Even in the fantasy world of Fire Emblem, there is no way the students of Garreg Mach Monastery are so forgetful that I, as their teacher, need to ferry 100 of their lost items around a school campus at all times in hopes of finding their owners. Fire Emblem: Three Houses has a mechanic for that, and to be completely honest, I am having no fun with it at all.
Fire Emblem’s “lost items” mechanic, in theory, is a cute way of getting to know all the quirks and qualities of the wonderful students in your school. Matching, say, a feather pillow with Linhardt von Hevring tells you that he is a big napper. Matching bone dice with Shamir Nevrand tells you she’s someone who likes to gamble. This makes your interactions with the characters feel a little deeper. From a mechanics standpoint, it helps motivate your students and boosts your bond with them.
In practice, going down a list of dozens of items with each and every student—some of whom respond rudely to your generous inquiries—is tedium incarnate. And if you really think about it, it’s utterly ridiculous. Imagine carrying 30 to 40 items in your satchel at all times, including a bag of tea leaves, a noseless puppet, a songstress poster, a cooking pot, and an encyclopedia of sweets, and asking each student, unprompted, “Excuse me. Sorry to bother you. By any chance, does _____ belong to you?” 30 to 40 times. No! I was brought onto this staff to teach and fight and maybe, like, do holy stuff. I was not brought on to be a roving human lost and found.
There are strategies for accomplishing Fire Emblem’s “lost and found” mechanic aside from slamming random puzzle pieces into random holes. You can listen very closely to what the students say and make an educated guess on what belongs to whom. This is easy for the kids in your house, but if it’s someone you rarely interact with, you’re basically back to making uneducated guesses. You can also ask a student to help you with a battle and look at their profiles. It’s pretty inefficient, though.
The locations of the lost items actually correspond with where students were standing the month prior. But there’s no way you’re going to remember that.
Or you could be like me, somebody who’s both too stubborn to Google a guide and too lazy to keep playing lost items matchmaker, and hope that, maybe later, I can just pawn all this random crap for cash.
I’ve been super impressed with the love that Tetris 99 has been getting with each update. This weekend’s Maximus Cup event continues its excellent selection of timed content with this new theme based on Fire Emblem: Three Houses. While it isn’t the most visually engaging thing to stare at, I love the music and sound effects.
This weekend’s Maximus Cup event is live until Tuesday, August 27, 2:59 a.m. Eastern, and much like last time, you’ll have to play enough matches to secure enough points to unlock the theme. Don’t worry, you won’t have to win each time, although placing higher will certainly help you unlock the theme faster. Here’s how it all shakes out:
As the match ramps up and you filter through into the top 10, the music changes, and the sound effects are pulled straight from the Fire Emblem battles as well. These make each KO feel even better by accompanying them to the dramatic sound effect of swords clashing. So best of luck—and remember, each battle is a chance to grow. Don’t give up!
Greetings, professor! Nothing to report! Well, there is one thing. A Fire Emblem: Three Houses hacker has figured out how to recruit the man, the myth, the character whose voice you’re reading this in right now, the Gatekeeper, into his class. This has led to some fascinating discoveries.
In the weeks since Three Houses’ release, the Gatekeeper has become a phenomenon, with his bottomless well of pure-hearted kindness inspiring volumes of fan art and, of course, elaborate fantasies about what it would be like to romance him. However, he’s remained a nameless, un-recruitable NPC. Until now.
On Twitter, a Fire Emblem hacker named Christo “Cirosan” Brittain posted videos of both the Gatekeeper and the Death Knight chumming it up (read: slicing and dicing rando bandits) with his band of lovable anime scamps. Given how frequently Death Knight shows up in various missions, it’s no surprise that he has a full suite of combat animations and abilities. Gatekeeper, on the other hand, cannot wade into the thick of battle unless combat animations are disabled. “In combat, he wields the mighty power of the jump cut,” Brittain said on Twitter.
