They finally did it.
Today, Nintendo dipped into the rough waters of free-to-play mobile gaming with the release of Fire Emblem: Heroes. I found it to be an able adaptation after playing three missions, but when you’re looking at a strategy game that’s supposed to hold your attention for weeks at a time making a debut on a platform that bears little resemblance to a traditional console, you’re going to have some questions.
Fire Emblem 101
- The history of Nintendo strategy series, which has become one of its flagship franchises.
Nintendo, however, let me send some queries to its development studios in Japan over email, and Intelligent Systems game director Kouhei Maeda and Nintendo game director Shingo Matsushita responded via a translator with a few answers on how the publisher brought one of its flagship franchises to mobile. Maeda was also the game director for Fire Emblem: Awakening and Fire Emblem: Fates, two of the best-selling games in the series’ history.
Here is an edited transcript of our email exchange.
GamesBeat: Why did Nintendo decide to make gear like swords as part of your skills instead of as items you find/purchase and equip?
Kouhei Maeda: This is because we thought aggregating these things into skills in Heroes would lead to fun decisions—should you upgrade your sword’s power, or should you pick up some skills that’ll strengthen your friends?
GamesBeat: Is Dena/Nintendo handling development, or is Intelligent Systems involved?
Maeda: Intelligent Systems is handling development. It’s the team behind the main series, including Awakening and Fates, and they’re tackling this as a new game in the main series, a completely new product.
GamesBeat: Heroes is a free-to-play game with in-app transactions. Will it have a spending limitation?
Shingo Matsushita: There is no spending limit.
GamesBeat: How difficult was it to adapt the difficulty of past Fire Emblem games to mobile?
Maeda: We went through research and trial-and-error with the control scheme in order to make a Fire Emblem playable with touch controls. I think the result is a high-tempo Fire Emblem with really intuitive controls.
Matsushita: In terms of the game’s difficulty, I think one unique aspect of Heroes is how the AI effectively uses the skill system to put players in their place.
With the restricted maps, we had to make the gameplay feel like you win battles by finding clues to defeating the enemy, like solving a puzzle. That made the core game design tricky to make, not to mention each of the maps we made.
GamesBeat: Has Nintendo already planned content updates, or is the campaign complete at launch?
Maeda: We are planning for updates. To be exact, we’re planning to continually add new stories and stages, around once every two weeks. I hope everyone will be looking forward to it.
GamesBeat: What challenge did adapting the art style to mobile pose?
Maeda: There are all kinds of mobile devices out there, so keeping the art quality stable even with assorted resolutions and device capability sets was a thorny issue.