Fire Emblem: Three Houses is one hell of a good video game, taking the series longstanding tradition of unbridled tactical depth and marrying it (if you will excuse the pun) with a Persona-esque school simulation aspect.
It’s deep and compelling stuff, and in the dozen or so hours I have played so far, I’ve restarted my playthrough no fewer than three times.
Why, you ask? Because I’m broken inside, of course. Maybe I have commitment issues or some kind of digital separation anxiety, who can say.
I tell myself it’s because I’m busy and that I want my first run to be the most complete it can possibly be. Also, because I want an optimal experience. But that’s just a way of justifying my actions to myself. I’m not proud of it, but this is just who I am at this point.
The possible number of playthroughs required to see everything has me frozen in place. So too do the potential compositions of parties and pairings, what to teach in the classroom, what to learn on the battlefield, and who to romance among it all. It has me shook.
It’s like the good folks at Intelligent Systems designed a paradox of choice and branching paths so complex, so devious, that it has caused some kind of glitch deep, deep inside me. And I don’t know whether I’m glad for it, or beginning to unravel at the seams.
The first time I booted up the game, I was sure I knew exactly how I wanted my playthrough to go. Despite the contradictory opinions and naysaying of some of my Twinfinite colleagues, I knew I wanted to play as male Byleth, and that I wanted to join the Black Eagles house.
I dove right in, and things were going well… for a couple of hours. Edelgard reminds me of Napoleon Bonaparte and her idea of a martial meritocracy, where your ability and not your birthright determines your worth, really spoke to me.
But for no discernible reason at all, I got to thinking that it might be cool to play as a female Byleth, and side with the Blue Lions. Some of the Black Eagles, like Bernadetta and Hubert, kind of annoyed me, and after all, a house full of melee-focused knights was surely cooler than a bunch of whiny mages, right?
They may well be, but I wouldn’t know. I got to around the same point, the bandit mission in the second in-game month… and got it into my head that Mercedes’ voice actor was boring, or something. Before I knew it, bam, I was a Black Eagle again. I made the mistake of choosing male Byleth, though, which was to be my fatal downfall.
I made more progress this time, however, which was good. I did a bunch more side quests, got to know my students a little better; okay, I can appreciate Hubert’s devotion to Edelgard, it’s actually kind of cool that he is so dedicated. And who knows, maybe Bernadetta will overcome her anxieties and become brave? I’m down for that.
And then I read about and reported on this news story, in which Nintendo confirmed that the voice actor for the male Byleth, Chris Niosi, is being replaced due to allegations of sexual misconduct.
And that was it, the tiny justification that some inverted synapse in my brain needed to latch on too, to throw it all away and start over once again.
It’s worth noting that I wasn’t happy or glad to be doing this, to be having the same conversations and running the same fetch quests.
No one wants to be like this, forced into a cycle of repetition, spending what little precious time they have on this planet unlocking the fishing mini-game over and over and over again.
In the last three days, I’ve played the opening three hours of Fire Emblem: Three Houses three times. That’s who I am. Do you think my parents are proud of me?
They are, sometimes, but for mostly unrelated reasons. And so, for what I have promised myself will be the last time, I started a new game.
I’m playing as a female Byleth now, with the Black Eagles, and things are going really well –thanks for asking. I’m taking things really slowly, and considering all of my options.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a marathon after all, not a sprint, and there is a whole lot of game in front of me.
I’m not going to overthink things; I’m just going to let the cards fall as they may. This is my canon, and there is no wrong way to play. I’ll never be able to let any of my precious students die, despite playing on Classic Mode, because c’mon, I’m not a psychopath.
But this could be a step in the right direction for me as a human and a positive new beginning as a gamer.
It should be noted though, dear reader, that at no point, during my lowest lows or my most pedantic, was a playthrough with Claude and the Golden Deer ever an option. I might have a problem, but I still have my dignity.