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Video Game / Theresia: Dear Emile

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"The dignity of the dead or our own lives. Which do you think is more important?
Beautiful things are ugly, and ugly things are beautiful.
We are fools and saints."

You wake up inside a dark, creepy, abandoned facility. You've lost your memories, there are traps everywhere, and bodies are turning up left and right. The only starting clue you have to your identity is a single name, ominously written in red: Theresia.

Theresia: Dear Emile is a Survival Horror game for the Nintendo DS. Players take the role of the story's protagonist and must navigate through a complex facility, progressing further by solving puzzles and utilizing various tools, all while avoiding numerous hidden traps. In addition, players must gather clues that will help them recover their lost memories.

The game is split into two parts. Dear Emile puts you in the role of a young girl and her tragic relationship with her foster mother. Dear Martel places you in the role of an adult male and his path to atonement.


This game provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Franz and the protagonist of Dear Martel are drinking buddies. Maylee join them, and even gives booze to her plants.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Written by both protagonists (in their respective stories) and by other characters like Maylee. Finding the scattered pages is fundamental in recovering their memories.
  • Armies Are Evil: The behavior of the army Emile is a member of. Also, the army who came to collect samples in Dear Martel.
  • The Atoner: The main protagonist of Dear Martel. Maylee also has shades of this, given that the two of them created Epicari.
  • Ax-Crazy: Emile and played literally with Franz.
    • The protagonist of Dear Martel when he's infected with Epicari.
  • The Baroness: Emile. Also fits Evil Is Sexy.
  • Body Horror: One orphan infected with Epicari attempts to sew every hole in his body. Maylee cuts herself when she's infected.
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  • Break the Cutie: The protagonist of Dear Martel. He returns to his grandfather's orphanage after ten years at the behest of his little sister. He becomes foster father to the children there, becomes friends with the other doctors, fixes his relationship with his sister, and continues research for treating illnesses. Everything seems picture perfect. Then it all goes south...
  • Central Theme: Both stories present a different one...
    • Dear Emile: What does it mean to be a mother? Can a person who only knows violence truly care for someone?
    • Dear Martel: Can one truly atone for their sins, even when those sins have cost them everything?
    • In general, the entire game is about deconstructing the definition of two distinct themes: love and sin. Dear Emile focuses more on love; is it only being nice to someone and forming a bond (Sacha) or can even a rough and almost abusive nature (Emile) be a form of love in its own right? Dear Martel focuses more on sin; is it purposefully making immoral choices (Maylee) or can it include being unable to prevent terrible things from happening as well? (Martel's brother)
  • Chekhov's Gun: A beautiful melody often plays during flashbacks of Dear Martel. It is from Martel's music box, which was playing as the protagonist, her brother, killed her.
    • The name "Theresia" is introduced very early in both chapters. Neither character knows what it means until they learn that it is Emile and Martel's last names, and the name of the red beads, since it was made with their DNA.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: The war claimed the lives of Leanne's parents when she was barely a year old. Subverted when Emile (who was part of the enemy nation) finds her in the rubble and adopts her.
  • The Corruption: Epicari, a disease that exacerbates one's personal demons and drives its victims to the point of madness and finally death, is one. Upon death, a body turns purple, signifying that the disease has become airborne and must be burned immediately to prevent further exposure.
    • Exaggerated during Dear Martel as after the protagonist crashes through a window and loses consciousness for a while, he awakes to find the hospital slowly being taken over by a purple mold growing along the floors, walls, and ceilings. For the most part, the player is prevented from exploring the now corrupted areas until later, where the doctor finds himself smack in the middle of the infected hallways and trying his best to not breathe in the air surrounding him. In fact, one room has the disease congealing into a purple sludge pooling all around.
  • Country Mouse: Franz never felt at home in the city, and jumped at the invitation to work at the orphanage in the country.
  • Dead All Along: Emile. We never find out how or why she died, either. A report hidden in a vase in Private Room 1 reveals that she was killed by the mercenaries, whom returned to the facility to assassinate her.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Subtle, but present. The protagonist of Dear Martel wants to punish himself for his perceived sins by essentially putting himself through two buildings filled to the brim with deathtraps everywhere. However, closer examination of the entire story reveals that Maylee is the one who ultimately created Epicari in her jealousy, and the protagonist tried his hardest to save the children and his colleagues up to the very last minute. The only real crime he committed was murdering his sister, Martel, but even then, it was while under Epicari infection. Upon realizing this, his motivation to punish himself for his "sins" seems a bit too much.
