NOTE: This post might be updated during the day as new info comes in.[Update 4]
Gamespot Interview with Hitoshi Yamagami:
Genei Ibun Roku # FE, the working title of the Fire Emblem/Shin Megami Tensei crossover project in development with Nintendo and Atlus (and loosely translated as “Mirage Spinoff # FE”) is the result of one woman’s passion for Fire Emblem.
In an interview at E3, Fire Emblem producer and Nintendo group manager Hitoshi Yamagami told GameSpot that a Nintendo employee who loved Atlus games initially came up with the idea.
“In our team at Nintendo Co., Ltd, there’s a woman who really loves the Shin Megami Tensei series,” Yamagami explained. “This is how this all started. And when she started this conversation within the company, we were working with Atlus at the time on a purikura [decorative photography] program for DSi and 3DS. At the time she said, ‘Mr. Yamagami, there’s something I would like to do. I want to make a game that mixes Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei.’ And we said, that’s exciting, let’s give it a shot! But when we brought it to Atlus, they said, we’d like to but we can’t, we’re busy.”
Yamagami said that Nintendo abandoned the idea, until two years later Atlus approached them to revive the concept.
“When they asked if I wanted to [work with Nintendo], I was heading the Devil Survivor series,” added Atlus producer Shinjiro Takada. “So once that series finished, two years after that conversation, I said, let’s give this a shot.”
Initially the companies began building a turn-based strategy game in the style of previous Fire Emblem games. But as pre-production wrapped up and concepts were starting to take shape, both developers realized it was the wrong approach for their collaborative project.
“From Nintendo’s point of view, because it’s Fire Emblem, we thought, let’s make this a turn-based strategy game,” Yamagami said. “In the beginning, even Atlus wanted to make it a turn-based strategy, but after finishing the concept for it, I said, no, don’t do this, if you do something like this, it’s something [Fire Emblem developer] Intelligent Systems could just make with the main series.
“Do something we can’t do. That’s when we decided to make it a JRPG set in modern Japan.”
After this, initial designs were scrapped and Atlus started over making a JRPG in their own company style. It–like the Persona games–would be set in present day Japan and incorporate the more fantastical Fire Emblem elements as foreign presences from an alternate world, much like Shin Megami Tensei’s demons.
“If you’re going to be very strict about it, it is a Shin Megami Tensei game, but it’s only similar to it, it’s not exactly like Shin Megami Tensei,” Takada explained. “But we put Fire Emblem elements into that kind of framework.”
The game is set in modern-day Tokyo and focuses on two students, Itsuki and Tsubasa. The world is attacked by mysterious entities from another world, and the only people who notice are a talent agency. The two heroes join the agency and become pop stars on their quest to rid the world of these evil beings.
Fire Emblem characters appear in Genei Ibun Roku # FE as Persona-type entities called Mirages. In footage shown by Nintendo in trailers, we’ve already seen Chrom from Fire Emblem: Awakening and Pegasus Knight Sheeda from the Akaneia Fire Emblem series, re-designed in “Atlus-style” with darker, more fantastical looks. Takada was careful to point out that the Fire Emblem characters we see in the game aren’t the same exact people that appear in other Fire Emblem games; they are new versions of the characters created specifically for the crossover.
“One of the reasons [we made Fire Emblem characters Mirages] is because since it’s an RPG in modern times, we can’t have a Pegasus Knight suddenly show up and have the player think that it all makes sense,” Yamagami explained. “Because Fire Emblem has its own world, we had to have these characters enter the modern world as visitors from a mirror dimension, called the Idolosphere. And as there are ally units like Chrom and Shiida who come from this world, there are also antagonists that come from that world as well and want to destroy our world.”
Mirage Masters are the crossover’s Persona users, individuals who attract the attention of Mirages both good and evil and who can partner up with them to attack. The main characters of the game, Itsuki and Tsubasa, partner up with Chrom and Shiida respectively, the latter pair transforming into the weapons the teenagers use and alternate the pair’s appearances.
