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Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes devs on origins, Byleth, Shez, weapon triangle, more

Posted on July 2, 2022 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch

fire emblem warriors three hopes developer interview

In the latest issue of Nintendo Dream, the Japanese magazine published a lengthy interview with some of the developers that worked on Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. Development producer Hideo Suzuki, producer Yosuke Hayashi, and director Hayato Iwata participated in the discussion.

This was a significant discussion coming in at over 5,000 words. The group touched on a variety of topics, including how the Switch title came to be, Byleth and his role in the game, Shez, the weapon triangle, implementation of Camp and Facilities, and more.

You can catch up on our full translation below.

The path to creating Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, a joint work between three companies

I’d like to ask first about the events that led up to the development of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. When did you first get the idea to make a Warriors title based off Fire Emblem: Three Houses?

Hayashi: Our first time working with Nintendo and Intelligent Systems was when we made the first Fire Emblem Warriors. During the creation process, it was brought up that we could also do the next main series Fire Emblem title, and that was Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Development started on Fire Emblem: Three Houses just about as soon as it ended on Fire Emblem Warriors. Once that was over, we decided that since our three companies had worked together for so long and begun to understand each other’s ways of thinking, we wanted to make a sequel to Fire Emblem Warriors. We originally called it Fire Emblem Warriors 2 as a placeholder name and discussed various directions we could take it in, and we decided on making a Warriors title in the world of Three Houses with the current staff involved because of its good reception and because the setting that our companies collaborated to make was one of its strengths. That was what Suzuki, Iwata and I concluded the audience would want the most. So we started by making Fire Emblem Warriors 2 and ended up making Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes from there.

Suzuki: It ended up as the phantom proposal (laughs). The direction may have changed, but we’re fans of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, so we were more glad than anything to have the opportunity to create a Warriors title in that setting.

The first Fire Emblem Warriors was fun as a festival game because of the many heroes that made appearances from various titles, but I get the impression that this one is a bit different.

Suzuki: Our three companies were in agreement that we wanted to take it in a different direction than a festival-type game because we were using Fire Emblem: Three Houses as a base, and the appeal of that game is its profound and serious story. As fans of the original game, it was a challenge to create a Warriors title within that serious setting, but we basically did what we wanted to with it.

Iwata: While we had decided to use the setting of Three Houses, we also discussed possibly introducing characters from past titles, but as development progressed alongside Nintendo and Intelligent Systems, we decided that it would be best to focus on just Three Houses and create a story that could have plausibly happened in that world. That meant we were naturally constrained to only the elements necessary to depict the world of Three Houses.

Suzuki: With collaboration titles, it’s paramount to respect the original IP, which I think made it easier to create this title because we could focus on just one work as opposed to the entire series as with the first Fire Emblem Warriors.

Was there anything different or more difficult about the development process as a result of being involved with the original work?

Hayashi: It was a very easy process because we had previously worked with Nintendo and Intelligent Systems on Fire Emblem Warriors.

Iwata: It was huge that we had a lot of staff on the dev team who were involved with the original work. We felt assured that with the original staff around, we wouldn’t diverge from the core aspects of the IP such as the story and characters. In addition, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems supervised us closely, so we felt really good about it.

Suzuki: I agree, there wasn’t anything particularly difficult.

Hayashi: There was one thing! With staff from Three Houses in the company, the in-company checks were especially strict.

Suzuki and Iwata: Oh! (Nodding with understanding)

Hayashi: We would get comments like, “This isn’t Three Houses!”

Suzuki: We always have the current version in development played by staff from all around the company to get their input, and I did think that they could be a bit nitpicky.

Iwata: People would give us direct feedback when it wasn’t exactly the right timing for it, such as at version review meetings (laughs).

Suzuki: Like, “We can’t release it like this.” (laughs)

Hayashi: They do say those who are closest are the most strict. (laughs) They disciplined us a lot, in a good way.

Suzuki: We figured that if we made something that we were happy with as staff, the fans would naturally also be happy with it.

Keeping the setting of Fódlan as-is, with a more detailed depiction of conflict

This title, like the original, has three different stories that unfold depending on the country. How were each of these routes created? Did one of the routes serve as the foundation?

Iwata: We had the writing director of Fire Emblem: Three Houses on our writing team, so we basically left the progression to him. Once we had the initial concept down, we let the writer who understood the IP best take care of fleshing it out and adding details. The routes were created concurrently, without any set order and without using any one as a foundation, which I believe was the same process as the original.

