It contains some fun tidbits for the first Fire Emblem game to come to the west (The Blazing Blade), and FE in general, so I encourage you all to read and share.
- Tohru Narihiro (Producer, Intelligent Systems) (Left)
- Kentaro Nishimura (Director, Nintendo) (Right)
On the big system changes and ease of play
–What was the concept behind this game?
Narihiro: The primary focus was to enable people do not play SRPGs to enjoy it. This was the same for the previous title, (Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade). We wanted to change the image of the SRPG genre being inaccessible. Since it was planned for the GBA, we aimed to make a deep and enjoyable story while keeping it compact.
–You were handling it as kind of experiment, right?
Narihiro: In The Blazing Blade, I wanted to thicken the parts of the story people would enjoy. First, I made a very easy-to-understand story as a base. Then I added the details in character relations and other layers which would be accepted by a relatively wider range of people.
–On the system side, the difficulty has been made considerably easier, hasn’t it?
Narihiro: I think it is not just for Fire Emblem, but it’s also a question that is being asked about today’s games in general. The concept is like being able to play the game without reading the instructional manual. The idea was that we wanted one to be able to enjoy the story without tripping up right at the start.
–I had the impression that the game itself was easier to play overall.
Narihiro: Indeed. There aren’t significant differences in units’ strengths and weaknesses, so you can use all the characters who you recruit along the way. Of course, the weapon triangle system returns from previous games, but we wanted to avoid a situation where one could just use a single weapon to dominate.
–What is the main new feature of this game?
Nishimura: The Tactician system, of course. Up until now, the player was the main hero. But there was something that always felt strange with that as the story naturally progressed (laughs). For example, if you moved just one unit and then moved the hero right after, then the remaining characters are being told what to do one by one by the hero even after the hero has moved. It left me wondering how that works.
–Well, when you put it that way, it does feel strange (laughs).
Nishimura: That’s right. So, we figured shifting the player’s perspective to a bird’s-eye view (the point of view looking down at the whole from the top), would better help the player enter the world of the game without that experiencing that strange feeling. We felt the role of the Tactician was the best for this. When it came to the aspects of the hero moving other units and interacting with other characters, I thought that the Tactician was the most fitting position to do this.
Narihiro: In truth, it was not an easy task to implement the Tactician system. There were arguments among the staff. If you add new elements, it can become difficult to properly convey the story… but we got quite a passionate request from Nintendo (laughs).
Nishimura: To tell you the truth, the Tactician was originally supposed to depart to some unknown place at the end of Chapter 10. After that, Eliwood would become the main character with the traditional system (laugh).
Narihiro: But Nintendo found the Tactician system to be quite nice, and so they passionately requested that the Tactician be put in as they are now… it was awfully problematic (laughs).
-You can also choose the gender of the Tactician. Are there any differences depending on gender?
Nishimura: There are (laughs). By selecting the gender of the Tactician, the dialogue of the characters that appear will change slightly.
–Things like Sain thoughtlessly approaching you if you are female? (laughs)
Nishimura: That’s right. When the Tactician is a male, Sain has a surprisingly plain attitude (laughs).
Narihiro: In past entries, the characters didn’t turn to talk to you. So that’s why I think it’s fresh concept.
–Another trial feature is the “Augury” system that gives advice.
Narihiro: There was debate over the inclusion of this as well, but I thought it would be good to get advice on difficult battles, recruiting allies, or for general tactics.
Nishimura: Actually, this was more popular than expected. The test players who were fans of the series had negative views at first, saying things like “what’s with this hint system? This wasn’t here before…” But, once the “Augury” became available in game, they all steadily started to use it (laughs).
Narihiro: Even if unused, we ensured it is messaged pretty clearly in the story. But, there are times it may still go unnoticed (laugh).
The appeal of the characters and basic themes of the story
–I think a unique appeal to Fire Emblem is the characters. Is any consideration given in regards to setting these characters up?
Narihiro: Even though all aspects [of a character] are not shown in the story itself, we create them meticulously one by one. Each character is loved by at least one member of the staff (laughs).
–It makes it all the more painful to continue when one of your allies fall due to this very appeal, huh?
Nishimura: It certainly is a subtle aspect. This is not a game where you have to make sure you have all your allies survive, after all.
–There is a scene where an important character dies along the way. What was the reason behind including this death scene?
Narihiro: This is a recurring theme throughout the series. The game is one with fighting, but is not just about fighting. The underlying theme of the series that we want people to feel is the foolishness and fickle nature of war and battle. This has been the continuous theme of the series.
