RPGamer Feature - The Road to E3 - Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Interview
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus USA
Release Date: 06.23.2009

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Continuing our fractured weekly interview series on the final stretch of the Road to E3, RPGamer brings a little insight into Atlus' upcoming DS title, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. Scheduled to be released on June 23, this title seems to be quite unique in how it combines portions of many different genres into a singular entity that still strongly exudes turn-based RPG goodness. Though the game still remains nearly a month from release, Atlus took a moment to answer some questions regarding this new title in the long-running Shin Megami Tensei series.

Greetings Atlus, I was hoping that you'd be able to shed some light on your upcoming RPG Devil Survivor. For the uninitiated, could you please explain the premise of this title?
Nich Maragos, editor: Like many games in the Shin Megami Tensei series, Devil Survivor takes place in a version of modern Japan that's riddled with demons. You play as the main character, who receives a mysterious device called a COMP just before two things happen at once: demons invade central Tokyo, and the government enforces a lockdown of the area bordered by the Yamanote train line. Over the course of a week, everyone trapped inside the lockdown has to deal with the dual threat of demon attacks and societal collapse. And there might be an even bigger threat lurking behind it all...

Mike Meeker, editor: Picture if you will: you’re a kid living your modern, carefree life in Toyko, when suddenly demons start popping up out of thin air and slaughtering people. The government responds not by sending in a task force of ninjas, but by cordoning off the major metropolitan area and leaving the people to stew in the ensuing chaos. However, it turns out that the demons can be controlled by certain devices, one of which you happened to have recently acquired. While finding out what’s happening is important, and maybe you might want to put an end to it if you can, your top priority is to survive.

The battle system sounds unique, how does the combination of genres work?
Nich: Movement and positioning is handled like a standard isometric strategy RPG. But when two units clash, instead of a simple animation and damage dealt, you enter a first-person battle perspective that pits your team vs. the enemy's team in a round of combat that's more like the Shin Megami Tensei games fans know. Each combatant can perform one default action in a clash before returning to the movement screen, but depending on your agility stat and how well you exploit the enemy's weakness, you can gain Extra Turns or take the enemy's away, allowing you to do more damage in a single clash. And as with all SMT games, the enemy can do the same to you if your defenses aren't set up properly.

Yu Namba, project lead: The game is designed so that even those who haven't played a strategy game before can enjoy playing. Because there are a relatively fewer number of units on a battlefield than a typical SRPG, there are less things for the player to keep track of. But each unit consists of three characters, which allows the player to experiment with different combinations of abilities and skills. It gives the battle an interesting twist as well--something SRPG fans can look forward to.

We've seen there is a demon auction system, but we're curious how exactly that works. Could you give a brief example? Is there fusion along with that or is it auction only?
Scott Strichart, editor: The Demon Auction pits you against other AI-controlled bidders and allows you to enter an amount you’d be willing to pay for the listed demon. It should feel pretty familiar to online auction site users, right down to the “buy now” option. Of course, the twist is that you’re dealing with demons here, and you may not always get what you bargained for. The fusion system also returns, and fans of previous SMT games will appreciate that you can actually choose what skills you want carried over from the parent demons to some extent.

So you use demons in battle, but do they play any other role like they did in the Persona games? How do the human characters fit into combat?
Mike: Not all the demons are faceless monsters. They are involved in the various subplots, and demons do have personalities.

Nich: Demons naturally play a big role in the story; without giving too much away, some of the potential plots and subplots to explore deal with possible peaceful relations between demons and humanity. Human characters you face in combat will be Demon Tamers like you. Each unit you face in combat is made of a leader and two demons—usually that leader is also a demon, but sometimes it'll be a human Tamer. Defeating the leader will defeat the entire unit, but its minions will often guard the leader from damage until you defeat them, and you'll miss out on some post-combat bonuses if you don't defeat all three combatants.

The music is quite nice from what we've heard so far. Could you share a little bit about the soundtrack and the composer?
Yu: The music is done by Takami Asano of the Japanese rock band Godiego. It may feel a little different from the previous Shin Megami Tensei titles, but I think it fits the game perfectly.

How is movement outside of combat handled? Will there be a world map where the player chooses where to go or will characters walk from screen to screen?
Scott: Players aren’t expected to have the real-world locations of Japan used in this game memorized so they can traverse between them. Available locations are displayed in a convenient side bar. But the characters in the game are racing against the clock – some locations may become available only at certain times, or events will change based on the order you visit them in.

To what extent are players given choices? Do dialogue choices matter or is it more about the actions taken? What about multiple endings?
Nich: Players are constantly given choices in Devil Survivor. There are a lot more dialogue options in this game than the Persona series, for instance, and while not all of them are particularly meaningful, some of them have important consequences. Besides your dialogue choices, you also have choices between battles of what to do and where to go. You can't do everything in a single playthrough, and what you decide to do (and to not do) will have lasting effects on the storyline.

Scott: I think the choices available in this game really help absorb the player into the desperate circumstances being presented to the characters. In previous SMT games, players have tended to look for the answer that is “correct,” but Devil Survivor forces you to make choices that aren’t so black and white. How far would you let a friend go before you stepped in? How important is it to save innocent people? Ultimately, your answers will determine who fights in your party and what ending you get.


I imagine we're barking up the wrong tree here, but any whispers coming out of R&D 1 over in Japan? It would be nice to hear of a new-gen Shin Megami Tensei. I know you can't announce anything specifically, but might we keep an eye out for E3?
Aram Jabbari, Manager of PR and Sales: Announcing new SMT games is our parent company's territory, but you can definitely expect some surprises from us at E3.

If a 747 jet leaves New York at 1:20PM on Friday carrying 100 people and a train departs from Los Angeles at 2:23AM on Saturday with 200 passengers, have you seen the PSP Growlanser remake and what do you think about it?
Aram Jabbari: That’s 1:20PM EST? Are you sure about the departure time for the train? That seems suspiciously early. Is this some sort of people-herding thing? Those are some perfectly rounded passenger numbers. What direction are the plane and train travelling in?

Do you think Devil Summoner 2 will be the last big PS2 RPG or do you think the little system still has some life in it yet?
Mike: I still think that there are good games on the PS2 that deserve a chance to be localized, but stores really seem to be phasing out the system’s library. It’s a shame.

Aram Jabbari: Whether we have another game for the platform or not, we, along with everyone else, are still in awe at how long the mighty little guy stuck around. We may never see this kind of hardware longevity again.

We were kind enough to help you all out with a little QA recently; could you give us a little juicy tidbit about your upcoming releases that you've not shared with anyone else?
Scott: Having been a part of the Class of Heroes team, I’d like to express my personal thanks to Mr. Wilson. I will work tirelessly to immortalize his name as some innocuous NPC in a future game. Juicy tidbits are only juicy until everyone else knows; immortality is FOREVER. We have clearly given you the better deal.

Aram: Has anyone ever taken a moment to consider just how disturbing “juicy tidbit” sounds? I’m suddenly compelled to wash my hands.

RPGamer would like to thank Aram Jabbari, Yu Namba, and all of the many editors at Atlus that answered questions for us regarding this soon-to-be-released title. Stay tuned to RPGamer for our review of this title during the upcoming month. Those interested in finding out more about Devil Survivor can view Michael Cunningham's hands-on impression. Stay tuned tomorrow, as RPGamer has a surprise interview for a surprise announcement.

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