Monthly Archives: May 2021

I couldn’t believe it. I had known Clancy for eighteen years, since we were toddlers, and I never thought he’d be the one to suggest a bar. At least, not until we walked in. The Geosphere was one of the only places near Spegrock U that didn’t feel like a college bar. I mean, it was in a floating dome almost brushing against the atmosphere. Our other friend Kane had gotten us in. Kane could pull connects out of nowhere, and it was super weird. 

Anyway, we walked in, and it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I could see the stars above, and the city lights below, like we were inside of a glass ornament. We lost Kane as soon as he got through the door. As expected, he was talking to every girl he passed. 

Clancy was wearing a dark gray mock neck and a black blazer, with the legs of his pants draped down to his ankles, where beneath his dress shoes were sharp enough to crack the glass in this place. It’s funny, I hadn’t taken much notice of him growing up. He was just Clancy, Kane’s brother, and to him I was just Lana, Kane’s best friend. But ever since we had gotten to college, and I started seeing him less and less, I noticed when he was there, and I really noticed when he wasn’t.

“Such an idiot,” he muttered under his breath.


“Sorry. I was talking about Kane,” he scoffed.

“You can’t mean that! You two are the smartest people here.”

“There are no books for Kane’s kind of stupid.”

“You don’t want to meet someone? Isn’t that the reason guys go to bars?”

“It’s not the reason I wanted to come here.”

“So what is?”


“So do you want to sit at the bar or a booth or…?” How else was I supposed to respond to that?

“Right, sorry Lana. We could get a table along the wall. Probably a nicer view.”

“Look at you. I didn’t think you noticed those types of things.”

He clearly didn’t like that one, because he went quiet on me. We took our seat and stared at the drink menus. Truthfully, we hadn’t gone out to a bar since I came of age, so I didn’t know what to get. The stuff they made here was a lot stronger than anything we mixed together at one of Kane’s parties. 

“What would you recommend?” I asked. 

“We could always order that gross Roktarian stuff you got that one time from your dad’s cabinet,” he could barely get through the thought without laughing.

“You know, you love that story a lot more than I do, Clancy.”

“How could I not? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you that drunk. Of course, the casualties of that night probably didn’t like it as much as I did either. Poor Kane never got a date with Vanessa Bigsby again.”

“Hey, to be fair, that was just a minor hiccup in the story of Kane’s love life. That’s a disaster even the officers at BOARD couldn’t put a stop to.”

“A fair point, my brother does seem to make poor decisions in that department. Yet you’ve stuck by him through it all. Why haven’t the two of you dated?”

“Me and Kane? You’re out of it,” I kept it cool, but my heart sank at those words. I didn’t want to talk about me and Kane. I wanted to talk about a future with Clancy. I felt so stupid, but at the same time, being there with him, it all felt so possible.

“Why? My brother is obnoxious, but he’s an engineer, and one of the best. He’s going places and you’re amazing. You’re really funny, patient, and you understand people. Those are three things I could never manage.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.”

He cut me a glare, and then we shared in an awkward silence.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to push anything. I was just curious.”

“It’s fine. It really is. Sometimes it just feels like you don’t see me the way I see you.”

“You’re not the first person to tell me that,” By now he was staring out the window, looking down at the skyline. “That’s what I meant earlier. Perspective. You’ve known me for most of our lives. We always did the same things. We went to the places I felt were safe, did the things I thought were fun. I just wanted to try something different. Change my vantage point.”

“Wow. That’s surprisingly human of you, Clancy. But I think you might be taking things a bit too seriously. We’re here. We’re together. Isn’t that the most important thing?”

“What do you mean?”

“I guess for me, I’ve never really thought about this stuff too much. It’s always been more important to just take these moments as they come. It’s fine and well to want to grow and improve, but I think you put too many restrictions on the way you live. I get it. You’re a biologist, and everything feels like a hard science for you. But look at your brother. He’s out here tonight having fun, because he’s not letting logic or reason impede his ability to celebrate the things around him. Or the people.”

“You’ve got my attention,” he said, the contemplative expression on his face warping into a smile. “We could always leave this place and rejoin the world. I’d be even happier if you could show me how.”

“You’d probably be hopeless without me, right?” 

