Devil Summoner Guide Interview

DoubleJump Productions. Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner: Prima Official Game Guide. Random House Information Group, 2006, pp. 244-247.
Offical website: www.DoubleJumpBooks.com


We thought it would be nice to get a little “behind the scenes” info about the game, so we made the trek to sunny Southern California and sat down with some of the key people responsible for bringing the game to America. Any good interviewer asks questions which he knows are burning in the minds of the fans, so we did what any good guide makers would do, and had the fans ask the questions themselves! We invited members of our forums at www.DoubleJumpBooks.com to ask questions and this is what we got.

The following were answered by: Tomm Hulett & Nich Maragos (Editors for Devil Summoner)
Shinogu: Is there a chance of bringing the first two Shin Megami Tensei titles outside of Japan? I know the subject matter of these games, particularly the second one, is controversial, but it’s likely that there are many fans and gamers who want to know the whole story.

Atlus: Those games are very old, so the thing keeping them from being localized isn’t the controversy, but more the fact of how old they are. We don’t develop games at Atlus USA, so there’s no way for us to port them or reprogram the old games ourselves. If Atlus Japan wanted to remake them for the next generation, we would obviously consider localizing those games for fans of the series, but in my opinion it’s better that Atlus focuses on newer SMT games which can take the series to places it’s never been before.

Cho: Its been mentioned that there are plans to continue the story of Kuzunoha Raidou. However, does this mean we won’t see any more Devil Summoner games set in modern/futuristic times, like the original and
Soul Hackers?

Atlus: That’s all up to the development teams at Atlus Japan! While they have hinted that Raidou’s adventures might not be over, we still don’t know what that means for the direction of the series, or even if “Kuzunoha Raidou” will stay linked with the “Devil Summoner” name, but, just like the fans, we’re eager to find out.

Noccy: Considering SMT’s background as generally being a “War on God,” do you find it at all difficult to get these games approved for the US market? And is it any  easier than it was in the past?

Atlus: Really, only the core SMT titles have anything to do with fighting God. DDS, Devil Summoner, Persona have far diff erent goals (at least for most ofthe game). Contrary to what gamers seem to believe, there is no “content approval process” that games have to go through before being “accepted” for American audiences. While some console manufacturers do have concept approval, that focuses more on gameplay, graphics, and the marketplace than it does on the actual storyline. Also, whether or not to censor content (hint: we don’t), is up to the publisher of the game. Since the creation of the ESRB, content guidelines have been in the hands of the people making the games. That content is then rated accordingly before it’s released. Nobody is forcing anyone to remove content from their games.

Ninja overlord fuma: Is there any future plans to make a SMT game on the PS3?

Atlus: From recent comments in interviews it might be a possibility. However, that’s all up to Atlus Japan.

Dead to Rights: Are there any plans to release Devil Summoner in the US for the PSP? Or Shin Megami Tensei Nine for the Xbox?

Atlus: There are no such plans at this time. We want to focus on new entries into the SMT series.

Dead to Rights: Concerning the US title, why did you choose to go with the Soulless Army instead of the
Super Power Army?

Atlus: We felt that “Super Power Army” sounded a bit too goofy to be taken seriously. So, we had long discussions about the best name for that (since it is a part of the game). We really focused on the in-game
elements first and foremost, and then decided on the actual game’s title afterward. Th ings like “Super Power Army” can’t really be directly used, because it sounds decent in Japanese, but in English—not so much. However, concerned gamers can take comfort that the new name fits within the game and doesn’t alter any story elements or connotation.

RentCavalier: What prompted you to place Devil Summoner in the 1920s-esque era?

Atlus: While we can’t speak for the original development team, we all felt the setting was a great change of pace from the usual MegaTen fare. After all, you can’t place all your games in modern-day/near-future Tokyo, right? We think the setting is very interesting, since it’s not a side of Japan that Western audiences see very often. Also, to help people get into the era, we sprinkled the English text with some authentic 1920s slang. I’d ask fans to let us know what they think, but I’ve been to enough message boards to know they’ll do that anyway.

