Of all the characters I expected to be added to the mobile gacha game Fire Emblem Heroes, the Gatekeeper from Fire Emblem: Three Houses was not the first person who came to mind.
To be fair, Nintendo probably didn’t either. FEH has a regular popularity poll called Choose Your Legends, in which members of the community can vote on which Fire Emblem characters will be added to the upcoming summoning pool. The unnamed gatekeeper known for his charming status reports had completely swept the vote this February, with almost twice as many players voting for him than any of the runners-up.
Who is this mysterious gatekeeper? He’s a Three Houses NPC who greets players by the gates of Garreg Mach monastery. He’s chipper, and he has an infectious can-do attitude. He almost seems out of place next to legendary protagonists such as Marth and Eirika, or the compellingly tragic Marianne. He’s out of place next to previous winners, who have always been the royal protagonists of their respective games. Aside from not being a playable character in Three Houses, he doesn’t even have a name! So what compelled voters to send him to the very top? Considering that FEH has over 17 million downloads, the results of the poll seemed a little much for memery. But now that he’s actually in FEH six months later, I booted up the game and decided to see what this was about.
Though obtaining characters in FEH typically involves gambling with free or paid currency, players can select one Choose Your Legends character for free. So you can either grab him immediately, or you can choose him after forty summons if you had your eye on someone else. While I was grinding quests for summoning orbs, I noticed that Gatekeeper was featured in the Forging Bonds event.
As expected from his occupation, he has very strong defensive stats, and a very weak speed stat. Despite being depicted with a perfectly serviceable lance, he’s a tome user with a high attack stat. Wait, a magic user with a high attack stat? The gatekeeper?
Reader, I was not at all prepared to see his combat animation. It was so cute, I could have cried. LOOK AT IT.
HE’S NOT THE ONE ATTACKING. HE’S OPENING THE GATE FOR THE STUDENTS AND HIS COMRADES TO ATTACK. He has a high magical attack because of anime friendship power. As long as he dutifully defends the gate, the people he protects will come to his aid. Be still, my beating heart!
Did I mention that the attack animations cycle between different groups of students and faculty? It blows my mind that the designers for the Gatekeeper put so much effort into implementing the animation for an attack that only lasts about three seconds.
But more importantly, dear reader, he is also adorable.
He’s just some guy who guards the front gates, and he’s so positive about it? I was skeptical because I was once a security guard in the front lobby of a hotel. It was a means of paying my bills while I pursued game development. It was also the worst job I ever had. Unlike security guards in the movies, real ones are typically unarmed, and my job was mostly conflict de-escalation with rogue customers. Customers yelled at me, recorded me on their phones, and threatened to call the police over customer dissatisfaction. If someone was being robbed in front of me, then they would have been on their own. I could not have been as positive as Mister Gatekeeper. It was absolutely impossible. And I didn’t even deal with a full-scale military invasion like he did in Three Houses!
But FEH is a game about heroes who are capable of greater feats than mortal men. In this instance, his superpower is unerring positivity. As someone who once worked a dead-end job, Gatekeeper is the version of myself that I wish I could have been. Someone who found purpose in the daily grind of just ‘some job.’ I mean, smash capitalism and all, but wouldn’t it be nice to feel like you’re enough? Like your job is enough, even if you’re not curing cancer or solving world hunger?
When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to earn a lot of money and be someone with a golden nameplate on their desk. Once I hit the existential despair of being a college student, I started viewing work differently. I thought: Surely the janitor who finds purpose in his work is happier than the office worker who feels trapped by their professional obligations. Who is better off? The nameless gatekeeper, or the evil princes who feel trapped in their destiny? Over 70,000 FEH players think they know the answer.
I already liked the gatekeeper when I met him in Three Houses, but FEH managed to expand his relationship with the other characters through their inclusion in his attack animation. It’s actually a great example of how live service games are able to add to existing canon when the main game is already over. Long live the Garreg Mach gatekeeper!