Maybe that’s what made us work. I mean, that day was almost like any other. Sure, the bar was new, but the rest wasn’t. Clancy always watched Kane. I always watched Clancy. Kane always watched whatever brought him joy. It was just another instance of us walking toward the door, with uncertainty laid before us. But as Clancy intended, we looked on with new perspective.

Valdara tied his hair back into a ponytail as he took a knee before the pedestal atop the hill. His sword rested still as silence washed over him. The words carved into the stone slab filled him with a profound sense of regret and loss. He bowed his head, shame falling from his visage.

“I’m sorry, Master. I must take leave once more. Please, lend me your strength. All of this, I do for you.”

Do as you please. Know that I will not settle for any less than utter annihilation.

A harsh red light radiated from the stone’s carvings, overwhelming Valdara’s senses. He lifted the sword and marched away, the winds blowing back his hair and brushing the grass as he blurred into the gray clouded sky in the distance.

When Valdara returned to the hill, blood stained his robes. His sleeves were tattered, his face was bruised and battered, and his knees cracked and buckled with each step until he finally dropped in front of that same pedestal. He attempted to stab the sword into its resting place, but his legs collapsed under him. Valdara finally rested under the protection of the stars. The drops of rain washed the dirt from his hands as exasperated breaths formed quiet words.

“Master, I won. Soldiers from every corner of the country gathered. Ryuuto, the spoiled regent of Midori, Weisheit, the cosmic mentor from the dark realm. All decorated warriors and I fended off their armies for you. Now I ask, am I free?”

Valdara was now crouched on all fours, blood pouring from an open wound in his chest. His smile widened as the hot crimson leaked from his mouth. He rolled over to his back and fell flat as his chest puffed out with laughter. The grip on the hilt of his sword loosened as the pulsating weapon fell from his hand. 

“I did everything you asked of me. What am I to do now?”

I am not the one responsible for our covenant, Valdara. This is the price you pay for the bloodlust you’ve felt. The sword’s pulse rang louder and louder as Valdara’s heartbeat slowed. The carvings in the stone slab radiated a soft red glow as laughter faded to breathing and then to nothing, as the proud warrior Valdara lay, reduced to a victim of the blade’s seduction.

*Note: This is an excerpt of a larger novel-length piece.*

Reported By: Jack Melody

Date of Events Described: 8/15/2806

Date Recorded: ???

“Come on, Jack,” Lawrence said, lifting me off the matt by my hand. “I need you to be more creative. You’re fast for a kid who doesn’t have his powers yet, but if you only try to hit me in the same three ways, I’ll just keep knocking you on your butt.”

“Yeah, big whoop,” I snapped. “You’re part of the ETF. It’d be pretty embarrassing if you couldn’t sweep kick some kid.”

As I rose to my feet, he lifted me up by the shoulder strap on my tank top. He was a lot bigger than me back then, the height and the muscle. 

“Don’t be smug! You think because I’m stronger than you we shouldn’t be fighting? Most of the people you’ll have to fight in this lifetime will be stronger than you. They’ll be better. I don’t care if you join the ETF or not. There are people out here who will crush you without a second thought.”

“You think I don’t know that? I just want to be strong enough to get away from people like that. I don’t want to fight a bunch of assholes flexing on a child!”

“You signed up to train with me, Jack, which means if you get the chance to take a stand for justice, you’d damn well better do so.”

“Justice? The hell do I care about that?” I shouted. “I’m just tired of getting my ass kicked. I want to return the favor. Isn’t that enough?”

I ran toward him, sloppily and arrogantly as I always had, and without skipping a beat he pivoted out of the way of each of my strikes. I felt the room heat up as he avoided each palm strike. His already thin eyes became even sharper and more focused. His entire shirt burned to ash as an aura of flame surrounded his toned torso. The flames gathered at his back, exploding into the shape of an angel’s wings. His long dark brown hair shifted color to a reflective platinum and his pupils followed suit. He didn’t do this often. Awakening Level Phoenix. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and spit on the floor. Jackass was just showing off.

“So what? Are you gonna burn me now?” I asked. “I don’t give a shit! I’ve been getting pushed around by people stronger than me my whole life. Kids at school, my dad, you think you’re any different?”

I could hear my heartbeat, and it was just pissing me off even more. Like I was nervous, but knowing that I was nervous was just making me even angrier. Then I felt tears start to well up and my breathing lose pace. Then, the hot air dissipated. Lawrence’s aura returned to normal, as did his hair and eyes. The wings turned to smoke and he approached me, wrapping his arms around me. I could feel the warmth of his skin, as the fires of Phoenix returned to a simmer within his blood. I breathed in the smell of smoke and sweat, but the burn had all but gone away in the comfort of his embrace.

