The 2019/8/8-15 issue of Famitsu includes an interview with the two directors of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Yokota Genki of Nintendo and Kusakihara Toshiyuki of Intelligent Systems.
The interviewer starts by pointing out how Three Houses is the first Fire Emblem title for a non-portable console in twelve years, since Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn for the Nintendo Wii, and asks about what lead to its development. Yokota says that planning for Three Houses as a 3DS game began around the time Fates was released, but development was put on hold when it was decided that they would release Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia first. They switched to development for the Nintendo Switch halfway through development.
Like Fire Emblem Warriors, Koei Tecmo Games was involved with the development for Three Houses, and the interviewer inquires about this as well. Yokota says that they wanted to release a Fire Emblem game for the Nintendo Switch at latest by 2019, but found that this would not be possible with their usual development approach, and so looked for a developer that could help shorten the process.
Warriors was still in development at this time, and when they consulted Koei Tecmo’s Hayashi Yousuke on this, he introduced them to the Shibusawa Kou brand team, which is famous for having decades of experience working on war simulation game series like Nobunaga’s Ambition and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Kusakihara says that they altered the plans for the game accordingly to the Shibusawa Kou brand’s strengths, with things like the setting being about a balance between three countries coming after they decided to work with them.
Development on Three Houses was primarily carried out by Koei Tecmo, with Intelligent Systems staff consisting of only Kusakihara, a few designers, a sound creators, and programmers in an advisory capacity. Kusakihara says that development was fun, as Koei Tecmo gathered staff who were themselves Fire Emblem fans, which resulted in consistently high motivation. Development went better than expected, and this resulted in them adding more content until the game ended up twice the planned size.
The game’s title is discussed next. Yokota says that the Japanese title, Fuukasetsugetsu (an idiom on the beauty of the four seasons), was thought up late into development and came from the idea that a yojijukugo four-character idiom would be appropriate due to how the game’s story focuses on four important characters (the protagonist and the heads of the three houses). Kusakihara adds that it also fits the game’s theme of spending a year alongside one’s comrades. The English title, Three Houses, is also brought up. The three houses are based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Yokota says that he recalls that the person in charge of the English release said that Three Houses was “cool”.
The school setting is brought up, and Kusakihara says that he was the one to first propose “school FE” as a joke. They started with a handful of ideas, then added the Romance of the Three Kingdoms motif when Koei Tecmo got involved, which resulted in everything fitting together like a puzzle. Yokota points out how Genealogy of the Holy War had graduates from the same military academy clashing through a twist of fate, and Kusakihara says that they figured that allowing the player to actually experience the military academy elements would make the game more interesting and dramatic.
The timeskip midway through the game is also reminiscent of Genealogy, and Yokota says that while Genealogy depicted the passage of time through a change in generation, Three Houses does this by showing how the characters have grown in five years, with their graphics and voices changing. The interviewer says that this seems like it might require the same amount of effort of making a second game, and Kusakihara acknowledges this, saying that Three Houses is altogether 2-3 times the size of previous titles.
Part 2 of this article is available here:
Fire Emblem: Three Houses- Creator Interview (Part 2)