Fire Emblem Warriors: Final Interview with Nintendo Dream

We have ourselves yet another Nintendo Dream article to decode!

In this “final interview” from the June issue of Nintendo Dream released on April 21st 2018, we have a behind the scenes look following the release of the third and final DLC pack.

Translation by VincentASM. Special thanks to Christian Ponte/@TheTanooki for providing the images!

Warning: There are spoilers for the endgame!

Left: Hiroya Usuda — Team NINJA brand senior leader. Director for Hyrule Warriors 3DS and Fire Emblem Warriors.
Right: Yosuke Hayshi — Koei Tecmo’s Director and Senior Managing Executive Officer, Team NINJA brand leader. Involved with Hyrule Warriors 3DS and Fire Emblem Warriors.

Nintendo Dream: What are your thoughts now that you’ve finished development of the DLC?

Usuda: “It’s over; that was long” is what I’m honestly thinking. At the very beginning, we were working with the 3DS version of Hyrule Warriors as a base, and we had Link running around in this very early, rough version. Roughly half a year has passed since the game’s launch and we’ve created many DLC characters for everyone to use. We received opinions via Twitter and enjoyed reading fans’ reactions after the release. In addition, we progressed onto the DLC, where we enjoyed communicating with fans, while thinking of what to do next.

Hayashi: I’m very grateful for all the fans who praised the game and affirmed our expectations. Also, now that the DLC is over, I feel like there’s finally a great variety of weapons.

ND: Can you please tell us your reasons for adding Tharja?

Hayashi: When it came to creating the DLC, from the very beginning we absolutely wanted her to be in. Actually, we almost nearly added her to the main game, but we had to make some adjustments. Before this, we met with everyone from the Fire Emblem Cipher development team and Yusuke Kozaki, who worked on her design, and they talked about not expecting Tharja to be as popular as she is now. The staff who worked from the early stages of development were saying how they were amazed that the characters with really strong and unique personalities were so positively received. I suppose Tharja has a pretty unique personality (laughs).

Usuda: In Awakening, she also has the “nicest body in the army” (laughs).

* Translator’s note: This was changed to “darkest thoughts” in the Western release.

Usuda: Another thing is that Tharja’s [Japanese] voice actress had changed to Yuki Takada. Since Miss Takada didn’t have a track record in Fire Emblem Heroes yet, IS [Intelligent Systems] was supervising the recording of Tharja’s lines. This was when Miss Takada was first taking over Tharja’s role, so the recordings were done with utmost precision. We tried to express the dubious emotions in her voice, with a darker tone, and things like that. We paid special attention so that Tharja didn’t just sound like your average pretty girl. We were very careful with the recordings to preserve Tharja’s original, unique personality.

* Translator’s note: Tharja’s previous voice actress (who voiced her in Awakening, the drama CDs and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE) retired in 2015.

ND: Where there any difficulties when recreating her for Fire Emblem Warriors?

Usuda: In the original game, she has the “nicest body in the army”, so we discussed a lot about her body shape. Looking at what we created for her character and animations, she still seems like a different character, but the silhouette of her body is pretty nice and polished. Tharja is a very popular character, so we put a lot of consideration into her creation.

ND: Although that’s worth celebrating, you left out the best part: where she’s hugging her tome!

Usuda: Right, that was from Yusuke Kozaki’s artwork from the original game. Well, I guess Tharja wants you to check her from behind. When you’re playing Fire Emblem Warriors, you generally see characters from the back (laughs).

ND: How did you decide on the pose used in her victory movie?

Usuda: Previously there was a figure of Tharja released and we absolutely had to use the figure’s pose somewhere, and we decided to put it in her victory movie. We wrote in the development documents: “Tharja’s tomes materialise, then she moves into that pose” (laughs). However, although the sexy figure already exists, there was a concern of affecting the age rating if we showed too much. So while we understand the desire to see from the opposite side of the camera, we felt it was best if you imagined her body shape and her butt in your head (laughs).

ND: What were you reasons for picking Olivia?

Hayashi: Olivia’s inclusion was decided right towards the end.

Usuda: The other candidates were… Gaius and Lon’qu, but the main reason they were removed as candidates was because of their weapons. Gaius wielded daggers and daggers were a new weapon type then. Likewise with Saizo and Kaze from Fates, daggers had just come out and we had already established the weapon triangle, so since it would change the game mechanics, we decided not to add daggers. As for Lon’qu…

Hayashi: Because he was conceptually similar to Navarre…

ND: Lon’qu shares the same [Japanese] voice actor as Navarre too: Takehito Koyasu (laughs).