“That’s not what this is, Jack. I would never hurt you,” he said. “There’s something I need you to understand, kid. It’s because of the way the world has treated you, that it’s all the more important that you seek a life of justice. You’ve only scratched the surface of what people are capable of. You’re going to see some terrible things, and you’re going to lose hope. At times like those, remember the things I’ve taught you. You are so much better than the world’s evils. You have what it takes to become a hero.”

Not a day goes by where I don’t remember the words I said back to him.

“I’ll become a hero when you show me a world worth saving.”

*Note: This was originally written as scripted content for a video. The video can be viewed here.*

I’m not interested in walking back my initial review for Dragon Ball Xenoverse. The game has a lot of problems, from repetitive combat, to poor game balance, to terrible translations and sound design. The game was a mess, especially when compared to the much beloved Budokai titles. But I also have to give it credit in areas where I didn’t before. It was ambitious. An online Dragon Ball sim on mainstream consoles, with an honestly solid art direction, resolution and framerate, and a new take on the classic Dragon Ball Z story. The game sought out to do something impressive, and for someone who always dreamt of being one of the first black super saiyans, it serviced a need of mine for a brief while.

But the sequel…hoo boy. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 has a lot of problems, but one thing’s for sure. This game is the gold standard of what a sequel should be, building on the premise of the first game, and creating a natural evolution of the first game’s lore, gameplay, and overall presentation. I mean evolution in a good way, by the way. I know that word has…connotations around this fanbase. 

I played through the main campaign of the first Xenoverse without much detouring. This was in large part due to how much I hated the combat, but also because the game didn’t do a very good job of teaching you about the other resources you had access to in TokiToki city. So ultimately, I felt like by the end of my experience, I had logged roughly 10 – 15 hours into a mediocre campaign that was really difficult for all the wrong reasons.

I’ve now passed about 300 hours in Xenoverse 2, and even counting Xenoblade, it’s my most played Switch game. This doesn’t mean it’s a game without problems, but it is a step in the right direction, and I believe one more installment is all it would take to make the best Dragon Ball game to date. 

Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 prioritizes its homage to the source material over traditional game balance. The more traditional you try to make your experience with the game, the more frustrating it’s going to become. Try and make it function like a traditional fighter, and you’ll quickly learn how bad of an idea that is. But the way the game leans into Dragon Ball lore, visual styles, and themes is unparalleled. Everyone praises Dragon Ball FighterZ for its art direction, and don’t get me wrong, it’s well deserved. The game is beautiful. But this game kind of kills it in the style department too. The custom character aesthetics are in line with the true Dragon Ball art direction, while also having their own unique traits that tie them to the lore of these two games. It’s hard not to imagine a robust backstory for your playable avatar character while firing kamehameha waves at your various foes. 

The five races, Saiyan, Earthling, Frieza Race, Majin, and Namekian, truly encapsulate a lot of the Dragon Ball mythos. I kind of wish there were variations for some of them though. Like for instance, being able to make an Earthling character an android/cyborg. I understand how it might not make sense from a lore angle, but they made it work with the Frieza Race and Majins, so I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

The campaign for Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is fascinating, because it incorporates a lot of details you wouldn’t otherwise expect. Particularly, the way it makes use of the previous game’s journey helps to make it feel like an integral part of the history, despite some of the changes made. Your custom character from the first game is carried over into this one (sorry Switch players). Still, the first game’s hero is not your playable character, but a revered hero with a holographic statue in the middle of town. You’re now playing as a completely new hero, dealing with the fallout of events that the player is theoretically aware of from the previous title. 

This game’s core premise is effectively interwoven into every facet of the gameplay. For instance, one of the ways the core cast is aware of the tampering with history this time around, is that there are these four time rifts opened around the new Conton City. This is a good change, because it opens up these cool DBZ themed mini games, while also helping to further contextualize the space-time anomalies. It also provides a unique shared importance among the story and side content, which is a big part of why this game feels like such a complete package.