Yamagami and Takada also explained why the game is so heavy on Japanese pop idol culture and why so many characters are shown singing.
“This is why the characters are all entertainers: in Japan, similar to Greek mythology, there’s the idea of the gods being connected to the arts,” Takada said. “It’s a shamanistic element that’s been interpreted by Atlus. The idea is, Japanese priestesses would dance and the dancing would bring them closer to the gods. We wanted to spin this in an Atlus way, so all the characters in the game have some connection to the arts, and that connection and their ability to express themselves attracts the Mirages to them. People who are good at singing or dancing or acting have really strong bonds with Mirages.”
Combat in Genei Ibun Roku is a mix of top-level mechanics from both Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei. The Fire Emblem triangle-model of weapon mastery is present; the relationship between swords, spears, and axe weapons have different strengths and weaknesses and will determine how effective characters’ weapons are against others. On top of this is the Shin Megami Tensei combat staple of having to identify and exploit an enemy’s weaknesses. According to the developers, these two mechanics were a perfect fit together and easy to incorporate, giving the crossover project a true touch of both series’ combat flair.
Another interesting combat feature is characters’ special attacks, which are tied to songs. Throughout the game, some side stories will lead to a character releasing a song, which in turn will grant them another attack ability. This was added because developers wanted to give players a meaningful reward for completing side missions, much in the way completing side missions in Fire Emblem games allow you to recruit additional characters.
That being said, despite the modern setting and prominent pop-idol elements, it sounds like the game will feel at home in the hands of longtime Fire Emblem fans. Yamagami suggested that players who have been with the series for a while will have a different, deeper understanding of the game than series newcomers.
“What I’m most proud about this game is the fact that despite everything that we’ve said about it, as you play through the story, you’ll realize that, what happens happens for a reason, because this game is inspired by Fire Emblem,” he said. “So as a Fire Emblem fan, you’ll recognize why things are happening; it’s happening because it’s Fire Emblem.”
IGN Footage:[Update 4 End] [Update 3]
Venture Beat Interview with Shinjiro Takata and Hitoshi Yamagami:
[Update 3 End] [Update 2]
GamesBeat: Has it been fun to see, especially early on, how much speculation there was, and how much of it was potentially wrong?
Shinjiro Takata: Everybody is pretty much off the mark with what they’ve thought about this game, but one thing that people got wrong the most in Japan—at the end of the first trailer we announced, there was a line that said—people who are fans of Japanese voice actors knew the voice of Yuichi Nakamura. He generally voices main characters, so they were saying, oh, Nakamura’s going to voice the main character. Actually, he voices someone completely different. They were off the mark there.
GamesBeat: I was blown away by the initial announcement, because it was literally nothing — just a tease of what could be. Since then, everyone’s been trying to figure out how this game comes together. I’d bet you had a similar issue internally. How did this come together? What was it like trying to put major franchises like this into a single coherent production?
Shinjiro Takata: What happened was, in the process of making this game—the whole idea started when Mr. Hitoshi Yamagami, who is a producer at Nintendo, brought the idea of making a simulation, a strategy game, to Atlus. This was a problem, because Atlus is well known for making JRPGs. That’s our bailiwick. The next thing was, well, what do we do? Do we make it fantasy-based, because Fire Emblem is known for fantasy settings? That kind of fantasy game isn’t really what Atlus tends to put out, though. In the beginning phases of making this game, we really didn’t know which direction to push it in. Do we push it closer to Fire Emblem or to the modern setting of Shin Megami Tensei?
GamesBeat: How long did it take to get to a point where that decision was solidified and production went forward?
Shinjiro: Deciding what to make it closer to, that happened a bit after Mr. Yamagami brought us the idea. The problem is, if you make it too much like a Fire Emblem game, then why doesn’t Intelligent Systems just make it themselves? The goal for this was to do something that the Fire Emblem series can’t do. In the end, the reason the game looks the way it does, the reason the content is the way it is, is because this is something we wanted to do as an Atlus game, a game only Atlus could make.
