Today I translated an interview with Shinko Matsushita and Kouhei Maeda. They are the two directors behind Fire Emblem Heroes for mobile, and share some insight on the game’s background, characters, setting, the “Choose Your Legends” poll results, and where they intend to go from here.
Please link back to this page in some fashion if you quote parts of the interview. : )
I do not provide the original transcript or the scan in higher resolution than shown, though it is available by request.
A look into the world of Heroes! – Developer Interview
We ask two of the game directors for their first impressions! From info about the game to the characters in the world of Heroes, we take a look inside and out.
Mr. Shinko Matsushita
The director on the Nintendo side. He headed games such as the Fossil Fighters series, The Wonderful 101, and Bayonetta 2. He is attached to the Smart Device Production Group. This is his first involvement with Fire Emblem.
Mr. Kouhei Maeda
Director of Intelligent Systems –the company behind the development of the Fire Emblem series. He has been involved since Binding Blade, and served as director of New Mystery of the Emblem, Awakening, and Fates.
The long-awaited smartphone debut! The challenges of the new FE
Q: Mr. Maeda, you had previously stated, “I’m quite a fan of Gaiden and would love to revisit it,” so one would think you were working on Echoes [instead of Heroes.]
Matsushita: Well, Mr. Maeda has always wanted to do something with smart devices too.
Maeda: That’s right. I was curious about what new things could be done with it. Many within the company, including the producer Higuchi, felt it should have something to do with the games throughout the series as a whole.
Q: Even though this is FE’s debut on smart devices, the illustrations look really pretty in their display.
Matsushita: Yes, this is the highest resolution FE has been in its entire history – passing full HD (1920 x 1080)!
Q: I see… (Laughs)
Matsushita: If you play on a tablet, you can see the sides of the picture that are regrettably cut off on the smart phone version, too.
Q: So to start, please tell us about how this game differs from the rest of the series’ entries up until now.
Maeda: Well, for starters, there is no controller. The player has to tap and slide characters to the enemy to attack them by default…
Q: Indeed, there is a lack of a controller. (Laughs)
Maeda: Yes. (Laughs). We had to make and implement a concept that merges “simplicity” with “FE-esque strategy” while keeping to a system of sliding toward an enemy in order to attack them.
Matsushita: From the start, we emphasized trying to play the game with just one hand using your thumb. On the other hand, we thought we could make it to the DS versions which also had a tap system.
Maeda: While simple, we had to make it something that would satisfy those seeking a more FE-esque experience at the same time.
Q: This is all on one screen with a narrow 6×8 map?
Matushita: On the DS Advance Wars games’ map editor –which featured even smaller maps –you could still get away with making them quite elaborate.
Maeda: That’s right. We aimed to make the maps rich in strategy even if small with various things like what skills to equip, what combination of members to bring, and improvising based on what skills the enemy has. With so few squares, the ones that are there grow ever more important.
Q: Series veterans will be a little thrown off, right? With things like Mages losing their ability to shoot both one and two squares away.
Maeda: That’s right. Part of the reason is simply the sliding interface for the game. If you wanted to attack an enemy, you would have to add an extra step as to whether to do it from next to them or away from them –as the game cannot differentiate. So we decided to keep it ranged only.
Matsushita: Not to mention a Mage would be quite overpowered if they could still shoot near and far this time around. There were other changes in parameters too, such as Hit and Avoid being taken out.
Maeda: It helps simplify strategic logic too, as it makes the reason for your blunder much simpler: “You lost this unit because you moved them here.” This reflects in “Grand Hero Battles” too, where even the development staff wondered: “Is this degree of strategy really necessary for a simple smartphone game?” We decided to prepare a variety of difficulty levels as a result. We wanted a deeper strategic experience where you must maneuver your units with great consideration given to the enemy’s abilities.
Matsushita: So by doing “Grand Hero Battles” you improve your general FE skills too.
The mechanism behind summoning and raising heroes
Q: It really is hard deciding on which four members to deploy on a map…
Maeda: It’s definitely a good idea to bring different characters depending on the map’s needs, so you’ll probably end up using a great variety of characters. Of course, there are also situations where people grow attached enough to declare: “This team is the best! They shall fight on any and every map no matter what!”