We’re talking about Dragon Ball here! There’s no Dragon Ball without training, and training feels great in this game. There are so many different ways to explore your characters and their abilities, that growth feels consistent and worthwhile. You can go on Parallel Quests, which make up the majority of the game’s content, or train with mentors, which is how you earn various skills. All of this is handled with a delivery of context and worldbuilding that makes your adventures in Conton City feel like a DBZ Roleplay session. 

There’s a fundamental truth in game design, I think, and it’s that a game’s primary obligation is to the audience it knows it will have. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 doesn’t promise to be the best fighting game or the best RPG because that’s not what it’s trying to be. It’s trying to be a celebration of all things Dragon Ball, and on that front, it hits it out of the park.

The first game was ambitious in this same goal, certainly, but it failed because there were so many core issues to the way the game was made, that no amount of fancy presentation could fix it. Ultimately, Dragon Ball Xenoverse was a bust in its execution. But the idea was there, and since combat went from unbearable to actually quite competent between installments, things that felt like padding in the first game feel intentional in this one. 

What exactly are these changes to combat? Well, for starters, the game relies far less on super armor as a means to generate difficulty, which is a huge start. This is important, because the ability to budge enemies is a big part of what makes certain gameplay elements feel immersive. The weight of strikes having some degree of variance also increases the overall importance of customizing your character to your own preferences. Speaking of which, that feels much easier in this game, and the mentor system plays a huge role in that.

In addition, there’s an in-depth system of checks and balances for teleportation and overall use of stamina, that adds a layer of strategy to what would otherwise just be massive slugfests. The guard break system also offers a massive punish for those who would abuse special moves. 

Unlocking skills has become much easier than it was in the previous Xenoverse title. Mentors are now tied to your skill level and story progress, so there will be different residents in Conton City depending on how much of the game’s campaign you’ve completed. This helps you to pace yourself, which is essential, because this game is loaded with content. The same approach is taken with skills you can earn and buy, as well as available Parallel Quests, clothing items, accessories, and much much more. That’s a pretty big part of this game’s appeal over its predecessor too. An increased amount of unlockables with a legitimately fascinating progression system helps to give more purpose to your actions, and creates a generally more satisfying gameplay loop. 

One other thing I really like is the scale of the Time Patrol. Since the events of the previous game, there are now time patrollers everywhere of many different races. It helps to give some legitimacy to certain story details, and makes the overworld more fun to navigate. I do feel like transitioning from a hub world to an overall more interconnected world would really benefit what this game is aiming to be, but who knows? After the commercial success of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, that might be where we’re headed. 

The story itself isn’t too ambitious, mostly a retelling of the first game’s events, with a lot of the cutscenes being reused as well (a definite plus to a time travel story on the budgetary side). Some interesting differences would include the presence of characters from the classic DBZ movies, such as Turles, Lord Slug, Janemba, and even Broly! The old bad one, not the new amazing one.

This is the perfect example of how difficult it is to measure this game’s quality. Like, the presence of three additional characters in the story mode does not make a game better in the overall principles of good game design, sure. But this game becomes better with every character it represents, because characters, stages, skills, they all bring it that much closer to a complete depiction of the Dragon Ball mythos, and that’s more important to a game like Xenoverse 2 than even balance could ever be. I don’t think that’s an issue, either, it’s good for a game to have a strong sense of identity, and what fictional franchise has an identity quite like Dragon Ball?

Of course, this game does falter in its delivery in one area that really takes its immersive quality down a few pegs for me. This is the first time I’ll have ever said this about a game in a review, but Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 has a very underwhelming soundtrack. I know that’s a very subjective area, for sure, but it’s disappointing for me in a great many ways. And it’s being measured against an arguably unfair standard, as it’s adapted from a source material known for its superb sound design, but all the same, I can’t help but feel when I’m battling to obnoxious speed metal that it fails to capture the essence of Dragon Ball. And that’s saying a lot because this series has had a lot of different scores over the years, between the dub specific ones, the original, the score for Super, and even other Dragon Ball games. 

This game was also a pretty big milestone for the series, because it’s the first major Dragon Ball game to take place in a post-Super world, meaning a lot of the DLC incorporates key characters from Super’s various arcs. This is a positive because it means we get a bigger and more diverse roster, and because it increases the available customization for the player character. It is a bit unfortunate how much content in this game is hidden behind paywalls, but I have to admit, a lot of these characters are a genuine blast to play with, and their skills help players to fully realize their ideal original character with surprising depth. 

