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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Article: Making Sense of Illusory Revelation #FE

Yes, it's here, folks. A gameplay trailer or the fabled Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem crossover has finally landed, with the revelation that it looks nothing like either game. But rather than scratch our heads over what exactly is going on here, we can turn to logic and reason... I guess... And try to analyze this trailer and it's many hints towards the merging of both universes. Who knows? Maybe you'll learn something you missed before. (Pictures of specific examples will be uploaded).

The World:
At numerous points, a stylized version of Tokyo is depicted, with lots of color and variety. More traditional Japanese buildings are seen, with convenience stores, city streets, some sort of club, and additional flashes of mysterious locales displayed. There seems to be some dungeon design here, with tight corridors and pathways, and in the distance of the nighttime sequence, we can see some sort of magical gate blocking progression. Something sure to play a key role in the story is the prominent '106' building. The scale and space of the city sequences actually looks quite impressive, and I wonder how large the maps will be

"Where is the Fire Emblem?"
Though it may seem hidden, there's a number of explicit references to Fire Emblem within the IR#FE trailer- the most direct in one of the animated cutscenes. When the main characters are in their school setting, there is a glimpse of their uniforms that reveals the coat of arms for their school, which happens to be the titular Emblem itself. Does this mean the school and it's students are directly tied to this world of fantasy? Perhaps, or it could just be a cute nod for the fans. With a developer like Atlus, however, it's more likely this potential fan service has a deeper meaning. Also present in the animation is a stylized Pegasus, which goes from a traditional look into a... Chariot thing. More on that later. With several shots featuring characters riding on these strange gestalt creatures, it is safe to assume that not just the Pegasus, but Horses, Griffons, and even Wyverns will be receiving transformations themselves.

Within the gameplay itself, there are more cues. There's no doubt the blue-haired protagonist is meant to evoke the familiar appearance of a certain Hero King. In a few of the travel/Overworld shots, there are posters seemingly depicting Tiki, a legendary Manakete from the original game. Perhaps she is a celebrity in this universe? What is most interesting is that the characters seem to transform into the avatars of the Fire Emblem universe, possessing their iconic characteristics. So these people are masquerading as legendary heroes... But why?

It might have something to do with the ghastly monsters. Which brings us to the to a more in-depth discussion about the gameplay.

Turn-based shenanigans: 
There's a lot going on in IR#FE's battle system. While it looks relatively simple on the surface, let's take a look at some specific elements.

All of the battles that take place in the IR#FE trailer seem to have some sort of stadium or coliseum as a backdrop, where a countless number of fans are spectating the events. This undoubtedly a result of the story, and probably the reason our Fire Emblem characters make their appearance. But what is this place? Some sort of arena? Or perhaps it is the only place where these characters can exist? This may not be the case, as our Pegasus Knight seems to be out in the open at the end of the trailer. It is unsure if we'll see more battle locales or not, however there does seem to be some variation in these battlegrounds, though small.

The battle sequencing does seem to follow the structure of Shin Megami Tensei or Persona more closely, with character icons being shown on a bar that also previews the next turn- an interesting thing to note is the size of this bar- perhaps it is scaled in such as way that can accommodate large amounts of enemies, but there is a lot of space in between turns, which makes me wonder if some positioning/movement akin to the Fire Emblem series will take place in that down-time. Pure speculation.

Three characters are set in the battle party, but a key detail is that these characters vary in appearance on several occasions. Sometimes, the four party members that seem to make up the central cast appear in school- or casual wares, even in battle and when utilizing mounts. At other times, their outfit seems completely transformed. Another example still is that some attacks and units seem to have more generic faces than others. What meaning this has is unclear, but it may have to do with a very present element, which is the class symbols that are associated with each character. These symbols are present during dungeon travel and in battle, and depict a style of weapon and maybe even some visual cues that imply that heroes and classes might be one and the same. Throughout the trailer, we see some impressive attacks, including some team-up aspects, but there's also a number of other characters that appear to be fighting on the party's side. Maybe a larger team, akin to Fire Emblem, is an element at play.

The monsters themselves look less horrific, though at some times a bit unsettling. We know that there will be more than just monsters, however, as some shady characters make their appearance and seem to be humanoid.

Most of this article is merely a reaction to the footage shown, however I have heard a number of complaints about the art style and seeming lack of elements from both franchises, which I wanted to address. In any case, I am sure many of my guesses and unanswered questions will be resolved as the game moves closer towards release, which is a tentative "holiday season" for Japan and unannounced for western territories.

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