EvilHero: Did Kaneko ever consider doing the artwork for Persona 3, or was he too busy with Devil Summoner to have time for it?

Atlus: They keep Kaneko pretty busy over there, and considering how many MegaTen titles we’re getting nowadays (Devil Summoner and P3 within a year of each other?), he can’t work on them all. The arrangement seems to have worked out, as both Devil Summoner and Persona look amazing.

EvilHero: I remember there also being an SMT game announced for the DS. Is there any word on that yet?

Atlus: SMT was mentioned as a possibility on DS, but no actual game was ever announced. As far as we know, nothing has changed on that front.

EvilHero: Any thoughts on the Megami Tensei novel that started it all? I’ve always been curious about
this piece of literature.

Atlus: So have some of us. Unfortunately, Atlus is not in the book publishing business.

Jesse Beall: Were you surprised by the warm reception of the SMT series by RPG fans in North America? What plans do you have for the series on the PS3?

Atlus: We always knew there were fans who would appreciate the dark, mature worlds of the SMT titles. We’ve been releasing Persona for years, after all. It’s certainly a relief that the games are getting recognition, because otherwise we might have to stop releasing them. SMT is a great series, so we’re all pleased that we’re able to release solid titles that our fans want to play. Keep buying ‘em and we’ll keep releasing them for you.

Erdrick: What are the chances of getting some of the niftier MegaTen merchandise (such as the various manga, card games, or the gorgeous statuettes made by Kaneko) in the US?

Atlus: There are no plans to bring any of the SMT paraphernalia you mention out in the US. However, the R&D1 staff is working on ideas to continue the story of Raidou Kuzunoha in other media, so it’s always possible that one of those might get picked up by an American publisher of anime, manga, or whatever form the story takes.

RentCavalier: When, if ever, is Kaneko going to update his monster designs? Many fans have begun complaining about the series reusing monster models, and I was wondering if this will be addressed in the PS3 games.

Atlus: Like many longrunning RPG series, it’s true that Shin Megami Tensei uses a stable of recurring monster designs to lend continuity between otherwise unrelated games. However, Kaneko-san and the rest of the graphics team have ways to keep things fresh. Th e previous PS2 games, for example, showed these familiar designs in new 3D models. Devil Summoner, while keeping many of the same models, has all-new texture work to make the monsters fit the more realistic-looking style of the game; compare the furred Nekomata of Devil Summoner to the modern-looking one of Nocturne or DDS and you’ll see the difference immediately.

Beyond that, monsters are reworked from time to time. The current incarnation of Baphomet is radically different from the original design, and a certain major villain late in the game will surprise longtime fans with his new look.

RentCavalier: Does Atlus have any plans to make MegaTen games for the Nintendo Wii?

Kaneko:

 If you play Nocturne or Digital Devil Saga, they’re typical modern RPGs. You see your characters act from a thirdperson view, but as you probably know, the original MegaTengames used a completely different first-person viewpoint. I would love to go back to basics with MegaTen on the Wii and bring back the first-person perspective, while using the controller to let players experience their environments directly.

Erdrick: Most Japanese RPGs are becoming more “cinematic” with less of a focus on gameplay and more of a focus on graphics and storytelling than in the past. Does this affect the development of new games, MegaTen or otherwise?

Atlus: Every Shin Megami Tensei game has been firmly in the tradition of putting gameplay first, story second. Though all of the games in the series, especially Devil Summoner and the Digital Devil Saga titles, do have strong stories, the focus is purely on gameplay. At the core of every SMT game is the experience of carefully using limited resources and abilities to proceed through often quite long and difficult dungeons, as well as a deep demon recruitment and fusion system. Keeping those two elements fresh and high-quality is always the most important thing in a new SMT game, and even with Devil Summoner’s larger cast of NPCs and action-oriented gameplay, that hasn’t changed.

Erdrick: What’s the overall feeling or the tone of the music in this installment of Devil Summoner?

