Credits: Illumio, Michael “Hardin” Ingram, Pandorakun, Crazy Foxie (proof-reading), Sami R (translation)
Notes: This interview was first published in July 2010.
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4. Suitable for people who don’t know about Marth
Iwata: So that’s why, for this Fire Emblem, you decided to let the players choose a game mode in which your characters can be revived. What are your thoughts on this, Narihiro-san?
Narihiro: Of course, Fire Emblem’s characteristic game style the fact that you can’t revive your units creates an enjoyable sense of tension. Without a doubt, it is because of all the gamers, who have supported this type of game, that we have been able to continue the series for so long.
On the other hand, it’s undeniable that this unique system might appear troublesome to players new to the series. With Casual Mode, where your units are revived at the beginning of the next chapter, we have finally managed to act on this problem. When I think about the future of the series, I believe this was a very good decision.
And even if you choose to play on Casual Mode from the very beginning, it doesn’t mean that your experience will turn lukewarm. If you think about the game within the context of a single chapter, when you lose a unit your group’s chance of success will still clearly diminish.
Iwata: That’s why the feeling of ‘I don’t want to lose any of my valuable comrades’ is still present in Casual Mode.
Narihiro: Indeed. That’s why, instead of the usual ‘Ah… I’ll have to press Reset again and start over…’, with this Fire Emblem, we’ve managed to get closer to the style of play we were originally aiming for at the beginning of the series.
Iwata: And so Maeda-san, after the debates that lasted for four months, you were finally convinced?
Maeda: Yes. Naturally, I want Fire Emblem to be enjoyed not just by fans, but by everyone.
Narihiro: By the way, when we were making this game, Higuchi-san’s wife played Fire Emblem for the first time.
Higuchi: Ah yes, that is true. (laughs) We’ve been married for about 10 years now, but she hadn’t touched a Fire Emblem game once… But all of a sudden, she told me that she wanted to give one of the games a try…
Iwata: What do you think made her want to play a Fire Emblem game?
Higuchi: It seems that her friends recommended it to her. So I handed her the Wii game Radiant Dawn. Compared to when I joined Intelligent Systems when I first got to play Fire Emblem the situation was reversed. This time I was the one behind her back, observing a beginner playing the game.
Iwata: So now it was your turn be a pain, telling her ‘you should do that here’ and so on. (laughs)
Higuchi: Yes. (laughs) I would give her advice like, ‘You should soften the enemy from a distance with arrows, and then finish them off with a sword user’ and she would obediently do just that, over and over again. And yet, she would get so delighted after managing to defeat just a single enemy…
Iwata: Seeing something like that must have made you think, ‘Is that really worth getting so excited about?’ (laughs)
Higuchi: That’s right. Moreover, while it’s normal to check the ‘Battle Preparation Screen’ before you begin the chapter, so you can decide who to take with you, she would move on without giving it a single look! Seeing that kind of play style felt… very fresh to me.
Iwata: For a moment you could see yourself as you were 14 years ago.
Higuchi: Yes. I found out a lot about how beginners play the games.
Maeda: And since then, your attitude towards beginners has grown gentler.
Narihiro: Up until now, it’s been hard for him to agree with what I’ve been saying, but after watching his wife play, he was suddenly convinced. (laughs)
Iwata: And it’s not just Casual Mode either. With this game you’ve made a thorough effort to come up with schemes to accommodate beginners.
Maeda: Yes. We’ve designed the game so that even people who have no experience with Fire Emblem can smoothly enjoy the story and the world of the game. For example, we may be well aware that the protagonist of this game is Marth, but…
Iwata: Because you’ve been making these games for so long, there was a danger that you might have ended up making this one with the assumption that all of the players already know what kind of person Marth is. Of course, if they’ve played Smash Bros. (13), they might still know who he is more or less, but in case they’ve played neither Fire Emblem nor Smash Bros., it’s natural that they’d wonder, ‘Just who is this Marth guy?’
Maeda: Actually, the people from Nintendo also pointed out to us that it was hard to get a clear picture from the game about what kind of person Marth is. That’s why, even when it came to telling the core story of the game, we thought it was best for us to begin by introducing the gamers to Marth. For this, we made use of the ‘My Unit’ feature, a new feature introduced in this instalment to the series.
The My Unit feature allows the player to create the type of character they want. He or she is basically another main character in the game who the player is supposed to project themselves into. The My Unit character interacts with various other characters in the game, Marth being one of them, and these interactions help the player get to know the world of the game.
(13) Smash Bros.: Marth featured as a playable character in the GameCube game Super Smash Bros. Melee and the Wii game Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Iwata: Were there any disagreements regarding this My Unit feature? You might think that, upon seeing them, the long time fans might go, ‘Eh…? Who is this?’
Maeda: Of course there were debates regarding this. For the people who had enjoyed Mystery of the Emblem, the game’s story was complete as it was, so some of us thought that this feature was unnecessary. But we didn’t just want to create a carbon copy of Mystery of the Emblem. We also wanted to add interesting new elements. Because we didn’t want to create a mere remake, we created the game with the intent of using Mystery of the Emblem as a base, and implemented new features into the game system itself.
Iwata: Certainly, if it’s more than just a copy of the original, it’s a bit more interesting even for the people who had previously enjoyed Mystery of the Emblem. They’ll play it and occasionally say to themselves, ‘Ah… So they’ve changed this bit here’.
Maeda: I agree.
Iwata: Incidentally, for people like Higuchi-san’s wife, people who have had no experience with tactics-based gameplay who don’t know even know basic strategies like weakening your enemies with archers before closing in to finish them off what kind of measures did you take to ease them into the game?
Maeda: With this game, you begin by creating your My Unit. Then, in the prologue, you have to pass a military exam in order to join Marth’s army.
Iwata: In other words, during this military training, the player naturally learns a variety of game strategies.
Maeda: That’s right. The prologue itself is made for exactly this purpose, though we’ve tried to make it a story arc that even Fire Emblem fans can enjoy. It’s enjoyable by itself, but will give beginners a chance to smoothly learn about the game.
Iwata: That’s very difficult, isn’t it? Devising a tutorial for novices, which teaches them how to play the game starting from the very basics, and at the same time making it so that experienced players can enjoy it from the very beginning. Doing both of these at the same time is quite a challenge.
Maeda: That’s what we aimed for this time. But no matter what, when you make something in the form of a tutorial, while beginners may get the chance to learn a lot, it tends to make experienced players think, ‘C’mon, I know all these things already…’.
Iwata: A very thorough tutorial can be a real pain for them.
Maeda: So we made every effort to make the tutorial itself as enjoyable as the main game. And you get to know what kind of person Marth is as well. (laughs)
Iwata: So to sum it up, this game is very gentle towards beginners, while having plenty to offer for fans of the series as well. It’s a new game structure for Fire Emblem.
Maeda: It is indeed.