Usuda: We already added Navarre in the 2nd DLC Pack (Shadow Dragon), so if we added Lon’qu, another sword user, in the 3rd DLC Pack (Awakening), well… (painful grin) Besides, Owain was introduced as a NPC, so we couldn’t not add him. So we were debating what to do with two sword users. We looked within the pool of female characters and we already added Azura in the 1st DLC Pack (Fates), so we thought it would be interesting to have a character that had similar dancing abilities. Then we talked about Olivia and whether or not to let her dance.

Hayashi: In the end, we decided to release two dancers, Olivia and Azura, as DLC, but I felt like it was a good choice. Because it was a class newly added via DLC!

ND: Did you try to differentiate Olivia with Azura who was released in the 1st DLC Pack?

Usuda: We didn’t worry too much because we made new animations for both. Azura focused on singing, while Olivia focused on dancing. As a character, Olivia uses swords as a base and strikes down enemies while she dances; basically, we differentiated them via their animations. Later… their personalities turned out completely different (laugh).

ND: Really? It seems like the opposite (laughs).

Usuda: Azura is very soft-spoken, while Olivia is mowing down enemies while shouting things like “Stop staring!” or “I didn’t want to do this!” Just because of the difference in tension, I think the characters feel very different. Actually, we record the voices first, before making the animations. When making the animations, we add in the voices we recorded earlier; that way, it makes it easier for us to express each of their personalities.

ND: Amidst all the sword-wielding characters, what makes Owain special?

Usuda: Owain has many special move names, so we tried to include as many of them as possible. In his victory movie, there’s “Blazing Fire Sword” and “Blue Flame Sword” from the original games, but there are many new special moves that we created like “Goddess of Dawn Blade”. Besides that, we thought of “Shadow Light Sword” to reference Shadow Dragon and the dual blade style “White Night Sword” and “Black Night Sword” that’s based off Fates. After that… when we ran out of animations, we started putting them in Bond Conversations (laughs). There are many fans who are really enamoured with Owain. His conversations are really hilarious.

* Translator’s note: Owain directly refers to the game names in the Western release (like “Sacred Stones” and “Radiant Dawn”).

Hayashi: If you notice, Owain’s dialogue is cut short during his victory movie (laughs).

Usuda: Of course, we planned this from the very beginning (laughs). Actually, we recorded all of his lines and Owain has two versions of his victory speech at the bottom of the Voice Gallery. From there, you can hear the rest of his dialogue. Initially, we were going to have it so that his friends were leaving him partway through and I wanted him to say “p-please wait!” We decided on this detail while writing Owain’s dialogue script. We asked the scenario team if he could speak for as long as possible and then cut out halfway through.

ND: Can you tell us about the making of the costumes included with the 3rd DLC Pack?

Usuda: When thinking of what costumes to have, there were two possible directions: traditional, i.e. serious costumes, or gag costumes. For instance, one possible gag costume was Frederick’s “Chrom Wants You!” T-shirt (laughs).

ND: At a previous event, an actual T-shirt like that was on sale (laughs).

Usuda: After consulting with IS, we decided on having proper costumes. Chrom, we wanted to see as an Exalt. Meanwhile, Lissa mentioned in her Bond Conversations about her concern of not having a Brand and longing to be like Emmeryn, so we made her a Sage with Emmeryn’s look.

ND: Was it a good choice to make her go from a War Cleric to a Sage?

Usuda: We told IS there was no problem with the design, but when it came to the actual motions, we were in a pickle. Because Lissa swings her axe so wildly, we had a really hard time until the very last minute. The length of the hem, the cloths on her arms and her back–we adjusted these three things separately and asked the character modeller to do their best. In a sense, I think we were able to preserve Lissa’s high spirits. When thinking of Cordelia in the original games, Dark Flier jumps to mind. There’s also the mental image of her going crazy with the Galeforce skill (laughs). Originally, we wanted to have Dark Flier and Galeforce in the main game, but just adding Dark Flier would have caused a lot of fuss… so we were scared to include them. We were only considering costumes this time, so we just decided to add a Dark Flier costume so you can simply enjoy its aesthetics. As for Galeforce, we gave it to Olivia as her character skill. It seemed natural since dancers specialise in providing additional actions!

–On Azura’s Diva Design

Usuda: Because Songstress doesn’t have a promoted version, we thought hard about the promoted version of it. For this promoted form, we named it “Diva”, which means “goddess” in Italian and Latin. To give the costume a divine feel, we incorporated a lot of gold elements.

ND: There’s some semblance to the Cleric and Shrine Maiden. I think I can see parts of a Bride as well (laughs).

Usuda: I agree (laughs). For the Diva, we were discussing about having a divine design with a religious feel. I think Azura’s promoted class is among the popular designs.

