Fire Emblem Fates - known as Fire Emblem If in Japan - is out in Nintendo's homeland this week, before heading to the West in 2016. After the franchise-saving antics of Fire Emblem: Awakening the new title seems like a somewhat dramatic step-up for the series, with two alternate versions and storylines, and then a third optional storyline coming as DLC. Throw in the potentially addictive My Castle mode, and that's a lot of Fire Emblem.
With its imminent release in Japan and some lingering post-E3 buzz still in the air, Nintendo's translated the Iwata Asks for the game - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata was joined by Hitoshi Yamagami and Genki Yokota from Nintendo, Kouhei Maeda and Masahiro Higuchi from INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS, and finally Shin Kibayashi, an experienced writer that brought together the plot and core writing.
Kabayashi-san gives some of the most interesting insight, as he came into the series fresh with Awakening. It was explained that the development team weren't particularly happy with the response to the plot in the 3DS title, and Kabayahi-san took on - and then became immersed in - the task of producing the storyline for Fates.
Kibayashi: But I did feel that some parts were a little bit unsatisfying. My daughter, who was in high school at the time, said, "I want to play, too." So I gave her one, and she played so quickly. She kept playing so I asked her, "It's really that much fun?" and she said, "You should take this job!"
Yokota(reverently): I'm so grateful.
Kibayashi: She said, "But the story is kind of cliché, so I think you could make it even better." (laughs)
Iwata: She meant, "You've got to step up to the plate, Dad."
Kibayashi:That's right. So I looked into the work I had planned, and the schedule was really crazy, but there were a few things I could push back. And they told me that I only needed to write 10 pages for each of the three storylines.
Maeda: Right. Since he's so busy, I thought we could just ask him to write about ten pages for a plot summary.
Kibayashi: So I thought, "Well, I could do that." Then I started writing the story about the Hoshido family. I ended up using 10 pages on just the beginning. I ended up writing about 500 pages.
Kibayashi: When I create a story, as I write the details, like the character's lines, I start to love the characters and then they take on a life of their own, and the story begins to move on its own. So there was no way I could just write a short plot summary and be done with it.
Iwata: And without lines, the characters won't come to life.
Kibayashi: That's right. So I ended up writing a huge amount and I thought, "Well, this has become quite the task." So I gave them the pages for the first storyline for the Hoshido family and I had to write the same amount for the other two stories. I said, "There's no way I can do that." But then once I got started...I did it.
Kibayashi: I thought, "I really am an idiot." But I kept going. I ended up writing so much that it could be turned into about two books.
Iwata: You needed to meet your daughter's expectations.
Kibayashi: That was part of it. If it wasn't good, my daughter would be angry. And while I was writing, she kept asking, "How's it going?" which made me feel like "I need to make this good." So it kept getting longer, and it became a really elaborate story.
It's then explained that the team went all in with Awakening, believing it to be the last in the series, and "burned everything out". Its subsequent sales success, as we know, changed the IP's fate and prompted this new entry, and so it was explained that the only big idea that had gone unfulfilled was having multiple storylines, a definitive split where the player chooses a side. The third storyline evolved further from that, in which you effectively pick no side. It had originally been an idea with the original NES game, which had been shelved in those days due to memory restrictions.
Yamagami: I remembered how futile it seemed then, and I said, "Maeda-san, wouldn't you want to play a game where you could see what would happen if you chose the other side? I want to try this!"
Maeda: (nods several times)
Yamagami: And then I thought, if we packaged them separately, people could have the fun of choosing which one they wanted, and wondering "Which should I get?" I was really enthusiastic when I talked to Maeda-san about it, like "I really want to do that!" and he said, "Hold on just a moment." A few days later, he came by, and said, "Yamagami-san, I completely agree that we should make two games, like do you ally with kingdom A or kingdom B, but I also think that you could choose not to ally with either. So I want to do three."
Iwata: So then there was more.
Yamagami: I said, "You're just going to hurt yourself on this one." But then I said, "I love that idea of not allying with either side. Let's do that!"
Iwata: Maeda-san, why did you plan that when you knew you were setting yourself up for pain?
Maeda: Well, I thought that ultimate decisions of "do you ally with Country A or Country B" was really interesting, but thinking about it from the point of view of the players, I thought that they would definitely want the choice not to ally with either. It's really exciting to think about how the world would be if you didn't rely on either country's influence. For me, making three stories was a natural progression.
Another interesting segment revolves around the My Castle mode, in which you can establish your own village / base, building locations and homes for vendors and characters; it'll have online and StreetPass features.
Higuchi: As the name suggests, My Castle is your own castle that you can visit in between chapters. It allows players to lay out the town below the castle however they like. In addition to having conversations with the characters, players can also interact with other players and engage in battles. Maeda felt really strongly about putting this feature in because we wanted players to have other fun things to do besides just the simulation game.
Yokota: My Castle has a ridiculous amount of features too. People on the staff said, "This could be a game in and of itself."
Iwata: It has enough content to be a game? Maeda-san, you had so much work making three games, why did you add in My Castle?
Maeda: My Castle lets players experience living with the characters. We made it because we wanted players to really fall in love with all the characters.
Higuchi: And Maeda will do anything to make the characters more likable. He always tries to put in everything that will make players love the characters even more.
Iwata: And because of that you made yet another game?
Maeda: That's right. Originally My Castle was just going to be used with StreetPass, but using an Internet connection, players can visit other towns, and have battles. This was something that came out of all of the ideas that Kibayashi-san gave us...
Iwata: Wait, so Kibayashi-san didn't just write the story, he also gave you ideas?
Kibayashi: Yes. While I was working with them, I just said whatever I felt like, even though there was probably no way they could do any of it, like, "You should do this!" or "It would be really neat if you had something like this!"
Maeda: Some of the ideas Kibayashi-san gave us were things that would have been difficult to do, but when we were telling him about My Castle, he said "Don't you think that even more people would play the game if they could communicate with other players some way besides StreetPass?" So we decided to use the Internet connection so that people who lived in areas where they didn't get a lot of hits on StreetPass would be able to exchange game data with people as long as they have an Internet connection.
As always, we recommend reading the full Iwata Asks (link below). In the meantime let us know how you're feeling about Fire Emblem Fates. Are you excited about its arrival in the West next year?