"That's not Fire Emblem," one Intelligent Systems staff member said when confronted with the idea of introducing a Casual mode to turn-based RPG series Fire Emblem, which traditionally punishes carelessness with permadeath.
In an interview posted to the RPG's official Nintendo minisite, staff expressed their initial concern but growing appreciation for the more beginner-friendly casual mode.
"It's that nuance. If someone dies, you can't just go and resurrect them like in other games. You need to think more carefully about the value of the lives you're controlling in the game," project manager Masahiro Higuchi said.
"It connects with the difficulty level, too - it makes you work your way through the game very carefully, which I think makes each victory all the more exhilarating. It's one of the charms of Fire Emblem, which is probably why adding Casual mode generated a fair amount of controversy.
"But while permadeath is a part of the series, it's also something that I think kept a lot of people from trying the game. That's not good for us, if people don't even pick it up to see what kind of other things we've put into the game. And in the end we did get a lot of feedback from people who tried [Awakening] because of Casual mode, so in that respect I'm glad it's there. But I still play in Classic mode myself," he added.
Nintendo's Genki Yokota, Awkening's co-director, said the first time he heard about casual mode his first reaction was "no way".
"My boss brought up the idea, and just like Higuchi-san, I was angry at the thought of going too casual. But in the end, we figured giving players a choice would help expand the appeal of the game," he said.
"Believe it or not, now I play exclusively in Casual mode. But like Higuchi-san said, some of the fun of Fire Emblem does lie in the possibility that you can lose a member permanently at any time. Both approaches have their advantages, so it's hard to say what direction we'll take next time.
"Well, I'm pretty sure we'll have Casual mode in there, actually," he added, but said in a particularly important scenario such as a war scene, permadeath might be mandatory.
Fellow co-director Kouhei Maeda, of Intelligent Systems, said there's value to both kinds of play.
"Fire Emblem's always had this core tenet of permadeath, so doing away with that was never really something we considered in the past. But whenever we'd have new hires entering the company playing the game for their first time, they'd lose a bunch of units and get completely stuck - and thinking back, the same thing used to happen to me back when I started. So yeah, I think Casual mode was a good idea," he said.
Maeda ended up as Casual mode's ambassador when other staff stubbornly refused to come to terms with it.
"Me and Higuchi-san had been making a big stink about it, like, 'No, no - don't do it!' And then Maeda-san comes in and is all casual about it, like 'Oh, let's just try it. What's the big deal?'" Yokota said.
"Casual mode was first introduced in the Japan-only game Shin Monsho no Nazo, right? At the time, my desk was right next to Higuchi-san, and he was arguing every day with people at Nintendo about it," art director Toshiyuki Kusakihara added.
"That went on for months. Finally, one day he asks me 'What do you think about removing permadeath? My response? 'That's not Fire Emblem.' The funny thing is, when I play now, I play in Casual mode."
"For novices, or even people like me who come back to the series and are still adjusting to all the new rules and features, these kinds of easy mistakes can easily cost you a character or two. So I think it's good that we offer the choice between Casual and Classic. In online forums and such, you'll see veteran players and people who probably had their first Fire Emblem experience with Awakening still debating which is better."
The whole development confessed to resetting their games if they lose battles in Classic mode, though. The full interview is quite a lot of fun, so if you're at all keen on Fire Emblem do click through.
Fire Emblem: Awakening is a 3DS exclusive which hit the US in early February. Its European and Australian release is set for later this month.
Thanks, Shack News.