Making of Fire Emblem: The Illusive Wii Fire Emblem

Earlier in December, we finally learned the true nature of the cancelled Fire Emblem 64, courtesy of the Making of Fire Emblem.

However, as it turns out, there was another Fire Emblem game that never left development–one that we didn’t know existed up until now.

A screenshot from the illusive Wii Fire Emblem title.

A screenshot from the illusive Wii Fire Emblem title.

(Special thanks to Kirokan for providing images and translations from the Making of Fire Emblem.)

After Radiant Dawn, Intelligent Systems began prototyping another Fire Emblem game for the Nintendo Wii, simply referred to as the “Illusive Wii Title”.

What made this game stand out was that it was not a straightforward strategy RPG like previous Fire Emblems, but instead something closer to a traditional RPG and RTS (Real-time Strategy) game.

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To start things rolling, the design documents for the game included illustrations of fantasy era backdrops; the first depicts a large, seaside kingdom and what appears to be a giant tree canopy in the distance.

illusive-wii-fe-003The second illustration appears to show the tree canopy up close. It’s difficult to tell due to the low resolution of the image, but are those buildings or ruins spiraling around the central, larger tree trunk?

In any case, the presence of the giant trees is quite different to anything seen previously. Past Fire Emblems, despite being fantasy-based, were relatively down-to-earth with their locales.

Awakening fans, however, may recall the existence of the giant Mila Tree on the Valmese continent; is it possible the concept for the Mila Tree originated in this game?

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Besides the illustrations, there were a handful of gameplay screenshots too; the above is taken from a market-like area in a location known as “Imperial Capital: Grisstal”.

Those who played Radiant Dawn have probably already noticed the familiar-looking trio present in the screenshots. Although we can only see their backs, those are clearly Ilyana, Stefan and… a generic Priest?

That said, it’s likely the character graphics are placeholders from Radiant Dawn, rather than the game being a follow up to Radiant Dawn.

For one, it’s easier to recycle assets for prototypes than create new ones that may not be used. Secondly, Grisstal doesn’t exist in Tellius and it’s extremely unlikely Ilyana and Stefan decided to abandon Tellius at any point in time.

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Moving on, there are sketches of various city locations, with a strong emphasis on the design of the buildings and architectural details, such as the stone statues.

Other Fire Emblems focused primarily on the layouts of the battle map and rarely included concept art for cities and other civilian locations, outside of animated cutscenes.

Also factoring in the close perspective, all of this suggests that these locations could be explored by the player like in a traditional RPG.

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More gameplay clues can be found in a diagram explaining the game flow.

During the “field” or “exploration” part of the game, players could freely explore, converse or battle with enemies.

Initially the camera follows behind the characters like a third-person action game. Players can adjust the viewpoint, zooming in close to the character’s head or zooming out to a distance standard to most RTS games.

Battles would occur when players came into contact with an enemy symbol, similar to traditional RPGs without random battles.

During battles, players could apparently control “multiple characters” like in Nintendo’s own Pikmin, hence the comparison to a RTS. Would characters attack automatically when in range of the enemy just like a RTS?

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Oddly, the Wii remote is only shown featuring directional controls, despite Pikmin’s excellent use of the Wii remote’s pointer to control troops.

Then again, the controls for battle may be different to on the field; but at the same time it would strange to force the player to flip the Wii remote’s alignment mid-game.

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Finally, we have a delightful example of a field. Within each field, there would be places such as villages, buildings and caves (dungeons) that players could enter.

Of note, it was expected that players would take 5 to 10 minutes to traverse the field from beginning to end, not factoring in battles. Perhaps fields would become longer and more complex as the game went on?

Although all of this sounds very exciting, it’s a sad–and likely inevitable–fact that the game was cancelled before it progressed any further.

At the time, Nintendo expressed disappointment with Radiant Dawn’s sales; in Japan, sales were below Path of Radiance, which itself sold a worrying amount by Nintendo’s standards.

So much that Nintendo outright told Intelligent Systems to stop developing Fire Emblem for home consoles.

The staff at Nintendo and others were saying things like “With such results, do not release another title on a home console.”

— Tohru Narihiro from the Making of Fire Emblem.

While this may sound harsh, the truth of the matter was that development costs–especially for console games–were soaring and Nintendo no longer needed Fire Emblem to be a system-seller.

Despite this, Intelligent Systems had their own interpretation of Nintendo’s warning. With the illusive Wii Fire Emblem, they attempted to “simplify” Fire Emblem to gain mass appeal.

It was true that the game did not sell too well, but I’m not quite sure what was meant by “do not release another title on a home console.” But, it changed our way of thinking. And so from then on, we assumed that it would be necessary to simplify the game on a home console in order to gain wider appeal.

— Tohru Narihiro from the Making of Fire Emblem.

