Fire Emblem's Casual Difficulty Nearly Didn't Make The Cut

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Fire Emblem's Casual Difficulty Nearly Didn't Make The Cut

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Fire Emblem: Awakening director, Genki Yokota, talks difficulty, consequences and permadeath.

Some games are defined by their crushing difficulty. Dark Souls, for example, isn't a cult hit despite its blatant disregard for the player's emotional well-being, but because of it. Same goes for the recently released 3DS strategize-em-up, Fire Emblem: Awakening. As in previous Fire Emblem games, when characters die in Awakening, they die for good, taking their hard earned experience with them. Unlike the previous games, however, Awakening featured a casual difficulty level in which dead characters came back to life once battles are finished. This revolving door to the afterlife was met with scorn from some long-term fans of the series, but it did help draw in new players and make the game more bearable for the tactically challenged. A good decision in hindsight, but not everyone on the dev team was enthusiastic about the difficulty mode's inclusion.

"Me and Higuchi-san had been making a big stink about it, like, 'No, no -- don't do it!'" was director, Genki Yokota's response when his boss suggested the mode.

Yokota obviously eventually came around. In fact, he admits he now plays the game exclusively in casual mode, and he plans to include the lower difficulty in the next Fire Emblem game.

"But on the other hand -- and this is just a hypothetical example -- let's say we wanted to depict a really big and serious war scene," he continued. "In a situation like that, having permadeath would help lend weight to everything; it'd be much more tense and meaningful to players if their characters' lives were truly on the line, just like in a real war. So it really depends."

Source: Nintendo

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This is the right way to do things. Having the OPTION for an easier difficulty as opposed to making the normal mode easier like AAA games have been doing.

As for FE:A itself, I still play it on regular mode, I just reset when a unit dies. Tedious? Yes. But I'm a perfectionist at these sort of things. Also, having certain levels be perma-death even in casual might be a good idea, as long as there's a warning for it.

They traded a little bit of their extremely tight focus for a whole lot of customization. Ultimately, I choose to play it on classic, but I'm intrigued by the idea of playing on casual insane difficulty to try sacrificial strategies for individual battles.

I personally would be interested in a hardcore mode where every time you press 'end turn' it autosaves, thus preventing the player from resetting to save a life, but that's just me. I'm not sure if they could implement it with essential characters that aren't allowed to die.

Awakening is just such an amazing game that I can't be upset about little things that I don't like. Especially when the game gives me the option of completely avoiding them.

As far as I've heard most people just reset when they lose someone anyway including the devs...so I don't see why this is a big deal.

Honestly as much as I love the Fire Emblem games I really don't see how keeping such a function that could be used to encourage players who are timid to take the risk and try the game.

As for the reset if a character dies. Ehh the main reason I hear people do this is cause they are doing it as their first place through and really just want the best chance to go through the game as painless as possible. To which I can't really blame them cause there have been some Fire Emblem games where if you didn't invest in certain character you could be fucked.

Personally, I'd still play the standard rules because having a character be gone forever really brings that game to a whole different level. That is what Fire Emblem does better than anyone else out in the market right now when it comes to tactical RPGs.

Moonlight Butterfly:
As far as I've heard most people just reset when they lose someone anyway including the devs...so I don't see why this is a big deal.

That's how everyone I know's always done it. It doesn't stop people from treating this like the end of the world, though.

Does casual mode actually make the game easier at all though? Or is it just the death reversal?

They could just add some new spellcaster class to revive people at a premium so you just lost lots of gold or something, they didn't need a whole mode for something like this. (unless casual mode changes things beyond the deaths being permanent)

If he really wants the game to be tense, then the game should auto-save after every move. Shitty? Most definitely. But as long as manual saves/quick saves/save states exist, then casual mode is basically how most people played the game to begin with.

In theory: permadeath adds weight to your decisions and makes you feel a penalty for bad moves.

In reality: save scumming.

From a hardcore FE purist who played FE:A on the hardest difficulty in permadeath I must say I am glad they didn't chicken out on the casual difficulty.