GamesBeat: That decision came directly from playing with how the story would go? Or was it decided from the beginning that regardless, Atlus was going to take charge?
Shinjiro: No, we hadn’t done anything with the story at that point. We were just talking about it after Mr. Yamagami brought us the idea. That’s the conclusion we reached on Atlus’s side.
GamesBeat: Fans will be interested to know about the particulars of how the conversation came about. You said Mr. Yamagami put it forth. Where was that? How did the connection happen initially?
Shinjiro: I’m not too sure, since this all happened a long time ago. But the way it all started, Atlus was involved with Nintendo when we were making a Print Club app for the Nintendo DSi and the Nintendo 3DS. Then there was a conversation that started about whether Atlus might be in charge of making a new Fire Emblem game. It wasn’t anything serious at the time. I think we turned it down at first because we had too much on our plates.
GamesBeat: For fans of one or both series, the appeal is easy, but I wonder about someone who’s never played a game from either series. Is there anything that could get in the way of their enjoyment? Was that considered at all in your approach?
Shinjiro: This game was made as an entirely new IP. It may use some bits of the Fire Emblem series as motifs, but there are no demons or anything like you’d see from Shin Megami Tensei. If you know both series, you’ll notice some things and think that they’re very interesting, but we made this so that any player who’s new to the game won’t need any information beforehand to appreciate it.
GamesBeat: The visibility of Fire Emblem in particular was helped by the release of the last game in the series. It did well here in the West. I know a lot of people who’d never picked up a Fire Emblem tried the last one after word of mouth got out. I wonder if any considerations were made, maybe even a nod toward the new western popularity and acceptance of the Fire Emblem franchise.
Shinjiro: I’ve heard that the number of Atlus fans in the U.S. has been growing lately. Because of that, the idea behind making this game is that we’ll make it as if we’re making any other Atlus RPG. We’ll do it just as we’ve done before. As far as the popularity of Awakening and how it’s affected the popularity of the series in the west, we didn’t really have that in mind when we worked on this game.
GamesBeat: The previous trailers showed very small teases of battle systems or other aspects of gameplay. Was that intentional? It got a lot of people talking, to the point where we saw frame-by-frame analysis of the trailers. It was fun to look into and explore.
Shinjiro: We weren’t paying too much attention to the response to the first trailer, but we did check out some of the Japanese YouTube comments. People were making some really strange predictions. A few of them got pretty close, though. We put a lot of Easter eggs in the trailer for people who were looking hard. You’ll see that some of the posters have tikis in them and stuff like that. On 2channel, the Japanese message board, they were looking at that and doing all kinds of analysis. It was fun to watch that.
GamesBeat: So you were playing with the fans a little?
Shinjiro: We’ve put together such a big project here that we’d like fans to look in every corner. They’ll be able to see lots of different things. There’s one thing I forgot to talk about when we were discussing the way the game came about, by the way, talking about whether to make it more like Fire Emblem or Shin Megami Tensei. We were talking about different systems and had to drop certain things as far as the scenario was concerned. One thing we were worried about at first in the scenario was, how would we treat the way the Fire Emblem characters work? What we finally ended up with was a role that is very similar to how the demons are used in the Shin Megami Tensei series.
But we were wondering — should we make them into humans that can become friends with the main characters? That was one thing that changed throughout development. We were able to figure out throughout the scenario that we were going to make the Fire Emblem characters into demon-like figures, like the demons in Shin Megami Tensei. They would serve as heroes that helped your main characters in battle situations. However, one thing we were worried about was how the battle system would work here. Initially we thought it would be closer to a simulation-type game, where there would be different lanes and you controlled different characters. But in the end we made it look more like a traditional RPG. I think that’s the right decision, but we were really worried.