Another major plus for this game is its sheer volume of playable modes as well. There’s a full campaign, side stories, Parallel Quests, and local multiplayer. The different competitive multiplayer modes such as the World Tournament, single battles, and team battles all return from the previous game, including their ranked incarnations. There’s also an extra story mode that is paid DLC, but offers a very fascinating take on the existing time travel plot these games tend to focus on. 

They’ve also introduced a lot of game modes that make this game feel more like a proper MMO. There are expert missions and expert raids, which feel like an epic DBZ-style interpretation of the types of big boss raids we’ve seen in the likes of Blizzard’s World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy 14. Then there are Crystal Raids where players get to be the raid bosses.

There’s also a Figure Battle mode based loosely on Dragon Ball Heroes, the Japan-Only card game. This mode comes with its own separate story mode, but fair warning, quite a lot of Gacha going on here. 

There’s also five different minigames based on locations from across the series. From Capsule Corp to Frieza’s Spaceship to Majin Buu’s house, these locales will let players customize even further, and each one corresponds with a custom character race, so they can help you achieve new heights of skill. The feeling you get when you start to achieve the best of what your custom character is capable of is as close to experiencing the true Dragon Ball as I think a person can get. 

Again, this game has its flaws, and if measured against more traditional game design standards, I think a lot of people would find themselves panning it, and declaring it mediocre. Yet, when measured by its own ruleset, it becomes clear that this is a game with a powerful sense of identity, and goes beyond the typical corporate adaptation to become a genuinely powerful homage to one of the most prominent franchises in animation history. 

But clearly just having character customization and a bunch of quests you can go on isn’t enough to start crafting robust stories for your characters, right? Right?

Narrator Voice: Tenda was a human on an alternate Earth, besieged by Dr. Gero and the Red Ribbon Army. She was enhanced through experimentation, to achieve the feats of strength and speed only ever seen previously by the saiyans. She joined Time Patrol in the hopes that someday she could return home, defeat the Red Ribbon Army, and save her world.

…Or something like that, I don’t know, maybe it’s just fun to punch Frieza.

Thank you all for tuning in for this review of Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, a game that has taken up more of my time than I’m willing to admit. For more action packed adventures, see some of my other reviews and subscribe to make sure you don’t miss the next ones. Thank you as always for watching and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!

*Note – This sample was originally written as scripted content for a YouTube video. That video can be viewed here.*

Fire Emblem Three Houses was widely well received for its inventive approach to some age old mechanics within the series. Its calendar system allowed for a more controlled approach to managing your units and their progression, but more than anything, it allowed for a far more intimate story than previous games in the series. 

For me, Three Houses quickly rose to become the best game in this series, and certainly the game with the best characters. Even Lucina, who I adore for her tragic backstory and hopeful attitude, pales in comparison to some of the cast of this game, at least as far as consistent characterization and overall depth. I’ve spent the last several weeks in an internal debate on which character to cover. Dimitri is my favorite, due to his overall tragic story, and Claude is an interesting subject altogether. Even Rhea felt fun to tackle, but one name kept repeating in my head over and over. I decided to focus on a character that I generally have a much more difficult time with. 

Let’s get the spoiler warning out of the way, because this is going to be an in depth look at a character throughout the entire game, in every route. This essay will be filled to the brim with me trying to make my MFA worth something, so steel yourself for some literary jargon. 

I hate Edelgard. I think she’s hypocritical and stubborn, cruel and unwieldy, overall not a very good person. Also, I love Edelgard. She’s earnest, caring, powerful, ambitious, wise beyond her years, and an incredible advocate for equality in a structurally classist society. And if these two sentiments sound contradictory, I would say it’s a result of how masterfully executed the character actually is. But to understand why Edelgard works, we have to understand how Three Houses works, primarily in the way it tells its story.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses focuses on the perspective of its main character, Byleth, who primarily functions as a surrogate for the player. The overall tale, its characters, and its outcomes, are largely determined by Byleth’s decisions. This is positive for obvious reasons, it gives the player direct control over the events they’re going to be playing out. But from a narrative angle, because you’re involved in fundamentally formative years for the main cast, the seemingly massive changes in their personality are justified, because their experiences are going to be largely different, depending on how the player approaches the game.