It is hard convincing people to try out a good game that is so unforgiving. It is a great little club to be apart of but I would rather have people enjoy FE's fun gameplay and style.

I would also openly admit that when I want to replay the game for fun I will be doing it in casual mode. Sure I love the grueling punishment of permadeath...just not all the time. I'm glad it worked out for them.

Dreiko:
Does casual mode actually make the game easier at all though? Or is it just the death reversal?

Uhm, I am not sure what you're saying here. Casual is a lot easier because of the death reversal. It removes the possibility of losing important units and lowers the risk of sending units to fight. Death reversal is the only thing that makes casual less difficult, but it makes it a lot less difficult.

As for the next part, people bitch about casual mode because it changes what was the point of Fire Emblem. Adding a unit that could revive units would displease both the people who want the classic experience and those who are currently enjoying the casual mode. The addition of the casual mode doesn't change the core gameplay and that is still the subject of a lot of hate. Adding a unit to change the gameplay would change the gameplay and would definitely get a lot of hate and honestly, that hate would be reasonable rather than the hate for some added option.

Personally i can't imagine playing fire emblem in a way where i can simply swarm the enemy with no further thought required and i'm not going to either, Classic all the way. I got no problem with the option though.

To bad. The game would have been better without it.

The fans who were angry can go dick themselves it was OPTIONAL anyone complaining about something optional needs something worth complaining about. I dont think I would have bothered preordering it if it didn't have a casual mode, because I'm really bad at strategy games. Any feature which is optional and brings more people to the series is a good thing.

Fire Emblem is a series that has typically toed the line between mediocre and good, and permadeath combined with various other stupid mechanics is one of the things always holding it in the firmly mediocre range.

The biggest detriment, particularly in the older games, was any map with Fog. In a normal map, you can see and plan logically around enemies already in place - when the combat is hard and the enemies are difficult, it takes skill and tactics to clear a map this way. Some maps threw in "surprise" encounters, like an army showing up unexpectedly halfway through the fight, and forcing the player to scramble by moving weaker units away (or just picking them up and carrying them for several turns). But those surprises were few and far between, and for the most part, could be dealt with by careful, methodical play.

Fog maps could not. You could play the most insanely boring, take-only-one-step-every-turn moves just to make sure your weak ass casters in the back aren't mobbed, and then 5 gargoyles will fly out of the mist and instakill him before you've had a chance to... well, do anything about it. And that's where the design falls apart *entirely.* It is no longer a well designed difficult encounter - it slipped into the realm of absurdity. And the combination of absurd, poorly designed artificial difficulty of fog maps with the additional artificial difficulty of permadeath mechanics simply meant that unless you had every spawn of every fog map 100% memorized, or walked around with 5 rogues to keep a 15-space area around your party lit up at all times to prevent blindside instakills, all that permadeath meant was a soft reset.

It had nothing to do with skill. It had nothing to do with tactics. You just got blindsided and characters killed, which meant you could re-do the mission from the beginning, with the knowledge that gargoyles will now come at you from the north on turn 8 (or whatever). With enough retries from the start, you can clear even the stupidest fog maps without death... but again, that is not skill. It's poorly designed artificial difficulty mixed with other artificial difficulty tactics culminating in a steaming pile of shit. I love difficult games - I love difficult games that force me to, within reason, shift and adapt to a changing fight (like an army appearing suddenly mid fight, for example). Scenarios like fog maps plus instakill, however, are precisely what kept Fire Emblem from ever really being a truly great strategy game. "Casual mode" should have just been called "play this mode to not have to deal with our shitty, outdated artificial difficulty system" and it would be more accurate.

Although I played on Classic mode, I think I may have enjoyed Casual.

To put it simply, in Classic, if a character dies, you reset. You can choose to continue on, but you'll be losing a ton of gameplay and story benefits. While this does make you play a lot more carefully, it doesn't really add any emotional weight that they want it to, mainly because losing a character can be so detrimental to the playthrough it's usually not worth continuing.

In Casual, the game becomes a little more free and strategic, where you can make sacrifice plays. The game becomes a lot more like a strategic game of chess.

