Atlus didn't have a huge booth on the show floor like Sony or Microsoft, though it seemed more striking to me with the high banners showing off the rich art of games like Disgaea 2 and Persona 3, as well as the cleavage of their scantily dressed on staff nurses. While others like Capcom might devote two or three massive displays to a single title, Atlus managed to cram all of their upcoming games in with only one or two systems for each game in their future lineup. So it made it more interesting to explore their booth, to see what unknown gems you might uncover, like the unrelentingly charming Touch Detective. There are a few games that I've already covered in other previews, such as Super Robot Taisen, Spectral Souls, and Yggdra Union, but that still leaves me with ten amazing titles to write about.
Ar tonelico (PS2)
The first, and certainly not the last, surprise announcement is Gust / Banpresto's big budget RPG that seemed destined for Japan only status. Strong supporter of their fellow 2D diehard developer, NIS America is bringing it to the US at the tail end of 2006. It's an ambitious little title where humanity lives on floating continents after both the sky and sea are denied them until an evil force appears to threaten their very existence. Wielding a mix of magic and technology, players can customize weapons, items, skills, and even their appearance, while interacting with other characters in a way that'll effect their mood, and determine the outcome of this compelling saga. Fans of Atelier Iris should be pleased with the high resolution 2D visuals and quick-paced battle system. I'm pleased to have another dose of that Gust charm.
Disgaea 2 (PS2)
Yes, the old favorite is back. One of the best-selling and darkly charming strategy RPGs of this or any generation has finally gotten itself a sequel, bringing back nearly everything from the original, from the grid-based battles, to Item World, to the Dark Congress, with plenty of prinnies to order around. Expect plenty of new features as well, including the Dark Court where evil is praised and good is punished. This time it's being localized by NIS America, so it's not entirely certain if they'll keep to the "dood" of Atlus's translation, but my brief playtime showed off plenty of charm, and some of the best 2D animation to ever grace a console, blended with new 3D environments and anime cut-scenes that bring the story to life. The evil overlord Zenon decided to curse the peaceful people of Veldime, transforming them all into hideous monsters. Though he made the mistake of missing Adell, who is determined to travel the world to build up an army to defeat this overlord, and return his homeland to normal. Of course, he'll have some help in the form of some familiar faces from the original Disgaea, along with the usual bonus characters from Nippon Ichi's rich SRPG history.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner (PS2)
SMT: Nocturne was the best RPG of this generation. It's okay to disagree with me as long as you realize that you're wrong. Devil Summoner is a spin off series of SMT, this time incorporating a real-time battle system where the player can defeat demons with his sword and a range of special bullets, while assisted by one of his own tame demons that can be summoned in a flash (or combined with others to make more powerful allies). The story follows the life of Raidou Kuzunoha, a private detective living in 1920s Japan. More than just a fancy dresser, he has the power to capture demons, and compel them to do his bidding. And he'll need all of their power to solve the mystery of the kidnapped woman taken by a group known as the Soulless Army...
Persona 3 (PS2)
Another title I thought there was no chance of ever seeing in the US, though you'd think I would have learned by now to never doubt Atlus. It's only coming in 2007 so details are a bit scarce, but the opening anime sequence presented a tense atmosphere of a private school where things are going disturbingly wrong, and the only way to fight against it is to summon powerful supernatural avatars. Of course, the summoning requires the students to put a gun to their heads... Style, atmosphere, and slick gameplay have always been part of the Persona series, but this time it's being taken to a whole new level that's sure to be one of the last, great PS2 RPGs.
Rule of Rose (PS2)
You can't get much creepier than this. In May 1930, Jennifer's parents die in an airship accident, leaving her to be carted off to a crumbling old orphanage in the middle of nowhere. Only this place is ruled by a collection of sadistic little girls who call themselves the "Aristocracy of the Red Crayon." Strict obedience is demanded of their lesser members, who suffer terrible torment for failure to heed their superiors. Now this group has kidnapped Jennifer, and trapped her in a massive zeppelin heading for a distant land. She'll need to befriend an abused pooch named Brown, and appease the Aristocracy with special gifts is she wants to survive. Vicious melee combat mixed with fifty hours of some of the most disturbing cut-scenes to be seen in a videogame round out what's sure to be an experience to haunt your dreams for months to come.
Trauma Center - Second Opinion (Wii)
The first on the DS was a surprise hit, often praised and cursed in the same breath for its challenging operations that made full use of the DS's stylus. So it's only natural that the sequel move up to the Wii to take advantage of its unique controller for even more life-saving (though hopefully not controller-throwing) operations with even more medical equipment to use, and two doctors with their own storylines that the player can switch back and forth between as they progress through the game. I admit I can't remember any more about the game because I was too busy paying attention to the scantily clad nurses always hovering nearby. It's hard to be a doctor.