    • How does Emile handle Sacha and Leanne's growing friendship? By grabbing a freaking knife and advancing on the poor boy with the intention of killing him, which is stopped only by a friar jumping in the way to stop her and getting shanked himself for his trouble, dying before he even hits the ground. This seems especially MORE disproportionate when you consider that Emile doesn't seem to mind Leanne's relationship with Maylee or the bishop. This makes much more sense in the overall scheme of things when remembering that Sacha is a young boy falling for Leanne and later proposes the two run away together to escape the war and the isolation at the church. Gruesome as it is, killing Sacha later when he comes to Leanne's rescue may have actually saved her daughter's life as they would be two children running off on their own in the middle of the war if he had succeeded, whereas Maylee and the bishop had no such plans and otherwise left Leanne alone.
  • Dungeon Master: Quite literally, Emile.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: You'll have to fight through traps, bombs, fire, and more, to get out alive.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Aside from the protagonist, there is not a single person alive inside the facility. Unless you count the red beads.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: The facility you're trapped in is covered from head to toe in traps. Emile set the traps to protect Leanne from the mercenaries and teach her to survive by making her suffer mostly for her carelessness in Dear Emile, while the protagonist of Dear Martel set them so that he'd suffer for his sins, as he wouldn't remember setting them due to being infected with Epicari. In addition, the normal disrepair of the buildings in both settings is quite hazardous.
  • Evil Redhead: Franz, after he's infected.
  • The Faceless & Hidden Eyes: Everybody. Moreso for the protagonist of Dear Martel, whose face is never shown even in flashbacks (occasionally, we see an arm, but that's it.)
  • Flashback Effects: Red static indicates that a flashback is about to happen.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Maylee. While the entire story in both tales seems to be the result of a virus gone mad, Maylee's photo album reveals that she is the one who created Epicari. Not exactly villainous due to her regret, she is still directly responsible for everything that has happened in both stories.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Maylee allowed Epicari to be cultivated because she wanted to kill Martel. This is ultimately subverted, since Martel was the one person immune to the virus.
  • Gorn: It's a text game with limited pictures, but when either protagonist gets hurt, the descriptions are pretty graphic.
  • Guide Dang It!: Maylee's photo album, which sheds some light on the events in Dear Martel and the vaccine's side effects, can only be read in the Last Stage of Dear Emile's scenario if the player avoid drinking more than 3 elixirs from the start of the game. This can be very difficult, as recklessly touching everything can result to injury.
    • There is a report hidden in a vase in Private Room 1 that is readable after you visit Private Room 2.
  • Hate Plague: Epicari
  • Heel–Face Turn : Emile, when she singlehandedly mows down her former comrades when they try to kill Leanne.
  • Hint System: Each character gets an item that, if used on the self, can give a tip about what to do next. Leanne has her barbed-wire necklace, and the doctor has a mirror shard. His item is used to solve a few puzzles, while Leanne's is only a hint item.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Emile decided that she'd rather have Leanne dead than away from her. Subverted when she changed her mind later and set up the journal pieces as a bread-crumb effect to guide Leanne to the plastic explosives for her to use to escape, in case Emile didn't survive her battle with the Retribution unit.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Martel and the protagonist of Dear Martel both have blue eyes. They are siblings, after all. The protagonist seeing his blue eyes calms him down. The latter's could be innocent or demonic, depending on interpretation.
  • It's All My Fault: Martel's brother blames himself for creating Epicari. So does Maylee. The difference is that it actually is Maylee's fault.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Maylee, Franz, and Martel's brother, when infected with Epicari. She's self-violent, Franz goes insane, Martel's brother completely snaps and murders Martel when she steps on a bug.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: A symptom of the Epicari virus. Subverted with the side effect of the cure, which causes the patients to regain the memories they lost, permanently.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Or in Emile's case, crazier.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Maylee says this word for word after she has sex with Martel's brother. During the end of Dear Martel, and later during Dear Emile, she still holds to this philosophy, though she did end up loving two people, Martel and her brother, of whom Leanne and Emile remind her of.
