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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5. Your characters remain active even when the game is off
Iwata: Narihiro-san, what was your reaction to this new Fire Emblem?
Narihiro: This time, I observed the development of the game from a fair distance. The developers were adding in new features for so long, it made me wonder, ‘Just how long are they going to continue?’ When I finally took some time to get a look at the development, I noticed they had added in things I had never even seen before. All the people in charge of the game’s development had had their own ideas for the game. The end result was that a wide variety of new features were implemented into the final product.
Iwata: For example, what kind of new features?
Maeda: For example, even when you haven’t switched the game on, the flow of time continues in the game world. During that time, characters will do things by themselves, like going to look for items or training for experience points. Which means that, for this title, we’ve incorporated the fun of seeing what happens when you pick the game up after a while.
Iwata: So how do you find out if your comrades have picked up new items or gained experience points?
Maeda: In the ‘Battle Preparation Screen’, there is a section called ‘How’s Everyone’. When you select it, you can find out things like what kind of items your characters have picked up while the game was turned off.
Narihiro: Because time seems to have passed in this imaginary world, you get to enjoy finding out what your characters have been doing for you while you were away.
Maeda: So if you turn the game on once in a while, something different will happen each time.
Narihiro: One of your characters might have unexpectedly picked up something real good. (laughs)
Maeda: This way you might get a new item and realise, ‘Ah…with this in hand, I can do this…’ and completing the next chapter might become easier.
Iwata: Though, as was mentioned before, people like Higuchi-san’s wife won’t give the Battle Preparation Screen a single look. (laughs)
Higuchi: Next time, I think she’ll give it a proper look… (laughs)
Iwata: So finally, as the creators of the game, could you please give a message to the players?
Narihiro: Thanks to everyone, we are, on this year, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Fire Emblem. I feel it’s very significant that on this important point in the series’ history, we have been able to face all these new challenges.
This time, the younger generation of the development staff were exploring for solutions to problems in their own unique way. Among other things, during this process they were faced with looking at themselves objectively. What changes should we make to allow different kinds of people to enjoy the series?
I think the final game is the result of the accumulation of this very earnest analysis. One of the fruits of this being the introduction of the new game mode where your units are revived. I think this title is now something that offers a new kind of fun, in various different ways. That’s why, by all means, I’d like all those people, who up until now had no connection with the series, to give it a try.
Iwata: However, even for the people who have loved Fire Emblem for all these years, this is still without a doubt ‘Fire Emblem’.
Narihiro: Yes, without a doubt. On the contrary, I really wish they will play it too. I hope all the people who love the series will give it a try. Also, there is something I’d like to tell everyone who will be playing Fire Emblem for the first time. Actually, if you play the games slowly, you might be surprised to find you can make it through them all right. That’s the way these games were originally designed; if you advance through them in a rush, you’ll find your comrades biting the dust here and there, but if you’re calm and take it slowly, your opponents won’t get the chance to mount an unreasonable attack against you.
Iwata: So what you’re saying is, play the games slowly and carefully.
Iwata: All right. Next, how about you Higuchi-san? Considering you had been enveloped in that heated debate for four months.
Higuchi: This time we had arguments upon arguments and we even felt a strong conflict within ourselves. However, it’s because of them, I think, that we could reach a consensus and eventually offer players something we felt very confident about.
This might be a bit of a trivial detail, but in the beginning players can choose between four difficulty levels. After that, a screen appears asking the player, ‘Would you like to use the tutorials?’ If you choose ‘Yes’, the game will make the assumption that you are probably a beginner, and so in the next screen the cursor will be placed on the ‘Casual Mode’ option. If you choose
‘No’ the cursor will be pointing at ‘Classic Mode’.
Iwata: Ah, so you had considered even such fine details.
Higuchi: Yes, we made the game obsessing over small details. Even though this game is a remake, I think we managed to make a fresh enough Fire Emblem that, even to people who have played Mystery of the Emblem for the Super NES, this won’t seem like a mere rehash. We made the game with the aim of offering a new kind of feeling, even to those people who have been playing the Fire Emblem games before. Of course, should you be a beginner, you may want to choose Casual Mode to start off with. After getting the hang of it, I really hope you’ll challenge yourself by playing the game again on Classic.
Iwata: So you’d really like everyone to get to experience that ‘pleasant feeling of tension’.
Iwata: And next, Maeda-san.
Maeda: To echo Higuchi-san’s sentiment, we made this game trying not to make a mere remake. Instead, we’ve incorporated various new elements into this game, much like making a completely new product. One of them is the My Unit feature, another is the way your characters remain active even when the game is switched off. There are plenty of other new components too. Therefore, I feel even people who would like to enjoy a completely new game can purchase this and find themselves completely satisfied with it.
Iwata: Thank you.
I’d now like to talk a little bit about my thoughts upon listening to this discussion. With the people who are fans of the series, whenever a new game comes out, they can instantly see its appeal. As for the people who haven’t played a Fire Emblem game yet, they may unfortunately find themselves thinking, ‘Those guys who are into Fire Emblem look like they are really enjoying it, but I have to wonder if it’s really something that I could get into…’ I’m afraid they might view the series with a bit of hesitation like this.
With confidence, I can say that the essence of fun in these games lie, as Narihiro-san previously said, in this
‘pleasant feeling of tension’. Of course, games overall were originally created for people to enjoy a pleasant feeling of tension. The structure of this game has a bit of a different feel to other Fire Emblems though, allowing the players to choose the kind of ‘pleasant feeling of tension’ they’d like to enjoy. On this point, I think this is a very different kind of Fire Emblem game.
However, while you set out to make this a new kind of Fire Emblem, the same basic framework is definitely still there. Those who have previously enjoyed Fire Emblem can play this game and still find that all the basic elements are there. That’s why I’m expecting that, through this title, a wider variety of people will discover the appeal of the series.
Thank you for coming here today.
Everyone: It was a pleasure to be here.
Iwata: At any rate, Higuchi-san, you must have felt unduly blessed as a game developer to see the closest person to you enjoying your game.
Higuchi: Yes. We have a lot more to talk about now. I’m very lucky. (laughs)
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