Brittain did this, he told Kotaku in a Twitter DM, by using a save-game editor to replace preexisting characters in his class with Death Knight and Gatekeeper. The old characters’ stats and abilities, he said, were overwritten with Three Houses’ internal data for Death Knight and Gatekeeper. Brittain also claims that Gatekeeper has his own ability set and default stats—including a charm stat of 99, the highest in the game. If true, it’s almost like Three Houses’ designers knew what kind of impact the Gatekeeper’s weaponized charm offensive would have on the internet’s cold and calloused, but nonetheless still beating, heart.
However, hacking is the whole reason any of this is possible, so there’s a chance that Gatekeeper’s stats have been altered as well. Brittain acknowledged that it would be possible for him to alter stats, but said he hasn’t done so. As for the charm stat in particular, he’s not sure what to make of it. “It’s odd because I looked into it, and, to make a long story short, there’s a discrepancy in the internal files about what his stats should be,” he said. Nonetheless, it manifests as 99 in game.
Many of Gatekeeper’s other stats, Brittain further noted, seem to be default stats for other non-recruitable characters. He finds it “fascinating” that these characters not only have stats, but also don’t need any alterations to be functional in battle.
“As I’ve since discovered, his age (20) and height (1 cm) are also the age and height for most of the other units that go unused, of which there are hundreds in the game’s data, so they’re probably just placeholders,” Brittain said. “His suite of combat arts and abilities are oddly unique, though.”
Yes, you read that correctly: Gatekeeper is apparently 1 centimeter tall, which raises a lot of questions about the nature of Fire Emblem’s universe. Unfortunately, he has no support stats, which only raises further questions—for example: Why can’t I romance the Gatekeeper, Fire Emblem developers? If you knew we’d love him so much, why did you insist on keeping us at arm’s length?
Editor’s note: This piece contains minor spoilers for Fire Emblem: Three Houses characters Marianne, Bernadetta, and Claude, as well as descriptions of emotional abuse.
In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, there’s a character in Golden Deer house named Marianne. She’s so shy that she barely speaks. At first, I thought this was a confidence problem. I eagerly gave her gifts, not just to get to her next support rank and trigger a new conversation, but because being nice to someone who was clearly struggling felt like the least I could do.
As she got closer to other characters, though, something darker shone through. When Lysithea scolded her for not jumping to action when other students were involved in an accident, she ran away and retreated to her room. Lysithea went after her to apologize for being too harsh, but Marianne insisted that it was, in fact, all her own fault. She went even further than Lysithea, saying increasingly disparaging things about herself as Lysithea tried to calm her down. As I watched this scene unfold, the feelings felt uncomfortably familiar. As these characters acted through and reckoned with their trauma, it ultimately helped in my own journey to healing.The last time I left an abusive relationship, I had been struggling to breathe for what seemed like months.
He was a nice enough guy. We met on the internet when I was in a pretty vulnerable place—fresh out of a breakup, drinking too much, looking for warmth in the bodies of others. After a few conversations, he declared that we were dating. I was too tired to disagree.
My fatigue was a trend in our relationship. Visiting him once, he wanted to go to a pizza place that was a fair walk from our train stop. We had been out all day, and my feet were aching. I asked for a rest, I asked how long it would be, I asked if there was a bus nearby. There was no alternative plan—my pain seemed to bother him more than anything else. I walked until my feet felt like two inert stumps at the end of my legs. Afterward, he got a bucket of water for me to soak my feet in. It was ice cold, and somehow my shock it its frigidity felt like my fault too.
I told him that it made me so anxious to get messages that said, “we need to talk.” He would read to me on the phone every night. If he saw me tweet after saying goodnight and hanging up with him, he’d send me a message. I’d stay up all night wondering why he was upset, only to have a talk the next day that amounted to, “Well, if you say you’re going to bed, I assume you’re going to bed.” It was his delivery, I said, that made his comments difficult for me. He heard that criticism, he said, and wouldn’t do it again.
