspirations, world-building, approach to Byleth, Dimitri’s eyepatch, more
Which route specifically did you create in the beginning to establish the world-building?
Kusakihara: It was one of the two paths in the Empire route—the one fans refer to as the “church route”: “Silver Snow”. We planned from the beginning to have house leader Edelgard as an opponent; afterwards, we had Koei Tecmo’s scripting team start work on the nitty-gritty of the other house leaders and the story of their respective routes. We originally envisioned the Black Eagles route to be the most difficult due to the fact that you lose the house leader.
Yokota: When we were talking about it, we thought it was such a crazy idea to have the player lose their main character whom they’ve been growing with this whole time.
Kusakihara: Personally speaking, I think the creator needs to have some sort of cruelty. Without it, there’s this kind of pre-established harmony and the reader will be able to predict how the story will unfold. And I don’t think there’s much of value to a story that you can easily predict. So I made that decision quite boldly, but there were many people on the development team who voiced their opinions that they wanted to join Edelgard. I actually intended for the route where the player goes with Edelgard, “Crimson Flower”, to be even harder to get to.
Yokota: I’m sorry, Mr. Kusakihara, but I was totally on Koei Tecmo’s side on this one. (Laughs) At first there wasn’t even a single hint about the exploration event that leads to the branching paths. Even as it is now, the player has to explore the monastery at least once during the Pegasus Moon of part one in order to get the “Crimson Flower” route. We decided to give the event a requirement that’s relatively unmissable since most players typically choose to explore at the beginning of each month.
Kusakihara: I personally think it’s about 3 times as easy to follow than what I originally envisioned, but it’s fine.
Yokota: Well, from my point of view, it strikes the perfect balance. (Laughs) If Mr. Kusakihara had only written the “Crimson Flower” route in the beginning, I might have had a few more objections to his plans. But I think it was really interesting how he intentionally created a series of events you can’t predict through various branching paths. The final product is really great, and it feels like he followed his vision from the early planning stages all the way through to the end.
Tell us the reasoning behind your decision to keep Byleth’s facial expressions to a minimum.
Kusakihara: We chose to do so in order for the player to easily empathize with them as a player surrogate. That was our thought process from the beginning, and we honestly didn’t think about it much more than that. We figured since the player would be experiencing this world for the first time, if Byleth were to talk all about things that the player had no knowledge of, it wouldn’t be easy for them to relate to Byleth. So we decided to have Byleth new to the world and its customs and have other characters tell them about it. So we made that decision from a game structure point of view, but I think it actually helped tie the story together really well with the crests and Byleth’s lineage and such.
Tell us the backstory of how Edelgard and the Empire came to be.
Kusakihara: I think the characters who have traditionally strived for military rule have been men. Men have also traditionally been the antagonist. So I’m not sure whether I wanted to give players a sense of surprise or whether it was more about having a story that’s unpredictable, like I said earlier—but ultimately, we went with a female.
Yokota: She has this dichotomy between her fierce side of ravaging her way to military rule, and her more endearing side. I really think we’ve created a great character with her. Also, I think we’ve adhered to one of the conventions of the series, which is that the Empire is the enemy. I feel like when most people hear the word “empire” they have a negative connotation. We started with the desire to write a story reminiscent of “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, but we also wanted to include a school life aspect, so we had to have a time of peace during which there needed to be a person who sparked the flames of war. In order for that all to play out, we needed to burden someone with the role of a villain or something similar, so we assigned that to the Empire.
Kusakihara: A lot of recent Fire Emblem games have begun just before a war, but in Three Houses we deliberately had the war begin much later in the story.
When exactly did Edelgard undergo crest experimentation? And why did you have her bear the Crest of Flames just like Byleth?
Kusakihara: It’s not clearly defined, but it happened sometime between her early childhood after she separated from Dimitri, and the start of the game. She’s known as Agartha’s masterwork, so I think it was probably after their methods were refined, which also means that it was after Lysithea underwent experiments, too. And as for why she has the Crest of Flames, it’s because she was always intended to be an equal rival to Byleth. Actually, I thought about having Edelgard’s presence interrupt Byleth’s ability to stop time, or maybe even have Divine Pulse be unusable during the final battle. But alas, we didn’t portray that in the game.
Yokota: Wow, that’s awesome! (Laughs)
Kusakihara: Even though that idea fell through, it still feels like Edelgard and Byleth have a lot of common ground between them, and there’s a very powerful sense of drama since they both bear the same crest.
Tell us about Dimitri’s appearance after the time-skip with his eyepatch.
Kusakihara: It actually wasn’t planned in the beginning for him to have an eyepatch. It came about when I asked Chinatsu Kurahana to add one after I saw her character designs illustrations. The time-skip designs from the outset were based on my desire to have a wide variety of changes for every character’s transformation. I told her that I wanted each character’s outward appearance to absolutely ooze how they’ve been living their lives over the past five years, and the idea for Dimitri’s eyepatch came from this school of thought. That’s why Dimitri doesn’t have his eyepatch solely in the “Crimson Flower” route. It represents that there are some routes where such danger doesn’t befall him, so his eyepatch is a symbol of a deadly encounter.
