“I wanted to make a strategy game that was more dramatic, something where you would really be able to feel the pain and struggle of the characters. That’s why characters can’t be revived once they’re killed, to impart a sense of gravity and seriousness. In turn, I think the result is that the more love you have for your characters, the more rewarding the game is.”
—Shouzou Kaga, regarding the creation of Fire Emblem
Shouzou Kaga (加賀 昭三 Kaga Shouzou), self-styled as Syozo Kaga, is the creator of the Fire Emblem series. He was a video game designer who worked for Intelligent Systems and led the development of Fire Emblem from its inception until the release of Thracia 776. In addition to leading the development, he was a major creative contributor to each game's setting, story, and presentation. In the year 1999, he left the company and founded the independent studio Tirnanog, which developed the TearRing Saga series.
Fire Emblem Era Edit
During the time he was with Intelligent Systems, Kaga was widely recognized as the mind behind the creation of Fire Emblem and was the subject of interviews and guidebook Q&A sections regarding the games.
On July 27, 1999, Kaga founded the development studio Tirnanog while he was still employed at Intelligent Systems. The last games he would work on with Intelligent Systems would be Trade & Battle: Card Hero and Fire Emblem: Thracia 776. He began designs for his next game, which was to be called True Emblem (トゥルーエムブレム Turū Emuburemu). However, he instead resigned from Intelligent Systems on August 15, 1999, just weeks before the release of Thracia 776. According to legal proceedings released during Tirnanog's later legal disputes with Intelligent Systems, Kaga was accused of taking development materials with him related to True Emblem when he resigned.
The specific details of Kaga's departure from Intelligent Systems are largely a mystery. In Nintendo and Intelligent Systems' appeal case against Enterbrain and Tirnanog, it was claimed by the latter that Thracia 776 was not originally intended to be released as a product of Intelligent Systems. Regardless, due to these legal battles, his relationship to his former employers clearly became strained. Despite being the creator of Fire Emblem, Kaga was conspicuously unmentioned in the series's 25th anniversary book The Making of Fire Emblem.
One of the final Fire Emblem titles to enter production while Kaga was still with Intelligent Systems, the Nintendo 64 title Fire Emblem: Ankoku no Miko, was cancelled in 2000. The project was rebooted and moved to the Game Boy Advance, and nearly all of the content created for the N64 title was discarded. The final product, Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, became the first Fire Emblem to release without any credited involvement from Kaga. It's unclear if Kaga's True Emblem and Ankoku no Miko were at any point the same project.
TearRing Saga Era Edit
Having left Intelligent Systems behind, Kaga and his new development company Tirnanog began work on their first title, Emblem Saga. In an interview with Famitsu magazine published on January 21, 2000, Kaga revealed that the game would take place in the same universe as the previous Fire Emblem games and even share characters. Under threat of legal action by Nintendo and/or Intelligent Systems, Emblem Saga was renamed to TearRing Saga: Utna Heroes Saga, and key story elements were changed to distance the game from the Fire Emblem series by the time it released on May 24, 2001.
However, these differences were not enough, as Nintendo and Intelligent Systems sued Tirnanog and the game's publisher Enterbrain on grounds of copyright infringement and unfair competition, wishing to remove the game from circulation. Numerous parallels were drawn between the setting, characters, presentation, and gameplay of TearRing Saga and Fire Emblem games, especially to Thracia 776. Nintendo initially lost the case, but upon appeal, they later won a settlement on the grounds of unfair competition. During the appeal case, Kaga himself was directly involved in many of the proceedings and allegations under the pseudonym "Appellee A" (被控訴人Ａ hikousonin A). However, TearRing Saga was ruled not to be in breach of copyright, and sales were allowed to continue. This court ruling set a precedent for numerous Japanese developers to make extremely similar spiritual successors without the consent of their original games' contractors.
During the legal battles with Nintendo, Tirnanog began on a second title in the TearRing Saga series, TearRing Saga 2, originally conceived as a side-story to Utna Heroes Saga following Richard's or Sennet's journeys. Eventually, however, the idea for TearRing Saga 2 was dropped, and Tirnanog decided to focus on an essentially unrelated setting instead for their next game, which was called Berwick Saga. Berwick Saga had a marked departure in gameplay from both Utna Heroes Saga and Fire Emblem, and Kaga himself was unlisted in the game's credits despite his close involvement; this was perhaps to avoid further legal troubles, as the legal dispute with Nintendo had lasted until November 14, 2004, just months before Berwick Saga's intially planned release of Spring 2005. Berwick Saga was later pushed back to December 1, 2005.
Despite having early ideas to remake Holmes's route from Utna Heroes Saga in the engine of Berwick Saga, Tirnanog ultimately produced no further titles, and in March 2012, Kaga announced on his blog that he was retiring. The ultimate fate of Tirnanog is unknown, but several members of its staff are known to have worked on later Enterbrain titles such as Magician's Academy, indicating that the company may have been bought by Enterbrain.
Vestaria Saga Era Edit
Despite his apparent retirement, Kaga announced in May 2015 that he was at work on an independently produced strategy RPG called Vestaria Saga: The Seven Sacred Rings using SapphireSoft's tool SRPG Studio. The game, later renamed to Vestaria Saga: Knight of the Fallen Kingdom and the Star Vestal, and was released as a free download on September 5, 2016 and was well received by fans. Amidst minor but vocal fan controversy surrounding the game's relationship to Fire Emblem, Kaga announced via Twitter that the game was simply a fun project not intended to compete with the Fire Emblem series. In September 2017, Kaga announced that work was underway to try and get the game officially localized into English, and in May 2018, a planned Summer 2018 release was announced.
Kaga also announced through his blog that Vestaria Saga's story would have to be split between multiple games due to its length, announcing at least four subsequent entries in the series to be released in the future: two main-story games and two side-story games. One side-story game, Vestaria Saga Gaiden: The Sacred Sword of Silverbirch, was planned for a Summer 2018 release, but it was pushed back to 2019 due to the workload. The main-story games are currently on hiatus as the development team takes a break. It is unclear whether these subsequent games are also planned to be officially localized into English.
- 1990 - Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light
- 1992 - Fire Emblem Gaiden
- 1994 - Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem
- 1996 - Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War
- 1997 - Fire Emblem: Archanea Saga
- 1999 - Fire Emblem: Thracia 776
- 2001 - TearRing Saga: Utna Heroes Saga
- cancelled - TearRing Saga 2
- 2005 - TearRing Saga: Berwick Saga
- cancelled - Holmes Saga
- 2016 - Vestaria Saga I: Knight of the Fallen Kingdom and the Star Priestess
- TBA - Vestaria Saga Gaiden: Heroes of Lukka
- TBA - Vestaria Saga Gaiden: The Sacred Sword of Silverbirch
- TBA - Vestaria Saga II
- TBA - Vestaria Saga III
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