Edelgard is perhaps the best example of this, because in three of the four routes you can play through, she’s going to be your enemy. But even the type of enemy she is is heavily influenced by which route you choose. Blue Lions is a story about Dimitri, sure, but it’s equally a story about Edelgard, and how her actions and their relationship created the version of Dimitri you’ll be travelling with throughout the Azure Moon chapters. Golden Deer, on the other hand, is a bit more removed from Edelgard, making her less of a direct enemy, and more of an obstacle in the way of Claude’s own ambitions. This is the difference between a character that we come to have intimate knowledge of, and a larger than life dictator who we hope to defeat. 

And then there’s Crimson Flower. Edelgard’s own route, fought from the perspective of her army, gives insight into a hidden depth of her knowledge and ambition. In order for any of this to work, the key is consistency. Edelgard has to have similar personality traits no matter which route you’re playing. Thankfully, this is yet another area where this Strategy RPG excels, but before we dive into that, let’s talk about who Edelgard is, externally and internally.

Edelgard von Hresvelg is the successor to the imperial throne of Enbarr, capital of Adrestia. The Adrestian Empire is the longest standing human society in Fodlan, with the exception of the underground secret city of Shambala. Because of this, Edelgard is raised to believe that her future, Fodlan’s history, and Fodlan’s future, are one in the same. Her delusions of grandeur aren’t something developed from her own ego, rather, her perception of herself comes from a sense of duty instilled within her from a young age. In addition to this she is ravaged by loss and despair, having lost almost all of her siblings to vile experimentation. The compounding of these truths bring about a sense of profound loneliness and yet still inspires ambition unlike most other characters in Fodlan. 

This is essential in the development of any character arc. For a character to grow and change, they have to overcome the lie that they believe. This core concept implies that the start to a characters arc has them believing something assuredly false about themselves and/or the world around them, and that their growth is centered around disproving that lie.

Edelgard is pre-packaged with quite a few. First is the lie that only she can change the world for the better. This lie is reinforced by her disdain for the church, a force within the game that makes up the vast majority of the world’s order. Of course, the realization of a character, and the conclusion of their arc, demands that the lie they believe be dismantled. Edelgard is a fascinating case, because again, only one of the four arcs have her actually reaching that state of actualization, and that’s Crimson Flower. But this particular lie is not dismantled. Edelgard still insists on being the one to change the world, and clearly believes it was a duty assigned to her at birth. So how then, does she have a complete arc without disproving her lie?

Well it’s simple. If you can’t change the truth, you simply change the lie. Edelgard has a second lie, and I believe it makes up the worst parts of her personality. It’s her belief that her plan, despite being for the betterment of all of mankind, has no room for mercy or empathy. This is a lie reinforced not by outside forces, but by her own actions. For reference, see the second battle at Gronder Field, and with it, the way Edelgard readily sacrifices characters like Bernadetta and Petra for her own gain. These aren’t just soldiers in her army, mind you. These are her friends, people she spent her time at Garreg Mach becoming increasingly close to over quite a stretch of time. When I said that I hated Edelgard earlier, this is the character that I meant. A character so vile and stubborn that in the face of people she’s victimized, her tunnel vision can only ever focus on her own ambitions. 

And yet, I love Edelgard as a character, because she’s merciful, able to cultivate the talents of those around her, and despite methods I don’t agree with, truly does seek to change the world for the better. But how can those ideas exist simultaneously? Well, that’s the easy part. Dismantle the lie.

The structure of a character arc seems to imply a linear narrative. Obviously that makes sense in the context of books and movies, as you’re typically experiencing just that. A narrative with a clear beginning, middle, and end. But Fire Emblem: Three Houses has a dynamic narrative, that changes based on player decisions and actions, and as a result of this, characters have dynamic arcs. For Edelgard, it’s the difference between a flat arc and a hero’s journey. To elaborate on that further, a flat character arc is where a character remains functionally the same throughout an entire narrative. They’re seldom changed by the world, or by other characters. This would be Edelgard in the Blue Lion route. She’s unwavering in her ideals, consistently decisive and immovable throughout the entire story. As a result of this, the world is far more often changed by her. She starts the war, she corrupts Dimitri, divides the alliance, sets major actions in motion. The person that she is ultimately means more to the story than the person she could become. This also makes her a great villain, because characters like Dimitri have to undergo more traditional positive arcs in order to overcome her. 

Edelgard is a character largely informed by her relationships. Those relationships fall into two categories. Those who do things for her, Hubert, Byleth (In Crimson Flower), Ferdinand Von Aegir, her Uncle Arundel, and those who do things to her, Dimitri, Rhea, Byleth (in all other routes), and her Uncle Arundel. I hate the guy, but his presence in both categories is a big part of who Edelgard becomes. 

