AR: Following continued success with brand new entries into the Fire Emblem series, why choose to remake the very first game from the NES? And how long did it take to complete this updated project?
Masayuki Horikawa, Director, INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS Co., Ltd.: The main reason was because we thought that more people should experience software from the days of the NES, such as the "Fire Emblem" games released on the 8-bit system. Also, we wanted to have customers in Europe and North America to enjoy the rejuvenated story of Marth for the first time. The actual development process took around one and a bit years in total, but since there was overlap with the "Radiant Dawn" project, the actual process for the DS game probably took around ten months.
AR: Could you tell our readers a little bit about the origins of the Fire Emblem series in general? Where did the initial inspiration for 'Fire Emblem' come from and was it always planned as being a strategy RPG series?
Horikawa: Those days, most of "simulation" or "strategy" were quite semiotic and mechanical. We discussed how NES customers could enjoy simulation and we tried to add the story-telling feature of RPGs, which were very popular then, to let them feel empathy. As a result, I think one feature of RPGs, "I wanna see how the story goes next soon" and the gameplay style of being full of freedom have both merged well. As the basis of the series is supported by features of "Strategy RPGs", we will continue to make new titles based upon them even in the future. But I think all of the Fire Emblem games do not have to be so...
AR: What is the story in 'Shadow Dragon' about and can you tell us some information about the main characters featured?
Horikawa: Long ago, the Shadow Dragon that invaded the continent of Akaneia was slain by a hero. But a Century later the Shadow Dragon was reborn and once again darkness threatened to engulf the land. Prince Marth, who is a descendent of the hero, stands against the dragon with his fellows to save the continent.
Marth, the hero of the story this time, is of course well-known to those who have played the "Super Smash Bros." series. Other than him, his fellows like Shiida - a princess who gives Sanctuary to Marth; Ogma - a stalwart protector for Shiida; or Nabarl -- an adept swordsman currently hired as a bodyguard, join the story. Also, there are the opponents, like Medeus - the Shadow Dragon who reigns over the Shadow Region; Gharnef - a cruel king who forged an evil alliance with Medeus; or Camus - the General who confronts Marth against his own will, and they all help to fuel the fierceness of the story.
AR: Do you think that the inclusion of Marth in the Smash Bros. games will help to strengthen sales due to the characters being recognised by the consumer? And are you pleased with how well the game has sold in Japan so far?
Horikawa: I think his appearance in Smash Bros. definitely contributed to both sales and recognition of the brand. In Japan the sales figure so far has proven to be good and the game is performing quite well, being supported widely by long-term fans of the series, customers who knew Marth from Smash Bros., as well as new players who are now trying the series for the first time. We are definitely satisfied with the result!
AR: What are some of the biggest challenges you face when trying to remake a game that is nearly two decades old? And were there any aspects you either had to remove from the original or new aspects that you wanted to include but could not?
Horikawa: The toughest hardship was to solve what was seen as somewhat of an antinomy; trying maintain the atmosphere of the original title whilst also discovering new ways to improve upon it. Almost every feature in the original title has been inherited. Along with that, a bunch of new functionality aspects that we found useful in our latest developments on GBA and Wii have been newly adopted. For example, the range of movement or of attack, and the item inventory were not existent in the original title. I think those have made the new version much easier to play. As for what we gave up…is almost nothing! If pressed, though, we did want to add more Wi-Fi functionality or extra treasures for after completing the story. But it was a good decision not to have made it so corpulent, considering the balance of whole the game.
AR: Can you please explain what extra features have been added that were not included in the NES original?
Horikawa: One thing is a mid-map save-point where you can save the game once, and only once, during a particular map. With this function players can avoid risks of tragedy and having to press reset if Marth is slain…Another thing is that you can "re-class" characters - changing the class of almost every unit. One predictable tragedy is that a novice player loses all his/her monks and has no healing unit. Even in that case, as s/he changes the class of one character into a monk, s/he can avoid the situation where a specific class is gone completely.
One more thing is that new units will be recruited when a player loses too many of his/her corps. But please keep it in mind that those new recruits grow up more slowly than original ones. With these functionalities, re-classing and recruiting, players have far fewer risks where they face a challenge they can never ever overcome. Along with those elements we have also added various aspecs of functionality such as item merging or saving ranges of opponent units…There are so many that I cannot name all of them!
AR: This is the first time that a Fire Emblem game will have multiplayer and Wi-Fi Connection features. Can you explain how they will work?
Horikawa: Both in wireless multiplayer and in Wi-Fi, players can battle each others units or even rent some of their units. These battles take place in exclusive maps. Players choose five of the best units from their own corps. A player is victorious when s/he slays all his/her opponent's units or conquers the castle in the centre of the map. The North American and European versions will have more of these type of maps made available than in the Japanese one!
Players will be able to rent friends' units to let them join their corps; but they do actually need the same unit in their corps to start with. And please do not worry, as the unit rented from your friend's DS card is not deleted! It still exists even after being rented. Rental units will be a great help when you are stuck with a difficulty level that you cannot overcome in any way.
AR: For anyone that is still unsure about buying Fire Emblem for DS, what would you say to convince them?
Horikawa: If your friends find this title "too complex" and think it "seems to take too much time", please tell them that this is the easiest-to-start Fire Emblem in the series, as rules are carefully explained and every single map only last one hour maximum!
AR: Considering the strong sales of Shadow Dragon in Japan, will you be trying to bring more of the 'classic' Fire Emblem games to a larger audience by remaking them on DS or Wii (such as Thracia 776)?
Horikawa: First of all, our priority is to ensure that this title is favoured by enough many customers all around the world, achieving a great final sales figure. This is a message to every game player out there - please give Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon a try!
AR: Now that development of Fire Emblem on DS has been completed, can fans expect a new Wii version from the team or will development continue on DS?
Horikawa: As for sequels, I think time is not ripe yet to disclose such information, either what our exact plans are or what platform we will focus on next. However, hopefully I will be able to announce something in the near future that will make all fans very excited...
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