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Run to the Sun - Atlus Interview


Atlus USA

We originally had an interview planned for Atlus USA on Wednesday, but due to the sheer number of questions we had, it took a couple days to collect the answers to all of them. To make up for it, each game has answers directly from those on the projects.

James Kuroki, Project Lead

Has anything been edited out of the game in its travels across the pond?
James: There are a bunch of new features that fans of the original title will enjoy. Improved graphics, fully-voiced sound in two languages, and new events and illustrations all add up to something special for fans to look forward to. Fully voiced dialogue is something very few games have done on the platform, and we have managed to cram in two languages!

With Riviera having that anime-taste, Japanese dialogue should really catch a lot of fans' attention, along with the new events. Our biggest sell, though, has to be the new chapter; it's something that wasn't even in the Japanese PSP version!

Does this title include a brand new localization or is it basically the same as in the original?
James: In general, the localization is based off of the original, with some minor tweaking here and there. The added content is, of course, a brand new translation.
Has the game been updated graphically or audibly in any way other than adding voice acting?
James: The resolution on the PSP is higher, so naturally the already-beautiful backgrounds and character art are displayed in more detail. The battle effects have been totally reworked, too. Event illustrations have nearly doubled, and that adds a lot to the game. Sound-wise, a rearranged soundtrack has replaced the original. I know a lot of players loved the music of Riviera, and upgrading to CD-quality music means it is even better.
Can players use either the D-Pad OR the analog nub, or are players required to use either or the entire game?
James: It's directional buttons only. The nature of the game has no need for analog controls, or even diagonal movement, for that matter!
Clayton Chan, Editor

What is unique about this Strategy RPG that will continue to hold the attention of players and keep them away from other titles in the genre?
Clayton: Well, I’m pretty hesitant to call anything “unique” in the video game industry. Someone somewhere has done nearly everything already in some fashion, and I don’t want to trample all over their achievements in an attempt to rewrite history in my favor. That being said, I think Luminous Arc has some key features that will set it apart from the other SRPGs coming out this year, especially on the DS. I think the largest distinguishing feature is that Luminous Arc offers both wireless and wi-fi multiplayer. I remember having heated forum debates on which character lineups for Final Fantasy Tactics were the best, so when those debates come up for Luminous, it’s going to be a blast settling those debates on the field of battle.

I think that the game’s uncommonly versatile control scheme is going to please a lot of strategy RPG gamers. Some people, myself included, don’t like using the stylus for their SRPGs, while others like it a lot. Luminous Arc also has left-hand and right-hand setups so that nobody playing it is forced to develop “gaming ambidexterity”. It may seem like a little thing on paper, but in my experience, when you’re really getting into an SRPG, comfortable controls mean a lot.

Luminous Arc also has a solid chunk of voice acting in the game, which is pretty rare for a DS title. Some of the characters are really bolstered by the acting. I remember a couple of times in the studio where we’d see a line on the script we knew was supposed to be funny, but hearing the voice actor/actress nail the line with just the right cadence and timing took it to another level of hilarity. I have to man up a little bit here and admit that I honestly didn’t care if we put voice acting in Luminous Arc or not, but Sammy Matsushima, the project lead, had worked with these actors before and he was dead set against removing the voice acting. After playing this game with and without the voices, I am now in total agreement with Sammy. The game just would not be as good without hearing some of these lines voiced.

Of course, the solid combat, the characters and the artwork will make Luminous Arc an overall appealing package for any strategy RPG lover, but I think the ability to challenge your friends over wi-fi is really going to set this game apart from the other titles for fans of the genre. People have been asking for the ability to play this style of game online for a long time, and that should go a long way towards convincing gamers that if they are looking for an SRPG, they will be getting the most bang for their buck out of Luminous Arc.

Is there anything in this title that might draw in people that originally were not SRPG fans?
Clayton: I don’t think that there are many gamers out there who are just hardwired to only like specific genres. I think there are certain aspects of gameplay that gamers derive enjoyment from, and they’ll play whatever game can generate the enjoyment that they specifically crave, whether it be an RTS, strategy RPG, or a date-sim, so long as it provides the interactive experience they desire. I don’t think classifying people by what they’re playing is as accurate or as insightful as trying to figure out WHY they’re playing what they’re playing.

So, I feel that Luminous Arc does cast a pretty wide net, in terms of finding an audience even among people who don’t normally play SRPGs. If you’re a person who enjoys games with a good story, you’ll probably enjoy Luminous Arc. If you like good looking artwork, enjoyable character interaction, or characters that are a bit more humorous, I imagine that you’ll enjoy the game, even if grid-based combat isn’t your favorite style of RPG. Sammy loves the music for the game, so if you’re a game music lover, you’re going to get a kick out of that, too. I think there are a lot of things that Luminous Arc does well, and that a lot of people are really going to like it, regardless of genre preference.