    • This point becomes a bit more chilling when you realize that, based on the timeline and when she says this, the orphanage is slowly descending into chaos due to Epicari, which is exactly what Maylee wanted in order to kill Martel and take her brother for herself in her jealousy. The fact that she says love is a scam and equates it with murder makes it sound like either weak justification for her actions or potential regret for what she had started. Essentially, her "love is stupid and makes you do stupid things" is referring to herself. Later on, when Leanne mentions love, Maylee repeats this notion again possibly in reference to what her jealousy cost her and those around her in the name of her "love".
    • Sacha falls for Leanne during their time together at the church as he was also an orphan taken in and raised there. The feeling appears to be somewhat mutual, despite the fact that Leanne is obviously confused with the notion of love after dealing with her mother's "tough love" tendencies. In the end, it is Sacha's love for Leanne that gets him killed when Emile finds him trying to free Leanne from her bonds and run away with her. While her blowing his freakin head off is unquestioningly brutal, one has to wonder if he even thought ahead given that he's proposing running away in the middle of a war, which would have just have likely resulted in both his and Leanne's deaths anyway.
  • Love Makes You Evil: As it turns out. Maylee deliberately let Epicari be created, with the hopes that it would end Martel's life. Because she wanted her brother.
  • Love Redeems: Zigzagged all to hell and back for another round, so much so that sometimes it's never quite clear if this trope is played straight, averted, or subverted in certain cases. The latter half of Dear Emile focuses entirely on Leanne's attempts to learn more of the mother she loves, despite how bloodthirsty, violent, and sometimes abusive she was. Ultimately seems to be played straight since it's her motherly love for Leanne that sees Emile gun down her own allies to protect her daughter. The traps she set were there to teach Leanne how to think for herself instead of thoughtlessly moving onward, as well as protect her from any further attempts on her life. Leanne becomes Emile's Morality Chain and somewhat smooths out her ruthless nature.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Subverted. While there are traps set in the dungeons, they are created by a human. But since the place is in disrepair, it is still hazardous.
  • Malevolent Masked Man: Franz, post-Epicari.
  • Mama Bear: Emile, just so much. Her solution when she finds out the people she works for plan to kill Leanne? Kill them all first.
  • Meaningful Name: Theresia is the name of the cure for the Epicari virus. Named after Martel Theresia since her DNA was needed to complete the cure. This is later done with Emile, who also has the same last name.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Maylee loves Martel's brother, but is incredibly jealous of Martel for getting his attention all the time. She deliberately allowed Epicari to grow in the medicine she created in hopes of killing Martel, but it soon became her regret.
  • My Beloved Smother: Emile with Leanne, where she forbids her from leaving home as well as talking with other people.
  • My Greatest Failure: The doctor in Dear Martel essentially feels this way just before his amnesia and even once he's regained most or all of his memories as, despite his efforts, he couldn't prevent the deaths of all the children and staff at the orphanage. Also, he succumbs to Epicari and strangles his own sister when she steps on a bug. In fact, one of the traps that he sets for himself even calls him out on the failures, particularly those involving having sex with Maylee during the chaos, Jean's death, and Franz's descent into madness after infection. Interestingly, this is the final puzzle in his story, and using those memories grants him the keys to the final few rooms of his story.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Maylee develops a treatment to combat a fever that has struck the orphanage that she's working at. Guess what emerged from that.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Leanne loves Emile as if she were her real mother, and loves things that remind her of Emile.
    • The protagonist of Dear Martel is only 'slightly' less depraved, but he loves and wants to hug a corpse covered in the Theresia beads.
  • No Name Given: The protagonist of Dear Martel. He is the brother of the titular Martel.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Invoked upon the protagonists in an unusual twist on this trope. After encountering their first trap, both Leanne and Martel's brother have a small panic attack over the possibility of a murderer hiding out somewhere that could be out to get them. It takes them a while and a few more memories of what's truly going on before they let go of this fear, resulting in the death traps and dead bodies becoming a case of Unusually Uninteresting Sight when they cease to even faze the characters anymore. Can be pretty unnerving to a first time player as well.