GamesBeat: I’m guessing that a lot of approaches must have been thrown out in the process, given how hard it is to fit some things that are so different together – not only making them work, but also making fans happy.
Shinjiro: While we were worrying about all these things, Mr. Yamagami came in and said, you should make the games that you guys are known for making. Do it the way you want to make it. While we were worrying about what we’d do with the characters’ names, how we would represent the characters from the old series in this new game, basically we decided to go the simple route and make in the way that our company is known for.
Hitoshi Yamagami: When you make something new, if you’re trying to make something out of two different things, if you just choose what’s directly in between those two things, what you end up with is extremely strange. What I told him is, if you’re unsure what to do, just make you want to make. That’s why, if you look at parts of the game, there are lots of parts that really resemble the Fire Emblem series. If you look at other parts of the game, they resemble the Shin Megami Tensei series. But the game itself stands on its own as a new game.
GamesBeat: The very first showing, the announcement, was basically just character portraits. There was a lot of room to think about what could potentially happen. When the first true trailer debuted, it was a surprise for a lot of people, because they just had these preconceived notions of how these two things would come together. Some people said, this is not at all what I expected. That speaks to some of the struggle you had, perhaps?
Shinjiro: When we showed that first trailer, just the Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei character portraits, that was basically two months after we decided, between the two companies, to make this new game. We weren’t too certain of where we would take the direction of the game at that point. We just wanted to say that this collaboration was coming.
GamesBeat: Was there ever any concern that one franchise would take a backseat to another in the way it’s come together, with Atlus having full rein over how the game looks and plays?
Shinjiro: That’s probably not going to be the case. We took the essence of Fire Emblem and tried to put it into a Shin Megami Tensei style of game, but it’s not as if one series is stressed over another.
Yamagami: When we thought about making this game, we thought, what would Fire Emblem look like in modern times? If we set the Fire Emblem series in modern times, it would be this game. This game contains elements of Shin Megami Tensei and elements of Fire Emblem that are mixed in, but really this game is being made for someone who’s new to both series to jump in and play as its own thing. While fans of either series will be able to jump in and say, oh, this is from Fire Emblem, that’s from Shin Megami Tensei, really the mix of that creates something that someone entirely new will be able to enjoy.
GamesBeat: Were there any efforts put in to really support this as a gateway, something that can bring new players to either or both franchises?
Shinjiro: In my opinion, this game is a Shin Megami Tensei-type of game. It’s a game that Atlus would make. People will inevitably be drawn to other Atlus games if they enjoy this game. Fire Emblem is a little bit different, because it’s a simulation game. It has players working with a tile set and things like that. While it’s true that they may go to play other Atlus games, I’m not so sure about the Fire Emblem aspect. We didn’t think too much about that when we were making this game.
Yamagami: What’s probably the case is that there’s a lot about the Fire Emblem series that Atlus fans would like as well. Once the two games come together, there’s something that Atlus fans will find here to like about Fire Emblem. They’ll be drawn to that. Although I said before that the Fire Emblem system of combat is a little different, I’m not bothered by the fact that the method of play for one game was a different before. I think that there’s a good chance someone who’s a fan of this game will drift over to the Fire Emblem series and try that as well.
GamesBeat: As a fan of the music from both companies, I’m curious about how the music is coming together. Who is handling the soundtrack?
Takata: The background music is being handled by Mr. Fujisawa. He’s famous as the composer from Love Live. But the music you heard from the first trailer, the singing, and a lot of other songs with voice in them, that’s being handled by a Japanese record company called Avex. We’ve gotten them to handle music for us. We’ve asked a famous producer who deals with a lot of Japanese artists to write the songs.
More info on Genei Ibun Roku #FE keeps coming in.