Q: Is there a Class Change feature this time?
Maeda: There is not in the traditional sense. This game’s system instead features the “Unlock Potential” function* which serves a similar purpose. Characters can be upgraded until they reach Five Stars.
Matsushita: If one levels up the protagonist Alfonse to a Five Star unit, he gains an exclusive legendary weapon. Likewise if one levels Wrys all the way up to Five Star, he too becomes much stronger. He gains this amazing skill with an equally powerful name: “Heavenly Light.”**
Maeda: FE has a variety of ways to play, one of them being to play with characters you like. So while we made every character have their advantages and disadvantages, we also followed a design philosophy that would ensure everyone becomes strong at the Five Star level.
*TN: 覚醒 or Awakening in Japanese –same as the title of FE13.
**TN: In Japanese, it is named 天照 (Amaterasu), the name of Japan’s sun goddess, which is what he meant by “equally powerful.”
Q: Speaking of, it’s nice seeing character animations when they’re summoned.
Maeda: There are even Three Star characters which have animations. We make them in order to make some characters more appealing.
Matsushita: If we made too many though, the app’s increased storage space would become an issue, so we limited it to eight characters.
Q: According to the details of hero summoning: “You are guaranteed a Five Star character if you do not get one after 120 tries.” That’s pretty awesome!
Matsushita: Yes, this was prepared as a mechanism for those who constantly have poor draws. At the start, it is 6%, and the chances steadily increase from there until all five of the orbs feature a Five Star character.
Maeda: Though it’s very rare to get to 120 tries without drawing a Five Star.
Q: Does the probability reset after you draw a Five Star?
Matsushita: It does. It may be worth noting that probability of drawing a Five Star from any of the five orbs increases regardless of summoning orb type –it will not be affected by whatever color orb you previously summoned.
Q: What determines which color summoning orbs show up anyway?
Maeda: It’s random. It reshuffles when you return to the menu.
Q: Are there instances of people targeting just one color when there’s a specific character they’re looking for?
Maeda: Of course. If you recall Mr. Koyasu in the FE Direct, he was picking nothing but red!
Q: Mr. Koyasu’s narration was rather amusing too.
The heroes and world of Heroes
Q: Anna, from previous titles, appears as one of the “Order of Heroes,”* it seems!
Maeda: This time she serves as the player’s superior in this special group. She had appeared all across the previous games, so it was only fitting she be the player’s direct instructor this time.
*TN: Known asヴァイス・ブレイヴ (Weiss Braves, or White Braves in Japanese), in case you were wondering why they all wear white.
Q: Does that make her the Prince and Princess’s superior, too?
Maeda: It does.
Q: What are the name origins of the Askr Kingdom and Embla Empire*?
Maeda: Askr and Embla come from the names of the first man and woman in Norse mythology.
*TN: They refer to Embla as just a “kingdom” (王国) rather than empire (帝国) here.
Q: It seems Feh the Owl*, the twitter character, made it in too?
Maeda: The Order needed some sort of owl to deliver various gifts in the game, so the art director was determined to implement our social media mascot into the role.
*TN: Spelled フェー in Japanese. Apparently a play on the acronym of “Fire Emblem Heroes” (FEH).
Q: Does Feh talk in the game at all?
Maeda: Not at all. It lets out a little “Hoot!” when tapped, but that’s it.
Matsushita: Feh and Sharena get along really well, though.
Q: The story is initially nine chapters, but this can be added to at any time, right?
Matsushita: That’s right. Right now, we want to give off the impression of those chapters simply being “season one.”
Maeda: We have a set delivery schedule in mind until the end of this year, with paralogues coming out at a steady pace of every other week or so.
Q: Will we see more original characters appear?
Maeda: Yes, there are plans for such.
Q: It is refreshing seeing heroes from older games that lacked voices made new again with voice acting.
Maeda: Higuchi (the producer) was adamant about what the characters should sound like. He would direct the casting crew with orders like: “I want this character to sound this way.”
Matsushita: Ogma has the same voice actor from the OVA series.
