P-Vock's Music Box: Triple the Pain
Hello and welcome back to P-Vock's Music Box. Sometimes being in a ton of pain is a ton of fun.
Sometimes, you just want to feel that frustration. That seemingly endless aggravation.
Because maybe, just maybe, something satisfying is waiting for you if you put up with it.
That's the point of the Fire Emblem series. A series of frustrating, long, and punishing battles await the player. I love it so much.
So, in honour of a new entry in this wonderfully annoying series, let's look at the fan-favourite entry, Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is by no means my personal favourite, but it does have two points in its favour. Firstly, the characters are amazing. Almost every single one of them is beyond stellar, vibrant, unique, and extremely fleshed out. I would murder for Marianne, Hilda, Bernadetta, Ignatz, Ferdinand von Aegir (RIP Billy Kametz), Mercedes, Ashe, and so many others.
What is the other thing it does really well? Have a listen.
It's rather typical for the first battle theme in a game to be subdued. Something energetic and fun, but motivating to encourage players to get excited. Holy shit did Three Houses miss the memo on that one. THIS is the first battle theme? This goes so much harder than it needs to for the context in which it plays. For almost four years now, the drum line that perfectly echoes an army marching to war in unison is etched into my mind and is something I can't help but clap/slap/bang along to whenever I hear it. The melody is beyond iconic and something I hum at random even still.
Not only does this excite you to play this stupid game, but it has this driving optimism that makes the suffering you'll feel when you overextend poor Hilda by like two spaces and have to watch her die all worth it when you inevitably have to try again.
Certainly a tough battle theme to top.
Good thing the series has fire in the title because that's all that this music is. What kicks off with the most military-sounding piece of music ever soon incorporates a vast array of sounds to create something beyond stellar. Something that excites the player and motivates them to finish this fight. Something that doesn't take away the seriousness of the many war crimes being committed by the actual children.
While this is a video game with bubbly characters, it is still a story of war, and I'm glad the soundtrack doesn't forget that.
What makes Three Houses unique (and frustratingly unfocused in its narrative and direction, IMO) is the many different routes the player can take to completely change the story. Without getting too spoilery, the player is given a choice between three (well actually five, but shut up) Houses to join and one of the house leaders (the best one) is an actual war criminal. Not just a war criminal like most RPG characters, but an actual monster. Edelgard, because of way too much shit to explain, knows her fate is to essentially betray everyone and ignite the largest geopolitical conflict this world has ever seen.
The absolute jam of a song, The Edge of Dawn, not only has just enough sadness in its melody, but the lyrics are actually straight-up depressing when you know the context of the song and the fact that the lyrics are from her point of view.
That said, that melody hits real good!
I LOVE when a game uses a leitmotif, and The Black Eagles route of Three Houses does it so well. This is the finale. This is the final boss of Edelgard's route and what a way to send it off. What was once a song consisting of an upbeat melody that hints at the upcoming sadness is now a bombastic orchestral masterpiece with a depressing melody that has just enough hope to signify this war coming to an end and the world living in peace.
Even if I don't adore Three Houses, the final battle themes of each route alone make the game worth playing and suffering through.
Fire Emblem is a painful series, but I love that pain every time I turn one of these games on. Each game is a frustration-filled journey that makes me dangerously close to answering the question "how far can I throw a controller with sheer anger?" and I never tire of it at all.
Thank you so much for checking out my nonsensical ramblings about a game you probably don't care about and I hope to catch you back here next time with another suggestion from my Music Box.
PS. Honestly, Edelgard did nothing wrong.