—So, for starters… this time around, the game doesn’t take place in the continent of Akaneia of the previous installments, right? Was that the plan from the start?
Kaga: There were many people who supported the previous games’ characters, truly, as well as enthusiastic fans, so there was quite a demand for a continuation. However, so far, we’ve made Dark Dragon and the Sword of Light, then changed it a bit with Gaiden, then went back to the original with Mystery of the Emblem, but I thought that now a certain amount of time was needed. However, I wonder if the dedicated players would find it odd if we gave the Fire Emblem world a new form, when it has already been so firmly fixed? Anyway, since we can’t make an incomplete product, this time we took up the challenge of creating another world, like in Gaiden. I still want to make another Akaneian story, but…
Moreover, as an additional reason, I wanted to try my hand at making a large-scale historical drama, myself. Each character could stay being a character but, more than that, I wanted the history to be the protagonist; I had an urge to make a drama with a large-scale setting, in which you could feel the movements of such history.
—And that’s why the maps became large?
Kaga: Indeed. We’ve made the maps that large because the world itself was broadened. The previous map size made it feel like it was a limited-scale war, and even if there were events here and there it didn’t make you feel like it was a large world. Through the system we used this time around, many of those large regions can exist at the same time, and influential individuals of each region can move independently… I thought it’d be able to express such dramatic developments. We also made it a long story going across two generations – parents and children – with that in mind. Feeling the movements of a large-scale story while letting the player shape the future depending on their playstyle were points we tried to implement.
—The game system has suffered drastic changes this time around, but first tell us about the reason behind the change in the item and weapon trading system.
Kaga: In the system used so far, you’d surely concentrate money and items on the characters you’d use, while you really wouldn’t give the others a chance. However, I thought that isn’t good, overall. Favoring a particular character and making him or her strong isn’t bad, but that isn’t all there is.
I design things so that all characters have strengths and shortcomings. For instance, a certain character may be very strong, but doesn’t really have a strong weapon; another character might not be able to break through the battlefield, but has a rich special ability. By giving them such treatment, they grow while helping each others as a whole. You might not understand it unless you play a lot, but I believe each character’s role will be decided naturally and unconsciously. Moreover, if for instance two characters become lovers, they become able to exchange money even though they couldn’t before, which could be a compensation point.
Having explained that… the second gameplay reason was that, for instance, I thought I’d be able to add some depth to the pairing choice process or something.
—It seems that the money system became quite severe. What do you have to say about it?
Kaga: Indeed. This time around, we thought and decided on a rather strict concept of money. The personal money system derives from that. Actually, repairing and a number of other things cost money. The weak dudes can’t win in the arena; therefore, they can’t earn money and, as such, they can’t buy good weapons – this cruel side is pretty obvious. On the other hand, it becomes easy once one engine gets going.
We’ve done this because we want the player to advance all units in a balanced manner, not leaving any of them behind. Our aim was to make it so that, if you don’t distribute experience equally and make your units equally strong in each chapter, it’ll be hopeless later on.
—I see. By the way, I’d like to ask about the movement system – cavalry units are now able to move again after attacking, right? The tactical options have broadened a lot…
Kaga: We’ve characterized the cavalry-type units. Moreover, we wanted to avoid the so-called
“yattsukemake” pattern (T.N.: “yattsukemake” is the term the Japanese use to refer to one kind of enemy phase character death – specifically, the one in which the character kills too many opponents for his or her own good, and ends up dying from the accumulated damage dealt by the extra enemies). In an actual battlefield, there’s no way one character will be able to occupy one place, so it’s kind of odd to say he could make a “wall” there. We went quite far in order to prevent that kind of thing, and this is the result.
Therefore, I believe cavalry units are tough enemies. Maybe you won’t be able to feel that against the enemies under low commander levels, but the units under high commander levels make concentrated attacks. For instance, in the first half, Eltshan’s troops are like that. They’ll certainly focus their attacks on one character, so even if they’re only dealing 1 or 2 damage they’ll keep coming, so they’re quite dreadful.
—Since you’ve talked about commander levels, why were they implemented? I do believe it gives a strong feeling of a battle between troops, but was that the intention?
Kaga: Yes. There’s that too, but first and foremost I wanted to give an intellectual image to some characters. For instance, there was Camus in the previous game, right? As his creator, my image of him was an extraordinarily competent commander, but that couldn’t be expressed through the stats so he ended up being simply strong. I wanted to display this intellectual side inside the game, this time around.
—Now, about the featured love system… it works like the previous installment’s support system, right? Can we think about it as its development?
Kaga: Indeed. Since it had been an unilateral instruction from the creators in the previous installment, there were some who were dissatisfied. Since each player plays putting their personal feelings, I’m sure there were some like “but he isn’t that kind of guy!”, etc. Therefore, this time around, we’ve fixed some things on our side, but the rest is up to the player. I don’t think whether this kind of situation is what the players would want, but we tried to include that possibility anyway.
—Is that the reason why your units are able to have conversations?
Kaga: Yes. It’s an answer to the requests of those who wanted to know a bit more of the background in the previous installment. Moreover, we thought of letting the players control it as they see fit, since it isn’t like you can’t clear the game if you don’t talk.
—Thanks to the love system, the second half’s development changes completely, right? The story naturally remains the same, but the simulation strategy changes considerably. Having to pair characters so they have children in order to clear the game isn’t too harsh?
Kaga: Truly, the game becomes easier if you pair units and raise strong children. However, since it’s a strategy game, we’ve adjusted the game balance to make it enjoyable especially for those who play without pairing anyone. Pairing characters and making children is fine, but after doing that until a certain point, I’d want players to have fun with that scenario at last.
—Then the children of pairings get bonuses, so to speak?
Kaga: Basically, yes. However, since balancing is part of my fun, it might be quite severe (laughs). I believe the first playthrough will be naturally severe, so things are arranged so that around half of them will be paired if you don’t do anything special.
—So, lastly, I’d like to ask about the next installment… you already have plans, right?
Kaga: Indeed. I’d say that inside of my head, many of the fans are asking me to go back to the Akaneia saga, to develop it a little further. Before, it started with Marth escaping from the island, right? For instance, there’s a lot of story up to that point. And there’s the setting’s history, as well. There’s Anri’s story, which was shown to a degree so far, but there’s much more to be known of it. If that prologue shows potential to be a good game, I believe it’d be worth a try. However, if we were to do it, it’d be for 64, right? I wonder if it can be done (laughs).