Friday, July 19, 2024

Fire Emblem Three Houses non-Byleth relationships feel more significant

Fire Emblem Three Houses has a fair share of problems, particularly when it comes to gay romances, as well as its troubling portrayal of some of the same-sex romances included in there. We don’t want to spoil, but you can end up devoting yourself entirely to people who are kind-of related to you, as well as marry someone significantly younger. Yeah, it’s super weird.

Playing Byleth and having them marry one of their students can have some real head-scratching moments. Only made worse because, let’s be honest, Byleth is an emotionless shell for 90% of the game. They’re an insert character that you can project yourself onto, and that’s fine, but can make certain romances (particularly with characters outside of the Lords of the Houses) feel a little stale and not all that thought out.

Byleth is compelling in their own way of course, but it’s the non-Byleth relationships that managed to capture my heart throughout my time playing the game. Despite only getting the majority of interactions through ‘supports’ – conversations where characters can get to know each other more – their relationships are shaped in such a compelling way that it’s hard not to route for their relationship, regardless of whether it’s with romantic intent or not.

Even with only having up to 4 different conversations with one another, with some of these conversations hilariously spanning over 5 years at times, most of them show a different side of the character that Byleth rarely sees.

For example, one of my favourite relationships in-game is with Edelgard and Dorothea. While Dorothea is often disregarded due to her being the only commoner in the Black Eagle house, Edelgard and Dorothea are fast friends with Dorothea even giving her the name of ‘Edie’ and singing a song about her. It’s really wholesome, and it’s nice to see an Edelgard who isn’t so serious. Despite having no real say on the matter, it made it easier for me to see them as best, but troubled friends, especially after the time-skip.

Alternatively, the relationship between Ashe and Dedue and how they come together over the love of food and the difference between each other’s culture is very sweet to watch. It lets us find out more about Duscur too, which along with Brigid and Dagda, are only mentioned every now and then.

Some of these relationships even have paired endings, which are usually romantic. Frustratingly enough, but not at all surprising, is that the majority of the same-sex relationships get the history says ‘they were great friends’ treatment, instead relying on subtext. But there is one, in particular, that doesn’t.

That relationship is Dorothea and Petra, which isn’t at all surprising considering Dorothea is the most ‘out and proud’ character in the entirety of Three Houses — yes even more than Claude. Her and Petra’s relationship isn’t the most built-up, but what they do have is very sweet and it’s heartwarming to find out at the end of the game that Dorothea became the one ‘whom Petra loved most’. While their possible friendship/relationship with Byleth is important too, it feels cathartic to see the people I helped ‘develop’ throughout life come together. I’m not saying I ship them, but I totally do.

Even the relationship between Edelgard and Dimitri is one that I can’t help but be fascinated by. Though knowing each other as step-siblings was only for a brief time, their time together is significant enough that it follows throughout the main story.

On the surface, it may seem romantic. But when we find out the truth behind their relationship, it solidifies every single interaction we’ve had with them together as a relationship between two very different people that care about one another, but forced apart by circumstances beyond their control. It’s almost sad then that we can’t do anything to help them back together and form the brother and sister relationship that they’ve had robbed from them.

Every game has relationships and most are often fuelled by them. The Fire Emblem series seems to thrive off them however, and it has never been more apparent than in Three Houses. It’s a shame that they aren’t looked at in even more detail, but what the game doesn’t provide we’re almost certain fanfiction will.

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