He did do it again. He did it a lot. More and more often, the messages he left me were angry. I was exhausted every day, barely sleeping, wondering what I could do to make this man less upset. It was like running uphill all day, trying to reach a goal of “making him happy” that seemed to keep moving further into the distance. My legs burned and my breath was hot and ragged, but I kept running.
Now, in the last year of my 20s, I would have broken up with this guy before we had even gotten started. Almost half a decade ago, this was just how I assumed men were supposed to treat you.
Marianne’s persistent self-loathing resonated with me as I continued through Fire Emblem, but as the game went on, I discovered that she’s far from the only character whose home life was less than pleasant. The Black Eagles’ Bernadetta is so anxious she barely leaves her room. In an early support conversation, I learned that her father sometimes resorted to tying to her a chair to train her to be a perfect, silent wife. She didn’t come to Garreg Mach by choice—she had been kidnapped by her parents in the middle of the night. The actual circumstances of these abuses fit well enough in Fire Emblem’s fantasy world that they don’t feel totally analogous to my own life, but seeing characters with the impact of these traumas written into their every action rang true.
The pain that Marianne and Bernadetta’s families have inflicted on them is too deeply ingrained for them to come out of their shells easily. They believe that they are worthless because their parents told them they were. When someone you hold as closely as a parent or a partner spends so much time telling you or showing you that you are worthless, you believe it.
Though Bernadetta’s social anxiety is sometimes played for laughs, the subtext of those same jokes is that she is deeply afraid of other people. Usually the jokes subside when the other character realizes why she’s so nervous, which softens the edges on the game’s humor. I never felt like a joke was being told on Bernadetta. Her peers just didn’t understand her. These conversations are the journey to that understanding.
Bernadetta is afraid that they are angry at her, because her father was so often angry at her and punished her severely for not living up to his expectations. We don’t see the abuse happening, but we see the product of it. Bernadetta doesn’t just lack confidence; she expects to be abused.
When you interface with characters who have been abused in this way, it humanizes the characters more strongly than showing the disturbing acts themselves. I don’t want to see Bernadetta being berated by her father—I can already see what the pressure he put on her has done to her.
I’m in the best relationship of my life, so it seemed like a good time to read Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft, a seminal text about abuse.
I read this passage and recognized myself:
“Sometimes [control] is exercised through wearing the woman down with constant low-level complaints, rather than through yelling or barking orders,” the book read. “The abuser may repeatedly make negative comments about one of his partner’s friends, for examples, so she gradually stop seeing her acquaintance to save herself the hassle. In fact, she may believe it was her own decision, not noticing how her abuser pressured her into it.”
Eventually, with the man who never let me sleep, I stopped tweeting after saying goodnight to him on the phone. I stopped going out—how could I, when my partner expected to have a weekly stream with me, a date night for just the two of us, a very long session of a tabletop roleplaying game with our friends, and also to read me to bed every night? If I invited my own friends to any of these activities, even the stream which was hosted on my channel, my boyfriend would get quiet. He wasn’t mad, you see—he just wished he’d had more warning. I stopped asking them.
I shouldn’t have dated this man for a minute, nor the man I dated in college who ignored my sexual boundaries, nor the man I dated before I’d recovered from that. They all primed me for each other, for shutting up and changing myself, for making compromises but never receiving them. I shouldn’t have dated three men in a row who had absolutely no interest in my friends. I am still proud for breaking up with all of them.
Getting to know Bernadetta and Marianne has helped me see myself more clearly. I see myself in Marianne’s shame, and in Bernadetta’s fear. I also see myself in their recovery.
In Claude and Marianne’s A-rank support conversation, he tells her a story. He’s been pestering her about her Crest, but Marianne is uncomfortable talking about it. In this last conversation, he tries a different way to get through to her without scaring her. When he begins, “Once upon a time,” she’s surprised, even though she was just talking out loud to a horse.
Claude presses on, telling the story of a “young boy who was hated just for existing.” Claude Von Reigan is mixed race, and the countries his families belong to hate each other. As a child, Claude had abuse hurled at him from all sides—from his father’s family for being the child of a coward, and from his mother’s side for being a member of a bestial race. Even running away from home didn’t help. He encountered the same prejudice everywhere.