Arundel is the most impactful person in her life, because he sets her on the path that changes her life. First by experimenting on and subsequently killing her siblings, and then by cultivating that darkness in her heart and urging her to leverage the likes of the Death Knight and Solon in her quest for power. Edelgard’s masked alter ego, the Flame Emperor, is a product of Arundel’s actions. 

The second most impactful relationship in Edelgard’s life is the one she shares with Byleth. Of course, the depth of this relationship is down to player choice, and will ultimately determine the quality of Edelgard’s life, as well as the success of her ambitions.  

I like how heavily the people in Edelgard’s life influence her actions, because I think it serves to emphasize her naturally empathic nature. She cares for others, and is fundamentally chasing what she deems to be everyone in the world’s ideal outcome. Of course, she’s wrong in a lot of ways, but that’s in large part, the entire point. In order for her to be this antagonistic force in ¾ of the game’s story, she has to also be at least a little bit incorrect in her philosophy, or at least her execution of her belief system. 

I’ve often heard the argument made that Byleth is a character who teaches Edelgard the value of mercy. This is a direct contrast to a belief that drives her forward, that mercy has no place in her war. 

In Crimson Flower, we watch this manifest as the lie Edelgard believes. The lie is deconstructed throughout Part 2 of that timeline. For example, the battle between Edelgard and Lysithea during their last stand against Master Tactician, Claude. Or that in Crimson Flower, Edelgard actually has the opportunity to spare Claude’s life. This is the part that I find to be a bit sad.

One of the reason’s Edelgard is so insistent on bearing the burden of responsibility is because she’s rarely been shown genuine empathy or compassion from just about anyone. Even Hubert, who cares for her so deeply, is very transactional in the way he behaves with her. The others within the empire treat her with ill will, and Arundel tries to harm her on numerous occasions. 

The first time she feels at home anywhere is with her classmates and her professor, and she loses out on all of that if Byleth rejects her at the game’s midway point. Of course that would drive someone to stubborn madness. It’s not just Byleth that she wants the approval of, it’s everyone. She’d never admit it, I think Edelgard fears her own potential weakness more than most. 

The beautiful irony in Three Houses is that there are a great many characters with overlapping views and ideals, and yet, they’re so polarized in their relationships with each other because ultimately, almost all of them have an ends oriented ideology rather than a means oriented one. Rhea, Dimitri, and Edelgard are three passionate violent forces, that believe the outcomes are what matter, and that methods are inconsequential so long as the goal is met. 

In the routes within the game where these respective lords are heroes, they survive ultimately because they overcome that mentality. For Edelgard to achieve victory, she has to undergo the hero’s journey, dispelling the lie that has taken hold over her life. This singular instance of a positive arc for her is ultimately the most fleshed out version of her that we see, because the facade is broken down, both by other people in her life finally getting close to her, and by her ambition taking hold and the inspiration for her entire character being laid bare for all to see. 

This game is making some pretty explicit statements about the nature of war, and ends oriented ethics. A lot of it is to say that waving a flag for a noble cause doesn’t inherently excuse the actions said cause demands. While Three Houses is never afraid to vocalize these subjects through character dialogue around Garegg Mach, its clearest vehicle is in one of its most ambitious characters. 

So I’ll say it again, to bookend it all. I hate Edelgard, because of the pain she puts her friends through when she keeps them out. Because she turns this incredible SRPG gameplay into a painful crawl towards the execution of someone I’ve been trained to respect and admire. And I love Edelgard, because she’s the most honest and impactful antagonistic force Fire Emblem has had since the GBA. Because the depth of her character goes so much further than just “villain.” Because she, just by being who she is, elevates the rest of this story from a classic video game narrative, to a genuinely riveting war drama with a sense of dignity and character that exceeds its genre to become in my eyes, an instant classic.

Thank you all for tuning in for this character study! A new approach to video making for me, but something I definitely plan to try again. Once I finish the remaining Yakuza games, I’m gonna break down Kiryu next, because he’s a fascinating one for sure. So if you’re into this sort of thing, like the video and subscribe to make sure you’re around when I make more like it! In the meantime, check out these other recent works of mine and be sure to come back soon for more from the Game Room!