Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE released today in North America and Europe and to commemorate the occasion, Siliconera spoke with Atlus producer Shinjiro Takada who talked about how they incorporated the Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem series into a Japanese pop idol industry-themed Wii U RPG.
How did Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem evolve into Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE?
Shinjiro Takada, Producer at Atlus: At the initial stages of planning, we had trouble figuring out how to express the essence of both games. But then we set the policy of capitalizing on the strengths of Atlus, and decided on the basics of a modern-day RPG. We then picked the entertainment industry as something to differentiate it from previous RPGs. That set the general direction.
Did Atlus and Nintendo experiment with a strategy RPG based game? What ideas did Nintendo suggest to Atlus during development? What ideas worked and what ideas didn’t work?
Hitoshi Yamagami, Producer at Nintendo: At the initial planning stage, we were trying to create an SLG (strategy simulation game). However, when we tried to create a strategy simulation game with characters from FE, it ended up looking just like the original FE, and it was hard to differentiate it. So six months into development, we changed direction, based on our suggestion to “think of an RPG that capitalizes on the strengths of Atlus”. That is how the game system was achieved.
Why was the Japanese pop idol industry picked as a central theme for the game?
ST: It is something that the Japanese people know through TV, but do not know in detail: A world that seems close by but is far away. It is also a very showy backdrop that brings out hopes and dreams. I thought it was perfect for depicting a drama about the personal growth of life-size youth.
It also has significance as a world setting. It is said in Japan that the origins of entertainment lie in kami-oroshi, or “bringing down the gods” through (Japanese traditional) dance. The main characters of the title fight to “bring down” to themselves the mirage, which is a being of another world The power of these characters is like the kami-oroshi of old, and the source of the power is linked to “entertainment”.
Fire Emblem characters like Chrom, Tharja, and Jagen look quite different in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Could you tell us about the process and how you re-imagined these classicFire Emblem characters as Mirages?
ST: As a basic design concept, we differentiated them from the main characters depicted by toi8 by using the “other world” setting.
In this other world, the world of Fire Emblem, an ancient battle is still raging. That is the setting for this title.
So the design represents the result of an evolution over a long period of time, as they kept specializing in warfare, like machines.
They retain the elements of the original Chroms, but the design reflects expanded interpretation that goes beyond that.
The battle system has elements from the Shin Megami Tensei titles such as exploiting weaknesses and the magic spells, plus Fire Emblem elements as seen in the rock-paper-scissors weapon type system and using Master Seals to change classes. Tell us about developing the battle system. How did you blend together these ideas? Did you try other systems that didn’t work?
ST: The very first idea was to prepare advance guards and rear guards, to bring out the characteristics of class in Fire Emblem. This made things too complicated and the pace was not good, either. So we drilled down on the Fire Emblem strategic elements, and arrived at the nucleus, which we thought was the 3-way deadlock (a rock-paper-scissors weapon type system). This was highly compatible with the battle of attributes of Atlus, and we were able to perfectly meld them together. We tried to bring over from both series the names for skills and items, but attribute battles require many skills, so the Atlus RPG basically remains stronger.
As for class changes, I think everyone on staff thought it was normal for it to happen.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE takes place in modern day Japan and players can visit places like Shibuya and Harajuku. How did you recreate these real life locations for the game?
ST: We first decided on locations as places that many people would have seen on TV, and that are plausibly related to the entertainment world.
Then the designers in charge of maps scouted the locations… There were so many people that we had to film many times in the early morning hours.
How were the intermission periods in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE designed? What elements of the lives of characters and what story themes did you want to focus on?
HY: By “intermission”, do you mean the time between one chapter and another in the main story?
If that is the correct understanding, our creative intention for the intermissions is to show how Itsuki, the main character, who is usually running around to help other characters, goes into strict training to become a professional entertainer.
Given the setting, music is a key part of the game. What was it like working with Avex Group on music for the game? What suggestions did they have to match music with the game’s theme?
ST: The entertainment industry being the background to this title, we did not match the music to the game, but matched the game to the music from Avex. That is why we asked a producer who is in charge of many popular artists to create the music by using songwriters who are actively writing hit songs in Japan, in the same way that they actually provide top artists. A voice actor said that the recording of songs is different, that they take longer, with more detailed instructions.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is now available on Wii U.