What was the concept you initially discussed?

Iwata: We wanted to change the plot from Three Houses because it would be too stale and unoriginal if we kept it the exact same. The idea to make Byleth an antagonist came from that goal. The way Three Houses treated Byleth was a huge pillar of the original title.

Hayashi: The first thing that was suggested at the initial discussion was to use the story of Fates.

Iwata: Other than that, Three Houses is a title that deals with conflict, but its strength is in the weight that it gives the student-teacher relationship, so we thought we had room to make a deeper depiction of conflict itself. That led to us talking about adding more depth to the military and war aspects. For example, Claude was called the Master Tactician in the original game, but he tended to appear as a good guy, so we decided to show a side of him that couldn’t be fully explored in the original where he might employ harsh tactics depending on the situation. We went forward with the intent to bore deeper into the concept of each country.

I did get a military feeling from this title, and I also felt that the perspective from which the characters’ bonds were depicted was different from the original.

Iwata: Yes, the writers were conscious of that during the process.

Hayashi: The way a Warriors game is played is to experience a battle in a tactical action way and overturn adverse circumstances through your own actions, so we wanted the game itself to focus more on war and fighting. That meant we almost entirely skipped over the military academy parts and the parts where the characters develop bonds in order to give more weight to the war aspect.

How the original protagonist, the Ashen Demon, became the main antagonist

You said that the idea to make Byleth into an antagonist was there since the initial concept stage. Where did that idea come from?

Suzuki: Hayashi was the first to mention it.

Hayashi: My thought was to have the players enjoy the core themes of Three Houses in another form, as opposed to having them enjoy the difference between this title and Three Houses. In Three Houses, when choosing a route, it creates the dilemma where you may have to fight or kill those who were formerly classmates or allies. Playing those three routes is a way to give a sense of three-dimensionality to the story.

Each of the countries has its own values and sense of right and wrong, and it’s impossible to decisively say which is good and which is evil.

Hayashi: Exactly. It shows how when everyone follows the path that they believe in, they may either become allies or enemies. Among those complex human relationships, the one person who was always in the best position was Byleth.

Suzuki: Since Byleth was “the player,” their position was to change history along with whoever their allies were at the time.

Hayashi: The thing is, this is someone strong who goes around taking enemies down one after the other (laughs). When playing as Byleth, the player may clear the three routes thinking of themselves as the good guy, but from the opponent’s perspective, they would seem extremely frightening, like a literal demon. We thought this way, players could experience anew the conflicts in the three routes of Three Houses and how each person lived according to their own belief system.

So they can experience that dilemma with a new flavor.

Hayashi: We thought it would be the most emotionally impactful if we went with the premise that the Ashen Demon was an enemy that the protagonist must defeat. We went around asking how people felt about making Byleth into an enemy in order for people to re-experience the conflict of Three Houses. We even asked the original staff, “Is it okay to defeat Byleth?”

(All laugh)

Hayashi: The original writing director of Three Houses said “I’ll do it. I’ll make it the most exciting story I can!” We considered the conflict itself the theme that was the most appealing in Three Houses, so we wanted to not avoid anything about it. However, the more someone played Three Houses, the more they would empathize with Byleth, so we were scared to announce this publicly (laughs).

Iwata: When that discussion came up, we thought it would definitely be exciting and interesting, but there was also an inexplicable fear (laughs).

Hayashi: Byleth is special, of course, so we didn’t want to depict them in a disdainful way; we just wanted to show how compelling and frightening they would be from a different angle. We put them into a form where players could experience them that way.

Iwata: From the beginning of development, we were in firm agreement with Nintendo and Intelligent Systems not to make this into something that negates the bonds formed between Byleth and their students.

Suzuki: I think anyone who plays this title and hasn’t played Three Houses before will really want to play it afterward. This is definitely true for myself (laughs). For someone who has played Three Houses, they may initially wonder why Byleth isn’t the protagonist, but I think the soul or core of Three Houses is very present in this game, so I hope they will see that for themselves.

New character designs conceived with an emphasis on battle

What concept did you use to create the protagonist of this title (default name: Shez)?

