Since I decided I wanted to write about why Fire Emblem abandoned (that’s right, ABANDONED) the N64, it only made sense to continue pushing on with one of the biggest Fire Emblem mysteries for me since I got started in Fire Emblem fandom. You see, I left off with the franchise in a pretty weird state, but as you already know, the series ended up continuing on the GBA line, and has had games for every new console since then. In other words, the franchise went back to being stable again. But the aftermath of the N64 abandonment continues, since one particular developer somehow managed to fall off the face of the Earth ever since this happened, and that person happened to be the genius who created the franchise. And yes, that genius is Shouzou Kaga.
Ok, maybe saying he’s a genius is probably no longer the correct term. But before I get into that, just a small story: as I’ve pointed out before, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems made an attempt to fuse conventional RPG gameplay (like Final Fantasy) and Famicom Wars, and that turned into Fire Emblem for the Famicom. The one who was good enough to come up with the concept was Shouzou Kaga. To have come up with a high fantasy concept with turn-based gameplay and wartime tactics, and manage to squeeze it on the 8-bit Famicom is pretty impressive. And I don’t need to remind you that it turned out to be a major success in Japan.
But apparently, all good things come to an end, and as I’ve mentioned in the N64 post, Shouzou Kaga left Intelligent Systems and formed his own studio Tirnanog after development of Thracia 776. So, now with Nintendo and IS’s out of the way, he finally had his dream, and for the PS1, he ended up creating TearRing Saga, which turned out to be a game that ended up reminding many Japanese players of Fire Emblem, and in some circles it has been dubbed a spiritual successor to Fire Emblem Gaiden. In an interview with Famitsu magazine, Kaga kind of hinted it as such:
There will be multiple main characters? Gaiden-style elements of the game?
Kaga: I’ve always thought that allowing players to choose the main character would be interesting. This time, there will be multiple “armies” that can be controlled on the world map. As for which characters can lead an army, each character has a rich background, so any character has the potential to become a main character. Although the missions that each army can undertake is fixed, but there will be a lot of freedom from the middle and onwards, and you can focus on your favourite army to progress the story.
Now, I would have normally linked to the interview in question above. But I didn’t, because the link would have led you to what happened before TearRing Saga was created, and what happened before TearRing Saga is pretty messy, but also pretty dumb. This was basically Fire Emblem for the PS1. And for some reason, the original name of the game was Emblem Saga. Needless to say, that got changed when Nintendo realized that the game was essentially Fire Emblem on the PS1. Predictably, that did not stop Nintendo from crying foul, they sued, and Enterbrain and Tirnanog, after years of legal battles (that I won’t get to here, especially since the documents are in Japanese), they ended up paying 76 million yen to Nintendo. The game still did not breach copyright, so copies remained in stores, but I don’t know about you guys, but what Shouzou Kaga did was pretty dumb. Yeah, you want to go create your own title and prove to IS that your way is the best way, but doing it in a fashion where it was obviously Fire Emblem like, with very little changes or differences, does not a genius make.
But don’t worry. It’s not like things went completely south for Tirnanog. Some years later, they ended up creating a sequel to the game, TearRing Saga: Berwick Saga, and while it retained common conventions from Fire Emblem, it finally distinguished itself and made enough changes to actually stand on its own. And who knows, it may have actually been a fun game. Of course, this turned out to be the last game Tirnanog ever made. And that meant the end of Shouzou Kaga because of this game…
…Actually, I take that back. It wasn’t even confirmed if Kaga did contribute to Berwick Saga. Based on what little information is out there — and I don’t think I need to say much on that front, because there’s not a lot of info out there — he may have stopped working for Tirnanog while Berwick Saga was in development. Either he just got tired of developing games or Nintendo was keeping a close watch on him. Whatever the case, it’s been said he wasn’t on the credits list for Berwick Saga, but that’s a rumor that hasn’t been confirmed.
Now, I ask again: Where in the world is that bastard Shouzou Kaga? It’s a major surprise that he could seriously fall off the face of the Earth after leaving IS, but you know what? That’s what happened. And trying to find anything on him now is an exercise in frustration, and, in a way, sadness too. While we don’t really know what has happened to Kaga, I think it’s somewhat clear what took place at the end of his days at IS was pretty severe. Yeah, probably should not be speculating on that front, but it’s hard to not at least consider that to be the case. I guess this is one cautionary tale about the perils of being in the gaming industry.
Anyways, I guess I should end this with a bit of hope: John Szczepaniak of Hardcore Gaming 101 ran a Kickstarter that would tell of the untold history of Japanese game developers. On the page, he talks about trying to get in contact with Kaga. For all the marbles, I hope he can. I doubt it, considering nothing’s been heard of him for ages, but if he can, you can bet I’d talk about it here.