Creating Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade

https://medium.com/gaminglinkmedia/the-development-and-reception-of-fire-emblem-the-binding-blade-6487a57c351f

Following the release Fire Emblem: Thracia 776, Shouzou Kaga and Mayumi Hirota left Intelligent Systems, with Tōru Narihiro taking over as director. Takehiro Izushi remained as producer, Masayuki Horikawa as designer and scenario writer assisted by Kouhei Maeda. Takafumi Kaneko would be the new programmer. Eiji Kaneda worked on character designs with Yuka Tsujiyoko returned as music composer.

Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade would be an original story set on the continent of Elibe with the protagonist being Roy, set within a war between Humans and Dragons. It’s working title was Fire Emblem: Maiden of Darkness and it was planned to release on the Nintendo 64 and the 64DD. It was believed by the team that because the Super Famicom lacked adequate hardware, the Nintendo 64 and 64DD would make it possible to create the game they envisioned. It was in the middle of development when the games internal development structure changed and in addition the poor reception of the 64DD that development restarted in 2000. The Game Boy Advance was then chosen as the new platform and because of the restart the team had to cut the majority of work they did for the original version. They did manage to retain Roy and Karel during the transition.

Being the first Fire Emblem title to be on a portable device, but not the first time Fire Emblem was considered for a portable device, the team was happy that the GBA had the capabilities needed. Another reason it was chosen was to remain within their deadline and keep costs reasonable. Though the platform was much better than the Super Famicom they still had their challenges. The hardware was still new to the team so they created two versions, one was made to give the team experience working with the GBA. One of the main problems was since the GBA was portable, it had limited screen resolution and size, so they needed to create ways to compensate for that since every title prior was done with TV resolution and size in mind.

In contrast to prior games, particularly Genealogy of the Holy War, the story was not complex. The spectrum of good versus evil was made apparent, with the game’s objective clearly laid out. They added in a branching narrative, with different characters opening different story routes.

To make the character relatable to both a younger and wider audience they designed Roy to be seen as youthful, careful and easily relatable. They also, contrary to the previous titles designed the Fire Emblem to be a family crest, rather than an item.

The difficulty also reflected the steps they were making in drawing in a wider audience as they intentionally reduced the difficulty to make sure it wouldn’t be as hard as Thracia 776.

On it’s May 29, 2002 release in Japan the Binding Blade snatched the 4th spot on the sales charts, dropping to the 17th spot by May of the same year.

Famitsu as you may have guessed regarded the game positively giving it a 36 of 40 score. RPGFan’s Woojin Lee claimed the game’s animation was some of the best on the GBA, noting the added features in comparison to the previous titles and how easy it was to develop an emotional link to the characters causing permadeath to be more impactful.

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