Itsuki Aoi (CV: Ryouhei Kimura)
– Itsuki was an ordinary high school student;
– After a certain event, he has awakened as a Mirage Master;
– He was practically forced into going to the show biz production company called “Fault Entertainment”;
– Here, his friends gather, but he doesn’t exactly share their love for the entertainment world;
– Responsible and honest;
– Has a bit of an obstinate side as well;
Tsubasa Oribe (CV: Inori Minase):
– Itsuki’s childhood friend;
– Has also awakened as a Mirage Master together with him;
– Joins Fault Entertainment as a new idol;
– Foolhardy but hard worker;
– Stays focused once her mind is set on something;
– She’s never discouraged by her constant blunders, and has an optimistic personality;
– Big fan of her senior, named Kiria;
Toma Akagi (CV: Yuki Ono):
– Itsuki and Tsubasa’s classmate;
– Mirage Master of Fault Entertainment;
– Loves “henshin” (transformation) heroes;
– A little frivolous in his speech and actions;
– Puts action before thoughts;
– He’s always wishing that he could be a hero, and is currently aiming to get the lead role in a Tokusatsu program called “Masqueraider”;
Kiria Kurono (CV: Yoshino Nanjo):
– Top musician who is supported by many young fans;
– Goes by “Kiria”;
– Mirage Master with high-level fighting abilities;
– Referred to as the “cool beauty”;
– Not many people know her in her private life;
– Senior figure who leads Itsuki and the others;
Eleonora Yumiziru (CV: Ayane Sakura):
– Mirage Master;
– Successful actress;
– Half Caucasian;
– Admires Hollywood actresses;
– Nickname is “Ellie”;
– Younger than Itsuki, but she’s a celebrity, and is his senior when it comes to her career as a Master;
– She behaves like an older sister and has a caring personality;
– One of the best looking members of Fault;
Maiko Shimazaki (CV: Ami Koshimizu):
– President of the production company “Fault Entertainment” that recruits Mirage Masters;
– Like a mother figure to the Mirage Masters;
– She’s a drinker, and has worked as a gravure idol in the past;
– Sharp and has quick wits;
– Cares about her production company comrades more than anyone;
Tiki (CV: Sumire Morohoshi):
– Key visual character of a vocal software called “Singaloid Tiki” that is currently a huge hit among Internet users;
– It’s currently an ongoing trend with the youngsters to upload new songs by Tiki on the Internet;
Chrom (CV: Tomokazu Sugita):
Master: Itsuki Aoi
– Prince from a land in another dimension;
– “Lord” Mirage;
– After coming to this world, he has lost his memories;
– Courageous personality;
– Strong sense of justice;
– In combat, he changes into a sword as a trusted partner for Itsuki, who isn’t very experienced in combat;
Sheeda (CV: Saori Hayami):
Master: Tsubasa Oribe
– “Pegasus Knight” Mirage;
– Tsubasa’s partner;
– Visitor from another dimension;
– Can’t remember anything like Chrom;
– Tender-hearted personality;
– Like an elder sister figure to the tomboyish Tsubasa;
– Lends her powers to Tsubasa by transforming into a spear in battle;
Kain (CV: Toshiki Masuda):
Master: Toma Akagi
– Toma’s “Cavalier” Mirage partner;
– From another world and has lost his memories;
– Due to his similarities with Toma, they’re like brothers who work well together;
– Transforms into a spear while in combat.
From venture beat:
This information comes from producer Shinjiro Takata:
[Update 2 End] [Update 1]
“I’m not too sure, since this all happened a long time ago. But the way it all started, Atlus was involved with Nintendo when we were making a purikura [Japanese photo booth] app for the Nintendo DSi and the Nintendo 3DS. Then there was a conversation that started about whether Atlus might be in charge of making a new Fire Emblem game. It wasn’t anything serious at the time. I think we turned it down at first because we had too much on our plates.”
Just as I finished writing this, Nintendo Everything compiled some info from the Treehouse showing:
- Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem takes place in Tokyo, like a lot of other Atlus games. You’ll see districts like Shibuya and Harajuku that have been modelled after their real-life counterparts, albeit with a few changes made in support of gameplay.
