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.”