Interview: Atlus USA Feature - The Next Level

Interview: Atlus USA

GN talks with Atlus.

Article by Aaron Drewniak (Email)
August 3rd 2004, 05:00AM
 

Most U.S. wings of Japanese videogame developers are content to sit around and twiddle their thumbs as they wait for their parent company to release the next product for them to localize, often passing over the more obscure or harder to market titles.

Atlus USA has set their ambitions a little higher than that. They've taken games overlooked by larger publishers and made an effort to exceed everyone's expectations of what makes a great localization. It's reached a point where people look forward to their next release, not only trusting their skills as translators and adaptors, but also having faith in their choices of what makes a game worth playing.

Though they're currently working hard on bringing some of the greatest RPGs I've ever played to the U.S. (Phantom Brave, SMT: Nocturne, and SMT: Digital Devil Saga), they were kind enough to answer my inane questions.

It must be exciting to be able to localize games from Atlus Japan again. Which titles is Atlus USA especially looking forward to bringing stateside?

We are most excited about bringing over Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne and Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga since these titles were developed by our parent company, and because they bring something totally new to the RPG market--a dark, mature atmosphere and story. We hope that this long overlooked series will finally gain the attention it deserves.

After personally playing the Japanese release of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne (SMT: Nocturne), I assumed there wouldn't be any chance of seeing that arrive in North America, despite the quality of the game. Was this a difficult decision in localizing the game, taking into account the religious overtones and philosophical subject matter?

With the recent success of mature-rated games like Grand Theft Auto, now seems like the perfect time to reintroduce the Shin Megami Tensei series to the U.S. market. The staff members here have always been fans of the series because of its dark overtones and unique atmosphere, and with the power of the PS2, the graphics have reached the same level as the character designs and story. Also, since we knew that the "director's cut" a.k.a Maniacs version of SMT: Nocturne was in the works we wanted to give U.S. gamers the most complete version of the game.

You've kept the title of SMT: Nocturne close to the original Japanese release. How closely will it be to in comparisons to its Japanese counterpart? What significant edits and revisions will be made (if any) for the U.S. release?

The game will be almost identical to the Japanese rerelease of the game, known in Japan as the Maniacs version. This version was the same as the original only with additional scenarios and the appearance of Dante, of Devil May Cry fame. Since we knew that the game would most likely receive a mature rating from the beginning of the project, the content is essentially unchanged.

The character Dante shows up throughout most of the SMT domestic trailer, but there's very little of him in the actual game. Are you worried about the backlash from Devil May Cry fans who will buy the game specifically for Dante or do you think that SMT will be able to win them over on its own merits?

Because Dante is a difficult character to recruit for your party, it makes it that much more rewarding when you are able to do so. Fans of Dante will see that he is not just any old character in the game--he is treated with great reverence. But, as you said, Nocturne has its own merits, and we believe that once people have given it a chance, they will be blown away by its story and imaginative art style.

With Kazuma Kaneko's sometimes androgynous character designs, did you ever have problems accidentally using the wrong gender pronouns when localizing SMT or Digital Devil Story?

While the character designs are very stylized, we were working directly with the source files, which provide the characters' names. Plus, the Japanese strategy guide answered many of our questions. So basically we didn't have any of those types of problems.


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