In the end, a lack of motivation and aim caused the Wii project to be shelved in favour of other projects.

Update: The original article suggested that the Wii project was replaced by Shadow Dragon, but it turns out development was still proceeding up until around the time of New Mystery of the Emblem/Awakening.

As an aside, although Nintendo cautioned Intelligent Systems not to develop another console Fire Emblem, I personally don’t believe we’ll never see another one.

In the past, Intelligent Systems stated for the record that they believe Fire Emblem is best suited for home consoles and their only obstacle is convincing Nintendo and themselves that they can reach profitability.

This may become a bit of a long winded explanation, but the Fire Emblem games were originally released on the home consoles, right? Even though there have now been games released on the GBA, from our point of view, we strongly feel that the games are ideally enjoyed at one’s own pace, in front of the TV screen.

— Hitoshi Yamagami from an interview with Nintendo Dream in 2007.

Nowadays, the difference in performance between home consoles and portables is becoming increasingly harder to notice. In addition, there are rumblings that Nintendo’s next console, the NX, may be a console and portable hybrid.

With Fire Emblem as popular as it is now, a Fire Emblem for the NX is nigh guaranteed. So if the NX is indeed a console and portable, there’s still a glimmer of hope for fans awaiting a triumphant return to the big screen.

About the Author: VincentASM
Author Website: http://serenesforest.net
  • ILikePopCans

    Well written article! Really is interesting how FE was close to becoming a whole different thing. Guess the remakes did something good by keeping the games what they are.

    • Hércules Dias

      I actually feel a bit sad that we couldn’t get another view on what Fire Emblem games could have become. The strategy games are fun (and I still play them a lot), but the game mechanics (weapon triangle and durability) would’ve been delightful to see on a “traditional” rpg setting. Granted, the battle mechanics would have to be tweaked for that to truly work, but still…

      Apart from that, I believe that being able to play a Fire Emblem title “native”to the Wii U would enable a more organic experience, like the difference I experimented after playing The Sacred Stones and then Path of Radiance. I know the Wii graphical power had its share of making an impression (and just think how cool the spells and skills would look when cast/activated on the Wii U), but I’m thinking here of taking the DS and 3DS experiences to a whole new level.

  • Christina_Puck

    It’d be cool if another FE console game came out, but I’m happy that at least the current handhelds are powerful enough to compete with the GC/Wii as well as having voice acting. I bought Path of Radiance new when it first came out, so it’s a shame it sold poorly and we may never get an HD FE.

    • Hércules Dias

      Thinking of that, and Nintendo’s recent trend of remaking Zelda games in HD, we may have some hope of seeing PoR and/or RD remade in HD for the Wii U. Or at least a a Virtual Console version. Those two games really deserve it! (Keeping fingers crossed)

      • Christina_Puck

        I hope so! They need to be played by more people. Used copies are so rare. Makes it hard to recommend them.

  • Mattey

    The layout from the map is giving me FE4 feels…
    “it’s extremely unlikely Ilyana and Stefan decided to abandon Tellius at any point in time.”
    Well Stefan was a wanderer at heart and Ilyana would go to any lengths for a meal, I wouldn’t put it past them. Well, weren’t the other continents flooded? Unless the waters resided, I doubt they’d leave (well they wouldn’t really leave even if they did, no food there). But yeah, I know they’re probably placeholders anyways.

  • An Tran

    But, this was for Wii, what do they mean soaring development costs? It’s not like they were developing the game for a powerful and modern console.
    Really sad this never came out; it would’ve been rather cool. Also sad that the Tellius series sold so badly and is the reason why we have the “crap” we have now. I mean, FE11-14 are still pretty fun in an NES-early SNES+Mobile Gaming type of way, but the Tellius games were pretty much the pinnacle of the series in terms of gameplay (disregarding some things like crap support system in RD). Considering that FE now HAS to cater to the mass audience crowd in order to be profitable, it’ll never be able to reach that high point ever again. Especially since development costs for Nintendo really will start rising once they start using more modern hardware for their next generation devices.
    Sigh, oh well. It’s regrettable, but the games they release are still fun in their own way.

  • doubleO7

    This is really cool! FE is, of course, a strategy title first and foremost, but I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Intelligent Systems experiment with other genres from time-to-time.

  • Dominic

    I don’t want a Fire Emblem on a home console as much as I want a Fire Emblem with strong traditional RPG influences. The ability to explore cities and routes in a world as rich and fantastical as FE would be amazing. There have been quite a few large-scale medieval RPGs, however we’ve never really seen what Nintendo’s take on it would be with their heavier emphasis on magic and less graphic violence.

  • Billabo

    Dang, Radiant Dawn remains my favorite Fire Emblem game (other than the lack of support convos). As much as I like the handheld games, I was hoping for more console FE games similar to Radiant Dawn.