Nishimura: The Fire Emblem series is one where you cannot revive characters when they die. It’s not a matter of dying once and simply reloading a prior save point, either. Expressing the weight of a life is a theme passed down generation after generation that we want to express. The game might end after just one more turn, but it will certainly end when one dies (laughs).
–Even when you reset after being defeated, it is kept on the game’s record. That is rather cruel (laughs).
Nishimura: That’s right. We make sure [the reminder] is right there in front of you (laughs).
Originally there were 3 scenarios planned…
–Three different characters appear with the Lord class. Why is this?
Narihiro: The main characters have not been that powerful in the series so far. This is due to the focus being on the drama of an inexperienced protagonist meeting friends that support them and help them grow throughout the story. If the protagonist is too strong, it could mean that they end the battle all by themselves (laughs). So until now, the main protagonists were relatively weak. However, when we thought about it from a player’s point of view, we figured it would be nice to have a strong and varied cast of main characters.
–Were there any plans to change the main characters along the way?
Narihiro: Actually, in the original concept, we were planning to make three routes depending on the difficulty. The main character would be different depending on whether the difficulty was Easy, Normal, or Hard. However, I did not want to use the terms “Easy”, “Normal”, and “Hard.” Instead, I opted to express the difficulty level as Lyn’s story, Eliwood’s story, and Hector’s story. We then put it all together and the final product ended up retaining that kind of idea.
Wanting those who never played the games to enjoy it as well…
—In the commercial, you use Ken Hirai’s song, and the game screen itself doesn’t appear much in the video.
Nishimura: This time, we wanted to appeal not only to the long-time fans, but also to new groups. We wanted to create a commercial that would completely change the image from “just a game”, and it ended up taking on this form. In doing so, we were able to make this a topic among audiences we had not been able to reach up until now.
–What does the player base look like?
Narihiro: There are two mountains. One is the upper grades of elementary school into junior high school. The second is people in their mid to late 20s.
Nishimura: However, we did not aim for any specific player group. If one has the literacy learned in elementary school, then they more or less can enjoy the game without any restriction. We made the game with an emphasis on ease of playability, so we would like anyone from the young to the old to play it.
Narihiro: Ah, getting the elderly to play it would be great (laughs).
Nishimura: Since it is a Simulation game, there are some parts that are similar to go and shogi. I think it would be easy to understand and play just by trying it even once.
–Are there any differences between the players of different genders?
Nishimura: Most male players fall in love with the system, and the female players mostly love the story and characters. The female players were fine with things like the system and growths, and were more into things like “Who are the parents of my favorite characters?!” which surprised us so much that it broadened the staff’s horizons. (laughs). That was the main difference between them.
–I think there are many players who replay the game multiple times.
Narihiro: There is replay value to the games, and there are many players who already play through [our] games multiple times. This time, we prepared some rewards for those who play multiple times. So, we think there are some things to look forward to that will probably make the player go, “Oh!” upon seeing them (laughs).
–One of the biggest features is that there is a high degree of freedom in regards to how to play, right?
Narihiro: There really are different ways of playing for different people. Depending on the person, one can do things like going through the game using only indirect attacks, or fully leveling up every new character that joins the party, or just enjoying the story at a leisurely pace.
Nishimura: When we looked at the save data of the people who test played for us, the characters were used pretty evenly. From Mages to Pegasus Knights to (armored) Knights, everyone was used on the whole!
Narihiro: With each playthrough, a story unique to that person is completed. Even if the same person were to replay, a different story can play out. This, I would say, is the charm of Fire Emblem.
–Lastly, please give the players some strategic advice.
Narihiro: I want players to steadily use the new items and weapons without hesitation. Special items are there, too, and if used properly, the player can clear the game without problems even if they lose some people.
Nishimura: I want players to utilize the tips from events, character conversations, and the Augury. The Augury is especially convenient, so I recommend that first-time players use it.
Narihiro: I think that it will be a smooth trip to the ending of this game, so please disregard any preconceptions you may have and enjoy the story to its end.
That’s that! Most interesting to me was the mention of the Tactician’s original role ending after Chapter 10, as well as the varying difficulty levels.
There aren’t many interviews on The Blazing Blade from what I saw, either, so I am happy to have done this for posterity.
On a final note, while I am confident in accuracy, I feel my translation ability has slipped when it comes to interviews, hence some of the very awkward readings. If any information seems off, inconsistent, or completely wrong/inaccurate, I have provided the original source for your cross-reference.