About how long can normal players expect the game's story to last them hourwise?
Clayton: Their testers tell me the main storyline is about 20 hours long if you're not powerlevelling. However, I'm playing through the sidequests and completing the full Intermission sequences, and I'm clocking in at 30-35 hours.
Are there many side quests in this title or is most of the game linear?
Clayton: There are quite a few side quests, but you have to do a little work to find them. They aren’t just going to be waiting for you as a conversation option at the same location you need to be at in order to advance the plot. Of course, you can just blow through the main storyline if you desire, but I feel that in games, as well as in life, it is the side quests you complete that define you. For those looking for even more playtime, there’s an extra dungeon after you complete the game, and the aforementioned multiplayer component will add even more replay.
Mason Hyodo, Project Lead & Nich Maragos, Editor

Is there a possibility for any older Growlanser titles, such as Growlanser IV, that have not already been localized to be released in North America?
Mason: The previous titles are certainly quality games, and it is clear that there is interest among fans, but our primary concern is publishing Heritage of War, the Growlanser Team’s latest masterpiece. So for right now, there are no plans.
Not everyone is familiar with the Growlanser stories. Do players need to play past games in the series to understand the story or are they self-contained?
Nich: The first three Growlanser games had a connected storyline, but Heritage of War tells its own self-contained story that doesn’t require knowledge of any other Growlanser games to enjoy.
How does the battle system compare to other strategy RPGs and what makes it unique to draw in players from other titles?
Mason: Heritage of War employs a fast-paced, real-time combat system that gives the player multiple tactical options. Since there are no discrete turns, you need a flexible mind and tactical thinking. The new Ability Tree helps with this, letting you switch tactics and skills anytime you wish, in order to adapt to the changing situation.
Will players be able to control each character or is the battle system more of an action-based system where players only control a single character at a time?
Nich: Past Growlanser games were strategy RPGs where you set paths and waypoints for all of your party members to follow. Heritage of War takes the same approach for the rest of your party members, but allows you to directly control the party leader when moving and attacking. This affects the player’s sense of involvement in the game, letting him feel like he’s playing a leadership role in command of a small group, rather than an omniscient traffic cop.
Yu Namba, Project Lead & Aram Jabbari, Assistant Manager of Sales and Marketing

Has anything been edited out of the game in its travels across the pond?
Yu: The only things that got removed were things that made absolutely no sense in western culture, like jokes that only Japanese players would understand, and these were replaced with jokes that at least somewhat parallel the originals.
When trying to get titles such as this approved, what are the biggest things that the ESRB frowns down on?
Yu: It's not much different from other titles. The act of pointing a gun-like device at yourself is considered violence (even though no death or injury occurs). There are other usual things like punks smoking and cussing and adults drinking alcohol. I don't believe the ESRB frowns upon these things; they are simply trying to identify them so that a game makes it into the hands of an appropriate audience. As much as we love Persona 3 and want people to experience it, we recognize that it is not suitable for gamers of all ages.
Though Atlus has no plans to release Fes in North America, is it even a possibility for the future?
Yu: I'm sorry, we have no plans for it at this time.
How successful has the Shin Megami Tensei title been for the company and are there any plans for more titles under this namebrand in the near future?
Aram: The Shin Megami Tensei games have been tremendous for us: it is our flagship series. It offers a truly unique and fleshed-out universe with a lot of flexibility in terms the stories that can be told and the games that can be made. It is safe to say that there will be more titles in the future, but we have nothing to announce as of yet.
Aram Jabbari, Assistant Manager of Sales and Marketing

Are there any current or upcoming plans for releasing any special editions such as the Magna Carta bonus set packaging?
Aram: We are very excited to be releasing Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 in a deluxe edition package, with a full-color art book and a soundtrack CD included. It is a huge release for Atlus, so it was important for us from the beginning to do something special for SMT: Persona 3.

Growlanser: Heritage of War, coming out later this year, will also be a special edition release. We are going to disclose the details of what fans will get with the game a little later, but I feel it is safe to say that fans of the series are in for a treat.

Can gamers expect to see Atlus move into next-gen (PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii) consoles in the near future?
Aram: Absolutely. We are very excited about the chance to work on games for all three of the next generation platforms. We will also continue our support of the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable.
On behalf of the readers of our site, us amongst them, thank you for the quick turnaround release for Odin Sphere. Are there any upcoming titles that we might expect take the same course of development and localization?
Aram: Odin Sphere presented a truly rare and unique opportunity for us to work very closely with the developer, Vanillaware, to deliver the North American and Japanese releases within days of each other. It was something we were very excited to be able to do, but also a circumstance we recognize as unlikely to happen again.
Is there anything about your upcoming lineup that you'd like to tell to our readers, as they are aching for any details you might be able to share with them? Do you have currently scheduled release dates for any of these titles?
Aram: It is going to be a great Summer for fans of RPGs and of Atlus games. With SMT: Persona 3, Luminous Arc, Riviera PSP, and Growlanser: Heritage of War all seeing release this summer, fans of the genre will have their hands full. We are still working on hammering out final release dates; that information will be released soon.

Expect to hear much more about our plans for the second half of the year at this year’s E3 Summit!

We would like to take the opportunity to thank Atlus for taking the time to answer a number of our questions regarding its upcoming summer lineup. Readers interested in Luminous Arc may also take a look at our in-depth impression for the title.

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