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Developer Interview

8-4:

You mentioned earlier it was part of the plan from the start to release this game overseas. Were there any other aspects of the game design besides the art where you took that into account?

Kusakihira:

Sure -- another example is the first-person camera in the battle scenes. We didn't know whether it would be popular or not, but we made a calculated risk that people in the West would like to see the action take place from their own perspective. We also wanted something that really showed off the fact this was a 3D game...

But more important than targeting the West in particular, we wanted a set of visuals that anyone could easily comprehend and enjoy. For example, here's a smaller detail: The cursor in these sorts of games is usually a triangle of some sort, but for Awakening, it's a pointing hand. That's just one small part of the effort to make it easier to understand, visually.

8-4:

You talked a little about DLC in the Iwata Asks, but I was hoping you could elaborate a bit on your philosophy or thinking with the DLC\what you wanted to achieve with it, and what you wanted to avoid.

Yokota:

Once we finished up the main game, myself, Maeda-san and the rest of the IS group began discussing what sort of things we'd like to see in the DLC, stuff that people would like to see after playing all the way up to that point. We talked about having extra stages with characters from older games, giving people really cool items, that sort of thing. That was the starting point...

8-4:

A lot of the DLC introduces characters from past games. How did you go about choosing which legacy characters to include?

Yokota:

We just used the characters Maeda-san liked. (laughs)

Higuchi:

The idea was that we'd concentrate on main characters from the past games; then we debated over which ones felt right to include. Ultimately it was up to Maeda-san, though.

Maeda:

We talked about which characters were the most popular, and which ones people would be most excited to control [as playable characters]. That was what I tried to base the decision on.

8-4:

You've completed two full rounds of DLC so far in Japan -- is that everything? Any plans for more in the future?

Higuchi:

No comment. (laughs) Well, if we have the chance we'd certainly like to do more, but as of now there are no plans for a third round.

Yokota:

There aren't any plans, but if there's a demand for it... (laughs)

8-4:

What about Advance Wars? A lot of fans in the West wanted to ask if we'll ever see Advance Wars again?

Yokota:

(laughs) Hey, who should answer this?

Higuchi:

Well, whether it's Fire Emblem or the Advance Wars, we never want to put an end to any series we're involved with. We always want to make games that provide a lot of fun to gamers, so if we have the chance, we'd certainly like to make another [Advance Wars] title.

8-4:

Are the two teams -- the Fire Emblem team and the Advance Wars team -- mostly the same people, or is it just a few key members that overlap?

Higuchi:

Well, depending on the timing of development, the people at the top might be different because they can only focus on one project at a time, but generally speaking, the main staff creating the games consists of the same people.

8-4:

OK, just a few final questions -- first, favorite moment or battle in Awakening?

Higuchi:

My favorite... Well, both of my favorite moments take place during cutscenes. One is when Marth makes his first appearance early on in the game, and the other is when the Fell Dragon Grima first appears later on. Both of those scenes are really major turning points in the story, and I hope everyone gets to see them both.

Maeda:

As far as battles go, I really like the final stage. The first time you see it, it really throws you. It's like "Whoa, what is this?!" Even people around the office were saying that while we were developing it. (laughs)

Kusakihara:

People were all saying "We want to fight THERE! Let us fight THERE!" and finally everyone said, "All right, let's do it!" -- but all I could think was: "Why doesn't he just roll over?" (laughs)

For myself, I think it's Chapter 10. In terms of story, music, and just how it looks, it's a really great stage -- the sort of thing that sticks in your mind for a while to come. It's not a particularly happy part of the story, but it's a part I like anyway. Also, I really love the scene in Chapter 21 where [X confronts Y -- edited for spoilers]. It made me cry a little bit.

Higuchi:

Maeda-san made you cry... (everyone laughs)

Yokota:

This is the first title to have voiced characters in the story sections, and I enjoyed a lot of the spoken lines there. I like the way Chrom and Marth's lines about changing or challenging fate really describe the whole game...

As for maps, I like Chapter 18, where parts of the level are gradually overtaken by lava. It puts you into a panic while you're playing it, but I think it's really fun.

8-4:

We asked before what the most difficult part of making the game was -- what was the best part? What is your favorite memory of developing Awakening?