    • Leanne in particular is more subject to this than Martel's brother upon finding the first dead body in Dear Emile, not helped by the music suddenly shifting to a rather tense beat. First thing she does after getting the first key and returning to the room she woke up in is hide in there for a few moments to catch her breath and calm down.
  • Only Sane Man: The only character who isn't completely insane is Maylee and possibly Sacha. The latter of which is killed gruesomely. Even the former has her moments, although this was when she was infected by Epicari, which drives people insane.
  • Ontological Mystery: The entire premise of the game.
  • The Pollyanna: Martel. She prays for the dead and buries them even as others burn around them. Never once does she falter even when her brother, the protagonist of Dear Martel, kills her.
  • Posthumous Character: Martel, particularly during Dear Emile, which takes place after Dear Martel.
  • Precision F-Strike: Once Leanne reaches the second floor study of the church, she'll find a body sitting at the desk. Closer examination reveals this corpse to be her mother, Emile, herself, the very person she had spent the last few hours of the game looking for. At first, she reacts as expected, seeming utterly confused and uncertain, and the standard music plays...before the music simply cuts short to the screen going red and Leanne exclaiming "This is BULLSHIT!" aloud. After going the whole game and learning about how much of a badass Emile was, finding her dead here warrants such a response. Regardless, it is a bit of a shocker, given the timid, kindly nature Leanne had shown up to this point.
    • Becomes a LITERAL F-Strike in Dear Martel. During the investigation of the orphanage, the doctor will come across various scribbles on the walls. One such scribble simply says, "You fucker". The doctor then comments on the resentful nature of said message. Ironic when one realizes it is a message he wrote to himself prior to his amnesia.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: Leanne's pendant, given to her by Emile, gives her insight on what to do next whenever she clutches it.
  • Torture Technician: Emile's job with the army. She uses Electric Torture, fire, ice, and more.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sacha. Not a good idea to put your gun down when facing an utterly up-the-wall-crazy woman who has killed dozens, if not hundreds, of people and tried to kill you once already.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: The game is pretty well filled with this, though with a bit of a Subversion as well. While making incorrect choices doesn't instantly kill your character, they will set off traps that will take off a chunk of health. As the game progresses, these traps become deadlier and more lethal, meaning you can make fewer and fewer mistakes as the game progresses before dying. The Subversion of this, however, comes in the form of the Examine option. While you still have to get puzzles correct or face the consequences often enough, examining everything before touching them will often give the player clues in the form of "I see a piece of metal wedged in between the boards", usually indicating a trap that will activate upon touching the object in question or moving it in any way.
    • Unfortunately, this is played more straight in Dear Martel's story, as the doctor doesn't make quite as many observations of potential traps as Leanne does, requiring the player to be much more cautious about how they progress through his story.
      • This makes more sense from a storyline standpoint as even with amnesia, both characters exhibit instincts and behaviors associated with their previous selves, such as Leanne's initially unexplained love of blood. How did the doctor feel prior to falling asleep and forgetting? He wanted to punish himself repeatedly for his perceived sins. Therefore, his failure to comment on potential hazards quite like Leanne would make sense if it was simply intentionally ignoring clues in order to allow himself to be hurt.
  • The Virus: The Epicari virus. The primary symptoms include memory loss, and peculiar and obsessive behaviour, usually in connection with a specific memory, word or action. The severity of the symptoms vary on the individual's own neurouses. From there, it worsens to violent behaviour and it soon culminates to suicide. Maylee's photo album reveals that what Epicari actually does is magnifying the victim's negative emotions, which is why the end result is always suicide. To make things worse, the bodies of the victims will turn purple after death, meaning the virus is spreading and is now contagious. Burning the bodies helps to prevent the virus from spreading.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Leanne's belief that Emile set the traps to prevent her from escaping contradicts the whole setup in Dear Emile. Unbeknown to her, Emile had planned an escape route for her while making sure she'll recover her memories. She'd also made Leanne carry out her facility destruction plan to destroy evidence so her daughter, at least, can escape from the mercenaries that were hunting them down this whole time.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Emile, as Sacha finds out the hard way.
  • Yandere: Maylee
  • You Wake Up in a Room: A bedroom, to be precise. Although the protagonist of Dear Martel wakes up on the floor rather than the bed, which he notes as unusual.

Alternative Title(s): Theresia