The theme of Fire Emblem: Awakening, according to Intelligent Systems and Nintendo, is “love for the characters”. This is the primary reason that the series’ marriage system, which debuted in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, makes its return in Awakening.
While love was the driving theme, the goal for the game itself was to be the culmination of the entire Fire Emblem series thus far and to help bring in new fans, since the series has always been supported primarily by its core fanbase up until now. For this, Intelligent Systems wanted a new art style, they reveal in an Iwata Asks interview.
To design characters for the new game, the studio contacted Yusuke Kozaki, who has been involved in manga and anime, but also with other videogames such as the No More Heroes series. (You can visit his DeviantArt page here)
Kozaki had played previous Fire Emblem games before, but he’d never actually been able to complete one, which actually inspired him to take on the job. In Awakening, Kozaki got to include a lot of his personal tastes in the character design. For example, Fire Emblem has traditionally featured characters with green and pink hair in the past, but Kozaki wasn’t keen on that idea.
In order to design characters for Awakening, Kozaki felt like he had to design characters that would appeal to hardcore Fire Emblem fans as well as to new players.
He shares: “After receiving the job, I went around the fan sites, checked out their illustrations, and analyzed them, like, ‘What does everyone like about Fire Emblem?’ and ‘What’s missing?’ Then I aimed for designs that would be neither too new nor too old.”
Another piece of the puzzle to help make the characters appealing and encourage the “love” theme was giving them voices. The devteam didn’t wanted to avoid making the game fully-voiced, however, since that would affect the pace of conversations and increase the volume of the game substantially. For this reason, they decided to include rapid-fire lines of voice-acting that would help evoke an atmosphere.
Food for thought:
Prior to settling on a direction for Fire Emblem: Awakening, other ideas were being considered, such as setting the game in the modern world or on Mars.