“The point is, people are born with burdens to carry. That much is undeniable,” Claude says. “But whether they bind us or we cast them aside…that’s up to us. I think you should cast yours aside, Marianne. Put that heavy burden down. It’s time.”
Marianne says she wouldn’t know how, but Claude insists.
“It’s OK,” he says. “I’m here for you. We’re the same and…I can help you.”
Eventually, Marianne said in a cutscene that she was through with being afraid. Maybe she was anxious; maybe she didn’t like herself all the way, but she wasn’t afraid anymore.
I used to keep a mental timeline of “bad things that have happened to me.” From my perspective, it seemed to explain a lot more about who I was than anything else. The line stretched long from my date of birth through every year where I had some kind of traumatic event. Bullied in school, broke my front tooth in half, got both braces and glasses, dated a lot of abusive men, was sexually assaulted, got really depressed and ate a lot of pizza. The details of it are fuzzy now. I just haven’t been keeping track of it like I used to.
More and more, it seems like the past is all a smaller blip on the timeline of my life. In the scheme of things, I’m a baby. Most of my life hasn’t happened to me yet. In the stickiness of New York City in August, I feel less tethered to the past than I have ever felt.
When I fail to carry on a coherent conversation during a regular after-school hangout, I only have to worry about disappointing one of my precious anime children, all of who mean the whole entire world to me. On the other hand, if I bombed a tea party with the Death Knight, I’m worried that he might decide to live up to his name.
One enterprising hacker decided to explore this grim fantasy by opening up the option to sip tea on an idyllic gazebo with not just the Death Knight, but also Jeralt, Sothis, and… yourself? The hacker, DeathChaos, who is probably a death knight themselves (or at least some kind of necromancer), refuses to reveal how they pulled it off. “I will not be answering questions on how to do this,” they said in their video’s YouTube description.
Still, it’s a fun watch, with the Death Knight making for an especially disarming (and comically large) tea party guest. He begins by daintily scalding his tongue, but even when the player wins him over by discussing subjects like equipment upkeep and evaluating allies, he remains eerily silent. Also, he hates it when you nod. The other characters DeathChaos modded into teatime also have little-to-no dialogue, but nobody quietly menaces like Death Knight.
However, there is evidence that some of these characters were intended to be able to have tea with the player at some point in development. Jeralt, for instance, has a fully voiced line in reference to the tea party. “Didn’t peg me as a tea drinker, did you?” he says after taking a sip.
That in mind, I’m extremely curious as to why you, Byleth, can have tea with Byleth, who is, again, you. True to form, she’s not interested in talking about herself. She’s also not interested in cats, which I guess explains why she refuses to ever pet them.
The students in Fire Emblem: Three Houses are my children. They’re yours too, and so I’m sure you’ll agree that everything is better with our gaggle of rainbow-haired anime children in it. Even memes we’ll almost certainly be sick of in two weeks.
This line of thought has given rise to the #RedrawRiegan hashtag on Twitter, in which artists are redrawing popular memes, scenes from TV shows, and other bits of personality-driven imagery with corresponding characters from Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ Golden Deer house. The result, like pretty much everything else involving the new Fire Emblem, has been deeply charming.
(Warning: Some of these memes might indirectly constitute Fire Emblem spoilers. Sorta? If you really think through the implications of, like, two of them? So beware and all that.)
Fans have been using an image seen in an early Fire Emblem: Three Houses trailer to puzzle out information about the characters’ Crests, which are symbols of a powerful bloodline that gives them special powers. In addition to a few that aren’t seen in the game, all the crests you encounter are represented in this mural—except for the main character’s. But fans are collectively realizing that the crest is depicted and has basically been staring them in the face.
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, you split your time between fighting battles and teaching students at a monastery. As you teach, there are key moments where you can encourage students down different paths toward new jobs. While the mechanic mostly exists for you to grind stats and try new battle combinations, these small moments realistically capture one of the most rewarding challenges of teaching: recognizing potential and deciding what a student can offer the entire class.