So yeah, I'm glad they included it. I still don't understand this logic of "If it's easier, it will ruin it" as if the only reason anyone would want to play Fire Emblem is the difficulty.

The7Sins:
To bad. The game would have been better without it.

Yeah, that pesky check mark/drop down clutters everything up!

Something like this has literally no affect on a game's quality.

The7Sins:
To bad. The game would have been better without it.

Oh please, tell me how an optional mode that does not affect you in any way decreases the quality of a game (what a load).

Well, I for one am just waiting for that bloody thing to finally release.

To think, we were so close to an uncompromising, classic Fire Emblem.

Casuals win again

Kopikatsu:
If he really wants the game to be tense, then the game should auto-save after every move. Shitty? Most definitely. But as long as manual saves/quick saves/save states exist, then casual mode is basically how most people played the game to begin with.

Wait... Fire Emblem stopped doing this? Damn, I'm behind (haven't played the console ones and Shadow Dragon looked like shit). I know that the GBA ones did save every single move. Hector hard mode was filled with my tears... :C

my first run through fire emblem was on classic, but I didn't save scum if I got any of my guys killed. I managed to get ~ 2/3 through before I just had to give upon that file.

My next one was on casual and while I did like how permadeath gave me an incentive to be very careful with my units, I ended up having more fun without it.

Well, you could continue the game if a character died (unless it was a key character, in which case you'd need to change into your instant-game-over trousers). You had the choice of being a perfectionist; completing the game without losing anyone, or tolerating a few losses (some members of your party were pretty expendable, all told). So there was a little room to manoeuver within the if-they-die-they're-gone-forever system.

Now, having taken a moment to examine my feelings, I'm not against the inclusion of this mode in this FE installment or, indeed all that follow. It doesn't stop the game being awesome, since it's a feature you can completely ignore if you want. I agree that it might make FE an easier game to get into, which can't be a bad thing.

Personally, I wouldn't touch it. The tension of keeping everyone alive and all the precise, careful, considered tactical gameplay that follows from it is one of the series' greatest strengths, says I (a proud instant re-setter).

TheKasp:

The7Sins:
To bad. The game would have been better without it.

Oh please, tell me how an optional mode that does not affect you in any way decreases the quality of a game (what a load).

Well, I for one am just waiting for that bloody thing to finally release.

I have it on preorder, can't wait. 3DS games seem to have weird releases when it comes to US and Europe.

and i'm glad it did! playing on casual right now and absolutely love it, i just don't want to deal with people perma-dying on me. i bought 3ds just for this game without this mode i wouldn't have bought 3ds and this game so i guess it's a successful strategy to include option for people like me.

FredTheUndead:

AuronFtw:
snip

The fact you mention gargoyles shows you're referring to FE8, one of the most hilariously easy games ever made. Yet you couldn't even handle that it seems.

Your tears flow like a river, casual.

The funny part is it applies to several games, and that's just one example. I still beat every mission, got every character, and even grinded the sillyass Lagdou Ruins to unlock all the extra optionals out of boredom. The game's difficulty is not a problem - because the game isn't difficult. What I mentioned in my post was poor design - blindside instakills leading to soft resets. It's not skillful gameplay, nor does it promote skillful gameplay - it's an artificially difficult gimmick that detracts from the overall game experience without, and let me restate this because you missed the point something fierce, without actually making it any harder. It just made the game worse.

If it takes a "casual" to point out fucking shit game design, call me casual all day long. I'd rather play well-designed games that are legitimately difficult any day over the piece of shit blindside instakill soft-reset-inducing artificially-"difficult" Fire Emblem maps.

It's a fucking terrible mechanic, and like I said, is one of the worst in the series. It isn't the series' only fault - that list is really, really long and varies game to game - but it's a recurring theme that the company never seemed to rectify until now. The company fixed a mistake it made years ago and continued to make with every game until now, and some players who are incapable of seeing the difference between well-designed, tests-your-skills difficulty and artificial gimmick difficulty are mad that it's called "casual mode."

