By James Liu
Every year, around the anniversary of the release of Fire Emblem Heroes (FEH), the mobile game spinoff, the Choose Your Legends poll (CYL) takes place, allowing players to directly vote for characters to receive new, very powerful variations of fan favorites in FEH. Thousands of players rush in to vote once every day for a week until the results are released a short while later. Four winners are picked each year, with two male and female characters each given the honor of a “Brave” alternate character, usually with powerful skills and abilities. This year, after 16 popular characters like Ike, Roy, and Lucina have already made it in and are excluded from being voted for in future polls, and with no new game to give a burst of support to like last year with the release of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, many expected Marth, the main character of the first Fire Emblem game, and Chrom, the main Lord of Fire Emblem Awakening, to have an easy victory in the men’s division while Eirika, a main character in Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones and twin sister of Ephraim, who won second in CYL2, was guaranteed in the women’s division with the final spot being debated. Maybe it would be the female version of Byleth, the main character of Three Houses, maybe Marianne, a popular character also in Three Houses with Golden Deer. In the end, the results were quite shocking to everyone.
When the results were announced, Gatekeeper, a nameless yet fan favorite NPC from Three Houses excluded from last year’s vote, had earned 72,267 votes, with Marth in second at 46,699 votes. The female division was much closer but had less voters total with many instead rallying for or against Gatekeeper winning, with Marianne coming in first at 33,555 votes and Eirika earning 31,875 votes. It’s hard to say whether the hype for Gatekeeper would’ve held up in last year’s vote if he was a candidate for CYL4, as it was the year the release of Three Houses completely sweep the top spots with ease, with Edelgard, Dimitri, and Claude, the three main Lords of Three Houses, plus Lysethia, a fan favorite from Golden Deer, in the top 4. Given that they’re all from the same game and have similar fans voting for them, plus the fact that out of the main Lords, Claude had 59,751 voters, Dimitri had 69,488 votes, and Edelgard still beat Gatekeeper at 74,617 votes, there’s a good chance Gatekeeper wouldn’t have made it into the top 4. However, there’s also the question of how much of an influence bot votes had in the past.
Last year, the issue of bot votes for characters became a real issue when Jorge, a random NPC from Radiant Dawn without as much of a notable following as Gatekeeper, was added to the game as a free unit you could earn after beating a small challenge map. People compared his votes across the different CYL’s, and found he made an astronomical jump in count from 21 votes in CYL2 to 1,598 votes in CYL3 before increasing again to 6,728 in CYL4, placing 27th and being noteworthy enough to add as a free character. This garnered a lot of attention, seeing as with hundreds of characters across the series any chance at a new addition to the mobile game is important. As a result, CYL5 was the first time that a Nintendo account was needed to vote, hopefully shutting down a good amount of botting and making Gatekeeper’s victory more legitimate. Despite this, many fans unhappy that a character without a face won first place brought up the bot vote controversy when the results were announced, claiming Gatekeeper’s massive win was evidence that the bot problem wasn’t fixed.
It’s possible to debate what could’ve been for days, but what matters is that Gatekeeper has made it into the game and won first by a mile. Was the vote botted? Maybe, but with not as many big characters to rally behind it’s also likely that players just ran out of good characters to vote for. Gatekeeper’s a fun character who many enjoyed as a consistent source of positivity in Three Houses, greeting you with a smile and his short opinions on the world around him at the gate of Garreg Mach. It’s not impossible to imagine him winning through genuine support. Regardless of voting controversies, the majority of players were genuinely surprised and happy to see Gatekeeper win. Around August, the variants that Gatekeeper, Marth, Marianne, and Eirika will be released. The “Brave” variants that CYL winners get are usually inspired by their original games, with Ike taking up his father Greil’s clothes and weapon for example. It’ll be interesting to see how the developers took to the Gatekeeper’s win and make him a variant on par with the other legends of Fire Emblem history.