I’ve worked with students in the past by helping in outreach programs and summer camps. Taking in a class of 15 to 20 students can be daunting You need lesson plans and assignments to keep things organized. The trickiest part, though, is understanding students’ gifts and working to help them grow. Is a shy kid in theater class? Get them on stage so they’ll loosen up, but also give them the option of learning practical crafts like design and backstage work. It can be challenging to constantly shift and accommodate students’ needs, but navigating those moments is often deeply gratifying.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses captures this feeling through simple dialogue options that pop up from time to time. As students grow, they come to the player suggesting job paths they can embark on. Some of this is guided by stats, some of it by characters’ personalities. For instance, the exchange student Petra might suggest that she become an assassin due to how much other students say she has a penchant for sneaking. The boisterous Caspar might ask to focus on axes and become a warrior. You can say yes in these moments or guide characters down custom paths of your choosing.
You don’t have to accept any student’s suggestions. Instead, you might look at their skills for areas that they have secret potential in. Felix is great with swords but has high growth in certain magic. Petra might be sneaky, but she also enjoys riding. In my own playthrough, I decided that she would become a Pegasus Knight. It wasn’t what she suggested, but it worked out.
Obviously, it’s more important to listen while teaching than anything else. Hell, it’s important to listen in all things you do. There aren’t many chances in life to tell someone to fly on a pegasus rather than shoot a bow and arrow. But there are moments where you need to adapt and think on your feet for the sake of someone’s future. Teaching has those moments in heaps, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses exemplifies that.
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses has been a little bit of a slow burn for me. While I’ve been a fan of the series since Awakening, I found myself beset by choice paralysis in Three Houses when I realized that I did not even remotely feel attached to any of the three precocious rich children with whom I was being asked to ally myself. You’d think that once I finally chose a house—Black Eagles, based on Heather’s excellent guide to choosing a house—I’d be ripping and running and tearing up the battlefield. Instead, I opted to do a little reading.
“Opted” might be generous. At this point in my gaming career, my attraction to lore has become more akin to a compulsion. When I explored Garreg Mach Monastery for the first time, I painstakingly talked to every NPC that still had a “new text” bubble next to their minimap icon, a feature I both appreciate and lament because it gives me an easy way to lean into my obsessive see-it-all tendencies. So imagine my surprise and consternation when I realized that, after going through boxes and boxes and boxes of dialog text, there were even more text boxes to scroll through courtesy of the in-game library.
You can’t actually read all the books in the Three Houses library. It makes sense—there are a lot on those shelves. Instead, as in many games, you walk up to a bookshelf and interact with it for a few boxes of text related to a certain topic: the Church of Seiros, or the geography of Fodlan, or royal genealogy, for example. A more reasonable person would think, “Well, these books will clearly still be here for me to read at later points in the game, like after I do my first-ever real mission.” But what if there was some lore here that would add a little extra color to that mission? Or deepen my understanding of the world and characters around me? Maybe I’d stumble on some piece of information that I’d need for a support conversation. The characters I need to connect with in this game are students and teachers, after all, so trading in facts might actually be useful.
Those are all the justifications that I’ve retroactively invented for why I read all of those books. But in the moment, none of that was actually going through my mind. I just felt a deep tugging in the pit of my spirit, something like a disembodied voice whispering, “Natalie, here is a thing you can do, a task you can complete. If you don’t do it right now, you might forget it’s here. Read these textbooks, you fucking coward.” In the same compulsive way that I counted things as a kid, needing the numbers to be divisible in a certain way to feel “right,” I often find myself giving in and seeking “comfort” in the way of knowing that I’ve completed every little thing I can possibly complete in front of me before I move on to something else. It didn’t matter that this meant reading blocks of text for which I grossly lacked narrative context, from the climates of places I probably wouldn’t see for several more hours to family histories detailing long lines of nepotism behind characters about whom I already felt ambivalent.