Suzuki: In Three Houses, Byleth and the students have a master-pupil relationship with Byleth as the teacher and the class as their students, so we wanted to take Shez in a different direction and put them in the same position as their classmates. There’s a certain appeal in each character that you can see as a result of being their equal, so we wanted to put Shez in a position other than teacher from the beginning.

Iwata: Shez talks a lot, unlike Byleth. They may be the player, but they also have their own identity, so we worked hard to make Shez a character that people would like upon seeing them.

Hayashi: Byleth was created to be a kind of alter ego for the player, so Shez wouldn’t be able to beat them if we depicted them the same way. It was a challenge to make Shez a character that players could project onto while also having them express their own emotions.

Why did you make the setting of Fire Emblem: Three Hopes two years later?

Iwata: We didn’t start with the clear intention of setting it two years later, but as we were putting the story together with the goal of making it a war story, it was just the natural choice to set it two years later. Since the time period is different, we made original character designs and outfits for this title. We wanted to make new costumes for the former student characters in the first place, so that was a good fit when that became a necessity.

Who directed the new character designs?

Suzuki: We asked Chinatsu Kurahana* to do the three heads, Shez and Arval, and Toshiyuki Kusakihara** for the other characters.

*Chinatsu Kurahana: Illustrator and character designer. Directed character design on FE: Three Houses. Other major works include the Uta no Prince-sama series.

**Toshiyuki Kusakihara: Affiliated with Intelligent Systems. Directed FE: Three Houses. Served as art director on the 3DS titles Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates.

Iwata: We had the writer create new backgrounds for the characters, and the character designs were created based on those. Because of the new protagonist, the environment surrounding the characters is different from in Three Houses. Kusakihara did a good job of assimilating that and putting it into the character designs. From the company’s perspective, the designs were shared at an extremely fast pace, so it didn’t seem to have been a huge burden (laughs).

Suzuki: Thankfully, the designs were created very quickly!

Iwata: It was so fast, I was shocked! Even though the writers here were so attached to the characters that they pointed out a lot of things about the finished results…

Hayashi: Right, there was a lot of, “is this really okay here?”

Iwata: Exactly. Kusakihara responded to that feedback in detail, which I think resulted in each character having a very appealing design. If there’s one thing that I think was a lot of trouble, it would be Shez’s hair color. We made it purple so it wouldn’t overlap with any of the existing characters, but purple hair is rather striking, so I imagine that was a challenge for Kurahana.

Suzuki: I imagine choosing the exact shade and brightness of purple was difficult.

Was there any character where it was difficult to design them two years later?

Suzuki: The writing director pointed out a couple details that they wanted to change because of the setting, but I don’t remember anything being a bad fit in terms of the overall framework.

So there may have been some back-and-forth on details, but there was no significant departure from the concept.

Iwata: The first pitches never deviated from the target. If I had to choose, though, I would say it threw me off a bit when I first saw Bernadetta’s hairstyle (laughs). It’s cute, of course, but I didn’t know how the players would receive it.

Suzuki: It was a bold design choice, but we had reasons to go with that hairstyle. It was designed on the premise that Bernadetta had never met Byleth, so I think it made sense considering that.

Iwata: I can’t imagine going with any other hairstyle now (laughs).

Was there a lot of thought put into reflecting the “warrior” aspect overall?

Suzuki: I think Kusakihara did a good job of integrating that as well. For example, Hubert’s outfit in Three Houses gives an impression of him as an important person, since he becomes a minister five years later, but his new design has more of a military uniform look. I think that was incorporated into the design with understanding of the warrior aspect.

Was Kusakihara also responsible for the non-student character designs like Holst?

Iwata: He was. Holst was only mentioned by name in Three Houses. I think Kusakihara already had a picture in his mind of what Holst looked like, so we had him bring that to life for this title.

Was it Koei Tecmo’s suggestion to introduce characters who didn’t appear in the original?

Suzuki: It wasn’t suggested on its own, but they naturally came up in the process of making the story. Since this title centers around war, it makes sense that the older generation would be more involved than the students. That made it necessary in our minds to bring those people into the picture and depict how they interact with the students. I think an underlying theme of this title is how the students and the older generation grow as they conflict at times and cooperate at others.

I did get the sense that the adults played a large role in the story.

Hayashi: Since we didn’t have the exchanges at the military academy anymore, we wanted to bring out the game’s charm in other ways. Introducing new characters was one way we did that.

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