RPGamer Feature - Interview with Atlus USA

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus USA
ESRB: Mature
Eating someone...heh

Arachnaphobes beware

Group attack

A bit of dialogue

Serph leveling up

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For over ten years, the Shin Megami Tensei series stuck mainly to traversing the waters of Japan, and the waters of Japan only. This changed last year, however, when the first Shin Megami Tensei title to be released elsewhere, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, washed upon North American shores.

Shin Megami Tensei's presence in the western hemisphere will be further prolonged when Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga is released this year. Digital Devil Saga takes place in the world of the Junkyard, where rival tribes battle to obtain the right to ascend to Nirvana. After their encounter with a mysterious light, the protagonist, Serph, and his cohorts gain the ability to change into powerful demons. Recently, RPGamer had the opportunity to sit down with Atlus, namely Bill Alexander, Gail Salamanca, Tomm Hulett, and Yu Namba to discuss everything Digital Devil Saga.

RPGamer: With the latest onslaught of Shin Megami series, is there any possibility America could see past games released in the U.S. in some form or another?
Atlus: Not at this point.

RPGamer: With the website not revealing many details, the battle system seems a mystery to most. Will the battle system run along the same lines as previous games, and what are some unique interfaces this time around for hard-core fans?
Atlus: DDSís battle system is an improved version of Nocturneís battle system (you benefit from exploiting the enemyís weakness, and are penalized when the enemy exploits yours). A new feature in DDS is the Combo option, where 2 or 3 party members perform a single, powerful attack. Furthermore, the game also sets itself apart from its predecessors by offering another option: you can choose to fight in either demon form or human form. Each form has its advantages. For instance, only humans can utilize guns, and a variety of ammo is available.

RPGamer: The storyline for the Shin Megami Tensei series has always been one more dark and more mature than other games. How will this storyline differ from previous games in the series, and what element of the storyline do you see as your favorite?
Atlus: DDSís storyline is as dark and mature as all the other Megami Tensei games, although the setting may be a bit more futuristic. Itís about a band of soldiers in a desolate wasteland where one day, everyone is turned into demons and starts killing and devouring each other. In order to survive and discover the truth behind their transformation, they vow to defeat all opposing Tribes and take Sera, a mysterious black-haired girl, to Nirvana.

Yu: Personally, I like how the people who turned into demons must devour others in order to live. It sounds gory and cruel, but itís really not that different from the way we live our lives in the real world. Makes you think how sinful our lives really are... Whether you're a meat lover or a vegetarian, you have to kill and eat in order to live.

Bill: Heat kicks ass! Heís one of the coolest characters I can think of in a video game, despite the fact that heís technically not the main character. He makes the game a whole hell of a lot more interesting because heís not just an obedient follower. I think Heat and the other characters really bring the story to life because of their unique personalities.

Tomm: At first, each character has the exact same bland personality. However, once the demon powers start kicking in, they awaken to their emotions. This is my favorite element, because you really get to know each character, since you were there when they "woke up." It also provides insight into their pasts and motivations.

RPGamer: Will this incarnation have any sort of weapon equipment such as swords, or will the Mantra's be the exclusive form of combat? Will players be able to switch Mantra's around or are they character-specific personalities? Will the upgrading of skills be based on just experience received after battles?
Atlus:A variety of ammo will be available for the player charactersí guns, in addition to the use of Mantra in battle. Mantra are not character-specific; mastering each Mantra (gaining new skills) involves purchasing the Mantra, and then gaining experience in battle while the Mantra is equipped. This allows you to customize each member in your party to a specific role as you see fit.

RPGamer: Will there be action-dependant Mantras, such as could be seen in PSX's Persona 2 with the different forms Maya could obtain by using certain items?
Atlus: Some Mantra will become available only after certain requirements have been met.

RPGamer: Will there be both a larger map of the full dungeon and a smaller on-screen map?
Atlus: There is a mini-map that will be on the screen at all times, and a larger map that the player can view by pressing the triangle button.

RPGamer: How will navigation around the Junkyard be handled? Will movement be by the d-pad or the L-3/R-3 knob buttons?
Atlus: To go to the major areas in the Junkyard, you choose the destination from the map menu. Once you are in an area, you can use either the directional pad or the left analog stick to move around, and L1/R1 buttons to rotate the camera.

RPGamer: Will there be any special treats that will be recognizable to fans of the series? Will there be any special cameos such as the ability to play as Nate or Ellen from Persona in Persona 2?
Atlus: Players can look forward to special appearances by Jack Frost, the Atlus mascot, as well as another old fiend...

RPGamer: The game was recently delayed, and an announcement was made that the game's release would also include a boxed set. What led to this decision to be made, and will we be seeing more of these sorts of releases?
Gail Salamanca: As you're probably aware, there is a growing trend in the game industry toward giving the consumer bonus materials besides the game. We've always been a huge proponent of deluxe packaging ourselves, often bundling soundtracks as well as other bonus materials with our games. As for DDS, because DDS2 is a direct continuation of the storyline, we thought that it would be a great idea to offer a special keepsake box to store both games in, like what we've seen with anime and DVD collections. Being consumers ourselves, we know that game collectors out there appreciate this type of packaging, as itís a great way to show off their collection. Of course, we can't do this type of deluxe box set with every game we publish, but we're always on the lookout for new ways to add extra value to our products.

RPGamer: If you could sum up the entire battle system, every interface, and the whole storyline into one paragraph what would you say?
Gail Salamanca: Digital Devil Saga encapsulates the Shin Megami Tensei themes into a more accessible RPG package. A detailed story with compelling characters motivates the player through long, difficult dungeons filled with complicated but rewarding battles. We hope that players will be so attached to the characters and story that they'll be dying to play the sequel as soon as they complete part 1. Of course, thereís always more depth to uncover on a second playthrough..

RPGamer would like to extend its thanks to Atlus for taking the time to chit-chat with us. In the coming weeks, RPGamer will be bringing you another interview with Atlus regarding their upcoming Simulation RPG Stella Deus: Gate of Eternity. Soon, RPGamer will also be presenting interviews with Nippon Ichi Software America concerning their upcoming games, Makai Kingdom and Atelier Iris ~Eternal Mana~.

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