As I said, I’m not technically reading the entire library of books in this game, but only because I can’t. All I can do is watch my character read the books and then provide me, the player, with a summary of their contents. Because of that, I’ve found myself wondering if I should apply the logic behind the video game library to the other text in the game. If several thousand pages of books can be boiled down into a summary that only lasts for a few text boxes, should I apply that to the rest of the reading I do in the game, like the character dialogues? Was the two-box chat I had with a random knight actually an hours-long conversation about the minutiae of guarding a dormitory? Were the 45 seconds I spent watching a cat’s idle animations actually three hours of my character’s in-game life? Was the “…” I got from Marianne actually a tense, long silence that broke into a 15-minute staring contest?
I may not be able to accurately measure the time that my character is spending in the library, but the time that I’ve spent on this task as a player is certainly adding up. When I actually get to my first real Fire Emblem battle, I’ll let you know if all the reading paid off. I’ll let you know as soon as I finish reading all the tutorials in the pause menu.
Joe Zieja’s path to voicing the English-language version of Fire Emblem: Three Houses lead Claude von Reigan was a circuitous one. Zieja said over the phone that he only realized what a huge role Claude was while he was recording. He told me that the director for the English voice actors, Patrick Seitz, broke the news while he was halfway through a recording session. The internet was crazy about the Golden Deer House’s nice young lad.
“He was like, ‘Do you realize how thirsty the audience is for Claude?’” Zieja said. “He’s like, ‘Why don’t you take a look at these,’ and started showing me all the fanart that people were drawing, and like all the tweets that people had made about Claude. Claude was trending on Twitter like a month before the game came out.”
Claude’s design, and the barest hint of his voice acting that we saw in early trailers, certainly piqued my interest. Once I had my hands on the game, he was my instant pick for marriage. Something about the way Claude took everything in stride, the slightly sarcastic tone of his voice, made me want to know all about him.
“What really stood out to me about Claude in general was, even though he was in a military academy—I went to a military academy, graduated from the Air Force Academy in Colorado—even though he was in that environment, he was very like chill,” Zieja said. “A lot of things just rolled off his back. So getting to play an easygoing character, especially in something that’s very anime influenced where everything is always super intense, it was really great to be able to lay back and apply some snark.”
Zieja turned to voice acting after his military intelligence job burned him out. His path from the Air Force Academy led him to the actual Air Force, then to a government job, then to the corporate world.
“It had its moments of excitement, and military intelligence sounds sexy,” Zieja said, “but it’s a lot of PowerPoints.”
Voice acting has proven to be much more interesting to Zieja than military intelligence. About eight months after starting, he realized that his client list had grown long enough that he needed to quit his day job to focus on this new career. He has since had roles in shows like Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans and games like Just Cause 4. Zieja said that realizing that he was going to be a lead character in a franchise as huge as Fire Emblem was kind of a slow burn.
“I was familiar with Fire Emblem. I played Awakening,” Zieja said. “It was a slow realization of just how big it was. Honestly, I don’t think I understood even how big it was until I made my announcement video and the internet lost its mind.”
Zieja said that playing Claude reminded him of his own days in a military academy, for the ways that he was unlike the character.
“It was super refreshing to see someone like, yeah, it’s war, having that kind of easy, carefree thing in really dire circumstances,” Zieja said. “I respect that, because as I learned in my military career, you can’t let everything get to you. I’m not going to name any names, but telling people, ‘Kill every last one of them on the field…’” We both laughed at this dramatic moment a different character had during the game. “Well, there is that part,” Zieja continued. “Claude is like, ‘Well, this is life, and you have the play the hand that you’re dealt.’ Claude can work within the rules of the system but stay outside of the system. That’s what makes him so strong.”
Zieja’s path to playing a lead character in such a huge franchise is an unusual one, and he seems grateful for, if slightly baffled by, his success.
“I feel like my life is being conducted,” Zieja said, “like I’m in an orchestra that’s being conducted by someone with a very strange sense of humor.”