Again, a more apt name for it would be "play this mode to not have to deal with our shitty, outdated artificial difficulty system" - because that's precisely what it is. It's not skill-based, it's not tactics-driven, and it's not difficult - it's just pointless, annoying and dated. If it takes a casual to point this out, I'd rather be a casual than an idiot.

Kopikatsu:
If he really wants the game to be tense, then the game should auto-save after every move. Shitty? Most definitely. But as long as manual saves/quick saves/save states exist, then casual mode is basically how most people played the game to begin with.

Well, the thing is with Fire Emblem is that you can't save before you do a move and go back if it goes bad. You only save before and after missions and you might save if you are going to quit the game, but you can only load once from that mid game savepoint. Basically, if one of your characters die and you reset you might lose an hour of progress.

So quick saves do not exist. Except in casual mode where you can do this.

Please learn how the game works before you criticize it because this has always been the case with Fire Emblem games.

Casual is the mode that might make me play this, though I'm still a little wary of the random level ups. There's no doubt it makes the game a LOT easier but permadeath was just too finicky for my tastes, if you made the slightest slip up (not to mention if an enemy attacked out of nowhere) you had to reload.

There was a game for the DS that came before Awakening. It was the sequel to Shadow Dragon, (Hero's of Light and Shadow), which first introduced the casual mode, and it got a positive reception in Japan, but that particular game never made it overseas.

Kopikatsu:
If he really wants the game to be tense, then the game should auto-save after every move. Shitty? Most definitely. But as long as manual saves/quick saves/save states exist, then casual mode is basically how most people played the game to begin with.

The first Fire Emblem game to be localized out of Japan (Blazing Sword) Did that with the battle saves. It would save right before every action, so if you messed up horribly, you'd have to either live with the mistake, or start the whole chapter over.

How does this affect your game ?don't like casual mode ? don't play it. Problem solved

God dam... I still need to play a single Fire Emblem game D:
I've been interested in the series for long, but theres so many!

So any recommendations? Which Fire Emblems have the best story\characters?

VincentX3:
God dam... I still need to play a single Fire Emblem game D:
I've been interested in the series for long, but theres so many!

So any recommendations? Which Fire Emblems have the best story\characters?

My personal favorite is FE: Path of Radiance on the gamecube. The story was good but classic and the difficulty on normal was challenging without over frustration. Then again, it was the only one I beat so there's that. More hardcore players of the series will probably say it was one of the easiest ones but I enjoyed it. It had a direct sequel on the wii but I stopped playing that one because the characters irritated me.

Moonlight Butterfly:
As far as I've heard most people just reset when they lose someone anyway including the devs...so I don't see why this is a big deal.

Because then losing someone isn't a lose-condition, you just power through the battle anyway.

FredTheUndead:
To think, we were so close to an uncompromising, classic Fire Emblem.

Casuals win again

To think, we were so close to going through this topic without empty pretense.

"Casuals win again"...pfft.
Pray tell what the "hardcore" fans lost?

Nothing? I thought so.

Francis Racine:
How does this affect your game ?don't like casual mode ? don't play it. Problem solved

Stop invoking logic! You might wake the angry snobs.

Yopaz:

Kopikatsu:
If he really wants the game to be tense, then the game should auto-save after every move. Shitty? Most definitely. But as long as manual saves/quick saves/save states exist, then casual mode is basically how most people played the game to begin with.

Well, the thing is with Fire Emblem is that you can't save before you do a move and go back if it goes bad. You only save before and after missions and you might save if you are going to quit the game, but you can only load once from that mid game savepoint. Basically, if one of your characters die and you reset you might lose an hour of progress.

So quick saves do not exist. Except in casual mode where you can do this.

Please learn how the game works before you criticize it because this has always been the case with Fire Emblem games.

Perhaps that was the case for most of the games, but not in Radiant Dawn or Shadow Dragon. Radiant Dawn allows you to save at any point during your turn, from which you can reload an unlimited amount of times from. Shadow Dragon has one or two save points placed out on each level from which you can load an unlimited amount of times from.

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