Atlus: It may surprise those who came to the series with Nocturne or the Digital Devil Saga games, but the Shin Megami Tensei games are also capable of being lighthearted and, at times, silly. The score for Devil Summoner reflects that, with a jazzy, brassy feel that’s less dramatic than a lot of RPG scores. As soon as you hear themes like the music that plays when Tae makes her big entrance, you’ll know that this isn’t a game to take too seriously.

Vincent Alexander: There is always something small that connects many of the Shin Megami Tensei worlds together. Will we see more of that in this new installment, and might there be any future plans for a SMT game that focuses on a character that transcends all previous SMT worlds?

Atlus: Yes, there are a few. Unfortunately, they are references to the older MegaTen titles (the first two Shin Megami Tenseis, Devil Summoner, Soul Hackers), so the US audience will most likely not get them. For example, the person who fuses demons for you is named Victor; he plays the same role in Devil Summoner and Soul Hackers.

Dead to Rights: Is there anything that had to be edited, changed or removed for the US version? Will there be any extras or bonuses added to the US version?

Atlus: Under normal circumstances, it’s Atlus’s policy never to remove anything from our games in order to
preserve the original experience. However, there was an exception in Devil Summoner’s case, in which the
mahjong minigame had to be removed. The major reason for this is that there’s no in-game tutorial or explanation on how exactly Mahjong is played—since every Japanese player would have already known the rules—and it’s not an intuitive game to figure out for oneself. Since all you got for playing was money anyway, and there was no space left in the manual to explain the rules, we elected to cut it. On the bright side, there was space in the manual to include details of the special contest we’re running where players can win a lithograph signed by Kaneko-san. Hopefully, that’ll help soften the blow.

The following were answered by: Yu Namba (Project Lead for Devil Summoner)

delicious demon: Contrary to the usual cyber-punk theme, what particular infl uences did Mr. Kaneko draw from during his creation of a cast of characters from a past era?

Atlus: He and the development team did an extensive research on early 1900s Japan. As a result, the character and background designs are very true to how it was in Japan back then. Yes, Japanese high school students did actually wear caps and capes like Raidou!

Dead to Rights: Are there any plans to release Devil Summoner in the US for the PSP, or Shin Megami Tensei Nine for the Xbox?

Atlus: Sorry, not at this point.

Dead to Rights: Is there anything that had to be edited, changed or removed for the US version?

Atlus: Almost everything is left as is, except for things we thought the US audience won’t understand. For example, there is an NPC that sang famous ‘80s Japanese songs in the Japanese version, and we changed them to US songs.

Dead to Rights: Will there be any extras or bonuses added to the US version?

Atlus: No extras or bonuses, but we’re having a sweepstakes!

Dead to Rights: Concerning the US title, why did you choose to go with the Soulless Army instead of the Super Power Army?

Atlus: Well, look at the title: “Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner~Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army.” If we went with Super Power Army, the title would’ve been even longer…

Vanexel: Why is the random ecounter rate in the Shin Megami Tensei series so high when compared to other Japanese role playing games?

Atlus: I have to admit, the encounter rate is on the high side. But in Nocturne, Digital Devil Saga and Devil
Summoner, there are means to reduce (or increase) the encounter rate through spells and items. While toning down the overall encounter rate is possible when we bring the Megaten games to the US, we prefer to keep the game mechanics intact because that’s how the development team wanted their games to be.

DragoonXII: In March of 2003, two American youths visiting Japan went to the Atlus building in Tokyo.
While they weren’t too thrilled at the intrusion, the staff was friendly and after multiple translators I was allowed to ask my question: “Will Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne be released in the United States?” After some thought, they replied, “Yes.” Did this event help start the flood of MegaTen games we have been getting lately or were they already planning on the release of these games?

Atlus: To be totally honest, we were planning to release Nocturne in the US, even before the game was first released in Japan. Don’t forget, we released Persona and Persona 2 before the Japanese version of Nocturne..