Note: Do not repost the full translation. Please use the first two paragraphs and link to this translation. For additional information, please read this post.
Some spoilers follow for Fire Emblem as a series, specifically for Genealogy of the Holy War and Fates (for Fates, he spoils a character death). I will use spoiler tags in this article, so don’t hover over things you don’t want to see.
This is the rest of Sakurai’s interview from the Making of Fire Emblem: 25 Years of Development Secrets. The other part had to do with Smash, so I translated that first as a matter of priority. This one is focused more on the Fire Emblem series.
The scans have been graciously provided by X Kan from Kantopia. If you are interested in learning more about Fire Emblem’s history and development, then Kantopia is the go-to website for it. For more information that has come from this book, check out this compilation post.
“I would like to keep watching the evolution of Fire Emblem into the future”
Tactics meets a world where you can be defeated in one blow
Fire Emblem is a stimulating experience, and that’s what makes it fun
Interviewer: Please tell us about how you first encountered Fire Emblem.
Sakurai: I think that Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light (henceforth referred to as Shadow Dragon (NES)) was released before I’d spent a year at HAL Labs, and I was really drawn to the spritework and animation. That feeling of satisfaction when a pirate cleanly hits with his axe (laughs).
Interviewer: (laughs) You played the first one, but did you play future entries in the series?
Sakurai: Generally speaking, as soon as they were released, I bought and played them. There were some where the release window overlapped with a particularly busy period and I gave up halfway through, but I’ve touched upon every entry in the series, and I’ve beaten most of them.
Interviewer: Among those, which titles stick out the most in your mind?
Sakurai: I think it has to be Genealogy of the Holy War (henceforth referred to as Genealogy). In Awakening and Fates, when a child is born, it’s a happy occasion. [su_spoiler title=”Genealogy of the Holy War spoilers” style=”fancy”] But in Genealogy, the people in the parent generation meet their ends in incredibly tragic ways. As if all of the people I’d been “raising” until now were tricked and fell victim to foul play…As if they were exposed to evil on all sides and then killed. That was very devastating, very impactful to me. [/su_spoiler] I think there are a lot of fans who had similar reactions to Genealogy.
Interview: Anything on a “game-level” feel?
Sakurai: The Genealogy-era games were pretty difficult, and I got stuck many times. You reset to try to do something about it, but those maps were so big. So, even getting to the point where you were previously is a lot of work, and sometimes if you saved in the middle you would end up in an unfixable situation, and I do remember those parts being particularly tough.
Interviewer: Specifically, what parts did you find tough?
Sakurai: If I had to say, I feel like Fire Emblem as a series resembles Daisenryaku.1 You consider the delicate rock-paper-scissors balance between your various units as you plan your attack. For example, archers are effective against fliers, and you have to think about things like that as you move forward…I wonder what it is. Regardless, there’s too many one-hit-kills (laughs).
Interviewer: Even though it’s a simulation game that you have to really think about (laughs).
Mr. Sakurai’s playstyle, and Awakening, which he considered the definitive game
Interviewer: Are you the type of player who can’t let anyone in your army die?
Sakurai: Of course I am. [su_spoiler title=”Fire Emblem Fates spoilers” style=”fancy”] Well, in Fates Kaze died, though.2 [/su_spoiler]
Interviewer: You didn’t get your support levels high enough.
Sakurai: How am I supposed to know that on the first playthrough!
Interviewer: (laughs) Still, is aiming for a “perfect” playthrough where no one dies how you approach the entire series?
Sakurai: I don’t think you can call that a “perfect” playthrough. That’s a normal playthrough. I mean, if you let characters die, on a basic level that makes the game harder, and if people that are supposed to be alive aren’t, it makes the story confusing. I mean, I know the story itself progresses as normal regardless, but then you might lose small tidbits between the characters. If you don’t know what kind of enemies are going to show up in later chapters, you should really play with the assumption that you can’t let anyone die. There aren’t any characters that I think, oh, it’s okay if this one dies.
Interviewer: I see. Are there any characters you like in particular?
Sakurai: As characters that contrast each other, but serve a very similar role, Ogma and Navarre from Shadow Dragon (NES) made an impact on me. If you’re going to use one, Ogma is much more stable, reliable. Navarre can take out a lot of enemies, but he also dies a lot, is how I feel. That contrast was interesting.
Interviewer: You didn’t like Wrys?
Sakurai: Let’s not talk about Wrys (laughs).
Sakurai: Of course, I did use him. He’s a healer that you get very early in the game.
Interviewer: In Shadow Dragon (DS)’s “Sakurai Asks” you talked about changing Wrys’s class to Myrmidon.3
Sakurai: Ah, he was so weak as a Myrmidon…I ended up thinking, characters really do have their own unique characteristics (laughs).
Interviewer: And in Awakening, the I think the series ended up changing directions a little, what do you think about that?
Sakurai: I really like it. When Awakening came out, I thought, this is the definitive Fire Emblem game. Until now, I’d felt every game in the series was especially good at one thing, but was lacking in another, was missing a piece, but Awakening had really good balance, or how do I say it– I thought this game was perfection, that it just felt really complete.
Interviewer: It was trying to be the grand sum of everything Fire Emblem.
Sakurai: And I thought Mr. Kozaki’s character art was perfect too.4 I’m sure depending on the person their interpretations will be different, but that’s how I felt.
Interviewer: So Fates has the Birthright route and the Conquest route, which one fit your style?
Sakurai: For me it was clearly the Birthright route. This is just for me, of course, but because I had Fire Emblem Festival, I really had to rush.5 So I had to really focus a bit more on the story.
Interviewer: I see. So that means you had to rush through Revelations as well?
Sakurai: Yes, I did at least beat all three routes, but in regards to the specific tactics reserved for those routes, I don’t think I was able to really fully enjoy them.6
1. Daisenryaku: A war simulation franchise where you traverse a hex-based map with units that can manufacture resources, and such. The first game was a game for the PC, and was sold in 1985 by SystemSoft.
2. [su_spoiler title=”Fire Emblem Fates spoilers” style=”fancy”] In Fates, in Chapter 15 of the Hoshido route, if Corrin does not have a support level of A or higher with Kaze, he will die as part of the story. [/su_spoiler]
3. Sakurai Asks: Normally, Iwata is the interviewer for “Iwata Asks,” but for Shadow Dragon, Sakurai conducted the interview. Here is a link to a translation someone else did of that interview. I haven’t read the original so I can’t vouch for it’s accuracy, but it looks pretty good.
5. This footnote is a translation of an actual footnote from the interview: Fire Emblem Festival was a 25th anniversary commemoration event, and hosted the talk show there. On the pamphlet, there is a comment that says “this session is only thirty minutes, and all I’m going to talk about is the priest, Wrys. Are you okay with that?”
6. This interview was conducted right before the Fire Emblem Festival. The Revelations route was released on August 9th, 2015, only two weeks prior.
Read the second part of the interview here!
If you enjoyed this translation, let us know on Twitter!