- For example; the real Shibuya is a fairly large district but has been made a little more compact in Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem. Meanwhile, Harajuku in real life has narrow streets, but they’ve been widened in the game. Atlus staff had to wake up early in the morning so that they could take reference photos of different areas around Tokyo while people weren’t up and about.
- The way the city looks changes based on events in the game. For example, once Tsubasa has made her debut as a performer, the posters around the city will change to reflect that, and you’ll hear her song playing in convenience stores and the like.
- Aside from the Mirages and Mirage Masters, there are lots of other little references to both the Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem franchises. For example, there’s a Hee-Ho Mart in Shibuya, which is a convenience store. This store is run by a shopkeeper named Shio who looks like Anna from the Fire Emblem games.
- “Performa” is one of the game’s core aspects. It is described as people’s creative energy. Mirages are attracted to Performa and suck it out of people (the evil ones do, anyway). At some point in the game, Tsubasa’s Performa awakens when she watches a concert by Kiria, and it spurs her on to pursue her own dreams of performing.
- While everyone has Performa, Mirage Masters are people with extraordinary Performa. They can also see each other’s Performa awakening, as well as when it is being sucked out of somebody, but common people can’t.
- Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem places a great deal of importance on music. All of the songs within the game are being written and producer by actual Japanese songwriters that producer popular songs in Japan, so they aren’t the kind of songs you typically hear in anime. In addition, every voice actor and actress within the game has to sing their character’s songs. This was described as a “real localization challenge”.
- There are dialogue choices within the game, but how these affect events has not been revealed yet. One choice is when Tsubasa’s Performa awakens, you can either encourage her to pursue her dreams or tell her you don’t think she’s cut out to be a performer.
- Once you’re in a dungeon, aggro works just like it does in Shin Megami Tensei IV and the recent Persona games. Enemies will spot you and begin making their way toward you. If you can hit them with your weapon before they make contact, you’ll stun them, and this will give you an advantage at the start of the battle.
- Every dungeon within the game has its own gimmicks and themes. For example; the dungeon shown off during the livestream was modelled after the 109 building in Shibuya and was themed around fashion. Other dungeons will have other gimmicks. The giant maid costume statue you see above was part of one such puzzle.
- Once you get into battles, the battle system contains traces of both Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem. The weapon triangle from Fire Emblem is supposedly in the game, and so is the focus on exploiting enemy weaknesses from Shin Megami Tensei.
- If you target an enemy with an attack they’re weak to, the game will let you know with a green exclamation mark, just like in Shin Megami Tensei. You won’t know the enemy’s weakness right away, though—you’ll have to learn enemy weaknesses by engaging them and hitting them with an attack they’re weak, too, which is again similar to how Shin Megami Tensei works.
- Characters can have Dual Arts attacks together, for which they pair up. These become available as the bond between two characters strengthens, and we assume the dialogue options play a role in this. Also, depending on the two characters in question, the Dual Arts look different. For example, Tsubasa and Eleonora have an attack where they’re singing together, while Toma and another female character share somewhat of a rivalry with each other, so their Dual Art consists of them trying to outdo each other.
- Fire Emblem levelling up music plays when your characters level up.
- The enemy you see above is a boss based on Gangrel from Fire Emblem: Awakening. He’s a Mirage that has taken possession of a fashion photographer, and you’ll battle him to free said photographer at some point in the game.
- The Wii U GamePad serves as your cellphone in Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem. You’ll get messages from your friends, asking where you are and what you’re up to. You’ll be able to contact them using your phone, and there are dialogue options within the text messages as well.
Nintendo has shared some new footage and details from Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, now being called by it’s Japanese name Genei Ibun Roku #FE, until they decided on a proper name.
You can find some basic info in the Facts Sheet below and some extra details on Serenes Forest’s E3 trailer analysis, here.