–On Linde’s Bishop Design

Usuda: Since Shadow Dragon characters didn’t have promoted appearances, we based it on her unpromoted costume and added gold to make it look more extravagant. Linde’s promoted class is Bishop, so we added jewels that evoke a sense of powerful magic and fancy hair ornaments, etc. Fire Emblem Warriors is an action game, so you inevitably view all characters from behind; thus we designed her costume so the changes were visible when viewed from the back. At the beginning, her hair ornament was more ornate, but we made it more curved and gave it a three-dimensional feel. Linde is also a very sexy character!

–On Navarre’s Swordmaster Design

Usuda: Navarre has a similar feeling to Lyn who appears in Fire Emblem Warriors‘s main game–a no-nonsense swordsman with swift movements. I thought it would be strange for him to wear armour, like he wasn’t the same kind of rugged character. So instead, we designed his promoted appearance with a lightweight image in mind. Because Navarre is really important, we decided to incorporate asymmetry into his design. In fact, we designed him to have red cloths hanging on both sides and a single shoulder pad. But then, no matter how we looked, there were comparisons with Stefan, a Swordmaster who appeared in Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn

ND: Fire Emblem as a series has a lot of Asian-themed designs.

Usuda: I agree. In the end, IS told us “it looks too similar”. As a result, thanks to lowering both of the cloths down to the waist and allowing the cloths to flutter around, I think we created a great design. As the fluttering increases, it really adds to the action, and it all combines to create a very nice feeling.

–On Minerva’s Wyvern Lord Design

Usuda: Since the Shadow Dragon characters didn’t have any detailed specifications for the promoted designs, we basically created the designs by referencing the artworks used for publicity.

ND: The promoted armour is rather splendid-looking.

Usuda: We tried to imagine the same feeling of the unpromoted design when working on the promoted design. If you look carefully, you can see the patterns on the armour and the design on the reverse side of the cape. We also changed Minerva’s armour because it’s an action game and you generally view characters from behind, so the differences may not be clear. We emphasized the forehead attachment so it can be seen from the back, and we made the back of the cloak look better as well. Because we didn’t want to stray from the intentions of the original design, we went for a more orthodox evolution.

–On Olivia’s Prima Design

Usuda: In her unpromoted class, you can already see a lot of skin, so we thought it wasn’t a good idea to just make her more sexy. We felt Olivia’s charm came from how she showed her skin in an organic way, rather than forcefully. Also, since she and Azura are basically counterparts and Azura can change class to Diva, we came up with a name upgrade that wouldn’t be seen as unequal: Prima. Since it was a promoted Dancer, we added a lot of gold to make it look extravagant. Also, for the unpromoted costume, there is actually one thing we changed compared to the original.

ND: Where is this change?

Usuda: It’s the fluttering ribbons attached to the arms. In the original design, it was fully connected, but it was difficult to move around like this. During the animations, the ribbon would inevitably clip into the body, so we asked IS if we could just change it by cutting it in half. After that, we tried to make it look nice and pretty, without exposing too much skin. We didn’t just add cloth to her arms and legs, we designed it so it looked like a few gaps had opened slightly here and there.

ND: What about the gap where you can see her butt from behind?

Usuda: We tried… to hide it (laughs). If we had designed the unpromoted class, we might have made some adjustments, but the design was originally like this. After promoting, it would be a bit sad if the gap just disappeared, so we kept evolving the design to retain the intent of the unpromoted class, while making the back look more extravagant.

ND: I noticed in the design pictures, the clothes are all opaque.

Usuda: In recent games, translucency can be difficult to achieve. To make something translucent, you need to create a mesh, by opening up lots and lots of really small holes. We initially designed the promoted class so it would have opaque cloth. Then we made it translucent and nothing went wrong, so we eventually decided to keep it translucent.

ND: Why did you not make Darios a playable character?

Usuda: When we were writing the game’s main story, we were planning for Darios to be rescued via DLC… Originally, we considered removing a character from the main game to add Darios.

Hayashi: While we were trying to add all the characters we needed, we couldn’t find an opportunity to add Darios.

Usuda: It’s not so simple to make a playable character even if they already exist as a NPC in the main game. There’s a lot more dialogue and animations that we need to create.

Hayashi: We also need to create Bond Conversations as well.

Usuda: At some point in time, we were thinking of having, say, a free History Map where Darios could be saved. When the Chaos Dragon was revived, Darios fell into a void in space-time, but we intentionally made it unclear if he actually died. We left Darios’s fate open-ended, so that his storyline could potentially continue. While we had a story for him being saved, we had to omit him to make other characters.