Higuchi:

Well, when a new title has been greenlit and you start work on it, all you can think about for a long time is how you have to get this done. But then finally one day, I remember we got the completed main musical theme in; when I heard it, I felt like "Wow, things are really starting to come together!" In a lot of respects, that moment I first heard the theme was really the happiest inspiration I had for the whole project.

Maeda:

I think it was all the playtesting. (laughs) From the perspective of a developer like me, maybe I shouldn't say this, but there's always -- or hopefully there is -- that moment during the project where you're doing some playtesting and you have that sudden realization like, "Wow, this is actually pretty fun!" It's a great feeling.

Kusakihara:

The thing with this project was that once we got started, we didn't have a lot of leeway as far as the schedule was concerned. We had to work on a lot of different things in tandem throughout development, handing out assignments to all these different places and trying to put them all together once they were done. Because of this approach, it felt like there wasn't much going on for a while, and then all of a sudden, things came together really, really fast toward the end. It really felt like we'd accomplished something, which made me incredibly happy because things often got pretty crazy up until then...

Yokota:

Three different occasions come to mind. First, for someone like me who's been familiar with Fire Emblem for a while, hearing the news that we were going forward with the project was really a rush. Next was when I heard that we were going with Kozaki-san for the character designs; that was another "All right!" kind of moment. The third overlaps with what Maeda-san said: that time spent playtesting, trying to figure out which classes and parameters and maps were the best was a lot of fun.

8-4:

This one's super random, but, we noticed you often refer to Awakening as the 14th game in the series. But many fans consider it the 13th game. Which is it?

Yokota:

Ah, that. (laughs) Well, there was a version of Fire Emblem released for Nintendo's Super NES Satellaview service in Japan in 1997. If you include that, then Awakening is the 14th Fire Emblem game. Satellaview: A satellite modem peripheral and network service that debuted in Japan for the Super NES in 1995. The service was discontinued in 2000.
BS Fire Emblem: Akaneia Senki: A set of four short Fire Emblem games broadcast on the Satellaview service in Japan beginning in 1997.

8-4:

OK, I think we're about out of time! Before we go, anything you'd like to say to your fans in the West?

Yokota:

Awakening offers a lot of choices to the player in terms of classes, characters, and how you build your team and advance through the plot. I'm hoping that players enjoy carving out their own story in the world we've provided, and enjoy swapping tips and different play styles with their friends.

Kusakihara:

One thing you'll find is that in giving your troops new classes, you'll often find a surprising character/class combination that actually winds up working really well. Try looking for things like that -- classes that make characters look really cool and stuff. (laughs)

Maeda:

As we talked about, we tried to get everything we could into this game so both series veterans and people new to Fire Emblem can enjoy it, so I'm hoping that both audiences can enjoy Awakening. Oh, and Advance Wars fans, too. (laughs) A lot of Advance Wars team members worked on this game, after all, so I think AW fans might have fun with it, too. (laughs)

Higuchi:

While the core of this game hasn't changed that much from previous Fire Emblems, it's a really new experience with the 3D graphics and voicework. That goes for the music, too; you can hear snippets from the main Emblem theme throughout the game -- it really helps add that unique atmosphere the series is known for in a wonderful way.

Also, we talked earlier about how this is a story about the bonds between people, but especially with the marriage and child-based story elements, we've put enough volume into the scenario that, no matter what kind of a player you are, you're guaranteed to find your own story. I'm hoping that people will play through the game not just once, but multiple times to see what kind of new stories they can unravel.

Yokota:

Higuchi mentioned the music, but I want to stress that I think it really turned out great. We used up a lot of (memory on the cartridge) just for that, you can enjoy the music more by listening with earphones on. [laughs]

Also, you're able to create your own unique characters and children in Awakening, and I'm hoping that people take advantage of the StreetPass features to share their characters and create their own unique teams as well.

Higuchi:

By the way, I mentioned earlier that Tharja was my favorite character, but since everyone else went with her too, is it all right if I change my answer? (everyone laughs)

(after a pause)
I'm gonna go with Cherche. She's the first character that Kozaki-san came up with -- I didn't use her much in battle, to be honest, but she seems like a good wife and mother. (everyone laughs)

8-4:

Fair enough! Thanks for talking with us. We really appreciate it.

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