November 7, 2019
While some would argue twenty-nineteen has been a might slower than other years for game releases, Fire Emblem: Three Houses has quickly become one of the most popular games for the Nintendo Switch since its launch. A mixture of Hogwarts-esque interactions between different factions at the school, political drama, and incredibly designed characters with diverse personalities and backgrounds has made this among the most well-received games in the series. But what if I told you that one of the greatest keys to its success was a mechanic borrowed from the Legend of Zelda series? Of all games, would you believe this mechanic originated in Majora’s Mask? I have a feeling I can convince you, so stick around and find out what I’m talking about!
Fire Emblem is a series with a plethora of well-known mechanics, but the two that make the series truly iconic are its terrific tactical gameplay, and the unparalleled characterization, solidified by the signature support system. In the case of Three Houses, the tactical gameplay actually takes a back seat, as this is the easiest game in the series by a wide margin. This game shines through its characters beyond any other mechanic. Multiple dynamics go into it this time, though. Many characters have interactions in their back stories, such as being distant relations, being children of generals who opposed each other in a previous war, and other such stories. These stories go a long way to help identify them and bring a certain level of humanity to make them truly believable.
In addition to the support system, this is also influenced heavily by the branching storylines, where the player follows one side or another in the war, depending on which house is chosen at the beginning of the game. On top of that, throughout every step of the game, you can interact with every character within your faction, and see just what they are thinking. These things range from little things like rivalries with classmates and what they want to have for dinner to dealing with family members dying in the war when they were too far away to make a difference.
This might not seem like it, but it is actually almost directly copied from Majora’s Mask’s three-day system, and expanded upon exponentially. In Majora’s Mask, every character had a series of places they would go, things they would do, and interactions with other characters throughout the three days in which the game took place. You could watch them go through their day-to-day life, find love, find tragedy, and an insane mishmash of every emotion in between through side quests as well as the main story. In Three Houses, this concept is taken to the extreme, with every character having a unique series of dialogue options at every step through the game. What truly sets this apart from the original three-day system is that Fire Emblem applies this concept to characters with a global scale.
All of Majora’s Mask takes place within a few small towns, giving a richness to each person that lives there, but seeing it in relation to characters with stakes in a war spanning an entire continent, rivalries and friendships forged and destroyed over the course of a five year war makes it all the more believable and impactful to the audience. At every major battle, somebody will be affected, even if that major battle involves your allies a hundred miles away that you do not interact with directly, a character may be affected by the death of somebody, a devastating battle that involves their hometown, or any number of other things.
Going in, I did not expect to be hit so hard by the characters based on this sort of thing. Fire Emblem always has characters going through hardships and happy times, but seeing them expand upon that made it feel like a real war, and I can’t help but think of how it may have been inspired by the three-day system. What do you think, though? Am I supposing too much to say Majora’s Mask may have made an impact on the storytelling in Three Houses? Even if there was not a direct influence, do you think the two systems are similar as I described? Let me know in the comments below, Twitter, or hop on our Discord server and chat with other fans and the rest of our writers about it!