With Fire Emblem: Awakening emerging on North American shores this week, it seemed only fitting that Nintendo President Satoru Iwata was joined by the team behind the game in the latest instalment of Iwata Asks. Usually Iwata-san interviews three or four members of the development team, but this time - as if to stick with the theme of the series - Nintendo's chief assembled an army from Intelligent Systems to talk about its upcoming game.
During the discussion the team revealed how the game had become bogged down during the early stages of development as they tried to figure out how this game was going to pan out. The game's project manager, Masahiro Higuchi, revealed that they came close to dropping the medieval style setting altogether in favour of a more modern environment.
That game was nearly titled Fire Emblem 2011, but Higuchi explained how this idea never really got off the ground:
We made proposals that were a complete departure from the medieval worldview so far — like Fire Emblem completely in the modern world or the one which has the sense of an fairy tale. But they were too far out, so we couldn't get started. (laughs)
Scrambling for ideas the developer even came up with an elaborate plot that would see the Fire Emblem universe head to Mars. This idea didn't last too long as it was promptly shot down by producer Hitoshi Yamagami:
I was like, "Is that even Fire Emblem?!" (laughs) In the end, such a drastic break didn't go very well.
I proposed to Higuchi-san and Maeda-san that instead of a complete departure, we could make a culmination of all the Fire Emblem games so far — and their eyes lit up. (laughs)
This culmination of ideas became the foundation of the game, the developer put every idea from past games into a melting pot and solved problems that arose on the fly. Something the team especially focussed on was the new bonding system, in which characters grow closer to one another through battling side-by-side and engaging in further conversation at base-camps. There's even a marriage system thrown in for players to engage with, allowing those characters who grow especially close to become eternally partnered.
Dual battling is also a big feature in Fire Emblem: Awakening, allowing characters to team up with each other to defeat foes. Doing this will enhance their bond, making them stronger when fighting side-by-side. Genki Yokota, the director at Nintendo, explained that the duel system results in various styles of play with some players choosing to team up with other characters while others will go into battle alone.
One area of the game that has caused much controversy is the addition of casual mode, and it appears even the members of the development team had differing opinions on it. Higuchi in particular appeared to have his doubts on the addition but in the end said he feels casual mode opens the door to new players who may be scared off by Fire Emblem's hardcore nature. Masahiro Higuchi is obviously a big fan of the series and says he hopes seasoned Fire Emblem veterans would join him in playing the game in 'lunatic' mode, the hardest difficulty setting.
Kouhei Maeda, the game's director, has managed to finish it on lunatic mode, calling the difficulty "incredible". Other members of the team have yet to master it though with development producer Tohru Narihiro saying: "lunatic is beyond me".
As we explained in our Fire Emblem: Awakening review, we thought the game mixed the casual and hardcore elements brilliantly.
What are your thoughts on these new insights into Fire Emblem: Awakening? Will you be playing in lunatic mode or will you be opting for a more casual approach? Let us know in the comments section below.