Maeda: Yes. His voice actor from the Mystery of the Emblem OVA reprises his role. We are very grateful he accepted our request.
Q: Caeda however is voiced not by her OVA actress, but by Ms. Saori Hayami from #FE, right?
Matsushita: [Yes], we are grateful to see some of the voices behind heroes in #FE also return for this game.
Q: Is there a possibility of seeing #FE characters appear in this game?
Matsushita: Hmm… It would be very difficult for them to appear due to the differences in story and setting, and things may get complicated with the separate universes…
Q: Of course, considering the #FE mirages also came from parallel universes anyway.
Everyone showed their enthusiasm! And a deeper love for characters than once thought!
Q: You all ran a poll titled: “Choose Your Legends” on the main website before the game’s release. How were the results?
Maeda: We thought: “Wow, Lyn is incredibly popular.” I heard people overseas rallied behind her, too.
Matsushita: Lyn was the highest ranked female character regardless of country. Lucina however was more popular in Japan, whereas Ike was much more popular in the United States of America. And, for whatever reason, Donnel had a ton of votes from the USA as well –for reasons we are still unsure of.
Q: Have all the titles been released overseas?
Matsushita: They have not.
Maeda: Binding Blade and a few others have not been released overseas.
Q: I see. So one can assume Roy placed second thanks to the Japanese audience –or perhaps thanks to his inclusion in the Smash Brothers series that would have exposed him to a worldwide audience?
Maeda: We feel there were a variety of factors that influenced the votes.
Matsushita: Lyn’s popularity surprised us, it was quite unexpected for sure. Meanwhile, Marth placed lower in rank than we thought he would. Other results also betrayed expectations, such as the Awakening Tiki placing higher than the Mystery of the Emblem Tiki.
Maeda: We really appreciate the enthusiasm people all over the world showed by participating and voting in the poll.
Q: So something on everyone’s mind: characters that will be added from here on out?
Maeda: Every month, more characters will be added.
Matsushita: There are still characters from certain games that have not appeared, so we figure they will likely appear before any others. Although it’s much easier to make a cohesive story out of characters from one game, that would not satisfy people who wanted characters from other games. As such, we are seeking to expand the overall framework first.
Q: So you mean bringing in a great variety of characters from different games first?
Matsushita: Yes. We aim to make the paralogues more festive with a less serious nature to them. Mr. Maeda and the others thought to use these as a way to enliven the characters while pacing the serious parts of the story.
Q: [And finally], do you have any events planned outside the app? Perhaps plans for a collaboration with original characters appearing in Cipher?
Maeda: I wish…
Matsushita: It’s currently under consideration.
Maeda: What I love about the smart device game is that we can hear and implement all sorts of feedback and reactions we receive from customers and fans. I think it’s great to be able to receive fan responses and respond in kind, so by all means please continue to send requests and show your support!
Matsushita: Usually a fan has to wait several years before the next game in their beloved series comes out. But Heroes will now be here to fill that gap between games as it continues to grow. Now you will always have an “FE game by your side” to enjoy. Thank you for your continued support!
I did like how they talked about Mages and the range meddling, as that confused me too at first and took some getting used to. I also like how they aim to bring in a wide range of characters to try and satisfy all sorts of fans across the series.
Other nice things is knowing that there will be continued support for this game. The thought of an “FE by your side” between games should be reassuring to many fans too.
Also, Advance Wars got a mention..! For its tiny map editor, anyway.
My biggest takeaway from this interview is the trivia regarding Lyn, Ike, Lucina, and Donnel. When they released the results, they did not do it by region, but they acknowledge Lucina was more popular in Japan, Ike in the USA, and Lyn worldwide. Like us, they were a little confused to as to why Donnel placed so high! And, they consider Roy’s Smash Bros. involvement for having placed him high too. This is all in line with my analysis of the results, which makes it exciting.
A preview scan of the interview page:
And that’s that! I would like to once again thank PushDustIn for bringing the article to my attention and providing the scans.
Feel free to leave any thoughts or comments below, and spread the word via twitter or any other site for those who may be interested in Fire Emblem Heroes trivia.
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