In “Cindered Shadows”, Claude says something very peculiar about his own name – is he under an alias?
Kusakihara: You guessed it: it’s a false name. Claude’s real name is “Khalid”. I wanted to include it somewhere in the game but there wasn’t really a good opportunity, so here we are. (Laughs) We actually had a scene about halfway in where Nader calls him by the name “Khalid”, but we couldn’t find a good place for it to fit so we ended up cutting it.
Yokota: I wonder why Claude chose to give himself that name, “Claude”.****
****Oni Dino’s Note: There’s a character by the name “Claud” in Genealogy of the Holy War.
Kusakihara: That was also pointed out by Masahiro Higuchi, but the name was originally intended to be an alias, so I didn’t worry about the overlap in names. I always wanted to reveal his identity during the game, but… Oh, well. And there are other characters throughout the series whose names overlap with each other, so I’m not bothered by it. Anyway, his real name is “Khalid”!
Yokota: Both names sound so cool. You know, I feel like Claude is the character whose appearance changed the least after the time-skip. His new beard makes him look a little more adventurous. I remember when I first saw his time-skip design, I thought it made him look even shadier than he did before. (Laughs) But he’s a really good guy.
In the S support conversation between Claude and Byleth, Claude speaks of Alymra when saying, “I have royal connections there too, insignificant as they may be.” Does this mean Claude has actual siblings there?
Kusakihara: He probably does. He has several half-siblings on his father’s side and he was constantly discriminated against by those around him, which are the roots of his character. The Claude we know today had many rivals to contend with, forcing him to use his cunning to devise schemes and come out on top, all of which is tied to his ambition. The theme of Claude’s story is him learning how to fight against xenophobic mindsets, and his original motivation for that lies in his homeland. The scripting team said that they used both Yang Wen-li from Legend of the Galactic Heroes, and Rajendra from The Heroic Legend of Arslan as a reference for Claude’s character, and it really feels like they combined the two. Claude sees things from a rational point of view, so if things got dire, Claude would beg for his life because the real victory is surviving. That’s why the one who can go on to survive in every route is Claude.
Yokota: Claude’s exchange with Hilda at the battle at Derdriu on the “Crimson Flower” route is really powerful… Especially when he says to her, “But you were supposed to run!”
Kusakihara: Yeah. I think he has a different set of values compared to typical Fódlan people.
Why does Sothis look like a little girl? And why was Lady Rhea so preoccupied with reviving her?
Kusakihara: It’s because Sothis was in an incomplete state while she was inside Byleth. Sothis didn’t remember what she really looked like, nor had she been fully restored, so she looks like a little girl to represent that she’s not fully there yet. Lady Rhea’s memories of what Sothis looks like are quite different than Byleth’s, so when they say that they see the form of a little girl, Lady Rhea’s perplexed reaction to this also represents that disconnect. When Sothis is in her complete form, she looks like the adult woman we see depicted in the murals.
Yokota: I did a little searching and found a character design for adult Sothis—why do we have this?
Kusakihara: We actually had a version of the opening of the game that had Sothis looking down from on high, so we needed an image for reference. As for Lady Rhea’s tenacious desire to resurrect her, there are actually a lot of elements that were not depicted in the story: while Lady Rhea sees Sothis as her mother, she also sees her as the Creator. So she’s determined to find this person who’s more to her than just a mother. It’s extremely important to her and that’s the foundation for Lady Rhea’s mentality.
Why did Nemesis attack Zanado?
Kusakihara: In that world, the Nabateans were a race of people who could transform into dragons, and ruled as gods over each territory across Fódlan. However, they were hated by the Agarthans, the so-called Those Who Slither in the Dark, and the Agarthans conspired to overthrow the Nabateans. They planned to teach humanity their skills of crafting powerful weapons from the bodies of Nabateans, and that plan was carried out by the human, Nemesis. As for how things resulted for the humans who received said power… They yearned for more power, killed dragons larger than themselves to use their bones as materials to create even more powerful weapons, and so on—that’s how the Ten Elites came to be. From there, Seiros raised an army to defeat Nemesis and the Ten Elites to suppress their efforts. Seiros went on to victory, and afterward she rewrote history to what is currently known as the history of the Church of Seiros. What this says in short is: history is nothing more than what the victor chooses it to be. There are many who have lied about history throughout the stories found in the game, and you can’t believe everything you read, even the historical accounts found in the books in the library.
Why did Seiros (Lady Rhea) appropriate Nemesis and the Ten Elites as heroes in her history?
Kusakihara: Because from humanity’s perspective, Nemesis and the Ten Elites were thought of as heroes. She can’t create a history that completely ignores the feelings of humans upon ruling over humanity. So while preserving them as heroes, she was able to rewrite other parts of history to her advantage. It goes without saying, however the reason for Seiros tampering with history was not so she could rule over humanity—it was to minimize war and preserve peace across the land. And as it says in the Shadow Library, she even restricted the growth of civilization when it began progressing too quickly for her. There’s an answer as to why… but that’s a secret for now. (Laughs)
Translation provided by Oni Dino on behalf of Nintendo Everything.
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