ND: Perhaps a rescued Darios could be a main character in the next game?

All: (Laughs)

ND: How do you decide the number and combination of Bond Conversations to make?

Usuda: The reason why Owain has so many conversations… there’s a special meaning to that (laughs). He’s a character that’s way up in the personality charts, so his conversations are really enjoyable. When we go about deciding combinations, I think Owain is the easiest to write for, and I can think of lots of things (laughs). For the rest, we thought about combinations where there might be interesting trivia. Although there are some characters with less conversations… There were times where we couldn’t really piece something together. In the end, I felt a bit lost. There was also a suggestion for “every character to have N conversations”, but it’s no fun if a conversation is forcibly added. Ultimately, there is an imbalance in the number of conversations, but we have to draw the line so we can proceed.

ND: Do you have any memorable Bond Conversations?

Usuda: In the 3rd DLC Pack, the overpowering Owain of course (laughs). Aside from that, there’s Olivia and Xander’s Bond Conversation. We’ve already had references to Laslow in the main story. Finally, it was time for his mother and boss to meet up. Also, in one of the time-space distortions in History Mode, Xander assumes the role of Maribelle. Originally, it was Olivia that made Laslow become a flirt. When he was a child, Laslow was shy and his mother taught him to “go to town and become acquainted with strangers to build your confidence”, and in doing so he became the flirtatious scoundrel we all know and love. Of course, it was Maribelle in Awakening who first taught Olivia about talking to strangers in town. “Go to town, approach the first stranger you see, and make their acquaintance.” In Fire Emblem Warriors, Xander says this exact line to Olivia. Not only that, but he claims “it’s a proven method [as recommended by one of my retainers]” (laughs).

Everyone: (Bursts into laughter)

Usuda: This was something we really wanted to put in Fire Emblem Warriors (laughs). Because of what Xander taught Olivia, he inadvertently ended up making his own retainer a flirt, creating a paradox! It’s a really small detail, but I personally loved it.

ND: How did you design the broken armours?

Usuda: If the clothes the characters are wearing disappear and they’re simply left with their underwear, it seems strange and impractical. If anything, I designed them in the image of “under armour”. For each character, I prepared three types of designs and decided on a good one from among them. As for Owain… we wanted to make him wear Odin’s (from Fates) kind of clothes and we had to hide his Brand. When we first designed his broken armour, the staff who were observing commented “so where has Owain’s Brand gone?” (painful grin) Because the placement of his Brand was not mentioned in the original game, we redesigned it so that the Brand could be hidden around his arms. We couldn’t just arbitrarily decide to place his Brand somewhere. Afterwards, for both male and female characters, we couldn’t expose too much skin or it might affect the age rating.

ND: Tharja and Olivia seem like a casualty of that (laughs).

Usuda: Our fundamental rule for broken armour was “to limit the amount of exposed skin”, but sometimes the opposite happened and less skin was exposed. Tharja was wearing tights underneath and, well, Olivia… we were worried about what to do with her. Will this work? You won’t notice the extra cloth unless you look carefully? We ended creating a new problem. Since it didn’t exist originally, we were unsure about adding the wraparound skirt. After Tharja’s broken model design was finished, the staff said “ahh, Usuda, so that’s your fetish”, but that’s most certainly not my fetish (laughs).

ND: Do you have any final messages for fans of Fire Emblem Warriors?

Usuda: Truly, it has been a very long development and it’s now reached a closure. We were posting on the Fire Emblem Warrior official Twitter account, but we won’t be able to speak with all of you for a while. While reading the reactions of the DLC post-release, we hope to use it as energy for development. To all the fans, we can’t express enough, “thank you for sticking with us thus far.” Thank you very much.

Hayashi: In terms of the development period, the project began at a time when the Nintendo Switch had not been revealed, Fire Emblem Heroes wasn’t released and Fire Emblem Fates had recently come out. Together with Nintendo and IS, it was nice to be associated with the Fire Emblem IP and stay close to it, while watching it grow bigger. Because of pressure, I worried if the game would play well, but since we were able to understand the audience, it was a very enjoyable project. We feel regret for the characters we were unable to include. If there’s the opportunity, I would love to make Fire Emblem Warriors 2, but that’s not something we’re working on right now. The Fire Emblem series itself has a long history. We’re also fans of Fire Emblem and we hope to support it in the future.

About the Author: Jedi
Serenes Forest Editor, Male|30, A nerd of things like Falcom, Dragon Ball, Sonic, Danganronpa, RoTK/Warriors, LoTR, Fate, FE, Power Rangers, Utawarerumono, Muv Luv, etc. Currently resides in Newport, Oregon. Working at an assisted living home called Oceanview.