The Role Playing Game, a genre focused on story and tactical gameplay has existed for many years and is still very popular today; owing a large part to some of its longest standing series such as Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Phantasy Star, and Breath of Fire. Today, let’s take a look at two well established series: the SRPG Fire Emblem series by Nintendo and Intelligent Systems and the post apocalyptic JRPG Shin-Megami Tensei series by ATLUS and the two’s crossover collaboration title Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE.
Fire Emblem is a medieval themed strategy RPG that was first released in 1990 with Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light for the Nintendo Famicom which stars Smash veteran, Marth. Gameplay revolved around tough large army battles that had an emphasis on tactical superiority through systems such as the weapon triangle (where one weapon has an advantage over another, so sword would beat axe, but axe would beat lance and lance would have the advantage over sword) as well as every unit being killed permanently. The series has seen many peaks and valleys across its 26 year existence, but even while innovating and changing up the gameplay, the series has always maintained its medieval identity Today, Fire Emblem is one of Nintendo’s most iconic franchises in both Japan and the rest of the world, with its latest release Fire Emblem Fates and its three versions keeping the series strong and in the forefront of gaming culture.
On the other hand, the Shin-Megami Tensei series is a very dark JRPG that first released in 1992 with the self titled Shin-Megami Tensei for the Nintendo Super Famicom. However even the SMT brand is in itself an offshoot of the Megami Tensei series that saw its first release for the Famicom in 1987 with Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei. No matter where you choose to start tracking the Megami Tensei lineage, it’s remained relatively similar across its own existence as well, with a focus on a more modern era where players will fight against (and often with) demons as they progress through the game.The series starting from Shin-Megami Tensei is also often in a post-apocalyptic setting as well, and across the 29 years it’s been around has seen constant spin offs and different games under the Mega Ten umbrella such as Devil Summoner, Devil Survivor, Devil Children, and the one that new generations of gamers likely know the most, the Persona series.
So after reading the above, one question may cross a lot of people’s minds: “How do you combine a medieval SRPG with a modern apocalyptic JRPG?” The concept began with Nintendo director, Kaori Ando. In an interview with Nintendo Dream, Ando stated,
At first I thought to the extent “let’s create a strategy game”. I like strategy games and Atlus’ games, so it’d be excellent to be able to create a strategy game with a world made by Atlus. I thought that Atlus’ characters have perfect personalities and roles that also suit Fire Emblem, so they are nicely compatible. (translation courtesy of Nintendo Everything)
Wataru Hirata, Chief Director from ATLUS adds, “When “Shin-Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem” was proposed, I made a request to Nintendo that I’d like to decide on the most important element. After discussions, the request wasn’t a keyword “Shin-Megami Tensei” but rather “What kind of Fire Emblem would Atlus make?” Producer Hitoshi Yagami from Nintendo ends with,
The first proposal was “Shin-Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem”, but I thought it would probably be for the best to give Atlus freedom in handling the game. It is just a little less than three years ago when we started with the proposal “it is necessary to have elements that combine Fire Emblem to some extent, but other than that let’s be flexible and try various things.
It wasn’t so smooth however, as the initial proposal was met with an uninterested response by ATLUS, stating the company was too busy. A year later however the proposal was re-discussed, and the title began to see staff and resources put towards it. This led to the question of how the game would be structured. Producer Shinjiro Takada would go to write in a blog made in 2015 about this very subject,
However, after getting together with everyone we arrived at the conclusion of: “if the development of this title conforms with the original [series], then Intelligent Systems should handle it. If Atlus are going to develop it, then it would be best to make it into the kind of title that Atlus specializes in.” And so, the direction [of the game] was decided upon. As a result, “a stage set in a modern Japan, an RPG that tells the story of realistic characters growing through various concerns and troubles” became the basis of Illusory Revelations #FE [Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE in the west]. Interlaced with the essence of Fire Emblem, we decided on the goal of making this a title that goes beyond your average collaboration. (translation courtesy of Siliconera)
ATLUS originally had the plans to utilize battles in the SRPG format as well, however Nintendo’s Hitoshi Yagami convinced the company to focus on what they’re strongest at, leading to the turn based combat system the retail release ended up with.
The title was first announced however under a much different moniker, as part of a 2013 Direct in January, when the first announcement for Shin-Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem was shown, which featured art renders of characters from both brands being shown together, and that very same year also saw production for the title begin. The Internet was buzzing from this, as the potential crossover possibilities came to mind. The initial announcement however was met with a long period of silence, as no news or information about the title was ever shown. In 2014 in an interview at E3 2014 for Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. Hitoshi Yagami said that the collab title was not delayed and was still on track (from Siliconera) but it wouldn’t be until April 2015, where gamers would see the first in-game look at the title, but for now this is where our look-back ends.
Join me in Part 2 where we’ll look at the title announced and shown in that April Direct, and really take a deeper look at what kind of game these two RPG juggernauts ended up creating together.